Sunday, February 1, 2009


Obedience is the key to true happiness.

That is to say, real happiness and freedom comes from keeping the commandments of God.

Think of it this way (this one's a lot easier to grasp if you have children of your own): You love your child (or children) and want them to be happy. You want them to be safe, and to enjoy their freedom and health and to have a good life. You hope they will share your values.

So, you give them instruction as they grow - you teach them how to make good choices. You set out rules and guidelines and suggestions. And then you let them govern themselves and hope they choose things in their lives that will yield true happiness (not just fleeting pleasure).

Heavenly Father has given us all our own agency (freedom to choose for ourselves). He also gave us commandments - laws that will bless our lives if we follow them (see D&C 130:20-21). If we do our part, He will do his. That is an excellent promise.

Whereas we can choose our own actions, we cannot choose our consequences. If I choose to steal a car, I cannot choose to skip the jail sentence given to me by the judge. If I choose to smoke cigarettes, I cannot choose to skip the resulting health problems. If I choose to speak unkindly to someone, I cannot choose the effect it has on that person.

What I've found in my own personal life is that when I choose things that I know are wrong or contrary to God's commandments and His will, I may or may not feel some short-term pleasure as a result, but in the long term (and it's not usually very long at all) - I end up feeling unhappy, or even miserable. And the more I do wrong, the worse I feel. (Thankfully, I can always repent, which alleviates that ill feeling.)

Indeed, wickedness never was happiness.

On the other hand, I have also learned from experience that when I do right - when I make choices that are aligned with God's will, when I keep His commandments and choose the right - I feel happy. A real, solid, lasting happiness. And it builds and grows, the more I do right. This is what's known as joy.

Many in the world - those who shun authority - claim that obedience is restrictive - that it limits your freedom. The opposite is true. When you choose to be disobedient, you immediately forfeit your freedoms. For instance, when you choose to partake of addictive substances such as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, or even caffeine - you relinquish some of your self-control to the addiction. It starts to control you by exerting influence over your decisions, actions, and judgment. A more obvious example is when you choose to break a criminal law and wind up in prison. That is a clear case of giving up your freedom in exchange for choosing to break the law.

On the other hand, when you choose to keep the commandments, you are free from addictions, free to feel happiness without guilt, and free to enjoy the direct and indirect benefits of adhering to laws that have been designed for our own good.

As a young child may think his freedom is being restricted unfairly because his mother won't let him touch the hot stove or jump off the roof of the house or pull the cat's tail, we may sometimes feel that God's laws are just there to limit us. But He is our all-wise, all-knowing, and all-loving Father. His laws are there to help us, to protect us, and to help us learn how to become more like Him.

Elder Richard G. Scott said (emphasis mine):
"True, enduring happiness, with the accompanying strength, courage, and capacity to overcome the greatest difficulties, will come as you center your life in Jesus Christ. Obedience to His teachings provides a secure ascent in the journey of life. That takes effort. While there is no guarantee of overnight results, there is the assurance that, in the Lord's time, solutions will come, peace will prevail, and happiness will be yours."

Jesus is our example. He was perfectly obedient. He kept all His Father's commandments. And if we emulate Him, we will obtain true happiness.

Additionally, it's important to me that striving to keep the commandments allows me to remain worthy (and therefore free) to use the Priesthood, and to enter the Holy Temple. If you want to stay morally clean, be obedient. As Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin stated: "Willing obedience provides lasting protection against Satan’s alluring and tantalizing temptations."

Being obedient is not that hard. I mean, it takes work, no doubt, but it's not so hard that you shouldn't even try. Such discouragement is a tool of the Deceiver. President James E. Faust said:
"Many think that the price of discipleship is too costly
and too burdensome. For some, it involves giving up too much.
But the cross is not as heavy as it appears to be.
Through obedience we acquire
much greater strength to carry it."

Look, I've seen both sides. I've chosen both ways. And I fully endorse keeping the commandments as the best way to be happy and free. I'm not perfect in doing so - I fail often and repent often. But I have made my choice to follow the Lord's example and try to be obedient. It takes humility, and strength, and determination.

But it is so worth it.

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