I had a guest post over at Segullah yesterday. I felt nervous like the new girl at school who gets assigned to work with the group of cool girls, but there were nice comments, so maybe I won’t have to go into hiding after all.
I also gave a talk in church yesterday. I was assigned the topic of obedience, and I took the majority of my take on it from President Uctdorf’s talk, “The Love of God.” I thought I’d share some segments from my talk in case you’re interested. And if you’re not interested, feel free to pull out some toy mice that you hid in your pocket and swing them around in the air by their tails like a cowboy lasso. That’s what my kids did on the front row.
Rites and practices of the law of Moses pointed people’s actions and habits toward Christ, like the practice of burnt offerings and animal sacrifices. But when he came, he declared these old laws to be done away with and introduced the New Covenant, a higher more personal commitment that points us to a full discipleship — This is how he explained it right before appearing to the frightened and devastated Nephites in America (3 Nephi 9)
9 And ye shall offer up unto me ano more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a asacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I bbaptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost,
The Lord is more concerned with our hearts than our actions, though a heart committed to the Lord is reflected by a life rich in Christian principles, righteous living, and loving service. Obedience is evidence of a heart that loves the Lord.
Sometimes, even at church, almost in a law-of-Moses kind of way, we feel bombarded by long lists of “should do”s that can overwhelm and discourage us. I recently overheard a talk by a local leader where the speaker imparted a long list of all the things she had done in her home to raise a large family in the gospel. Her strategy included family scripture study twice a day with child-led devotionals, traveling with her children throughout the world to expose them to cultures and service opportunities, attending the temple weekly even when her children were small and returning home each time testify to her family of the miracles that had happened there, regularly inviting her children’s friends into their home to hear the gospel, and that’s not all, but I can’t remember the rest because I’d already gone numb. President Uctdorf said:
This may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”
How true this is. I think how easy it is, especially after something like the talk I described, to walk away with a to-do list that overshadows our real purpose in coming to church. We come to take the sacrament and in so doing, we particpate in repentance, renewal of our covenants, a commitment to always remember Him, and a promise to have his spirit to be with us. These are all tasks of and functions of the heart— they are expressions of our love for God and reminders of His love for us.
. . .
Commandments are not meant to be checklists that mark our worthiness. We can drown in our to-do lists and become paralyzed by what seems impossible to accomplish. When we fail to establish realistic priorities, we cannot accomplish our goals nor the Lord’s purposes.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best”:
Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.
What may be surprising is that when juggling good, better, and best, the best (and most important) is really quite small and not that demanding. In response to a question I asked Sister Julie Beck when she visited here in the fall, she stated, “We place demands on ourselves that the Lord would never place on us.”
. . .
The key to obedience is loving God and understanding his love for us. Really what it comes down to is building and nurturing a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ. This is the “BEST” part of good better and best—doing things that maintain that relationship. These are the most commonly taught principles of the gospel: read your scriptures to know and understand the character of God, say your prayers to know and feel the mind of God and nurture communication with him, and serve others (both within and without the church) to understand his love for his children. In doing these things, we get to know God. We cannot help but love him the more we know him, and we automatically WANT to repent and become more like Him. President Uctdorf testified:
When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden. …
Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship. Love is the way of the disciple . . .
My dear brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don’t feel downcast or despair if you don’t feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times. The first step to walking in righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe. Try to learn of God: read the scriptures; study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the Father, and do the things He asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.
I know that a broken heart and a contrite spirit is enough for God. And I also know that feeling his love as I obey his personal guidance in my life is enough for me.