Sunday, February 13, 2011

Obeying the Commandments with Exactness

(This is a talk that I gave in church today :)

At the end of December in 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation that a temple was to be built in Kirtland, Ohio. This revelation Is found in Doctrine and Covenants section 88. This was a very difficult time for the saints. And they didn’t have the subscriptions needed to pay for the building of the temple. On June 1, 1833, Joseph Smith received the revelation in section 95 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord said to the saints

“1Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—
2Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face;
3For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house;

If we do a quick calculation here, we can see that only about 6 months had passed since the first revelation was given, but the Lord felt need to chastise the saints. He wanted them to be able to receive the temple ordinances in the short time available to them.

President Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“Four days after the Lord had rebuked the brethren for their neglect, without waiting for subscriptions, the brethren went to work on the Temple. Elder George A. Smith, a recent convert, hauled the first load of stone for the Temple. Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon commenced digging the trench for the walls, and they finished the same with their own hands” ( Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:407).

How promptly do we obey the commands of the Lord?

I have a show that I like to watch that is about people who hoard things in their home. Usually these people have boxes of stuff stacked clear to their ceiling, and have little pathways through which they navigate their way around the house. The host of the show works with them to teach them how to get rid of their junk, and to learn skills to keep from hoarding in the future. One of the tools that he teaches them is to avoid the mindset of “Later”. A hoarder might have a stack of cards and letters, and in their mind they might say, “Someday I’m going to put those in a scrapbook.” Or they might have a box of odds and ends and say, “One of these days I’m going to sort through that box”, but instead they lay it aside and it stacks up with the rest of the junk. Some of the things they save for later in case they might need them. Many people, myself included, save clothing for the Later day when we might have lost weight, and need a smaller size! And so the term “later” becomes the enemy of the hoarder, and the junk stacks high to the ceiling.
As I watched this show, I wondered how many of us are affected by the “later syndrome” with regards to the commandments. What commandments are we putting off obeying until some day in the future? “I’ll pay my tithing as soon as I am in a situation where I can make more money.” “As soon as my kids are older, it will be easier to have family home evening.” “I’ll buy my food storage when I get a bigger house to store it.” One of the things taught to the hoarders in that television show is that if we are always thinking about what we are going to do in the future, we aren’t living in the present. It’s a good reminder that eternity isn’t some far off goal that we strive for. Now is eternity. We are living in our eternity now. And how we live now will determine where we live in the eternities.
We’ve been studying the Doctrine and Covenants and church history this year in seminary, and so I had a chance to once again read section 76, that speaks about the three degrees of glory, and who shall inhabit them. I will plainly confess that reading this section was a strong reminder to me that I need to strictly keep the commandments.
Here is a description found in section 76 of the kind of people who will make it to the Celestial kingdom:

50And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
51They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
53And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
62These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
69These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood. DC 76:50-53, 62,69
As I read those words, I wonder if I am doing what is necessary to receive the blessings promised to these people who will inherit the Celestial kingdom.
Now let me read about the people who will inherit the Terrestrial kingdom, focusing mainly on the verses that I think pertain most to people who have been baptized, and are members of the church today.
75These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men.
79These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God. (DC 76:75,79)
I was reminded of the story of the stripling warriors. And in particular I was reminded of a word, that I haven’t found anywhere else in the scriptures. Let me read to you what the Book of Mormon records about these young men, and see if you can guess the word that I was thinking of.

Alma 57:21
Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.

These young men were protected in war, partly because of their faith in God, but also, according to this scripture, because they performed every word of command with “Exactness”. The word “Exactness” in this situation, means, that there is no deviation from the command. They obeyed the commands strictly. That is a great example for us to follow. How many of us obey the commandments with “exactness”?
There have been a lot of words mentioned in these scriptures that all have the same kind of meaning. The word EXACTNESS, the word, “Just”, and the word, “Valiant”. They all denote a high standard of worthiness and obedience. We do have a high standard to keep, but the Lord promises to bless us if we are obedient. In fact, there are many blessings that the scriptures tell us about that we get in return for keeping the commandments. Read what the Lord tells us about the blessings promised if we keep the following commandments:

Word of Wisdom (law of health):
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen. DC 89: 18-21

Sabbath Day Observance:
9And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
16Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, DC 59:9,16

Honor Your Parents;
"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Exodus 20:12

10Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:10,11

With so many blessings promised to us, why don’t we obey? Maybe we need to learn discipline over our lives. Maybe we are waiting until “later”. Whatever the reason, if we don’t obey the commandments, we won’t receive the blessings. In Doctrine and covenants 82:10 we read:
10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. DC 82:10

On the flip side, listen to this verse from section 41:1
1Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me;…”
God delights in blessing us. Have you ever had a gift that you were excited to give to someone else, one that made you so happy to think about how much they would enjoy it? God delights to bless us, but those blessings are predicated upon our obedience.
Let us all be more valiant in the testimony of Jesus, and in keeping the commandments. Let us strive to obey all of the commands with exactness, so that at that last day we can be part of that group of just men made perfect through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

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