Obedience, a Sacred Duty
“Chapter 4: Obedience, a Sacred Duty,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 30
So long as we keep the commandments of God, we need not fear any evil; for the Lord will be with us in time and in eternity. 1
From the Life of John Taylor
John Taylor exhibited willing obedience to God throughout his life. This was especially evident when he received the call to leave his loved ones to serve the Lord as a missionary in England.
The call to serve came in July 1838 in a revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants section 118. In that revelation, the Apostles were commanded to depart for their missionary service from the temple site at Far West, Missouri, on 26 April 1839. Compliance with this commandment became extremely difficult with the persecution and expulsion of the Saints from Missouri in the winter of 1838–39. However, in spite of the danger they faced in returning to Missouri, Elder Taylor and his fellow Apostles trusted in the Lord and remained obedient. Shortly after midnight on 26 April 1839, they returned to Far West and met at the temple site, where they laid the cornerstone for the temple and departed for Nauvoo to make final preparations for their mission to England. 2
Elder Taylor left for his mission from Montrose, Iowa, where he had settled with his family in old log barracks across the river from Nauvoo. Although he and his family were sick with malaria, he was obedient to the call to serve a mission to England. Commenting on the pain of departing from his family, he remarked: “The thought of the hardships they had just endured, the uncertainty of their continuing in the house they then occupied—and that only a solitary room—the prevalence of disease, the poverty of the brethren, their insecurity from mobs, together with the uncertainty of what might take place during my absence, produced feelings of no ordinary character. These solicitations, paternal and conjugal, were enhanced also by the time and distance that was to separate us. But the thought of going forth at the command of the God of Israel to revisit my native land, to unfold the principles of eternal truth and make known the things that God had revealed for the salvation of the world, overcame every other feeling.” 3
President Taylor drew his strength from his deep testimony of the gospel: “When I first heard the gospel, I was compelled to admit there was something reasonable about it. I almost hoped it was not true. ‘If it is true,’ said I, ‘as an honest man I shall be obliged to obey it, or else I cannot have any confidence in myself.’ ” 4
Teachings of John Taylor
True disciples of the Lord choose to obey His will.
The Lord will bring to pass his strange purpose, and accomplish the thing he has designed. It is for us to live our religion, to fully appreciate the gospel we possess, and fully obey its requirements, submit to its laws, and yield to its dictations, following the direction of the holy priesthood, which holds the keys of the mysteries of the revelations of God, magnifying our callings, and honoring our God, that we may be prepared to fulfil our destiny upon the earth, and be enabled to be a blessing to those around us, and to pour blessings upon our posterity, and spread forth the great principles of eternity, which are calculated to bless, enlighten, ennoble, and exalt all who will yield obedience to their dictates. 5
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.” [See Matthew 11:29.] What was the yoke placed upon the followers of Jesus? Precisely the same as that placed upon you. … The word was: Go forth in my name and with my authority, and my Spirit shall accompany you. And it did, and the people became one in faith, doctrine and principle, just as the Scriptures say. “Take my yoke upon you.” What was it? Said he, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. … Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. … Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” [See Matthew 5:5–6, 8.] This was the kind of yoke Jesus put upon them, and this is the kind that is put upon you—to love righteousness, keep the commands of God, live your religion and obey the principles of truth, is this a hard yoke? This is what is required of Latter-day Saints. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me!” And how did he do it? He obeyed the will of his Father, and then he expected his disciples to obey his will. 6
Disobedience to the laws of God brings harmful consequences.
According to the eternal laws of God and the eternal fitness of things as they exist with him in the eternal worlds and as they exist here upon the earth, all of us are or should be as much under the guidance and direction of God, and are as much obligated to listen to his law and be governed by his counsels and advice—and I should think a little more so—than we would be in making that grain of wheat to grow or ten thousand million of them to grow, for we could not do it without being governed by those laws requisite to produce the increase.
Furthermore, we all are the offspring of God, are we not? I think the scriptures read that “We are all his offspring; that he is the God and Father of the spirits of all flesh;” [see Acts 17:28; Hebrews 12:9] and being the God and Father of the spirits of all flesh, and having made a world for all flesh to inhabit, and having made provision for the sustenance of that flesh, for their food, clothing, comfort, convenience and happiness, and given them intelligence and told them to go forth and manipulate the abundance of nature to their use, has he not a right to lead and direct us, to ask obedience to his law? Would not that be a legitimate right, when we reflect upon it?
The world says, No, he has no right; I am my own master; I am an independent being; I will take my own course, etc. Some of the Latter-day Saints almost say the same thing; not quite, but they would like to get near it. “I am a free man; I will be damned if I don’t do as I please, etc.” Well, I will tell you another part of that story. You will be damned if you do act as you please, unless you please to do and to keep the laws of God. We cannot violate his laws with impunity nor trample under foot these eternal principles which exist in all nature. If all nature is compelled to be governed by law or suffer loss, why not man? 7
We cannot run our own way and have the blessing of God. Every one who attempts it will find he is mistaken. God will withdraw his Spirit from such, and they will be left to themselves to wander in the dark, and go down to perdition. It is expected of us that we shall move on a higher plane, that we shall feel that we are the children of God, that God is our Father, and he will not be dishonored by disobedient children, or by those who fight against his laws and his priesthood. He expects us to live our religion, to obey His laws and keep His commandments. 8
If we are the Saints of God, it is necessary we should begin to learn to do the will of God on the earth as it is done in the heavens: for it is not every one that sayeth, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into Christ’s kingdom, but he that doeth the will of the Father who is in heaven [see Matthew 7:21]. We think sometimes we can do as we please. We may do as we please, and then God will do as He pleases; and for every word and for every secret thought we shall be brought to judgment, we are told. …
We are not here to do our own will, but the will of our heavenly Father. Some men who think they are doing pretty well, and doing, according to their own expression, “as they darned please,” will wake up to find they have not been doing the will of God. They may have thought that they had wives and children, but they will wake up to find that they have not got them, and that they are deprived of many of those great blessings they anticipated enjoying. With all of our mercy, kindness and tender feelings towards our brethren and sisters, and towards all people, we cannot violate the law of God, nor transgress those principles that He has laid down with impunity. He expects us to do those things that are acceptable before Him, and if we don’t we must pay the penalty of our departure from correct principle. 9
If the Lord can have a people to listen to his law, there may be a chance to establish his kingdom upon the earth. If not, the only way he can establish his kingdom is to remove them from the earth, or give up his kingdom until another time; for it is impossible to establish his kingdom without having a people obedient to him. …
… Where there is not a feeling of obedience, the Spirit of God will be withdrawn. People cannot retain it and be in rebellion against the authorities and counsels of the church and kingdom of God. 10
Obedience brings blessings in this life and in eternity.
What is a man’s duty here? It is obedience to the oracles of God that are in our midst; and so long as we keep the commandments of God, we need not fear any evil; for the Lord will be with us in time and in eternity. 11
Jesus Christ says, “my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27.) Wherever this peace exists, it leaves an influence that is comforting and refreshing to the souls of those who partake of it. It is like the morning dew to the thirsty plant. This peace is the gift of God alone, and it can be received only from him through obedience to his laws. If any man wishes to introduce peace into his family or among his friends, let him cultivate it in his own bosom; for sterling peace can only be had according to the legitimate rule and authority of heaven, and obedience to its laws. 12
We have learned this, that God lives; we have learned that when we call upon him he hears our prayers; we have learned that it is the height of human happiness to fear God and observe his laws and keep his commandments; we have learned that it is a duty devolving upon us to try and make all men happy and intelligent, which happiness and intelligence can only be obtained through obedience to the laws of God. 13
As Latter-day Saints we believe this Gospel has been restored, and further, we know that we are in possession of it. I do for one, and so do you; and through obedience to its principles and the reception of the Holy Ghost you Latter-day Saints do know that this is the work of God, and if you don’t know it, it is because you are not living your religion and keeping the commandments of God; “if any man will do his will,” says Christ, “he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” [John 7:17.] 14
It is for us to magnify the callings unto which we are called, and unless we all of us are placed under the guidance and direction of the Almighty, we cannot do so—that is, those who do not yield themselves subject to the law of God, cannot do that thing. But those who yield themselves subject to the law of God, can do it and do it quite easily, for Jesus says: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:29–30.] Now, if we yield obedience to God and to the spirits that dwell within us, then will our light become like that of the just that shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day; but if we do not yield an obedience to the law and word and order of the Church and Kingdom of God upon the earth, the light that is within us will become darkness, and then, as it is said, how great is that darkness! [See Matthew 6:23.] 15
When men are humble, pure and virtuous, and seek unto the Lord for His guidance, for the light of His Holy Spirit to lead them unto the paths of life, that they may comprehend His law, His word and His will—and then obey it as it is made manifest to them—such persons, those brethren and sisters who follow this plan, are a thousand times more likely to comprehend the things of God than those that are careless, indifferent, foolish and wayward, and who neglect the blessings and the opportunities which are offered to them. The light that is in those people becomes darkness, while the path of the others is like that of the just which shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. [See D&C 50:24.] 16
Our safety and happiness and our wealth depend upon our obedience to God and His laws, and our exaltation in time and eternity depends upon the same thing. If we have means placed in our hands we will ask our Father to enable us to do what is right with it, and, as I have said, we will ask Him for our daily bread, and thank Him for it; just the same as the children of Israel did. They had manna brought to them from time to time by the angels. I do not know what kind of mills they had or who were their bakers; but they brought the manna. “He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.” [Exodus 16:18.] I think that is the case sometimes with us. The angels do not feed us exactly with manna, but God does take care of us, and I feel all the day long like blessing the name of the God of Israel; and if we fear God and work righteousness, … we, the people of Zion, will be the richest of all people. 17
I remember when I had the Gospel first preached to me—before I was baptized; I heard a lecture something like this: “Now, we have nothing particular to promise you, only the favor of God if you will live righteously and keep His commandments. You may be persecuted, afflicted, imprisoned or put to death for the testimony you may have to bear, for the religion you are called upon to obey; but we can promise to you that inasmuch as this is the case you will have eternal life.” 18
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
• Why do you think the Lord desires us to be obedient? What are some of the blessings He has promised us if we are obedient?
• What experiences have you had that have shown you the blessings of obedience? Why do you think you feel better when you are obedient?
• Why is agency an important part of obedience? In what ways does obedience make us free?
• In what ways does obedience help us strengthen our testimonies? What effects can disobedience have on a person’s testimony? What do you think President Taylor meant when he said, “We cannot run our own way and have the blessing of God”?
• Knowing that our own salvation depends on our obedience, what can we do to teach our children this principle?
• Why do the obedient still experience trials? (See also D&C 58:2–5.) Why is it important to remain obedient even in the midst of severe trials?