On an outside wall of the Brazilian Army Academy, cadets can read the words “You will command. So learn to obey!” Early in life I learned that obedience is essential to our progress. I am not talking about blind obedience but the obedience that allows us to reach a higher and more spiritual level in life, using our agency to do the will of the Lord. The prophet Joseph Smith taught that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21).
Something else I learned in the army is that soldiers in my country do not use the verb to work when they talk about their assignments. Rather, they use the verb to serve, helping them always remember their commitment to our people and our country. In Church service, this definition is enlarged to include service to Heavenly Father’s children wherever they may live.
Many times the most beautiful examples of obedience and service are given by ordinary people who live close to us. Sister Ana Rita de Jesus, an elderly widow, lived in Anápolis, Brazil. She could not read or write. The missionaries would go to her home every week to read the scriptures to her. She was loving and kind. Every Sunday she asked the missionaries to help her fill out a tithing slip. Sometimes her tithing and offerings were not more than a few cents, but she knew the law and wanted to obey it. After paying her tithing, she would walk into the room where the sacrament meeting was held in a rented house and would place a flower on the pulpit. In doing so, she served her brothers and sisters, bringing beauty to the place where we worshiped the Lord. That sister, in a very simple way, taught us obedience and service. She knew that obeying the commandments is the best preparation to serve.