Friday, June 20, 2014

Obedience Takes Strength

I admit, posting so soon after my last post may seem a departure from what I wrote (and strongly believe in), but all of my chores are done (hallelujah!) and my family members are all happily engaged in other activities for the time being. When I asked each one of them if they wanted to do something with me, they each said, "No, I'm fine." or, "Not right now." Thus, I decided to blog! :)

One of the things I've noticed over my adult years, is that many people think a person is somehow weak if they are an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I've read so many comments attached to online LDS articles where people call Mormons "sheeple." In other words, they consider LDS members to be sheep, or people that blindly follow religious leaders. They mistakenly think active LDS members can't think for themselves.

I've also seen/heard other people state that they don't want to be attached to any religion because it takes away their individuality—they want to stand out from the masses.

Yet, I would like to flip that way of thinking upside down. For I truly believe that when a person is obedient to something, or someone, they are actually stronger than those people who aren't obedient. Please hear me out on my opinion... :)

Look at the following professions and think about what it entails to be successful. If someone truly wants to succeed in a specific endeavor, that person must be obedient to specific traits, characteristics, habits, etc. that apply to that profession.
  • athletes and dancers: continually good habits in diet, sleep, and exercise; listening to and following a coach or an artistic director's counsel
  • musicians: consistent sleep, so as to have a clear mind to play the intricate notes in their sheet music—of which many must memorize; hours of practicing every day; capable of following a conductor
  • various types of scholars: continual researching and studying; keeping current with their organization's requirements, i.e., taking the necessary tests/exams; listening to other scholars' findings and reasoning; capable of producing evidence to prove their points
  • scientists: endlessly studying others' publications/findings; never-ending experimentation and documentation of what they are trying to prove or disprove
  • authors: follow writing guidelines of their written language; sticking to the publishers' deadlines; editing their work until the publisher is satisfied; checking their pride at the door when receiving rejection letters—they must be humble enough to make the recommended changes
  • FBI special agents: being very physically fit, i.e., passing the FBI's physical requirements and fitness tests; daily working within the law; following their commanding officer's order(s) (or whatever they're called!)
  • media personalities, i.e., television, movies, news, reality shows, etc.: keeping up their appearance (It seems women have to follow this unwritten rule more than men, which drives me crazy!); following the director's wishes and timelines; memorizing lines or following the teleprompter
If a person in one of those professions is not obedient to the requirements of their job, he/she will most likely be released from their duties. *Obviously, I'm not an expert! I have no professional experience in any of those fields. I'm simply making an observation.

Continuing along the obedience idea, I've come to the conclusion that many people admire marathon runners. ;) I highly doubt a person could just up and run an entire marathon without extensive and consistent training. Maybe someone could run a marathon without training, but they might end up in the hospital!

My point is, it takes obedience to train for a marathon—which includes self-discipline (the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it) and determination (firmness of purpose; resoluteness). Ultimately, a person has to be obedient to the laws of nature. For the human body can't simply do what a marathon requires without taking the time to build up its muscles and stamina first.

Even though I've never run a marathon, I know many people who have. From what I've researched, a person shouldn't run a marathon without having trained for at least 12-22 weeks in advance, depending on their fitness level. A marathon trainee must run at least three to five days per week, with cross training another two days per week. That means, a person desiring to run a marathon must consistently train six to seven days per week, for up to 22 weeks!

If being obedient to a marathon training schedule doesn't take strength, I don't know what does!

Let's take that same marathon idea and apply it to the notion that many people view members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be weak.

First of all, to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a person must meet The Church's baptismal requirements. After a person is a member of The Church, they must commit to continually keep their baptismal covenants. The Church has stated, "When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ and keep His commandments throughout your life. Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?"

Secondly, an LDS Church member's ultimate goal is to attend the temple of the Lord, receive her/his endowment, and be sealed to their eternal companion (spouse).

In order to attend the temple, a member must be temple worthy, and hold a current temple recommend. Here is an excerpt from LDS.org that gives an idea of what it entails to be temple worthy:
"The following are some of the topics your priesthood leaders will ask you about:
1. Your testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
2. Whether you sustain the President of The Church.
3. Whether you live the law of chastity, pay tithing, are honest with others, and keep the Word of Wisdom.
4. Whether you strive to attend church, keep the covenants you have made, and keep your life in harmony with the commandments of the gospel."
I'd like to further breakdown some of those temple worthiness questions. Here are The Church's definitions:
  • Testimony: "A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior's true Church on the earth; and that The Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel."
  • Sustain the President of The Church: "We sustain the President of The Church as prophet, seer, and revelator—the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church. We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators."
  • Chastity: "Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage."
  • Paying tithing: "To tithe is to freely give one-tenth of one's income annually to the Lord through His Church." Also, "The Bible indicates that God’s people followed the law of tithing anciently; through modern prophets, God restored this law once again to bless His children. To fulfill this commandment, Church members give one-tenth of their income to the Lord through His Church. These funds are used to build up The Church and further the work of the Lord throughout the world."
  • Honesty: "To be honest means to be sincere, truthful, and without deceit at all times."
  • Keeping the Word of Wisdom: "The Word of Wisdom is a law of health revealed by the Lord for the physical and spiritual benefit of His children...the Lord revealed which foods are good for us to eat and which substances are not good for the human body. He also promised health, protection, knowledge, and wisdom to those who obey the Word of Wisdom." *To delve further into the Word of Wisdom, I highly recommend clicking on the link. :)
  • Interestingly, I couldn't find a link about the requirements of attending church for existing members! I guess it goes back to the question that says, "strive to attend church." :) That said, I found "what to expect" when attending church as a visitor. Thus, I'll share what my family does: we go to church every Sunday for three hours, and attend all of our meetings while there.
  • Covenants: "A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience."
  • The Ten Commandments: "The Ten Commandments are eternal gospel principles that are necessary for our exaltation. The Lord revealed them to Moses in ancient times (see Exodus 20:1–17), and they are also referenced in whole or in part in other books of scripture (see Matthew 19:18–19; Romans 13:9; Mosiah 12:33–36; 13:13–24; D&C 42:18–29; 59:5–13; 63:61–62). The Ten Commandments are a vital part of the gospel. Obedience to these commandments paves the way for obedience to other gospel principles."
Yes, striving 24-7 to follow all of those above-listed items most definitely requires obedience to our Heavenly Father's wishes. Being obedient to what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches absolutely takes strength!

No, people of the internet world, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are most definitely not weak. We are not sheeple in the derogatory way you present. We most definitely can and do think for ourselves! We are intelligent, thoughtful, careful, prayerful, and oh-so-deliberate in our choices! Improving ourselves by faithfully following the gospel of Jesus Christ (as presented by the Church) is a lifelong marathon endeavor that will make each of us better than we ever could have been without the teachings of The Church.

I wish all of The Church's skeptics would sincerely try to follow the teachings of The Church—to the very best of their ability. For I truly believe that anyone who honestly strives to follow all of the teachings of my church will be amazed and stunned at the miracles that occur because of his/her efforts. Then they will know just how strong active members of The Church really are! :)

Even though some people think their individuality will be smothered if they join The Church, quite the opposite happens. I think people who choose to follow The Church's teachings will be surprised at just how much they begin to stand out. I've never felt more special—more of an individual—than when I'm spiritually connected to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, through the Holy Ghost. Knowing I'm a daughter of God gives me a feeling of joy that can't be described. Knowing our Savior's atonement was performed for me, and all of Heavenly Father's children, is an unbelievably freeing feeling!

Malachi 3:10 tells us, "Bring 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." Furthermore, D&C 82:10 says, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." Because Greg and I have followed the advice in those scriptures our entire marriage, we have witnessed many miracles in our lives!

Lastly, I must point out that our Savior is the ultimate example of obedience and strength. Jesus Christ said in John 5:30, "...I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." Jesus was constantly doing the will of our Heavenly Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He again gave up his own desires to do the will of our Father in Heaven. Luke 22:42 says, "...Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."

*I find it highly interesting that immediately after our Savior chose to be obedient to our Heavenly Father, an angel was sent to strengthen Him even further! Luke 22:43 informs us, "...there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." What a great example those scriptures are for us! Jesus Christ chose to be strong and obey our Heavenly Father, and he was strengthened because of His righteous efforts. Seriously, wow. :)

Well, my time for blogging tonight has run out. Regardless of what anyone else chooses to do, I will happily follow our Savior's example for the rest of my life and into eternity!

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