It’s been quite a weekend for us, it being Greg’s birthday. I decided to go out on a limb and surprise him with a concert to Josh Groban! He didn’t know what was going on until on the way to the Arena, I blurted out the word concert. I wasn’t sure we were actually going to make it to the concert by the look on his face, but he was a good sport. I think he really enjoyed it after all and I KNOW I did!
Yesterday we spent the afternoon playing his favorite sport, disc golf and then going to dinner with our two sons, Edward and Joseph who actually live in Utah Valley, where we lived for 13 years before moving to Sandy.
I remember listening to President Monson’s talk on obedience this last April and I remember the impression I had. I heard his story of the time that he, at 8 years old, had the whole hillside on fire and all the surrounding neighbors involved in putting out the fire because of his admitted disobedience to his parents’ rule of not touching the matches. I wondered if it was at that early age that the principle of obedience sank deep into his heart. He now, of course, is our great prophet who has shown in word and very deed what obedience to principles of the Gospel can do for us spiritually and temporally.
L. Whitney Clayton compared obedience to the commandments to an anchor on a boat. The boat represents our souls adrift in the sea of life and the anchor of obedience serves to prevent our ship from floundering and being destroyed. Sometimes we need to rely on others’ testimonies and examples as anchors until we learn how to steer our ships in the course we want them to go.
For me personally, I’ve relied on many people to help anchor me as I have charted my course through life. My husband serves as an incredible anchor in my life right now. I am so grateful for his example and support.
Before that, I saw the examples of my dear parents, who, though not perfect, showed what it means to be steadfast and obedient in the Gospel. My father, Hal Bresock, came from a background that wasn’t strong in the Gospel. His father was the orphaned son of a German immigrant and who later in life embraced the Gospel enough so that he was able to take my dear grandmother to the temple and be sealed. But until then, my father grew up as wild as an American boy can in the midst of the Depression. He knew deprivation and heartache. But he knew that somewhere in his mother’s past the Gospel was a big part of her life. So when he met my mom on a boat headed back from Australia where she had just completed her mission, he jumped at the opportunity to court her. They were married and despite vastly different backgrounds, they anchored one another. He was an anchor of steadiness and she was an anchor of obedience to Gospel principles. Together they navigated some very rough seas and built their eternal marriage that will bless their lives forever and the lives of all who follow in their family. I have looked back at their resolve and obedience amidst hardship as an example in my own life.
Another powerful example of obedience in my own life comes from the stories spoken to me by my mother of my great, great grandfather, Edward Stevenson. He was born in Gibraltor, Spain and emigrated to the U.S. with his family. It was in the United States, in the state of Michigan, at age 13, that he heard about the Gospel from two missionaries and from the prophet Joseph himself, on the way back from a mission to Canada, and he even delivered a juicy apple for the prophet to eat. I can imagine how enthralled he must have been to hear of the prophet's experiences at age 14, close to his own age, of seeing the Father and the Son and the message they had for him. His diaries of that time are now in the archives of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University because they are the earliest known works showing that the prophet did indeed testify of the First Vision prior to 1836.
He became an ardent follower of Joseph Smith, following him to Far West and helping in the defense of the town. He was with him at the meeting at Adam Ohndi Ahman. Later, Edward was very obedient and served numerous missions for the church and is recorded as having traveled the most miles under his own expense of any missionary in the history of the LDS Church, having crossed the plains 18 times, helping Saints cross to come to Utah. He crossed the Atlantic 9 times, as a missionary for the church and in his capacity as one of the first Presidents of the Seventy. He was called on a special mission to bring the errant Martin Harris back to the headquarters of the Church. He responded obediently to that call and returned to SLC, accompanied by Martin Harris in August of 1870. Martin Harris subsequently was pardoned for his indescretions and became a member in good standing once again… Edward Stevenson worked tirelessly teaching the Saints in Utah of his experiences with the early brethren of the church, including Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdry, and David Whitmore.
Edward Stevenson’s example of complete obedience has helped me in my own life during a lengthy period in my life, or so it seemed when I was going through it, when I felt abandoned, alone and hopeless. (Have any of us ever felt that way?) When I thought of how obedient this ancestor of mine was and how he didn’t join some of the leaders of the day who, starting out as friends and advocates for the prophet Joseph Smith, ended up abandoning him and some even contributing to his death. He was always true to his knowledge that the prophet Joseph was called of God. I knew he didn’t and wouldn’t do this in vain. I know that what he stood for was true. I even received my own witness early as a child of the truthfulness of the Gospel. But life is real and so are Satan’s attempts to destroy us. And in those difficult times of sadness and hardship it was tempting to say, “I’m in so much turmoil right now... I think I’ll take a sabbatical from church, you know, just to get my head together. “ But I did continue to press on because of the anchors of those I had chosen to look to. Because in all reality, no amount of living the commandments in the past can be passed down to the next generation and I knew this much: It is up to me to get my own rock solid resolve and spiritual strength gained through what? Obedience.
So who are your anchors to help you through your own life’s journey? Maybe it is a parent, a sibling, a friend or a mentor. We need to look at those who are in our lives and we need to hold on fast to their examples of obedience and sacrifice when we struggle, so that we in turn may become anchors for those who are searching and trying to develop their own faith.
Referring back to Elder Clayton’s talk, he spoke about a time he was a newly called regional rep in Paraguay and was trying to impart some wisdom that he didn’t feel he had to 7 Stake Presidents --all discouraged with the many problems in their stakes. He was guided to ask them this question: Are the problems you speak of also prevalent with the ones who are faithful and obedient? Each Stake President admitted that as a matter of fact, the members who were faithful and obedient were the ones who were able to manage, who didn’t have these trying and terrible ordeals. In other words, the Lord was blessing those who kept his commandments, just as he promises us in the scriptures. “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say. But when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
So could it be that the standard answers we seem to always give to questions in Sunday School and Relief Society are actually the most important? Scriptures, Family Prayer, temple attendance, missionary work? I submit that they are and they are the way we will gain so many blessings. As we learn to obey simple commandment, we will hunger to know about more commandments because obedience to them brings so much joy. Obedience to each commandment brings blessings and refines our souls, preparing them for entrance into Heavenly Father’s presence.
I’m thankful for the chance I had to ponder on the importance of obedience and thank Brother Nielson for this chance. I know that these things are true and like President Monson who quoted another great prophet ,Gordon B. Hinckley believe this to be true, ““The happiness of the Latter-day Saints, the peace of the Latter-day Saints, the progress of the Latter-day Saints, the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, and the eternal salvation and exaltation of this people lie in walking in obedience to the counsels of … God.”