Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 26, 2015 - Intercambios and Craziness

Hey hey hey,

To answer your questions mom: (I asked if he was in a ward or branch and if he had had an opportunity to use his piano skills.) Yeah, I am our branch´s accompanist (two birds with one stone, eh?). (I asked where he met for church.) We meet in a mini-chapel: one hallway, with an exit at one end and the chapel on the other, with bathrooms, Relief Society room (with attached baptismal font), Primary room, kitchen, and two classrooms in between. It has its own power plant, because electricity issues, YAY! (I asked if he had issues with the power going out.  I have heard that is a problem there in the DR.)  Well, the power goes in and out a lot, but the church has its own power generation and the apartment has a huge battery array with an inverter/charger thing, so power outages aren't a problem for us (another two-for-one!). (I asked if he had to do his laundry by hand.. another thing I have heard about serving in the DR.)  We do our laundry semi-auto: we fill the washing half of the machine, add detergent, and set it to agitate. We then move it into the spin-drying half (they´re Daewoo brand machines, and a lot of people have them--maybe you can find a pic). (I asked if he had warm water for showers.)  We don´t have warm water, all we´ve got is ice-cold; I miss my warm showers, regardless of the humidity. We have fans in the apartment to keep us cool, and we move them around to wherever we are in the house, but at night it does cool down--I´ve woken up cold a couple of times, so I´ve started turning it off before I go to sleep. (I asked if he had a CD player to play the music he brought with him.)  We have DVD players (for showing stuff to investigators and less-actives, which work fine as CD players. Elder Fr**** and I trade off. (I asked where he went to send his emails.)  We have to go to internet cafes to email here, yes. I will make a dropbox and send pics soon, but stuff went down this weekend so for sake of time (and lack of camera cord) I can't right now.

Wow, what a week! I kinda forgot somehow (in my exuberance) to mention in last week´s letter that I had my first baptism: hermana Y**** (Elder Fr***** actually did the baptizing, but still). She referred us to her father and brother, who we´ve begun teaching. I had my first intercambio (exchange) this week--I went out to Bayaguana with Elder Ch**** for Wednesday into thursday (Elder Ch**** is a newbie like me--3 weeks in the field) while his companion, our District Leader Elder Da*** came to Sabana Grande with Elder Fr****. It was a good experience to have to start over new, and to be forced to be outgoing despite my greenness. I haven´t had too much trouble with being shy though--the Spirit has been helping me there, for sure. While I was on intercambios, we had our first lesson with Y****´s dad and brother, but I wasn't there and don't know much about how it went. Every monday night, though, we try to go to at least one Noche de Hogar (FHE), and last monday night they came to one at a member´s house.This saturday, our branch´s endowed members went on a temple trip, and we got permission to go along with, bringing Y**** and her dad and brother, as well as a longtime investigator D**** (an elderly, golden-hearted man with Parkinsons who has been ready to be baptized for some time, but we thought we needed a special interview since he killed a man in self defense in his years as a security guard. However, he wasn't prosecuted and thus needs no interview, so we will be placing a date with him this week). We taught a lesson on the temple grounds, and the Spirit was incredible. We talked about the Restoration, specifically the First Vision, and also shared the significance of the temple. We then took the four out for McDonalds (there is one a few blocks from the temple) -- oh man that felt like the food of kings-- and when we got back we watched the hour-long Restoration in the temple waiting room. Both D*** and C**** (Y****´s father) bore sincere testimonies, even though I don't know if C**** knew he was testifying! Again, the Spirit there was amazing.

That night, we got back home and started planning. I left to go to the bathroom (which requires manual bucket-flushing, BTW), and Elder Fr**** called me back in. His shirt was shaking, and he said he needed to lay back. I lightly laid a finger in the middle of his chest, and I could feel his heart beating about 3 times faster and stronger than seemed healthy for someone in the middle of exercise, let alone one who was resting and had been at rest all day. I gave him a priesthood blessing, and sat him in front of a fan with a wet towel over his head. Our phone was out of minutes, so we went to a members house down the street and called Sis. Corbitt and Dr. Reagan, the mission doctor. Elder Fr**** started feeling feverish, developed a headache, felt tingly in his hands and legs, and continued to have a ridiculous heart rate (160 bpm) and blood pressure. We had the branch first counselor, N**** (the only guy we know with a car instead of a motorbike) take us to the mini-hospital in Sabana Grande. In the 10 minutes between the phone call and the arrival at the hospital, however, Elder Fr****´s heart rate, blood pressure, and everything else calmed down, and they only got him tylenol for the fever. The next day we went to a hospital in the capitol to do a blood test, and because the only open doctor consultation appt was in the morning we stayed the night with the office elders (APs). We went on exchanges with them sunday night, which was cool; Elder Ve**** and I didn't get to teach any lessons, though. We spent all day in the capitol because of the length of the wait and consultation, got back just now, and are headed back in the morning for more testing to figure out what the heck happened to Elder Fr***** and why. 

GAAH! This is frustrating! There goes my hour (well, I did understandably take longer writing Pres. Corbitt today, but still), and I haven´t shared even the half of the Spiritual experiences and the temporal awesomeness (and a bit of madness) that has been happening this week. Best regards to all of you; I love you guys!

Elder Rowe

(PS-pardon the awful typing--the keyboards in these internet cafes are not only the spanish keyboards, but are also REALLY worn, with stuck keys and stuff.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Elder Rowe's First Day - With Pres and Sister Corbitt

Displaying E Rowe.JPG

Oct 19, 2015 - Pesos and Gua-guas

(I noticed that he had taken money from his home account and was wondering if he was stocking up or if there were things that he was supposed to have that we didn't get.  Sounds like it was a bit of both.)  We went shopping at La Sirena (Costco) this week for non-perishable, lasting stuff (like cereal, instant oatmeal and instant pancakes) where I spent 700 pesos of my 15-day apoyo (we get money every 15 days-4500 pesos, since we´re in the campo and have to take the gua-guas ("wa-was"; buses) to leave for district meetings weekly and zone mtgs twice per transfer, and they charge 50-130 pesos one-way), then spent 1500 more of my apoyo to have a ward member cook lunch for us for the next 10 days (she charges 300/day--Elder Fr**** and I split the cost), and then lost like 500 of it somehow between the colmado and the apartment 1 block away. Thus, not realizing how much I´d spent, and because last week i got used to snacking a lot since we didn't have stuff for breakfast or dinner, and we´d buy lunch, I ran a bit low on money and pulled some out. I pulled money out the first time, though, to get a bedspread set (i need one out here) and a new umbrella (because I HAVE NO IDEA HOW, but my brand-new spring-loaded umbrella of awesomeness broke after a week and a half. GRRRR!). Funny story about La Sirena: so on the way back (it´s in the capitol´s outskirts) Elder Fr**** and I each had like 4 bags of stuff on top of two packages from home for Elder Fr**** and an extra backpack on me, not to mention our pamphlet and BoM restock. We made it home without losing anything or getting robbed: a logistical miracle (keeping it together on the gua-gua) and a faith builder (I was afraid we´d be robbed, I prayed, felt peace, and nothing happened). ALSO also, if you send me packages, be aware that I´ll be carrying it on two gua-guas back from the stake center in Hainamosa, so please don´t make them too wide or long or heavy (i felt bad for Elder D***, my district leader: he had a 19 pound package as big as his torso to carry with all of his shopping goods).

Life is good out here. One can live on 250 pesos a day out here (40 pesos to a dollar--you do the math); (I did -- that is $6.25/day.) A half liter of soda is 15 pesos. 15! Good thing I´m not a heavy soda drinker: thanks mom and dad! Saved my teeth and my body from that one. The food here (if you get it fresh) is AMAZING. All of it: tostadas (ghetto Quizno´s style sandwiches), empanadas (fried dough stuffed with eggs, ham, cheese, or whatever else seems prudent), all the local rice-and-bean meals and soups. Also fresh mangos and fresh bananas and fresh lechosa (papaya?). Last night we went on splits with the 1st and second counselors of the branch, and afterward reunited for batidas (think orange julius). Into a blender we threw three bananas, half a mango, a third of a lechosa, 4 big ice cubes, and an entire can of Carnation sweet & condensed milk (they use it in every and any local beverage out here--I mean EVERYTHING. it is as much a staple as are rice, beans, and chicken), then blended it up and split it four ways. Best smoothie/shake thing I´ve ever had in my life. 
The people here are all amazing. Humble, generous, inviting, open to proselyting, you name it. We talk to anyone on the street in front of their house and if they´re not leaving to go anywhere we get a lesson. We do our best to keep the Spirit with us, and the Spirit touches their hearts. The only thing that really needs to change out here, other than a little bit of new information being given, is the whole final judgment thing: the general conception seems to be that they will cry "Lord, I believe" and be saved without works. Speaking of the good word of God and personal prayer seem to be "good enough" out here, and the only thing Elder Fr**** and I are really doing is showing them the spiritual power that lies in going to church and paying tithing.
The rain here is endless. Morning sun, early afternoon death ray, evening waterfall (when it rains, it DUMPS), nightly shower. Repeat. The humidity still kills, but I´m getting more used to it. Still, I get 15 minutes a day when
I´m not covered in sweat: the 15 minutes after I shower.
I don´t know that I have much more to add. I love you all, keep on keeping on, and I can´t wait to share some more next week.
Elder Rowe

Monday, October 12, 2015

First Area - Oct 12, 2015

Sorry, this one´s gonna be quick; we got back late from a cave out by Gonzalo, so I don´t have long to write. Otherwise, believe me I would answer all the questions asked in the letter. I just need to brain dump.

Soooo.... I stayed in the MTC in the DR monday night, then tuesday went to the mission office, also in Santo Domingo. We had our brains overfilled with specifics about the mission: cleanliness, what to/not to eat, schedule changes, emergency plans, etc. Then I met my companion, Elder Fr****. He has 11 months in the mission, and Sabana Grande de Boya, our area, is his third. He is really cool. His confidence is staggering, and the Spirit supports him for it. Although he can´t speak the language very well, he expresses all he does know as often as possible, speaking slowly and reexplaining himself as necessary. (Oh BTW, pictures won´t be coming until next week; like I said, we got back late). 

We took a gua-gua (improv bus) out to Sabana Grande Tuesday afternoon, got here tuesday evening, and have taught 21 lessons between Wednesday and last night. The branch here is small (<50), but the people have hearts of gold. Our Branch Pres. is in the capitol, and has been for 2-3 weeks, because of a blood sugar problem, but the Second Counselor N*** is the coolest guy ever. He´s under 30, so he has a lot of energy. On sunday he went out with us for 3 hours in the evening (where at the home of the Familia A*** we had dumplings with egg centers and plantaines as a side, which was delicious.), and he is one of the few members who doesn't go inactive if they´re not visited during the week. A lot of the members here need to be visited during the week and reminded about church, or they wont come. The biggest issue here is not that people don't want to listen; its that they don't want to do anything about it. They feel that in the last day they will cry Lord, Lord and be saved. We do our best, but we don´t have many investigators because we´re so focused on reactivating less actives and keeping members from going inactive. The people here, though, are amazing like I said. They all have hearts of gold, and while their circumstances are not always the best they are always very inviting, humble, and hospitable; the A*** family didn't appear to have much more than the house they lived in and the random assortment of furniture they´d bought and scavenged over the years.

I´ve been eating a lot of Tostadas from the local colmados (because Elder Fr**** is in love with them), but we haven't eaten much the past few days because the member who would otherwise make lunch for us couldn't start until tomorrow. This morning we had fresh egg-filled empanadas (which were the BOMB, and the size of my face), and at noon we met another district at our chapel to head over to gonzalo, where the two elders there were waiting. After a 30 min hike into the jungle (I´ll send pics eventually) we came upon a cave, which was pretty deep, rather dark, and there was a point where we had to improv a ladder with rope and logs to get to the lowest part. Only one of our member guides and one of the elders from the other district went down there, but it took us like 2 hours to get them both out, because the member found crabs down there and decided he wanted to harvest a bunch into his backpack for dinner. The place where the crabs were was of course out of the hearing range of the people on the ledge (which was still deep into the cave). Thus, having met at the church at noon, we didn't get back until six, and thus here I am. I wrote down more stuff to write about in my journal, but I dotn have it with me and its already 45 minutes later than we were supposed to get back to the house. AAA, I forgot to talk about the house! oh well, another time.

Love you all, and my prayers are with you back home,
Elder Rowe

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1st letter from the Dominican Republic - Oct 5,2015

So... Here comes the full email.

Hola todos! This is my email to confirm that I have safely made it to the DR MTC and, Mom and Dad, that my mission president won't be calling to say I'm here because he's not here today. As for why I'm at the DR MTC, I'll get to that later. This last week has been a whirlwind. Where the first few days of the MTC were eternal, the last few have been lightning fast. What with teaching two investigators 4/5 days this week, having a giant field orientation seminar Thursday, and General Conference Saturday and Sunday, everything has really been a blur.

One thing that particularly stands out, though, was my lesson with one of our investigators (J***) on Wednesday. It was really a perspective-altering, life-changing lesson. I was asked a question I've always had difficulty answering, that being why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Jose spoke of countless relatives and associates with disabilities, illnesses, and deaths, and could not see a reason for any of them. Trusting in the Lord, I opened my mouth, and I learned more than one thing about the Gift of Tongues, as spoken of in the scriptures. First, IT IS REAL. As I began to speak, the brokenness often accompanying my Spanish when I'm trying to respond carefully faded, and the Spirit filled the room. Second, the Gift of Tongues won't just help you speak well, but it will give a power to your words. Third, it means the Lord will literally put words in your mouth. I don't remember a word I said, but I remember the sweet Spirit that was there and the tears that came to the eyes of J***, as well as those of Elder R*** and I. Finally, it takes complete faith, not just a hope you'll be able to figure out what to say. I spoke literally "not knowing beforehand the things which I should [say]," and spoke without giving myself time to think and analyze what I was saying. The Spirit just led me along the way.

Another thing that stands out this week was saying goodbye to the rest of the zone Sunday night. Who would've thought I'd make so many great friends in just 10.5 days? It was hard to say goodbyes, and I'm going to miss them all dearly. I have everyone's emails, and we're going to be keeping in touch and sharing experiences via a group email.

As for our travel day, we showed up at the Salt Lake airport at ~9PM to fly out at 1AM. The flight was three hours, but the time change meant we arrived in Atlanta at ~6AM. Nobody slept all too well; there was a fair bit of turbulence, and it was an Airbus, so the engine noise insulation wasn't all to great, either. The five of us (Myself, Elder R***, Elder C***, Elder A***, and Hermana G***) had breakfast, then froze in the Atlanta terminal (they had the AC on like crazy despite the overcast weather) until ~10AM. The flight to Santo Domingo was also rather turbulent, but otherwise uneventful. It took us about an hour to actually get out of the airport, because although we practically walked straight through Immigration and Customs with our straighforward VISAs, the huge line of others getting off the plane, more often than not, had not arranged for all their paperwork to be done or had to dig for money for travel VISAs or whatever. Once we got out, we piled the five of us and all our gear into a van, and drove to the MTC. We're at the MTC because the transfer of missionaries leaving here next leave tomorrow morning, so we are scheduled to go with them. We got to have a Dominican late lunch (which was AMAZING, and was like Mom's mustard pork chops except in a soupier form with plantains substituted for rice--it was called sancocho or something), played some soccer out in the parking lot, and now here we are writing emails. Hermana G*** has breakfast at 6 and leaves at 6:30 for the West mission, while the other four of us have breakfast at 7 and leave at 7:30.

The jet lag is bad right now, though. The time change overnight was brutal, and meant that until about 3-4 hours ago all five of us were so drowsy we didn't even bother talking in anything more than short, simple sentences. I couldn't sleep on the planes, so last night all the sleep I got was a 20-minute power nap in the Atlanta airport that I hardly even remember having.
Thus, I need to get going and get some sleep here soon.

Pero, antes de hacer eso quiero darles mi testimonio de que yo s*e que Dios vive, y que su Hijo Unig*enito, Jesucristo, vive. Yo s*e que el Don de las Lenguas es una bedici*on y un poder real, efectivo, y maravilloso. Yo s*e que Dios es nuestro amoroso Padre Celestial, y que solamente quiere que nosotros vengamos a *El para vivir con *El para siempre. De esto testifico en el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

Translation:  (I did my best...)
But before doing that I want to share my testimony that I know that God lives, and his only begotten son Jesus Christ lives.  I know the gift of tongues is a real power, effective and marvelous.  I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father and that He only wants us to come to Him to live with Him forever I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Best wishes to you all, and I love and miss ya,
Elder Rowe

Monday, October 5, 2015

First Letter from the MTC - Sept 28,2015

Pues, adonde debo empezar?

My oh my, it has been a crazy week. One of my teachers, Hermano A***, told us that if we survived the first four days in the MTC the hardest part would be over. At first I didn't believe him, but after being named Zone Leader (with my companion, Elder R***) over our whole branch (30 elderes y hermanas, but 16 left today or leave tomorrow, and we get 25 greenies on Wed.) AND becoming senior companion AND reading the missionary handbook twice AND memorizing both the missionary purpose and the First Vision in Spanish, I kind of see what he meant.

Thankfully, I have felt the gift of tongues working in me already. I feel at ease with Spanish, and what I lacked in Gospel vocabulary, I have attained through study, prayer, and the help of my district. Speaking of which, my district and branch are AMAZING. No other word suits them. Elder R**** is my companion; he's quiet, kind of like I was before junior year. When he does speak, though, the Spirit is with him intensely, and in the practice lessons we've been teaching the Spirit has nearly brought one of our "investigators" to tears. Elder V**** is our District Leader, and he's from Honduras. He has an incredible gift for knowing when to joke around and when to refocus us. His companion, Elder S****, is one of the funniest guys (*ahem, Elders) I've met. He has a light in his eyes that draws people to him, and will be a great aid to him on his mission. The rest of our district consists of a trio, Elders M***, G****, and R****. All are from the US, but all have parents from elsewhere (Elders M*** and G*** from Mexico, and Elder R*** from Argentina). Elder M*** is a lot like me, but he's also already an EMT, so... yeah. Elder G*** is also funny, and like Elder S*** has a continual happiness that draws others in. Elder R*** knows a lot; he can be a little prideful at times (it's an Argentine thing) but he has overcome that for the most part in his time here.

I've also gotten close to the other district, but I'll only name a few. Elder M*** is an amazing artist, and actually uses some of what he draws for his lessons. Elder S*** is from Peru, and is kind of a combination of Elders V*** and R***. Hermana G*** is "solo," in that she's the only sister missionary in our advanced language, 2-week branch until Wednesday (so yeah, 2-week MTC time is common enough for Spanish speakers that they have two entire branches dedicated to it, so I'm very much not alone).

I went to see the Character of Christ talk by Elder Bednar, which was beyond incredible. He talked very boldly about how the character of Christ was to ALWAYS turn outwards, even in moments of despair, pain, loneliness, or whatever else. I have set a few goals in that regard. After that, I went and took pictures with Rick, Juliana, and Elder Rowe, because the Metcalfs were conducting the meeting surrounding the movie. I've bumped into Elder Rowe around six times since I've been here, but I've only seen Andrew once (on the first day) and I have yet to see Jackson.

I have lost myself in scripture study; I've even come to love it more that I ever have. I speak almost nothing but Spanish everywhere, and I read 15 pages in Spanish from the Libro de Mormon daily. I love you guys, and I miss you. I look forward to (hopefully) being able to send you some pictures and stuff before I leave the MTC.

Que les vaya muy bien, y que el Espiritu Santo les guie,
Elder Rowe

Oh, and while I am thinking of it, I want to bear my testimony in Spanish each week, kind of as a log for what's up with me. (stars mark where accents belong until I can figure out the hotkeys for them)

Quiero compartir, pues, mi testimonio de que yo se* que Jesucristo vive hoy, y que su Expiacio*n nos puede dar la fuerza y el corage que necesitamos para hacer cualquiera cosa. Yo se que Dios es nuestro Senor y Padre Celestial, y tambien que E*l nos ama. Yo se que si oramos a Dios con intento de corazo*n y un deseo de obtener ayuda o saber algo, El nos contestara* y nos ayudara* a mejorarnos. Yo se* que Jose* Smith es un profeta de Dios, y que fue visitado por Dios y su Hijo Unige*nito. Yo he sentido el poder del Espi*ritu Santo, y deseo que todos pueden tener un companero en E*l. Y digo todo esto en el nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

It Begins...

Jacob has been called to serve in the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East Mission.  On his last opportunity to speak to ward family he talked about obedience.  Here is a copy of his talk.He said he added a few things as he went but you get the idea...

            Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. Today I would like to address the life-changing and essential power of obedience. Now before you all go back to napping because you’ve “heard it all before,” I’ve been obedient in preparing this talk, so the least you could do is be obedient in hearing me out.
            Obedience is the very root of our existence. I say this because our mortal existence began as a result of our decision to be obedient. Our Eternal Father laid out a plan for us to grow, to flourish, and to become like Him. Ever our perfect example, our Savior chose first to be obedient by volunteering to be our Savior, and to follow the plan our Father had laid out. His obedience wouldn’t have been obedience, however, if there had been no other choice. Lucifer also came forth, desiring to be our Savior, but instead fashioning his own plan which would rob us of agency, and thus of the opportunity to choose between obedience and sin. We were left with a choice, and the decision-making escalated into a war in heaven. The Savior’s followers argued that agency and obedience were essential to growth. Lucifer’s followers declared that saving everyone was more important than saving their ability to choose, since they could choose incorrectly. This was not right, and thus Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven.
            If there was an entire war in heaven over whether or not we’d have obedience, it must be important. For one thing, as stated in Doctrine and Covenants 130:21, “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to the law upon which it is predicated.” Also, in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, it says that “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” While these scriptures speak for themselves, allow me to elaborate. The Lord is ready and waiting to bless us. He wants nothing more than to give us strength, power, support, and guidance. However, all these things are dependent upon our obedience to His laws. This is not just some rule of His, nor is it because his opinion of us changes. No, obedience is an eternal principle, an everlasting law, which binds even the omnipotent God.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” What an incredible promise! Obedience is a focusing lens, which can and will funnel the power and light of God into our daily lives. By our choice to follow His will, we show the Lord that we are prepared to receive greater light and knowledge. In John 7:17, John declares that “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak for myself. Obedience is the only true way we learn. However, if we choose only to obey some of the Lord’s commandments, we receive only some of that knowledge and power.
            Concerning selective obedience, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “At times we may be tempted to practice what I call ‘natural man’s obedience,’ in which we disobediently reject part of God’s law in favor of our wisdom or our desires or even popularity.” He later said: “Some obey selectively because they cannot perceive all the reasons for a commandment.” Obedience, then is faith-founded. If we cannot trust that the Lord in His infinite wisdom knows better than we do, or if we are unwilling to do everything He asks, then He is unable to give us everything He has to offer. However, when our obedience becomes more mature, we come to know that obedience to God’s law provides the ultimate liberty. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “God reveals to His prophets that there are moral absolutes. Sin will always be sin. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws. As Alma counseled his errant son Corianton, ‘Wickedness never was happiness.’” As we seek to understand the moral absolutes of the universe through God, we come to understand the necessity of our ability to choose, and of the importance of consequence.
Consequences are an essential, natural part of the Lord’s plan; every decision leads somewhere. Obedience, then, is a tool in the hand of the Lord in accomplishing His work and glory: namely, leading us back into His presence. As we come to understand the relationships between faith, obedience, and consequence, our love of righteousness and of the Lord will increase. This then increases our desire to obey His word, and the spiral continues upward. When we choose to ignore the consequences of our decisions, on the other hand, it comes back to bite us. Doctrine and Covenants 105:6 reads: “And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things they suffer.” Our Heavenly Father is not saying here that He will beat us into submission. No, not at all. He is rather warning us that the consequences of our decisions, if disobedient to His laws, will chasten us and will lead only to further suffering. While He does not wish it upon us, living with consequences is an eternal part of existence.
As we seek to obey the word of the Lord, we are not just doing so for a mortal time before we attain some ‘true freedom.’ As aforementioned, obedience is an eternal principle. However, obedience in the eternities will not seem like a chore, as it can sometimes seem now. When we seek to gain a perfect knowledge of obedience, we will obey always the Lord’s commands, even if we do not understand the ‘why,’ because we will understand that all power and blessings depend on it. I am under the impression that the degrees of glory, rather than being measurements of mortal achievement, will be more related to our understanding of being obedient, and our willingness to do so.
Willingness is an important thing to discuss, though. If we cannot say, like Nephi, that “[we] will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” for the right reasons, our willingness is not true willingness. In Doctrine and Covenants 58:27, the Lord commands that “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” If we obey the commandments of the Lord in the streets “to be seen of men,” we receive the glory of men rather than the glory of God, because our obedience, when motivated by something other than a love of the Lord, was not true. We often say to ourselves, “who would give up God’s glory for the fleeting approval of peers or strangers,” yet too often make exceptions for ourselves. When we are obedient because of our love of the Lord and of all things good, our desires bear the fruits of righteousness: an increase in love for God and in our emulation of Christlike attributes.
The scriptures contain countless examples of people who obeyed the Lord for the right reasons. Adam, our mortal forefather, made sacrifices unto the Lord on commandment, but did not even understand what they meant or why he offered them. His faith led to the revelation that a Savior would come to redeem him and all of his posterity from his fall and from further sin. What joy his obedience must have brought him!
Abraham is another, much more poignant example. After having his only son in old age, he was commanded of the Lord to sacrifice that son. Isaac was a gift from God in the first place, and I’m sure every parent listening can feel the anguish Abraham must have felt at the thought of losing his son. However, he obediently gathered the materials, built an altar, tied his son thereon, and raised the sacrificial knife before an angel of the Lord stopped him. His willingness to go so far indicated a love of God over all else, even a love for his family. After the Lord tested his obedience, He blessed Abraham with posterity “as the sands of the sea,” and with a sacred covenant which is still in force today. If the Prophet can be willing to sacrifice his own son for the Lord, can’t we at least be willing to sacrifice another hour of ‘phone time,’ or that movie that looked ‘mostly okay,’ or even that habit we secretly love but know we shouldn’t?
President Thomas S. Monson has said that “there are rules and laws to help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, the Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety, so that we might . . . return eventually to our Heavenly Father.” Obedience, on top of everything else, is a safety railing, which if we cling to will never fail us. My dad, when speaking of obedience, always shares a simple story from when I was very young and we were living in Oklahoma City. One day, upon arriving home, he went to park his Jeep on the sidewalk where he usually did, so he could leave easily and so my mom’s car was accessible. However, he had the distinct impression to park the car in the driveway, behind my mother’s car. He moved the Jeep and didn’t think much of it. Later that day, a tornado went by the house, damaging the massive tree in our neighbors’ yard. A piece of that tree landed right where the Jeep would normally be parked. Many thanks were given to the Lord that day. Even though my father didn’t understand at the time why the Jeep needed to be elsewhere, his willingness to obey an impression, a commandment, from the Lord has always been a great example to me. I learned of obedience and its blessings mostly through the piano. Though I hated it so, my mother, in her wisdom, asked that I continue to study and practice the piano. Until I was 13 or 14, I HATED it. However, I slowly began to see the blessings of being obedient. I could learn to play hymns. I could play that one song I heard that one time, if I had the sheet music. I felt like I could learn anything, and I am ever grateful that my mother ‘commanded’ me to play the piano.
I am now readying myself to leave for the Dominican Republic to serve a mission for the Lord for two years. In being obedient to His call to serve, I know that I and my family will be blessed, and I am honored to have such an opportunity. Brothers and sisters, I want to bear to you my solemn witness that I know that Jesus Christ is our Lord, our Savior and Redeemer. I know that He lives, that He loves us, and that He stands at the head of His Church. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is led by a living Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, who cannot lead us astray. I know that our obedience, in combination with the Atonement, will allow us to return to live with our Father again. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.