Friday, May 2, 2014

Farewell Talk - Obedience. (April 13th)

Good morning everyone! I think most of you know me, but for those who don’t, my name is Tyler Clifford and I’ve lived in this ward for my entire life. I am 19 and will be leaving in 24 days to serve my mission in the Argentina, Neuquén Mission. I am ecstatic to be able to go down there and teach the people about the gospel that brings me so much happiness and direction in my life and I can’t wait to share that happiness with them.
As you can tell, the theme for today is Obedience. I was pretty excited to have this topic because I think obedience is the single most important aspect to the gospel.
Let’s start from the beginning. Long ago, we all lived in Heaven with our Heavenly Father. He had a plan for us: that we would come to earth to learn and grow and be tested to see if we would follow the laws of God. That is our whole purpose here: to see if we will be obedient to the commandments of our Heavenly Father. Abraham 3:24-25 confirms this to us. It states: “, and we will make an earth whereon these (us) may dwell. And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Easy right? We come down, and we obey. It’s as simple as that. I wish. We all know that there are so many temptations that can distract us from obeying the commandments of our Heavenly Father. Luckily for us, our Heavenly Father provided us with a perfect of example of obedience; He sent his son Jesus Christ to be that example.
Jesus Christ did endure many temptations in his life, but through his undoubting love and trust in his Heavenly Father, he obeyed and overcame. We too can do the same. When Christ was suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, he cried unto God asking “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:..” And I think at so many times in our lives, this is how we feel. We come to some many different test and trials, and we plead “please make this happen” or “please end this” but Obedience to the challenges we have been given, and following the words of Christ will get us past these trials. “:… nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” That is how we must treat everything that we go through. We must be solidly obedient in all things, not as we want, but as the Father wants. That sure obedience is critical in our endurance to the end. We must have faith as taught in Alma 38:5. That tells us that inasmuch as we put our trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials and your troubles and your afflictions and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.  As we continue in faith and have obedience towards the commandments, we can work through our trials, because only through our trials can we gain faith.
Why do we need to be obedient? What’s in it for us? People always asked me these sorts of questions in school. “Oh you’re a Mormon? Isn’t it just horrible to have all those rules?” And my answer was always no. Commandments are not and should not be burdens. We have these commandments and rules to protect us and make us better people. I’ve heard an analogy, I’m not sure where I first heard it, but it compares life to a funnel. Without commandments, the funnel starts out very large. We are able to try so many different things and do all sorts of stuff and make all sorts of questionable decisions. But as those bad choices catchup to us later in life, that funnel gets smaller. The choices we can make from there are much smaller. Our poor choices early in life, show up on our record and can severely affect what jobs are available to us, how we spend our money, if we suffer from addictions, and on and on. But if we follow the commandments set up for us by our Heavenly Father, it’s the opposite. Sure we may be a LITTLE more limited in our decisions as we grow up, but not suffering from addictions, not having criminal records, knowing how to treat people correctly, and many more will lead us to some many more opportunities as we grow up.
The scriptures also list so many blessing that can come to us from being obedient and following the commandments of our Heavenly Father. In section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith teaches that when we obtain blessings, it is through obedience to the laws we are given. So if we want to receive blessings, we must be obedient to the commandments given to us. Mosiah 2:41 teaches us that when we are faithful to and keep the commandments of God, we will be blessed in ALL things, both temporal and spiritual and will be received into Heaven to dwell with God in a state of never ending happiness. How great of a blessing is that? That alone should be great enough for us to want to obey the simple things that our Heavenly Father commands us. And again, in John, we learn of even more reason to keep the commandments. John 14:15 says If you love me, keep my commandments. Keeping the commandments is how we show direct love to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. Later, in John 15:10, Christ expands on that notion. He says “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and I abide in his love.” There is our reason. This is why we keep the commandments of our Heavenly Father and be obedient: To abide is His love. What greater blessing than that. 
So we know we need to be obedient, but just how obedient must we be? In Elder Hales’ talk last week in General Conference, he outlined some of the types of obedience. The first type of “obedience” is, as Elder Hales calls it, “Natural Man’s Obedience”, which ironically, isn’t obedience to God at all. This type of obedience is following the ideas and thoughts of our own mind or of another mans. We directly reject God’s law in order to obtain our own wisdom, our own humanly desires, or even some sort of temporary happiness or popularity. In Isaiah 55:8-9, we are warned of this type of obedience and are taught against it. It says:

“For my (my being our Heavenly Fathers) thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

These scriptures again lead us into the next level of obedience: Selective obedience. We fall under this category if we choose to obey only partial of our Heavenly Fathers commandments. Elder Hales taught us that this is almost always because we cannot perceive all the reasons for a commandment. So again, we need to look to the words spoken in Isaiah. The Lords ways our higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than ours. It is our purpose to obey. Bro Litchfield often tells a story of when he was in a situation and someone wiser than he told him to run and his initial thought was “Ya, but…” This story has always really impressed me. If we go about this life always questioning the commandments we are giving with “Ya, but…?” how are we ever to be able to get through anything? It’s not our job to question. It’s our job to follow whole heartedly. And once we get to that point, we can finally realize the full measure of obedience; “the Saviors obedience” as Elder Hales calls it. Can you imagine the love and inspiration we can feel when we follow the Lords commandments whole heartedly? Can you even imagine the love we will feel when we pass through this life and are greeted by our Father with the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I honestly get chills every time I imagine that glorious moment, when we walk into heaven and claim our mansion that is waiting for us there. I’ll end with this verse in Ecclesiastes. Its chapter 12 verse 13. It states so clearly this eternal importance of obedience. It says “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the WHOLE duty of man.” I believe that with every ounce of my heart. It is our duty to be completely faithful and willing to obey Gods commandments.
I bear my testimony that I know this church is true. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be giving up these next two years of my life to serve our Father and teach this gospel. I know that the family unit is a perfect plan. Having people to surround us with their love and support is so essential to our growth and this plan that our Heavenly Father has set up. I include the ward family in that as well. I have grown up here and been raised by all of you. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well guess what? You’re my village. There isn’t a single person in this room that hasn’t helped shape me into who I am, whether it has been something you taught me, something you’ve said to me, or the example you’ve been. Even if we haven’t met, I promise you that you too have shaped me through your example. And it’s because of each and every one of you that I’m standing here today, preparing myself to serve my Father, and I can’t thank you enough. I know that our Heavenly Father blesses us in everything and every way. Through our obedience we will be blessed in ways that we cannot even comprehend. The blessing we will receive through our obedience are not proportional to how obedient we are: they are so much greater. And I know that to be true, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer. Amen.

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