Posted by: Ascentury | Monday, 11 August 2008

Discipleship, part the first

My wife and I are moving to Illinois this week, so things have been a little crazy.  On top of it, we were asked to speak in sacrament meeting on our last Sunday in Provo, so I’ve decided to use that text as this week’s and next week’s posts.

It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master. Matt. 10:25.

Obedience tends to carry with it a notion of restriction, but discipleship carries with it an air of enablement. As a disciple, one truly seeks to follow the Lord, to develop in his ministry, and to become what God would have us become.

There are myriad commandments we must obey. The law of chastity, partaking of the sacrament, loving our neighbor, keeping the Sabbath.

All commandments, of course, are compassed in the great two. And when we understand the great commandments, we come to realize that they two are one, and the end of creation is circumscribed into one great whole—to be at one with God. Of course, we don’t normally think that way. Our fragmented thought process requires the Word of Wisdom and the Ten Commandments and tithing. We tend to forget so easily; King Benjamin said, “For salvation cometh to none such, except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. … •Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law…” (Mosiah 3:12,14).

Alternatively, we also take refuge in scholarship, it being so much easier to talk about these things than to live them. But when we understand the oneness, really understand it, perhaps obedience will become less of a prick against which to kick and more of an iron rod.

Ezra Taft Benson taught, “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”

What does it mean to quest for obedience? What power might we have, if we would only ask, wrenched from the depths of our broken hearts, what would the Lord have me do? And the paradoxical price of power is to accept freedom. Our Father in Heaven requires more than a casual faith; surely he requires more than a casual obedience. How many people who speak of the scriptures as containing wisdom, but who do not truly believe in them, really strive to follow those teachings?

A Zion people is not compelled in all things, but obeys freely and completely of each individual will.

To an errant Israel, a would-be Zion people who so often fell short, the prophet Micah cried, “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? •… and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:7-8). The wildest vision the wayfaring Levite priests could conceive, after all the ponderous regulations of Leviticus and the continual exhortations from Moses to Elijah to Jeremiah, it boils down to this:  ten thousand rivers of oil aren’t worth the olives from which they’re pressed.  Ten thousand rivers of oil, a thousand burnt offerings, a sweet savor to the Lord–a stench if done without understanding and obedience. All the burnt sacrifices and sweet savors in the world could not add up to one iota of salvation, if not for the infinite sacrifice and a contrite spirit.

Through Hosea, the Lord pled, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. … •For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:4,6).

At the end of the Preacher’s search for meaning and understanding in Ecclesiastes, he solemnly bore his simple discovery, that “the conclusion of the whole matter [is]: Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

Of course, there is also the quintessential latter-day revelation example of obedience and discipleship, Adam offering sacrifice unto the Lord outside Eden’s forbidden gates.

“Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence. •And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.

“•And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. •And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. •Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.

“•And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will” (Moses 5:4-9).

Sacrifice and obedience, from the beginning a plea for a simple life in the simple law, but men refused to hear.  A simple voice, an angel commanding men to call upon the name of God forever, a plea to love and listen and learn and try, a plea ignored and slighted and abused and forgotten. Such has it often been with discipleship.

Yet this plea comes with simple consequences. The disobedient are faced with the awful accounting of deeds: “Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine” (Micah 6:15).

The righteous, the obedient, the disciples, are reminded, however, through grace and atonement, to “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12). That, too, is a solemn reminder that of ourselves we merit nothing, but receive all through the grace of a loving Father. We must consciously, actively obey—but obedience doesn’t begin to cover the price that Christ paid in full, as Benjamin preached. We of ourselves can merit nothing. However, discipleship and obedience put us in a position where grace may more fully and freely act.

For instance, consider the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter of the law. So often we use the justification that something is not part of the spirit of the law to break the letter. However, as we seek true discipleship, we discover that the spirit of the law is broader in scope, not narrower, and we find ourselves acting where we are not constrained to act.

Furthermore, we frequently talk so cavalierly of templecovenants, rather than hearing—and thinking—what each of those covenants are. When was the last time someone spoke of the templecovenants that you listed each of those and considered it? When was the last time that you spoke not of templecovenants, but of the temple covenants?

Let us “walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6), carefully and deliberately, but open always to the promptings of the Spirit.

“Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot continue in sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy Spirit of promise” (1 John 3:9). Whoever is born of God, cannot continue, while sinning; we have made holy covenants, we have renewed them this day, and our unrepented blemishes stand between us and the Holy Ghost.

So what are the prophets and apostles trying to tell us? Life is about becoming, not about being. We are not static beings, not for an instant. A moment of time is the axis of the world, every thought, every hope, every dream presses us one way or the other. If something doesn’t draw us closer to our Heavenly Father, it estranges us—that is the yardstick of discipleship.

We have always within us the capacity to do wrong, but as we obey, our orbit of influence expands, and we find ourselves susceptible to greater good.

Even at that, though, we all know what it is to sleep. Remember back on this morning—many of us probably were dimly aware at various points of consciousness, yet we shied away from it back into the depths of our oblivion. In that state of mind, it is unpleasant to awaken. Throughout the Small Plates of Nephi, a thread of awakening runs.

Lehi: “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men…” (2 Nephi 1:13).

Nephi: “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin” (2 Nephi 4:28).

Jacob: “Arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death” (Jacob 3:11).

Enos: “The words I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. •And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul…” (Enos 1:2-3).

Discipleship requires awakening, to the glory of the gospel plan and to the voice of our loving Heavenly Father, who seeks only our best interest.

This is just a sampling of the many wonderful examples and teachings the prophets, ancient and modern, have given us of obedience. Consider, for a moment, how many people will spend thousands of dollars to travel to the Holy Land and walk where the prophets walked, and where Jesus walked. There is an easier way (hold up scriptures).

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous to us” (1 John 5:3).

“Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ…” (Moroni 10:32).

“Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).


  1. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

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