I will be the last person on the earth to claim that my will is identical to the Lord’s. I am very often what I’d call a reluctant disciple. When God speaks through his prophets, I have sometimes been angry, annoyed, bugged, disappointed, argumentative, fill in the blank with the negative emotion of your choosing. I’m more of a thy-will-be-done-because-I-know-I’m-cursed-otherwise-but-I’d-really-like-thy-will-to-be-like-mine-if-you-can-manage-it than anything.
I’m not promoting that, nor proud of it. But it’s true. I’m no Neal Maxwell. (Yea, a shocker, I know.)
But I have learned (the hard way?) that obedience is vital. Obedience trumps my feelings, my notion of fairness, my needs, my anything. I have found that God knows best even though I’m still often a stubborn idiot without much perspective.
As the debate over how binding direct, prophetic counsel is rages on the boards (particularly in reference to repeated counsel for mothers to try to stay home with their children), I am reminded of the danger of making yourself an exception to the “rules.”
Granted, there are exceptions. Very often these are addressed by the prophets themselves at the very time the counsel is set forth. But sometimes we want so much to do our own thing, that we look like politicians on the stump or CPAs weedling out an extra buck on the tax return. We deny clear language and find all the reasons why it doesn’t apply to us anyway.
In high school, my best friend and I sneaked into an R-rated movie. We didn’t so much make a careful movie selection as we did just try to see if we could get away with it. We watched the classic, romantic comedy Cheech and Chongs Nice Dreams. It was a raunchy disappointment at best. But it didn’t stop me from doing it again.
Yea, I’d heard the talk about avoiding bad movies. Good counsel, too. Especially for all those really impressionable people out there. And I really considered it. Honest. But as long as I analyzed the problematic scenes and their implications, intellectually understanding what they were, I could avoid the downfall of so many.
Truth is, I’m not markedly different from the mass of humanity. And making myself an exception to one rule, makes it easier to rationalize being an exception to another. That, I suppose, isn’t so hard to fathom. But what really surprised me is that the further you travel down that road, it isn’t just the rules that your mind makes you an exception to. It also becomes the rewards.
If I don’t have to follow God’s counsel, then maybe his promises don’t apply to me either. I can see how all of you can access the atonement, but I think I’m just too far gone.
It was Stephen Robinson’s article, (that later became the book) “Believing Christ,” that brought this so clearly to me. I had long since stopped the movies and other questionable behavior, had married in the temple, and actively serving all over the place. But in the back of my mind, I still felt that I couldn’t really see myself as “making it.”
I had, however, learned well that “exceptional” living needs to be carefully reserved for the exceptions. And thinking that being smart or clever or righteous or careful moves us to the realm of the exception is really none of the above.
So, when the prophet said, “Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn.” I didn’t say, “God, I will stay home when you change all my feelings and confirm the blessedness of your counsel.” or “I will come home when Sam graduates from college and we are financially comfortable.” I said, “Heavenly Father, I will stay home, even though I don’t want to, because you said so. And you can’t let me be miserable.” (That is an exact quote, by the way, although it included a lot more angst and sputtering than I can type.)
As usual, I tried to obey the counsel, but it didn’t come without my own preferences and desires getting in the way.
Yes, I did gain a testimony of the counsel in time. But not immediately. Not coincidentally, I think, the first moment that was truly revelatory came exactly six weeks and one day after my daughter was born. The day I would have missed being back at work had I not obeyed the counsel.
When the prophet speaks, it is the word of God. We can follow or not. In my experience it works best to do the former even if we go kicking and screaming than not.