Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Freedom and Exact Obedience

Alma 57:21 "Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith was it done unto them."

I think it's really easy for people to see obedience as a spectrum:

Freedom                                                                                            Pharisaical

and it's easy to be comfortable somewhere along the right half, where you're "pretty obedient". Nobody wants to be Pharisaical in their obedience, which is how many would label the right arrow. And labeling that left arrow as "freedom" is becoming more and more common in today's world. So...

How can God ask us to be obedient and also promise freedom?

Well, before I answer that, you have to stop seeing obedience as a horizontal line. Horizontal lines don't seem to take into account inspiration or revelation or your relationship with your higher power. 
The typical horizontal line we seem to be measured against would be the commandments, and our spot on that line would be decided on how many commandments we keep consistently. Maybe you've never heard it in so many words, but it feels pretty true, doesn't it? And although we're taught that living a Christlike life brings us freedom, the rules associated with that can seem so binding. Have you noticed that so many people in the world today think freedom means being able to do whatever they want without consequence?

Obedience looks a little more like this:


I'm going to relate this to playing the piano. You have a piano teacher who tells you which songs to play and how often to practice and what's good and what's bad about your playing and how to improve it. The longer and more diligently you work, the better you get. The pieces get harder, and the music gets more beautiful. Once you reach a certain point, the rules of practicing and playing the piano don't really seem like rules; they give you the freedom to play whatever piece you'd like. 

Obedience to God's laws is the same. At first, rules are just rules. We obey the commandments because they're commandments. We follow the word of wisdom, the law of chastity, the law of tithing because our Father has asked us to. As we continually act in faith, without a full understanding of why, our understanding will start to grow. Of course there will always be things that never make sense in this lifetime. I doubt it's possible to go through life without any questions. Once you understand the importance of the "rules", they become a catalyst. Suddenly amazing things are constantly happening in your life. You are more able to have the Holy Ghost with you, and more able to understand when it prompts you.

Exact obedience is acting on inspiration 100% of the time. 

Freedom is being able to listen to that Spirit and deciding for yourself whether to follow the prompting or not. Freedom is when Heavenly Father trusts you enough to use your agency to make decisions and take steps in your life without handing you the answers to your questions on a silver platter. Freedom is not being encumbered by guilt or shame or addiction. 

Freedom is being rid of the sins and thoughts and feelings that stop you from receiving and acting on inspiration 100% of the time.

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