Today our family had the opportunity to speak in church. Our Bishop called last week and assigned the three word topic, 'Obedience brings happiness'. We discussed it at FHE with the family and encouraged our whole family to study and work on their talks all week. I felt like we had a good jump on things and I have to say that as a parent, I couldn't think of a better topic for our kids to be assigned to speak on! It brought me happiness knowing my kids would be pondering obedience! :).
I too worked on my talk off and on throughout the week. I read Ensign articles and scriptures found in the topical guide under 'obedience'. One evening during the week I decided to do some new fangled online searches of the assigned topic. At lds.org I entered my 3 words into the search. I looked at the results, chuckled to myself a little bit, then retyped my search: Obedience brings happiness. I got the same results.
There was nothing.
No scriptures, no articles, no lessons, and no General Conference quotes containing those three words. Well, let me clarify that. There were certainly many results for each of those words individually, but nowhere could I find those three words as a phrase.
This got me thinking the obvious question, "Does obedience bring happiness?" Or was there more to it? Of course by this time I had been on the computer too long and my kids were home from school, so I was left to ponder it a little more. The next morning after everyone was off to school, I tried googling my three word assigned topic. This time it brought up this article which essentially suggested that obedience brings happiness, but only when LOVE is there. This concept resonated with me and I printed out the article and read it a few more times as the week went on. Of course I continued to try to treasure up obedience stuff for the next few days, but my thoughts kept returning to this non-lds.org-written article.
I had many chances to ponder the topic as I helped my kids hone and refine their own talks. It was fun to see what stories or scriptures each of them settled on. Elise had a Gen Conf talk wherein she found a paragraph she liked. I wasn't sure it was totally meshing with the rest of her talk, but she insisted she liked it and decided to use it as her concluding statement for her talk. It was enjoyable to see which scripture stories my kids each chose to share. While I suggested many Old Testament examples, the boys all went with Book of Mormon stories and Elise went with the story of Daniel.
Sunday morning arrived and while I was happy knowing the kids were ready, I still felt unsettled. As I typically do for talks, I had about 4-5 hours of material prepared. ;) As I sit in the meeting, my mind usually settles on an outline that I can go with. But today...unsettled. I tried to focus on the matters at hand. Announcements, hymns, and of course, the Sacrament. And then, we were up. It was time.
Jebb went first and I got to help him tell about Helaman and his 2000 obedient sons. I got a huge kick out of Jackson. He decided to talk about how happy the people were after Christ came to visit. He introduced his topic, then read from his Book of Mormon Reader, then told us what it meant. For some reason I just loved that he was not just reading the whole thing off of a paper. He seemed like he was fine, but when he sat down by me, he said, "I was so nervous, I think I almost turned white!". I nearly laughed out loud because Jackson seemed cool as a cucumber. Elise delivered her talk (and I had to respect her for sticking with the paragraph I questioned, especially when the visiting High Councilman approached her after the meeting to get the name of the article the quote was from). Then it was Seth and Gabe, both of whom spoke about the life of Nephi.
And then it was my turn. Only, I hadn't quite settled on my outline. Would I elaborate on Joseph of Egypt, Noah, Naaman, stories from Church History or the Book of Mormon? I decided to just go with what came to mind. I related the fact that lds.org did not yield specific results for our assigned topic. I then shared a story from my mission. This was a story that came to mind over and over all week, but I had dismissed it because I didn't want to send the wrong message and I prefaced this to the congregation. I'll share it here.
It was transfer time in our mission and I was moving to a new area. Because our mission was so large, I only went part way before stopping at a Sister Missionaries' apartment for the night. I was tired as it was close to 10:30 at night and I had been dropped off by a member at this apartment. I was excited to stay the night with this particular companionship as I had previously served with both of them and loved them both dearly. They were great missionaries. At this time in our mission, there was an article going around about 'Binding the Lord'. To summarize, missionaries would be as absolutely obedient in every possible facet of mission life as they possibly could be. By following all the letters of the mission law, missionaries hoped in essence to bind the Lord to bless them and their area of labor. This is based on the scripture in the D&C which says "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say...". It was considered a good thing to commit to being SO obedient to the mission rules (and of course obedience on a mission IS a GREAT thing). As I said before, it was almost 10:30 when I arrived, which happens to be bedtime according to the white mission handbook. These Sisters, whom I loved and served with, let me into their apartment, said a brief hello, then hurried back to their room so they could wrap up their planning for the next day before that magic time on the clock. They flipped off their light and hopped in bed, and I sat alone in the living room at 10:31. No blanket, no pillow, alone on the couch. I quietly popped my head in their door to ask if there were any extra blankets in the apartment and one of the sisters directed me in a few words to try the coat closet (I think she was hesitant to speak after 10:30). I got my blanket out and went to sleep, but the whole experience left a deep and lasting impression on me.
I knew obedience was important, I enjoy very much keeping the letter of the law and feeling obedient myself. I respected that these sisters
took on the whole 'bind' concept. And yet, I did not feel at all happy. In fact I felt kinda sad.
And then I was done speaking. Oh, just kidding. :) I then read a scripture from I Corinthians, chapter 13:
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
What Paul was saying here is that we can be obedient, but without Charity or Love, it is meaningless. Love makes the difference. All commandments can be rolled into just two--Love God and Love your Neighbor. Every other law should be bringing us to those two things.
You can see why that story might be a little sketchy to tell, especiallly if it were to a bunch of missionaries or something. I am not trying to say that obedience is bad, only that the Letter of the law should never supercede the Spirit. Then, as we learn from Lehi's dream, we should press forward on the path in obediene to the word of God. Then we will partake of that white fruit they talk about in 1 Nephi. The fruit makes us happy, and what is the fruit? It is the LOVE of God.
So does obedience bring happiness? Should our Bishop have assigned us this topic? Yes, and Yes. I know we are meant to be happy in this life (Joseph Smith taught that it is the object and design of our existence) and by being obedient, we will feel and show the Love of God. And that will make us Happy!
So ya, obedience brings happiness even if lds.org doesn't totally agree with the letter of that statement, I am sure it agrees with the spirit of it.
After the rest hymn my dear husband had a very few minutes left. Before the meeting he of course joked that he never has to prepare a talk when we speak together because I take all the time. And I guess he was right again. ;) It is always a good experience to speak in church and I am glad we are done doing it for a while.