I have been thinking about obedience a lot lately. A few examples come to mind…
We have all heard of his story several times. I would argue that we have read his story more often than others (because it is at the beginning of the Book of Mormon). This Man (I imagine) had a comfortable life in Jerusalem. He had friends, money, and a warm home. God commanded his father to leave that comfortable home, their possessions, and their lives behind. What did this man do? He went. He followed his father into the wilderness. Once there, his father instructed that he should return for the brass plates. What did this man do? He went. No sooner that he returned from Jerusalem, he was told to return a second time. What did this man do? He went back. After returning a second time, they were commanded to travel across the sea to the ‘Promised Land’. What did this man do? Following the pattern of obedience — He went. He and his family jumped on the boat, and through much trial and tribulation, arrived to the Promised Land. Shortly after arrival, he and his brothers had an argument and split. Hatred and bloodshed followed for years…
I am thinking about Laman. Laman was obedient. Now, he had to lose an argument with the Lord’s prophet in order to obey, but he eventually did. He hated it. He drug his feet. He whined. He complained. He had to be convinced to do anything. He tried to kill his younger brother… several times. How far is obedience going to take Laman? Obviously not far. He had to be restrained and threatened several times throughout the journey, he just didn’t get it – but he didn’t really try either.
This journey was not any easier for Nephi. It was actually much harder. Now, I don’t think Nephi was too keen on leaving Jerusalem either. Doubt or confusion is ok. BUT, there was a huge difference in attitude between these two. Laman didn’t immediately understand so he began to complain. Nephi didn’t understand and so he took it to the Lord in prayer and received confirmation that the command from his father actually came from God. Nephi said “I will go and do” and even when he didn’t fully know how or where to go, he trusted in Our Heavenly Father to lead him. His final words sum up his life: “I must obey.”
Back to Laman for a minute… He was taught the gospel and he knew right from wrong. He has no excuse for his actions or lack of true commitment or conversion.
There is another young man in the scriptures that comes to mind. I think he was not so different than you or me. Like me, like Laman, he was taught the gospel and the commandments. When it came to true commitment, however, he was unable to stand. He asked the Savior what he needed to do to gain eternal life, Christ answered that he should keep the commandments. I can imagine the young man’s excitement in knowing that he was on his way… He tells Christ that he has kept these things from his youth and asks what else he lacks. The moment of truth arrives when Jesus tells him to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Him. The young man can’t do it, and ‘went away sorrowful’.
To summarize so far: Laman was obedient, but terrible. The young man was obedient, but not ready to fully commit. Now let’s compare them now to King Lamoni’s father.
This man tried to kill his own son for hanging out with Ammon. But is eventually touched by their love for each other. Later upon hearing the gospel proclaims, “I will give up ALL that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy,” and “I will give away ALL my sins to know thee.” Now that, my friends, is commitment.
King Lamoni’s father is converted and goes on to help the missionary work progress. He is never commanded to give all that he has to the poor. I don’t know why a young man that had followed the commandments for his whole life was instructed to give away what he had, while a murdering Lamanite king was not required to do so. I don’t know if that is fair. I don’t have to. It is interesting to me that the person that was truly willing to give all that he had was not required to do so, while the young man was asked to give up what he held most dear. We are all given individual and unique challenges and will have to make sacrifices in order to progress.
I do know that where much is given, much is required. I do know that we need to do our best. I know that God is there for us when we fall short. I know that we grow as we are torn down, when we are humble, and when we struggle through.
Which one of these people am I? Am I Laman, obeying the commandment with disgust while hissing and cursing the fact that I am obeying? Am I the young man that expects a great reward only to be reminded that I am so incredibly short of my goal? Or am I the Lamanite king, that has too many faults to count, but that is willing to change and commit with everything I have to gain more of what is really important.
It’s just like the 3 little pigs. The 1st little pig just throws together a house with whatever is right there, irritated that he was asked to do so. The 2nd little pig makes his house look good on the outside, but with no real substance. The 3rd little pig makes up his mind, and goes 100% all out. He goes to work and remains steadfast and faithful even while his brothers are done. #1 and #2 obeyed, then went to celebrate themselves and their accomplishment, while #3 gave away the superficial in order to truly obey, prepare, commit, and fortify against evil. He built on a strong foundation.
I have been all three at one point or another in my life. Don’t be Laman or the wealthy young man. You can be so much more. It’s all a matter of attitude, commitment, and true conversion.