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Obedience, the first law of heaven

Many years ago President Charles W. Penrose of the First Presidency attended a sacrament meeting in Richards Ward in Salt Lake City. Just before the meeting commenced President Penrose walked down the aisle toward the pulpit, accompanied by the bishop. About halfway down he stopped, turned to the bishop, and inquired of him, “Who put that sign there?” “That sign” was a placard that was attached to the front of the pulpit and that read:

“Order is the first law of heaven”

The bishop didn’t know but supposed that the sign had been installed by one of the auxiliaries. Nothing more was said. The march down the aisle continued, and the meeting duly commenced.

“Obedience, the first law of heaven”

I do not know what subject President Penrose intended to speak on when he arrived at the chapel, but when he arose to speak, he said that order is not the first law of heaven, but that obedience is. He spent the next 45 minutes marshalling instances and scripture to prove his thesis. The main point that impressed me, a boy at the time at the time, was that by obedience order may be established and that without obedience there will be no order, but chaos.

We are all familiar with the revelation given to Abraham concerning the purpose of the Lord God:

“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abr. 3:24-25).

Obedience, principle of the Gospel

We have learned that in order to obey the Lord we must obey his servants. Each presiding officer is to be obeyed in righteousness, in the field of his presidency. And so it is clear that we obey the President of the Church, the president of the stake, the bishop of the ward, and president of the quorum each in his field of service. And finally, forgotten by many as a requirement of heaven, is the necessity of obedience to our parents.

Too many of our children do not realize that obedience to parents is a principle of the gospel.

Young people feel some responsibility for obedience to the law of tithing and of obeying the law of the fast. They know they should attend Sunday School or MIA or Primary. They feel guilty if they do not attend sacrament meeting, and they generally know enough to understand that to break the law of chastity is to break the law of God. But too many of our children do not consider disobedience to their parents as breaking the law in the same manner as is breaking the law of tithing. The fault for this lack does not necessarily lie at the feet of the children. Children know what they are taught, and if they are not taught to understand and obey this first law of heaven, they cannot be expected to obey it.

There is a clear scripture that has to do with this relationship:

Divine charge to parents

“. . . inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents” (D&C 68:25).

While this revelation does not specifically mention all that should be taught to children, certainly it is clear that parents must teach if children are to obey the teaching.

Obedience to parents

Home evenings and the daily association with children provide the schoolroom for the teaching. While they are small, children should be taught to obey their parents and teachers. When they enter adolescence, it should be understood that with the addition of new freedom (growing up is a process of becoming progressively free) comes new responsibility of obedience to the laws upon which that freedom is predicated. The law is clear that children obey their parents in righteousness until they reach their legal maturity. This is not something to be enforced by the parents; it is rather an obligation to be voluntarily obeyed by the children. Children should be taught that they obey their parents in the same spirit that they pay tithing, attend sacrament meeting, or keep the fast once a month.

Law of God

It is a law of God.

Our first parents set the example. After he left the garden with Eve, Adam heard the voice of the Lord over toward Eden, which commanded him to offer a sacrifice. The voice made no explanations but merely stated the command. Adam and Eve obeyed (Moses 5:4-5).

It was a long time, during which they obeyed explicitly, before an angel came and asked Adam why he offered sacrifices. His reply was short but truthful.

“I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:6).

In that reply is the example that should be followed by all children. If parents tell children to be in from a party at midnight, or that they may not have the car, or that such tight clothes must not be worn, or that dresses are too short, or that the allowance this month cannot be increased, or that the lawn must be cut on Saturday, the reply of the children should be “we’ll obey.” The Lord didn’t give Adam a reason. Children should not expect reasons from parents, although most parents are glad to tell their children the reasons.

I marvel at the meticulous care with which the Lord conducts his affairs in obedience to the laws he himself establishes:

Remember the night of September 21, 1823, when Joseph Smith was visited three times by Moroni, and how the next day Joseph, feeling ill, was sent home to rest. He crossed the fence and fainted. As he regained consciousness, there once more stood Moroni, who told him to go to his father and tell him all that had transpired. Why? For many reasons, one of which was that he had told Joseph to go to the Hill Cumorah. Joseph could not in righteousness leave that farm without his father’s permission. That was the law. Generally it was enforced. So to leave the farm and go to the hill, Joseph had to obtain the approbation of his father. Upon completion of his account of what had happened, the father told him that this was of God and to obey (JS—H 1:48-50).

I do not recall a single time that Joseph asked permission of his father to perform any act after he was 21. Until that time he was completely obedient.

It is so with you and me and with our children. Let us, who are fathers, be engaged in the business of rearing children, teaching them the law of obedience to parents.

Obey the law of God

Let children learn this law of God as a commandment to be obeyed. Let us also teach them that this is the great restoration of the gospel promised by ancient prophets. Let us teach them that obedience to their parents, and to those who preside over them, from the quorum leader to the president of the Church, is the foundation of their future success in this world and their exaltation in the world to come.

These are the last days. This is the last time. Through President McKay as prophet, seer, and revelator we may hear the inspired word of the Lord God if we will but listen and obey. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

S. Dilworth Young, Conference Report, October 1966, pp. 26-28

Source: BYU Scriptures

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