Lately I’ve been studying the concept of aligning our will with Heavenly Father’s and being obedient, especially when it’s not what we want to do. Too often we worry about what others will think or say of us – instead of being God fearing and wanting to please Him.
About a year ago I took a trip home to Washington. I remember one particular night where my 17 year old brother and I went out to run an errand. We then sat in the driveway and talked for about three hours once we got home. We had a really deep discussion about spiritual matters that really moved me, and I remember both of us getting very emotional. I was so impressed with not only the spiritual strength my brother had, but the obedience and discipline he had when it came to the gospel and aligning his will with the Lord’s. He was very emotional as he opened up and told me different situations he had been in where he had to get up and walk away, or walk home, or speak up about something that everyone else was justifying or encouraging. I was extremely touched at the bravery and courage he used on a daily basis to stand up for his beliefs and be the kind of person that the Lord wanted him to be.
At the time I was experiencing some spiritual slackening … I was doing the things I was supposed to do, but was more going through the motions than truly letting them change me. I was focusing too much on my situation, my surroundings, and what others would think of me instead of not worrying about other’s opinions of me and just focusing on what God would have me do.
As my brother shared these stories, he didn’t know I needed to hear them. I remember tears rolling down his cheeks as he bore his testimony about not caring what anyone else thinks of him except God. Can I just interject that High School is so much harder than it was even a few years ago? The temptations and surroundings my teenage brothers are faced with every day absolutely astound me. Satan is real, which is all the more reason why we should live our lives in accordance to God’s will and let Him take the reins.
I came home from that trip very changed – though my brother didn’t even know it. I had a lot of thinking, studying and praying to do -and I felt ashamed that I had been more focused on what others would say instead of just doing what was right and letting God be my guide. I know there is often a sense of loneliness when we stand up for what is right or make choices that are not popular with the crowd. Even living in Utah, I am faced with conversations and opportunities on a daily basis where my beliefs are challenged, or I have to stand up, speak up or do something that might not seem kosher with most people.
This address given by President Gordon B. Hinckley touches on the topic of loneliness when we decide to be leaders instead of followers. Consider a few points he makes:
“It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a Man who walked in loneliness. I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than His statement: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). There is no lonelier picture in history than of the Savior upon the cross, alone, the Redeemer of mankind, the Savior of the world, bringing to pass the Atonement, the Son of God suffering for the sins of mankind.”
“Joseph Smith likewise was a figure of loneliness. I have a great love for the boy who came out of the woods, who after that experience could never be the same again, who was berated and persecuted and looked down upon. For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation. [JSH 1:25]”
Last night I was discussing with a friend the concept of lemmings and the dangers of being a follower instead of a leader in today’s world. The definition of a lemming is a person who unthinkingly joins a mass movement, especially a headlong rush to destruction. I started thinking about how so many individuals follow the crowd or go with the flow because it is easier, safer, and also brings with it a lack of responsibility.
Then today in my personal study I came across the concept of tribal situations (such as a nation, a group of people, a family, a club, etc.) where there is a certain standard that all are expected to follow. Here is what stuck out to me the most,
“Given the power of unified beliefs – right or wrong – it is difficult to be at variance with one’s tribe. We are taught to make choices that meet with tribal approval, to adopt social graces, manner of dress, and attitudes. Symbolically, this adaptation reflects the union of individual willpower with group willpower. Such a union empowers us and energetically enhances our personal power and our creative strength – and it continues as long as we make choices consonant with the groups … we are attracted to becoming more conscious but at the same time we find it frightening because it means we must take personal responsibility for ourselves. Once we accept personal responsibility for even one area of our lives, we can never again use “tribal reasoning” to excuse our behavior.”
Too often we not only coward from standing up and making the right choice, but we justify making the wrong choice because others are doing it. However, no matter what choice you are making – you will be held responsible for it in the end. This concept also applies to making choices on our own that better ourselves and line up with our purpose and passions in contrast with doing what we are told because it’s a family tradition, or because someone thinks you would be good at it. Where is our courage? We deserve happiness which can only be found when we stand up for ourselves and our beliefs, especially when we stand alone. I love the promise that this scripture brings:
I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. D&C 84:88
Even when we feel alone in the decisions we are making, if our will is aligned with His, we need not fear. He never leaves us alone. There is a power that we receive when we are living in accordance to His laws and being obedient to what we know is right. But we must be mindful that things will not always seem easy if we simply align our will with the Lord’s. Elder Bednar has counseled,
Even with our strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed. If all opposition were curtailed, if all maladies were removed, then the primary purposes of the Father’s plan would be frustrated.
Though following the crowd or giving in to adversary might seem easier to do in some situations, especially when we are afraid of offending others, we must remember the promises God has given us when we are following Him. I would much rather offend man than God. Since my discussion with my brother in Washington, I have developed and applied these principles in my life. They have helped me to be brave and make decisions that I was absolutely terrified to make. Obeying the Lord and not letting others get to you is an absolutely liberating and empowering feeling that is indescribable. I physically feel “lighter” and my faith is strengthened daily because I see the blessings that follow when I am living according to His will.
I know that once we develop the attitude to let go and let God take over, our lives will become beautiful. I’ve seen in my own life, over and over again, that when I listen to Heavenly Father and follow His counsel, blessings pour out in every area in my life and He paves a road that though previously unseen – is the most scenic and beautiful. I have a new motto: when the Lord commands, just do it! Don’t question Him, don’t doubt, don’t let others change your direction or cause you to worry about what they will say or do – just do it! May we all have courage to align our will with the Lord’s and let him take charge of the choices we are making and directions we are headed. I know that if we offer our lives to Him, He will make much more out of us than we ever could on our own.
When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.-Ezra Taft Benson