Character and Obedience

Speaking of character in a recent article Richard G. Scott said, “It is the manifestation of what you are becoming. Your character will be the yardstick that God will use to determine how well you have used your mortal life… Strong character is more important than what you own, what you have learned, or what goals you have accomplished… Your character is being solidified by consistent correct choices… Neither Satan nor any other power can weaken or destroy your growing character. Only you can do that through disobedience…”

In the development of character obedience is at its core. It is our character, or our habits of obedience or disobedience, that are at stake in every decision we make, big or small. And in reality there are no big decisions – only small ones.

The real question is whether or not we will choose to cultivate a habit of obedience to the laws, commandments, and revelations of God? Or whether will we cultivate a habit of disobedience to those same laws as we seek to serve ourselves?

Whatever habit we create in the small decisions of our daily lives will be the habit we act from in our moments of crisis and confrontation.

It isn’t about the size of the decisions we make. It’s why we make them.

Are we are cultivating a habit of obedience, or of disobedience, to truth and direct revelation?

Will you trust God and cultivate a habit of obedience to the truths of the gospel and what you have received as personal revelation? Or will you cultivate disobedience as you rationalize the deviations and distractions that take you from fully living as you know you ought, no matter how sound, reasonable, or logical, such rationalizations may seem at the time?

—– Receiving Revelation —–

Nearly a year ago I was sitting in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Taking in the calmness which surrounded me I began to wonder what God thought about my beard. I’d heard, and participated in, numerous arguments back and forth about whether or not it was acceptable to have a beard in the temple, or in church at all. I wanted to know God’s thoughts on the matter and determined to ask Him as I sat there.

Bowing my head I reaffirmed to myself and to God that whatever He told me I would honor and obey, aligning my life with whatever I was taught. I know that it was precisely because I felt this way that I received an answer.

Thoughts flowed calmly into my mind as I listened, “You may grow your beard as you like, my son, but when you come into my house, whether here (in the temple) or in one of my chapels I would ask that you come clean shaven before me. It will show the respect you have for Me and help you prepare yourself spiritually for coming into my house.”

Since then I have shaved each and every Sunday prior to going to church and every day that I have attended the temple.

Now, I do not try to insinuate in any way that I have received revelation for the church at large, or for anyone but myself. This is a personal commandment I received in response to a heartfelt prayer. It came as I sincerely sought the mind and the will of the Lord regarding how I should act before Him. Aside from the commandments of the gospel, which are for all men, you must seek your own revelation and confirmation with regard to how you should live your life. The interesting thing is that often you will already know the answer before you ask – you will have already felt what is right and in prayer will find the confirmation of what you have already felt in your heart.

—– The Small Things —–

So why is this story important?

Well, this past Friday a rather large and painfully obvious cold sore had formed on my upper lip. It was not a pretty sight and I had decided not to shave that morning because of it. I told myself that shaving would risk the possibility of nicking it with my razor, which would hurt, and that having a beard would serve to hide it somewhat so that it didn’t stand out so much.

So Sunday, prior to going to church, I was trimming around the edges of my beard, questioning if I really should shave my beard off all the way or not. As I pondered this questions began flooding into my mind…

“What is more important to you? Keeping the commandments of God or how you appear to others? Will you obey God and honor the promptings, revelations, and commandments you have received – no matter how small they may be? Or will you endeavor to hide your imperfections, and disobey the word of the Lord concerning you, for fear of what others will think? What is more important to you? Keeping the commandments of God, or worrying about how you are perceived by your fellowmen?”

Well that was very direct, I thought. And there was my answer. There was no explaining that away as an overactive mind. Those questions were right. The choice before me was very clear. And though it was not what most would call a big or important choice it was. In reality there are no big choices, only small ones. I was reminded that all big things hinge upon the small and simple things of life and that by very small things are great things brought to pass. The great moments of our lives will be but comprised of smaller moments all put together.

Some of the biggest lessons of my life have come from the smallest and simplest experiences of my life. This would be no different. This simple cold sore had become an instrument in God’s hand to teach me a deeper lesson: to remind me that every decision in life is 1) a small one, and to teach me that 2) it is really about whether or not we cultivate the habit of obedience or disobedience to what we have received.

If I chose to follow God’s commandments now (shaving), what most would call an unimportant decision, then wouldn’t I choose to follow God’s commandments when it really mattered? If I chose to follow His commands now when the discomfort to myself would be small, slightly physical and a little socially, then wouldn’t I do so when the discomfort, and consequences, were real?

If I hold true to the revelations He has given me, and the truths of the gospel, in the small decisions of my life then won’t I hold to them when the larger decisions of life arise? Won’t honoring what I have received now help to cultivate the habit of obedience so that when I am sorely tempted or distracted it can be relied upon to keep me upon the sure path of truth?

—– Self-Evaluation —–

What about you?

Are you cultivating a habit of obedience, or disobedience, to what you have received? What are the small things that you need to work on? What truths have you forgotten, or been distracted from applying in your life? Where have you rationalized the deviations which have led you to this point? And where can you improve and get back on track?

What small decision will you make today to come into alignment with the truths you already know in your heart to be true?

That one decision will make all the difference.

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