We attended our new ward today for the first time, a family ward just down the street from our house. As much as we were looking forward to walking to church our first Sunday, we, or course, didn’t make it out the door early enough, so we took drove a couple blocks to make it on time.
An Elder shared a story in Elder’s Quorum that helped illustrate our lesson topic on Obedience and Keeping God’s commandments.
The Dead Bird story
- A group of young kids noticed that there was a dead bird lying on the ground outside. The mother watching the kids instructed the kids to stay inside and not go touch the dead bird. They pressed their heads to the window, staring at the bird, then began begging the mom to let them go outside for a closer look.
- After constant begging, the mother finally caved in and allowed them to go outside, but she gave strict orders to NOT touch the bird.
- When asked why they couldn’t touch the dead bird, she simply told them. “You cannot touch the bird because the dead bird has germs ALL OVER IT!”
- The kids got closer and closer to dead bird. Soon they had found a stick nearby, and began moving the dead bird to observe it further.
- Eventually, the bird ended up in one of the boy’s hands.
- “What on Earth are you doing!? I told you NOT to pick up that dead bird” the mother cried as she saw the bird in the boy’s hands.
- “Oh don’t worry, Mom! It’s okay! We stared at this bird for a good long time. We looked at it, and we looked at it…. and we didn’t see ANY GERMS on it! So we picked it up.”
The moral of the story, of course, was that the children simply picked up the bird, despite their mother’s instructions, because they could not see the germs, or consequences of their actions.
Similarly, Heavenly Father has given us laws & commandments- rules designed to protect us and bless us through obedience. We may not always fully understand these rules, nor be able to SEE their consequences. For example, the Word of Wisdom can be difficult to fully understand for some individuals. “If they say wine is good for you, then why can’t we drink it?” Well, perhaps there might be certain health benefits of a particular alcoholic beverage, but that’s not to say that alcohol does not come with consequences. Alcoholism may ensue, drunkenness leads to poor decision making and lessened sense of personal responsibility, the scriptures share multiple accounts of wine being the thing that caused soldiers to fall asleep, leading to prisoners escaping or, in the case of Laban, even losing his life because of the incapacity to control his strength. Wine stripped them of their agency- something that Satan seeks to influence. Since he does not truly have agency without a physical body, he is jealous, not only of our ability to have a body, but also our ability to have agency. So he is constantly trying to influence people to abuse their agency, which often leads them to abuse their body, sometimes to the point of losing it (death).
Even beyond the superficial consequences of breaking the Word of Wisdom, the more deep injuries sustained by the breaking of this Law of God is simply the separation of the Spirit in our lives and the distancing of ourselves from Him through disobedience. He will always love us, but that love is difficult to feel and experience ourselves when we disobey, much like a father & son. The father will always love his son, but the son is much more likely to feel and enjoy that love when he is close to his father through righteous obedience to the laws that father has established for his family.
And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
One more quote that was shared in Elder’s Quorum that I really like was this:
“Make Good things Better. And make Better things Eternal”.
The brother teaching the lesson said this, without even really noticing how profound that simple statement is.
The gospel improves things. It makes good things better. And when we make things like Family a priority, they become Better. And through the gospel, that Better thing can become Eternal.