Members of the Mormon Church are taught that obedience is the first law of heaven. To progress in this life, men and women must be obedient to the truths that come from the Lord.
Jeremiah 7:23, “But this thing I commanded them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”
Jeremiah 7:24, “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.”
This scripture brings up a crucial point in Mormon beliefs: every person on the earth-every child of God-must put their Heavenly Father’s commands and will above their own. When people start thinking they can live without the guidance of their Father in Heaven, they lose sight of the path that leads to happiness.
Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” The “understanding” of individuals on Earth can never exceed the eternally true understanding of the Lord. Mormonism teaches that obedience is made easier by believing that the Lord knows best.
Mormons also believe that blessings come to those who are obedient. Just as men and women receive benefits from obeying the laws of the land and natural laws, so do Mormons believe they receive benefits from obeying spiritual laws.
This concept of obedience being tied directly to blessings is fundamental in Mormonism. Mormons believe that the Lord is unfailingly trustworthy and will never go back on His promises. He has established laws so that we, through obedience to those laws, can be happy. He will, in His own appointed time, fulfill every promise made to His children on Earth. Latter-day revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith made this even more clear:
Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
Doctrine and Covenants 130:21, “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
It is important to remember that the Lord is bound to bless His children when they are obedient, but disobedience will likewise bring unhappiness, for the Lord cannot bless the disobedient. The Lord must be utterly consistent to rule the universe.
The Lord revealed important information about the specific blessings of obedience. All people desire knowledge and intelligence, and Mormons believe that “if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:19). Thus, men and women are promised that they will receive blessings from diligence to the gospel of Jesus Christ through service and faith, and obedience to the commandments of the Lord.
Obedience is important to progress and to learn from the experiences the Lord has set out for His children here on Earth. Mormons believe that often the Lord tries the faith of His servants through tests of obedience. We may not understand the reasons why the Lord asks us to obey certain commandments. Moses chapter five in the Pearl of Great Price describes the first man on Earth, Adam, as being in this exact situation. He was commanded to offer animal sacrifice to the Lord without knowing why. Later he was taught from on high that his sacrifices were symbolic of the Son of God to come. Many commandments, such as the law of sacrifice, that the Lord set forth for His children are given for reasons only the Lord knows. This is why obedience is necessary. It is impossible for the Lord’s children to understand every reason for each commandment; men and women on Earth cannot understand all the mysteries of the Lord. But they can show their faithfulness and diligence by always obeying commandments. This is also how men and women learn humility, another important Christ-like characteristic.
Mormonism teaches that this necessary humility can be compared to the nature of a child:
Mosiah 3:19, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
The natural man is the part of a person that does not approach godliness. The natural man is a slave to his appetites and loves worldliness. Mormonism teaches that it is necessary to “put off” this natural man and learn to be more like God, through the help of the “Holy Spirit” and through humility and obedience.
Mormons are not “sheep,” however, in the derogatory sense. They are encouraged to seek revelation and inspiration for themselves through the presence and the promptings of the Holy Ghost, which testifies of truth. The Holy Ghost witnesses when a commandment is of God, and everything given through the prophets can be verified through prayer to receive this witness. Sheep, in the proper image, are those who have identified the voice of the True Shepherd, and who with that witness, are willing to follow and to trust Him, while the goats go their own way.