Source:Matthias F. Cowley:Obedience:Talks on Doctrine:160-161:true obedience to the Lord's commands is an indication of moral courage

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Cowley: "true obedience to the Lord's commands is an indication of moral courage"

Matthias F. Cowley:

"To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." (I. Samuel xv: 22.) In an age of the world when independence is the proud boast of the nations, obedience is, by mistaken ideas of freedom, considered a mark of humiliation. To the reader I will say, in reality, true obedience to the Lord's commands is an indication of moral courage, union and power. It is not blind obedience that is referred to and maintained, but that type which characterized the ancient seers and saints, who, like the Messiah, were ready to say by word and deed, "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of my Father who sent me." The Latter-day Saints are credited with being obedient and submissive to authority, this fact being often used by their opponents as the occasion of reproach. Those who so use it surely must forget that God requires obedience; that the best embodiment of this principle, the most humble and yielding to the divine will, was the best and purest Being who ever dwelt in mortality, viz., the Lord Jesus Christ; He in whose mouth there was found no guile; who was perfect and without blemish in all the walks of life. While He was obedient to His Father's will and humble to the extreme, He was independent of the influence and persuasions of wicked men. The status of Latter-day Saints is conformable to this example. They are obedient to conscience, to convictions of right, to divine authority and to God, in whom they trust. While thus submissive, their persecutors have found them equally oblivious to the behests of wicked men, whether high or low. Men in the factories of the old world, working side by side at the weaver's loom, in the coal pit or elsewhere in following the various vocations of life—in this condition the Gospel preached by the elders of Israel has reached them. Alike, many of them have received convictions of the truth. They have said: "This is the truth; I must obey it or stand condemned." Other people have said: "It is true, but if I obey I will be ostracized, perhaps lose my employment and be an outcast from [p. 161] my father's house. Better that I reject the truth and live in peace, than take upon me this cross of obedience to unpopular truth." The courageous obey the Gospel, suffer persecution, prove themselves men, and will attain to eternal life. The other people referred to are slaves to their own fear of popular clamor and to the unseen powers of darkness which lead men to reject the plan of salvation. Of the first named class are the Latter-day Saints, a host of men and women who have left home, kindred and country for the Gospel's sake. They have endured persecution even unto death, privation and suffering in every form; have redeemed a desert and built up a commonwealth so fruitful with education, thrift and enterprise that any nation beneath the sun might well be proud of them. Their obedience and moral courage they bequeath to their posterity is a legacy better than diamonds or the honors and praise of a fallen world. They look back to their associates in early manhood who, for fear, rejected the truth, and find these, whether living or dead, in most cases unhonored and unknown. The obedience rendered by Latter-day Saints to the authority of the priesthood is not secured by virtue of any solemn obligation entered into by the adherent to obey the dictum of his superiors in office; but upon the nature of the Gospel, which guarantees to every adherent the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit secures to every faithful individual a living testimony concerning the truth or falsity of every proposition presented for his consideration. "By one spirit have we access unto the Father." (Eph ii.) So that as all men and women who embrace the Gospel are entitled to an individual testimony of the truth, the same spirit guides into all truth reveals the things of the Father and imparts the inspiration essential to preserve mankind from a blind obedience to erroneous principles and false guides. The statement of the Savior, recorded in St. John vii: 17, covers the ground in the broadest light: "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself." This secures to every true Saint, if he is faithful, protection against imposture, the abuse of power and the false decisions of man-made councils. In [p. 162] this particular the Church of Christ is distinguished from all other system and institutions. He has promised to guide and direct, and that He "doeth nothing, but He revealeth His secrets unto His servants, the prophets." (Amos iii: 7.) This does not imply the infallibility of man, but it does imply the promise that no man or council of men who stand at the head of the church shall have power to lead the Saints astray. With this assurance, then, the people of God in every dispensation have been justified in rendering absolute yet intelligent obedience in the direction of the holy prophets. It is an undeniable fact in the history of the Saints that obedience to whatever has come, either by written document or verbally, from the presidency of the church, has been attended with good results; on the other hand, whosoever has opposed such council, without repentance, has been followed with evidence of condemnation.[1]


  1. Matthias F. Cowley, “Obedience," in Talks on Doctrine, pp. 160–61.