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obedience is the first law of Heaven (Holland)

Obedience is the first law of heaven, but in case you haven't noticed, some of these commandments are not easy, and we frequently may seem to be in for much more than we bargained for. At least if we are truly serious about becoming a saint, I think we will find that is the case.

Let me use an example from what is often considered by foes, and even by some friends, as the most unsavory moment in the entire Book of Mormon. I choose it precisely because there is so much in it that has given offense to many. It is pretty much a bitter cup all the way around.

I speak of Nephi's obligation to slay Laban in order to preserve a record, save a people, and ultimately lead to the restoration of the gospel in the dispensation of the fulness of times. How much is hanging in the balance as Nephi stands over the drunken and adversarial Laban I cannot say, but it is a very great deal indeed.

The only problem is that we know this, but Nephi does not. And regardless of how much is at stake, how can he do this thing? He is a good person, perhaps even a well-educated person. He has been taught from the very summit of Sinai "Thou shalt not kill." And he has made gospel covenants.

"I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but . . . I shrunk and would that I might not slay him" (1 Nephi 4:10).

A bitter test? A desire to shrink? Sound familiar? We don't know why those plates could not have been obtained some other way--perhaps accidentally left at the plate polishers one night or maybe falling out the back of Laban's chariot on a Sabbath afternoon.

For that matter, why didn't Nephi just leave this story out of the book altogether? Why didn't he say something like, "And after much effort and anguish of spirit, I did obtain the plates of Laban and did depart into the wilderness unto the tent of my father?" At the very least he might have buried the account somewhere in the Isaiah chapters, thus guaranteeing that it would have gone undiscovered up to this very day.

But there it is, squarely in the beginning of the book--page 8--where even the most casual reader will see it and must deal with it. It is not intended that either Nephi or we be spared the struggle of this account.

I believe that story was placed in the very opening verses of a 531-page book and then told in painfully specific detail in order to focus every reader of that record on the absolutely fundamental gospel issue of obedience and submission to the communicated will of the Lord. If Nephi cannot yield to this terribly painful command, if he cannot bring himself to obey, then it is entirely probable that he can never succeed or survive in the tasks that lie just ahead.

"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded" (1 Nephi 3:7). I confess that I wince a little when I hear that promise quoted so casually among us. Jesus knew what that kind of commitment would entail, and so now does Nephi. And so will a host of others before it is over. That vow took Christ to the cross on Calvary, and it remains at the heart of every Christian covenant. "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded." Well, we shall see.

Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU Devotional, January 17, 1989

http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7027&x=65&y=5

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