Choose to obey

Two years after the first convert baptisms in Sierra Leone in June 1988, members began meeting in their homes in the country's second-largest city. In August of 1990, a branch was organized in Bo. Soon, three congregations were meeting in rented buildings in the city. Uniformly, members shared a great enthusiasm for the growth of the Church in their country.

Five months later, in January 1991, the mission president in the city received a letter from Church President Ezra Taft Benson.

The prophet asked the Latter-day Saints in Bo to abandon their meetinghouses and to gather again in their homes to worship.

The news was very discouraging for the local Latter-day Saint leaders, who felt that the rented buildings were an important milestone for the Church in Sierra Leone.

Members were also disappointed and unhappy about the request. Some wondered why a prophet in Utah cared about where they met. Others questioned whether or not the prophet understood their circumstances.

But a core group of strong members made the decision to obey. They closed their chapel doors and began holding worship services in their homes.

In March 1991 — just months after President Benson asked them to leave their rented meetinghouses — civil war erupted in Sierra Leone.

In the midst of war, churches were frequently targeted by rebels; thousands lost their lives while worshipping God.

But Latter-day Saints in the country were safe from harm, obediently worshipping in their homes ("A miracle came through obedience," Peter Evans, Church News, Jan. 1, 2011).

President Thomas S. Monson said great strength comes through obedience.

"There is no need for you or me in this enlightened age, when the fullness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or travel unmarked roads in search of a 'fountain of truth,' " he said. "For a living Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing map — obedience" ("Strength through Obedience," Ensign, July 1996).

Although we live in a day and age complicated by an onslaught of opportunities and choices, a popular Primary song reminds us that being obedient is, at its core, simple.

Primary children sing of Nephi, who with courage, obeyed the Lord's direction to obtain the brass plates and build a boat. "I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands. I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey" ("Nephi's Courage," Children's Songbook, pp. 120-121).

The Book of Mormon reminds us that happiness and prosperity are the rewards for obedience. It also teaches us the heartbreaking lesson that those who forget the Lord and His commandments fall to misery.

"They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father. But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without a sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is so are they. And behold, the Lord hath reserved their blessings, which they might have received in the land, for the Gentiles who shall possess the land" (Mormon 5:17-19).

President Gordon B. Hinckley promised Latter-day Saints that the Lord will bless and help the obedient.

"I give you my witness that the leaders of this Church will never ask us to do anything that we cannot perform with the help of the Lord," he said. "We may feel inadequate. That which we are asked to do may not be to our liking or fit in with our ideas. But if we will try with faith and prayer and resolution, we can accomplish it.

"I give you my testimony that the happiness of the Latter-day Saints, the peace of the Latter-day Saints, the progress of the Latter-day Saints, the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, and the eternal salvation and exaltation of this people lie in walking in obedience to the counsels of the priesthood of God" ("If Ye Be Willing and Obedient," Ensign, December 1971).

That is the lesson epitomized by the faithful Church members in Bo, Sierra Leone.

Mustafa Touray, the first branch president in the country, spoke of the miracle that came through obedience.

"No member of the Church died in Bo during the war — not one. The LDS Church was the only church that continued operating during the war in Bo — the only one. Every other church closed its doors. It was too dangerous for the people to walk to church and too dangerous to sit and worship.

"None of us (the Latter-day Saints) had any problem during the war. We worshipped through the whole war no matter how grave the situation was. Because we were obedient, our members received this great blessing" ("A miracle came through obedience," Peter Evans, Church News, Jan. 1, 2011).

Speaking of obedience in the Church's General Young Women Meeting on March 24, 2012, President Monson asked Church members to "open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. As the prophet Isaiah promised, 'Thine ears shall hear a word ... saying, This is the way, walk ye in it' " (Isaiah 30:21).

Then he added, "You have the precious gift of agency. I plead with you to choose to obey."

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