BETA

'Preserved by law'

A father who, on a single day, taught two of his young sons the skill of bicycle riding had occasion again to marvel at a phenomenon that had amazed him since childhood: How is it that a vehicle with but two in-line wheels can be made to stay upright, even when kept in motion by a rider? After all, everyone knows that a bicycle left to stand on its own will immediately topple over.

He turned to the Internet and there learned that the answer has to do with "center of gravity." Thus, balancing a bicycle is like balancing a measuring stick upright on the end of the fingers, continually adjusting the center of gravity by moving the hand whenever the stick starts to topple.

Similarly, when the bike starts to tip, the rider changes the center of gravity by slightly steering the front wheel in the direction in which the bike is tipping. Instead of pulling the bike and rider down, gravity thus pulls them back upright.

This illustrates the verity that, by conforming to natural law, we can cause it to work for us rather than against us. Far from constricting us, understanding and working within the principles of law can be empowering and liberating indeed.

The same applies to the laws of God. Cecil B. DeMille, the renowned filmmaker of the 1950s who produced the famous Bible epic "The Ten Commandments," once said: "We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them" (BYU Speeches of the Year, May 31, 1957, p. 6).

Mr. DeMille evidently understood what Latter-day Saints know through scriptural study and personal experience: that the commandments of God can work to our benefit when we obey them.

In the context of a revelation on exaltation, the Lord told Joseph Smith:

"That which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

"That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:34-35).

On a later occasion the Prophet taught: "Everything that God gives us is lawful and right; and it is proper that we should enjoy His gifts and blessings whenever and wherever He is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end" (History of the Church 5:134-135).

In teaching his subjects how to put off the "natural man" and become saints, king Benjamin said they must become "as a child, ... willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him" (Mosiah 3:19). We typically understand this to pertain to faithfulness in the midst of adversity. But it could also apply to unwavering obedience to God's commandments even when we don't fully understand their purpose. Like the father in the above incident who didn't always fully comprehend the natural law by which a bicycle is balanced but obeyed it anyway, we derive blessings by obeying the Lord, whether or not the purpose is immediately clear.

In training his boys, the father taught them what he had long known: that increased speed and confidence after starting out makes the bicycle far easier to balance and steer. Similarly, through practice in obeying the laws and commandments of God, our confidence in the Lord increases, obedience to Him becomes second nature, and complying with His laws ceases to be difficult.

At that stage, we arrive at the goal king Benjamin characterized as becoming "a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord" (verse 19). We grow to be like his listeners who, when asked if they believed his words, unitedly affirmed that the Spirit had wrought a mighty change in their hearts, such that they had "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2).

May that be our attainment as we cultivate the skill of continual obedience and are sanctified through the Atonement of our Lord.