What a great post! I’d love to see more on this topic, such as how to overcome the personality traits that might influence a lack of obedience or how to recognize the opportunities to be obedient.
What a great suggestion.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since, and I’m ready to tackle the first element of this question, which was how to overcome the personality traits that might keep us from being obedient.
The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that we are all, what the scriptures term, “natural man.” This means that we have taken upon ourselves mortal bodies and we are not wholly spiritual. Along with the package comes mortal desires and appetites, most of which are completely understandable. We have to eat, we have to sleep—in fact, all of our appetites are based on righteous principles. Even sexual desire has a righteous root. But it’s when we allow any of these appetites to take us over that we allow the natural man to keep us away from God.
Here’s a scripture from the Book of Mormon. 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 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.
And one from the New Testament. 1 Cor 2:14 — But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Both of these scriptures teach us that men in their mortal state have difficulty in accepting spiritual things because we are hindered by the things that make us mortal. In order to understand the things of the Spirit, we have to get more in touch with our spirits.
So what are some of these personality traits that might keep us from getting in touch with our spirits and from turning aside from the natural man? I would suggest:
Independence. This is ordinarily a wonderful trait—it means you’re self-reliant, you can go out there and do things on your own, without having to rely on anyone to do it for you. But when we become too independent, we forget the depth to which we need to rely on God for everything we need and are.
Pride. It’s good to feel content with the things we’ve been able to accomplish. After all, we’ve worked hard and achieved a lot. But is our pride keeping us from feeling the level of humility we need in order to completely come to God?
Knowledge and wisdom. These are wonderful traits. We are often counseled to learn as much as we can, to increase our learning and to study. But do we sometimes think we know too much and choose to listen to ourselves rather than to the Spirit?
These are just a few suggestions, and I’m sure you could think of several more. Each of these things is positive when used with moderation, but when they go overboard, they can each take us away from Christ.
My thoughts, in regards to Mary Ann’s question, are these. Because of the fact that we are mortal, we do have a natural tendency to want to disobey. This is part of the free will we were given, and every day we are given opportunities to obey or to disobey. But as we learn to control our “inner natural man,” and to learn more about what the Lord wants us to do, we will find it easier to obey because our spirits will be ruling over our bodies, rather than our bodies ruling over our spirits. Plus, the more we obey, the more we learn that we like the way it feels to be so close to the Spirit (which closeness comes from obedience) and then we make the choices we need to in order to keep the Spirit with us.
It’s a process, definitely, and it’s one that takes most people their whole lives to complete. Right now I’m overcoming my chocolate-loving natural man, and I know for a fact that if I hadn’t been willing to completely give it to God, I never would have gone as long as I have without. (It’s been almost three weeks now.) God can help us to overcome that natural man so that we can become more obedient. This I know.
I’ll tackle the other half of Mary Ann’s question on Monday.