Beyond Obedience: The Loyal Heart of a True Disciple. (Part 3)
King Benjamin was a masterful teacher, integrating doctrines, principles, and metaphors. We have heard his call for us to take the name of Christ, and to have a heart that wants to give and serve, even if current conditions preclude it. He then describes the interaction between desires and behavior:
“I would that ye should remember to retain the name [of Christ] written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you. For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13)
We need to actively remember the Savior, seeking to serve and obey Him. If not we can’t really be called His disciples. If we only casually or occasionally answer when He calls us (through invitations to obedience, consecration of time and resources, the lonely path of forgiving others) are we really His servants? Can we really claim His name as Christians?
King Benjamin then gives a unique but profound analogy regarding an ass or donkey that tries to feed in someone else’s field:
“and again, doth a man take an ass which belongeth to his neighbor, and keep him? I say unto you, Nay; he will not even suffer that he shall feed among his flocks, but will drive him away, and cast him out. I say unto you, that even so shall it be among you if ye know not the name by which ye are called.”
This analogy is not about neighbors refusing to help or care for someone else’s animal. This is about loyalty. The ass does not belong to the neighbor and it does not belong on his property. The donkey has a master (Christ) and everyone knows it, but the donkey (me and you) refuses to accept that fact. His loyalty is to himself, not his rightful master.
Consider yourself as the wandering donkey. He or she has a master -an owner. His master provides for him, feeds him, shelters him, tends to him when sick, and so on. The donkey is also expected to contribute and work to aid the master in his labors, and by so doing develops greater and greater value. The master cares about him, and the donkey’s heart is drawn to his master in love and respect.
Over time this donkey finds himself looking to the fences, and the fields that lay beyond. He begins to wonder what it might be like, and long for the openness and freedom that surely lies beyond the halter and the walls of his master’s land.
The donkey envisions an easier life, better food, cooler water, and less work. Although he continues to labor, his heart turns further and further towards the spacious fields beyond. Before long, his behavior aligns with his heart, and the donkey refuses to labor. Perhaps at first he is just “too tired” when the master calls, or his feet “hurt real bad” (yes that’s a Napoleon Dynamite reference) whenever a load needs carrying. Soon the donkey abandons excuses and just refuses to attend to his duties entirely. Eventually he leaves the perimeter of his master’s land altogether.
At first the donkey feels liberated, free. He goes where he wants, does as he pleases, and rejoices all along the way. But, in the eternal scheme of things, as C.S. Lewis explains, there is no unclaimed space.
“There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.” https://www.lds.org/ensign/2000/11/sanctify-yourselves?lang=eng).
So the donkey wanders further, but more and more finds himself driven away. He finds rest and nourishment harder and harder to secure. And at long last, if he refuses to hearken to the call of his Lord and turn home, another master takes him, and binds him fast, and claims him as his own in a land far darker than ever imagined.
The parable of the prodigal is also relevant here. He had a home and every good thing, but did have labor and responsibility. He was not satisfied and wandered away into forbidden paths and was lost.
How long will we labor if our hearts are drawn towards goals, philosophies, or patterns inconsistent with the straight and narrow path? Will our actions grow hollow the more we merely behave righteously as opposed to being inwardly holy?
God calls us not just to act good or to behave, but to BE good. Righteous. Divine.
But too often we want it both ways. We want to have our shallow, violent, sexualized entertainment on weekdays and the comforting strengthening Holy Spirit on Sundays.
We want blessings from the Lord but we don’t prioritize efforts such as temple worship, meaningful fasting, and missionary work. In the words of Neal A. Maxwell we want to live in Zion but have “a summer cottage” in Babylon.
we (sometimes) acknowledge our faults but we don’t make real efforts to actually change them. We pray for the missionaries, but we don’t pray for missionary experiences ourselves. We pray for inspiration or guidance but we don’t put in the time and effort in the scriptures to hear His voice.
I’m writing all of this from experience!
We need to take time to really listen to whose voice we love most, then be loyal to that voice. If we are donkeys in a field, are we looking to the Master or to the fences?