…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Learning Obedience

By Rex Goode


Learning to be obedient despite temptations

When it comes to same-sex attraction, it has long been my belief that obedience is a higher priority than repair or healing. I also believe that the key to being obedient is in learning to accept temptation as part of the plan we were sent here to live. I believe that the way to survive temptation is through it, not around it, that we can no more avoid being tempted than we can avoid breathing and eating.

I also believe that hatred for any particular sort of temptation can give that temptation power that it does not deserve. In the case of those tempted with same-sex attraction, this means that I believe that hatred for our condition gives same-sex attraction much of its power.

As I have learned over the years to be more and more obedient to the teachings of modern apostles and prophets regarding my behavior related to my same-sex attraction, I have discovered that the more resistant I am to temptation, the more willing I am to be tempted. From this, I conclude that I have learned to be obedient by not hating the temptation so much and not hating myself for experiencing it.

The way this has worked for me is that by learning to not hate the temptation, I have more resilience in not succombing to it, because the more I hate being tempted by it, the more willing I am to do anything to not be tempted. Usually, the only way I have found to immediately end an episode of intense temptation is to succomb to it. By riding it out, relaxing and being patient, it will dissipate on its own.

It becomes a terrible choice, then. Immediate relief is obtainable by succombing, but it is not a lasting solution. It will return, but with more power. The alternative is to be patient with myself, to understand that being tempted does not diminish my value as a child of God. If I can bear the temptation with patience and meekness, it will lose its power.

This is how the temptation is powered by my hatred of it. It is like throwing gas on a fire to think hateful thoughts about the fact that I am same-sex attracted. It becomes an inferno of self-destructive thoughts and feelings, to the effect that I feel myself burning with desire to do anything to quench the flames. At that point, the only thing that quenches the flame is to put myself in it and allow myself to be burned.

It is like a ravenous beast who will not be satiated until it has consumed me, and I will have no peace from it until I let it.

When I have stopped and remembered that it was my Heavenly Father’s plan to allow Satan to tempt me and try me, I can look at the temptation in a different light. I can understand that it is part of why I am here. With that understanding comes a different feeling related to the temptation. Instead of being consumed by fire or devoured by a monster, I can find peace in the midst of the trial. It does not end the temptation, but the fire of it is quenched and the beast is tamed.

This is how I believe we learn obedience, not by hating our trials and temptations, but rather turning our thoughts and prayers to God for deliverance. In turning our thoughts to God, we can receive strength from him to be obedient despite all the temptations we may face.

Speaking of the Savior, the author of the book of Hebrews said:

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Hebrews 5:8)

Jesus, who lived a perfect life, learned obedience by the things which he suffered. Those people with whom I have discussed this verse think it refers to physical and emotional suffering rather than temptation, but I believe it refers to temptation. I am supported in this by another verse from Hebrews:

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18, emphasis added)

I believe that Christ was tempted greatly, experienced all the feelings and fears we feel, was buffeted and attacked by Satan in ways that even we cannot fathom. The Lord’s response to this suffering is the example we must also follow. Regarding “the things which he suffered,” we read:

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; (Hebrews 5:7)

“Strong crying and tears” does not sound like the actions of one who is not feeling the temptations and pains of mortality. Yet, there is no indication in these verses that there was in him a hatred for the temptation or for the tempter. As I read it, his focus seems to have been on his Father, not on the temptation or the tempter. This is where I think we find the key to obedience, in developing the right attitude towards the temptation.

Not only do I feel that the Savior did not hate the temptation, I believe he deliberately chose to be tempted when he accepted the assignment to be the Savior of the world. Again from Hebrews:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:9–10)

We desire to be perfect, and we sometimes mistakenly believe that when we become perfect, we will no longer suffer temptations. Perhaps that is true, but we have to remember that Jesus himself became perfect through suffering temptation as it says above. We are also told:

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (Hebrews 5:9)

If Jesus became perfect through suffering temptation yet giving no heed to them, it seems to me that our best path lies in the same methodology. I believe that he sanctifies us as we face temptation and learn to survive it by going through it instead of around it or succombing to it. The quest of my life is to become like Jesus in this regard, and in becoming like him, becoming closer and closer to him. As taught in Hebrews, I desire with all my heart to be sanctified by Jesus Christ that I may be one with him and called his brother:

For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. (Hebrews 2:11–12)

In the sense of pre-mortal life, I am already the spirit brother of Christ and child of God, but it is my body that needs to be sanctified, not my spirit. It is my body that I must bring into subjection to the Father by passing through trials and sufferings, that I might be like Christ, and if like him, his brother in the flesh as well as the spirit.

I can be his brother by showing the same patience he showed. We read:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)

This particular race of same-sex attraction is not an easy one to run with patience, but patience is, I believe, the key to finishing the race.

We often think we have run as hard and as fast as we can with no success, but we are reminded that we have not resisted to the extent that Jesus resisted, who suffered, bled, and died on the cross rather than do anything contrary to the will of God:

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:4)

If I become Christ’s brother in the flesh, then I become as a son and therefore an heir of God. Again, the author of Hebrews teaches us the proper perspective on temptation and suffering, which makes us like the Savior:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:5–8)

This chastisement he explains as:

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:9–11)

Regarding same-sex attraction, this couldn’t be more true. While I am in the midst of being tempted or recovering from a fall, it does not seem to me to be joyous, and “grievous” does not even begin to describe it. One thing, though, makes sense to me about the above passage: I have peace now as I have learned obedience and I am grateful for the exercise. Like the exercise I try to do every morning, pushing myself to lift weights and raise my heart-rate in aerobic exercise, I am strengthened and invigorated by the exercise.

Likewise, having dealt with same-sex attraction all of my remembered life, I see the wisdom and the beauty in having had to deal not only with the temptations of same-sex attraction, but the difficult and painful recovery from childhood sexual and physical abuse. As I feel myself getting closer and closer to my Savior and Father in heaven, I cannot help but look with gratitude on the exercise, chastening, and temptations that have marked the journey I have traveled. If those things are what were necessary in order for me to get where I am, then I rejoice in them.

I don’t feel like I have arrived, but day by day, though same-sex attractions continue with me as ever before, I feel closer to my Savior and more and more like a son of God. Peace is a wonderful feeling.

Finally, I cannot afford to hate same-sex attraction because when I have done that in the past, it has made me afraid to help others who struggle with it. All my life I have had a secret desire to see the Lord and be held by him. In Hebrews, we are taught how to accomplish this:

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:12–14)

May I learn to be obedient like my Savior is obedient, and if I must learn it the way he did, so be it. As I learn obedience, I hope that I will always be found lifting up the hands which hang down, strengthening the feeble knees, and clearing the path for those who might come after me. May the peace of God be with you all.

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