Faith is a first principle of the true gospel of Christ. True faith focused on and in the Savior always leads to righteous action, or obedience, and as intelligent beings, it is men's faith that guides their actions.
Obedience and faith are directly linked. It is impossible to have one without the other. By choosing to be obedient, the faith of men is increased. The more faith men have, the easier it is for them to be obedient. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said,
- Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness. It is always given when righteousness is present, and the greater the measure of obedience to God's laws, the greater will be the endowment of faith.
The story of Abraham and Isaac is a model of faith and obedience. Abraham was a seeker after righteousness. The Pearl of Great Price especially teaches how he made great sacrifices to follow righteousness when wickedness was all around him. The Pearl of Great Price teaches that Abraham nearly lost his life in his youth, standing for righteousness:
- For their hearts were set to do evil, and were wholly turned to the god of Elkenah, and the god of Libnah, and the god of Mahmackrah, and the god of Korash, and the god of Pharaoh, king of Egypt;
- Therefore they turned their hearts to the sacrifice of the heathen in offering up their children unto these dumb idols, and hearkened not unto my voice, but endeavored to take away my life by the hand of the priest of Elkenah. The priest of Elkenah was also the priest of Pharaoh (Abraham 1:6-7).
The Lord saved Abraham as he was about to be offered as a human sacrifice to pagan gods. Knowing this makes his willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac to the true god even more poignant. Yet, Abraham showed his obedience perfectly. His arm was in motion to lay the knife into Isaac's neck, when an angel stopped him and accepted his offering—a willing heart. The angel said, "Abraham, Abraham, lay not thine hand upon the lad; neither do anything unto him; for now I know thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld they son from me" (Genesis 22:12).
One cannot serve or be obedient with a willing heart, unless one knows his master. Prayer, scripture-reading, and service increase knowledge of God and His Son. King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon said, "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)?
In a Brigham Young University parenting class, the following principle was taught: "Rules without relationship = rebellion." Those who view God's commandments as onerous and confining do not have a loving relationship with the Lord. They are rebellious, and not obedient. However, those who endeavor to draw close to the Lord desire to keep His commandments because of the love, trust, and respect they have for Him, and the redeeming love that they in turn receive from God. Faith can only be as strong as one's knowledge of, belief in, and relationship with God. The level of obedience one achieves is built upon that foundation of faith.