First Person: Obedience Buffet

Jan 21, 2010 by

By: Stephanie

I love restaurants. Really love them. In fact, I love pretty much any kind of food I don’t have to make myself. I’ve been known to fantasize about being given a job where I’m an undercover restaurant critic who writes articles for the newspaper about local restaurants. They pay my bill, and I spout off brilliant analytics of menu, food, service and ambiance. That would be SO cool. I’ve never been a huge fan of buffets, but once children came along, buffets became the compromise. I still didn’t have to cook, the kids could eat quickly and pick what they want, and it was one step above the drive-thru window on the food chain. (For the record, we don’t eat out nearly as much as I’d like to.)

Unfortunately, it’s very easy and very common to carry this buffet attitude into other aspects of our life. We are our own boss– we have freedom of choice– and all too often, our choices are based solely upon what we want and what we don’t want. My husband and I have discussed the danger of “selective obedience”: picking and choosing the commandments we like while ignoring the ones we’re not so fond of. I’ve seen this in my own children. If I ask Clark to help me set the table, he’s usually quite compliant and jovial even, because he knows it means dinner’s on its way. But if I ask him to pick up the scattered pile of paper scraps left over from his scissors’ frenzy, it’s likely that there will be at least twenty minutes of repeating over and over again, “But I don’t waaaaaant to!” Sometimes they’re even polite about it: “Natalie, will you put on your shoes so we can pick up Grant from school?” “No thanks.” And Grant loves to give me the (lame) reason why he’d rather not do something I asked, “But mom, my legs are just too tired to put my backpack away.”

I imagine that if I’m going to be completely honest with myself, I could improve in my obedience too. Have you ever been to those enormous buffets in fancy hotels? They have their foods sectioned off by categories. So imagine the following three sections of the “Obedience Buffet”: 1) There are the things we know we should do because Jesus laid it out quite plainly in the scriptures– like forgive an offender, pray daily, or put the kingdom of God first on our priority list. 2) There are the things the living prophets counsel us to do– get out of debt, share the gospel with others, do regular personal and family scripture study, etc., and 3) there are also things that the Holy Ghost whispers to us that we should do– get off the computer and attend to your children, stop watching that one reality show that’s your guilty pleasure, or look for the good in this moment and try not to lose your temper. How often do I respond with “I don’t want to,” or “No thanks,” or “But….”?

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:

“You cannot approach the gospel as you would a buffet or smorgasbord, choosing here a little and there a little. You must sit down to the whole feast and live the Lord’s loving commandments in their fullness. You have been taught the commandments. You know what to do: pray, study the scriptures, fast, pay your tithes and offerings, attend your meetings, partake of the sacrament, magnify your callings and serve others, sustain your Church leaders, make and keep sacred covenants, share the gospel, be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous.”

So basically, this is the one time that we are allowed– no, actually encouraged– to pig out! Take it all in because each commandment comes with a blessing, and passing it by means rejecting the power and joy it could bring.

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

I tell my kids all the time, “I’m not asking you if you want to, I’m asking you to do it.” I can just imagine Heavenly Father saying the same thing to me: Just go say a prayer, Stephanie, you’ll feel so much better. I know you’re tired, but your children need you to love them and teach them right now. I will bless you and strengthen you. Stop focusing on all that stuff that doesn’t matter, just do what I asked and you’ll be fine.

“If you will follow the Christ, follow his prophet, and follow his Spirit, you will always choose the right. As a result of your wise choices, your testimony will grow stronger, and great blessings of joy, happiness, and peace will be yours.” –Elder Wirthlin

And let’s face it, that’s way better than what I could cook up on my own.


  1. Jan

    I loved your insights on this one. Once again it’s all about getting our hearts aligned with His and realizing that Heavenly Father is just trying to give us all these good things (happiness, peace, joy, etc.)–he’s just waiting for us to do our part.

  2. Heather

    Thank you so much for feeding my spirit today!
    And I think I understand 2 Nephi 9:51 even better now:

    “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.”

    Love it! 🙂

  3. Stephanie, you are always so insightful. I know this stuff, but your analogy makes it so much more clear. I haven’t been feasting. That’s for sure.

  4. We’re always told that if we “Keep the Commandments,” we will be blessed. I’m perplexed by what this entails. You have three categories; are those all considered commandments? I’ve overwhelmed by the feast. What if I’ve eaten all I can and have the desire to partake of the rest, but can’t possible eat another bite right now? What then?

  5. Janelle

    I understand what you are saying amberwaves. Being perfectly obedient is a high standard, which can feel unattainable.

    Two weeks ago I was feeling down, so I thought about the tools of happiness I have. 1. gratitude. 2. repentance 3. service etc. I felt that the best solution to my unhappiness was repentance. When I prayed, I asked the Lord to show me where I needed to repent, where greater obedience was required.

    I was answered early on in my prayer. I was guilty of laziness.

    Ugh!!!!! I was not expecting that. I am a mother of three with one on the way. The one on the way part was giving me nausea and a lack of energy. The other three were sapping the rest. I was ticked!

    But as I gave it more thought, the things about my life that were making me sad were a perpetually cluttered home, lack of organization in our schedule and a general malaise about prayer, scripture study and family togetherness. I had let my condition make me lazy. Maybe that was OK, even God wasn’t so mad about it, my husband certainly wasn’t, but I asked God what I could change to be happy, and He knew. I feel happier in an organized environment.

    The next week, the morning sickness lapsed and I began to feel great! I spent a lot of time working on the things the Lord showed me as weaknesses and began to match my spiritual well being with my new found physical energy.

    How does this pertain to the obedience buffet? Just like when I go to a regular buffet I go out seeking my favorites. Spiritually speaking I find that obeying the law of tithing is a favorite of mine so I head there first, followed by some other commandments that I naturally favor. I’ll ask the Lord – What’s next? Or a trial will arise and a certain commandment is highlighted in my life. Either way, I don’t think we are expected to partake of everything at once. But the Lord will refine us, become the author and finisher of our faith, and will guide us into the feast by inviting us to fully partake when we are ready.

    I try my best to nibble at all of the commandments, but as you say there are times when I feel unable to eat another bite. I think that is OK. Either mercy or the enabling power of the atonement will provide a way, sometime – maybe not right now – for me to be more obedient. The key for me is to ask the Lord of the Feast – what’s next?

  6. pam

    I absolutely loved your analogy Stephanie and I loved your quote by Elder Wirthlin. Isn’t he wonderful?

    It really brought things into perspective for me. Using the buffet as an analogy, I find myself picking and choosing from each section in the hopes that I’ve left room for the “dessert.” But honestly, how can I enjoy the dessert if I’m not doing everything possible to earn that reward? I’m reminded of my mother as I was growing up. You don’t get dessert until you’ve cleaned your plate.

    I find that goes right along with your analogy. We must do all of those things as Elder Wirthlin so pointed out to be able to have the rewards of the “dessert.”


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