I taught the Old Testament twice during my seminary teaching. It was both intimidating and exciting. There are so many wonderful stories with so much application to our lives today in those ancient pages. One of my favorites is found in the book of First Samuel, and I’d like to remind you of it now.
Per the Lord’s instruction, the prophet Samuel has called Saul to be the first King of Israel. Scripture records that Saul was:
“…a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he:…” 
At one point the Lord gives King Saul a very clear command:
“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” [1 Samuel 15:3]
He departs with his forces to fulfill the task. The scriptures record what happens next this way:
“And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.” [vs 8-9]
During the night the Lord reveals to Samuel Saul’s disobedience and removes him as King. In the morning, King and Prophet meet, and Saul happily tells Samuel of his conquest.
“… and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” [vs 13]
“And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” [vs 14]
Doh! I can see Saul squirming as he tries to formulate an answer. This is his reply:
“And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” [vs 15]
Samuel speaks to the King about his pride and decision to do what he thought was best verses what the Lord had commanded. Saul pleads again that he did it to offer the best as a sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel teaches:
“… Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” [vs 22]
Basically he’s telling Saul not to over think what the Lord asks, just do it. Seeing that he is getting nowhere with the prophet, Saul tries another angle:
“And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord.” [vs 24-25]
At this point Samuel tells Saul of his removal from power and the forfeiture of his kingdom. Whatever his motivation for disobeying the full command – thinking he knew what a better course was than the Lord did, or giving into peer pressure – Saul has paid a heavy price for not being fully obedient. Sadly, as we read further, we see that the trajectory of Saul’s life is ever downward after this.
So, just how obedient is obedient enough?
There is no need for me to list out the different ways we can be obedient, but not just all the way obedient. I couldn’t even if I tried. But here are some things to get us all thinking:
- How obedient am I in keeping the Sabbath Day holy and separate from the others?
- How obedient am I in dressing modestly?
- How obedient am I in aligning myself with the Brethren concerning traditional marriage?
- How obedient am I in aligning myself with the Brethren on the issue of gender?
- How obedient am I in aligning myself with the Brethren on the divine roles of men and women as revealed in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”?
Samuel reminded Saul that:
“When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee King over Israel?” [vs 17]
His former humility brought him favor in the eyes of the Lord and he was called as an instrument in His hands. It was when Saul became too confident in his own wisdom and understanding that his downfall began. When following the voice of the crowds seemed more reasonable than following the voice of the Lord, he distanced himself from his God.
Let’s Look in the Mirror
There are many things in living the gospel today that are contrary to what the world believes — practices, opinions, philosophies. When we evaluate ourselves, do we see times when we may feel we, or the world, know better than the Lord in how to respond to large ‘in-the-spotlight’ social or doctrinal issues and questions? Do we find ourselves separated from the Brethren in where we plant our proverbial flag on an issue? What about seemingly small things? (And are there really any ‘small’ things when it comes to obedience?) Do we still humbly see ourselves as “little in [our] own sight,” or because we are learned do we think ourselves to be wise? (2 Nephi 9:28)
Including the Spinach
Who doesn’t love a buffet? Elder Neal A. Maxwell made a statement years ago that has changed what I think of every time I walk into one….
“…our relationship to living prophets is not one in which their sayings are a smorgasbord from which we may take only that which pleases us. We are to partake of all that is placed before us, including the spinach, and to leave a clean plate!” 
Including the spinach? Yikes, I hate cooked spinach! A clean plate? Oh gosh, I’m going to have real trouble with that! I definitely wouldn’t choose spinach if I had other choices available to me. But where the Lord’s restored gospel is concerned, I’ll heap it all on my plate – things I don’t understand, things that surprise me, things that are unpopular, and things I don’t think I agree with – and ingest it. Have it become part of me. Because to me, I don’t have a choice. Not really.
Choose to be Fully Obedient
The Lord speaks to us through his prophets. When we question them we question Him. When we stand apart from them we stand apart from Him. When we are partially obedient to their counsel we are partially obedient to His counsel. Now, none of us is perfect. Thankfully, we’re not expected to be so at this time. But, we are to be obedient as we prayfully plead for an understanding and testimony of what we are being asked to do or stand for.
Saul forfeited his crown and kingdom do to partial obedience. Will we do the same? Will we end up crown-less and kingdom-less? You decide… How obedient is obedient enough?
 1 Samuel 9:2
 1 Samuel 15:3 – 25
 Neal A. Maxwell, “Things As They Really Are, p. 74
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