hands praying over scriptures

Blazing Bonfires: How I’ve Learned to Love Obedience

“Don’t rock yourself into the bonfire,” my grandpa joked as he purposefully wobbled his cheap plastic chair in front of the roaring fire. 

Six-year-old me giggled and thought, “Duh, fire’s dangerous. Who’d ever touch it on purpose?”

"But by the grace of God I am what I am."

Photo by Karolina Grawbowski

A few seconds later, however, I decided to ignore my grandpa’s advice. “Chairs were meant to be rocked on,” I told myself. Unfortunately, most chairs are not meant to be rocked on. My decrepit lawn chair endured a few awkward back-and-forth motions, and then it promptly launched me into the hungry fire. Luckily, my father and uncle were nearby. They pulled me out of the flames and dunked me into the nearest body of water—an algae-infested cow trough. 

Obedience is tough! Kids don’t understand it, teenagers shun it, and adults struggle with it. The scriptures even mention disobedient individuals: in 1 Nephi 2:12, Laman and Lemuel opposed their father’s authority, and in Genesis 4:7–8, Cain disobeyed the Lord’s warnings. All humans—no matter their culture or place in history— struggle with obedience. 

My childhood experience taught me to appreciate the gospel principle of obedience and its immediate blessing of protection. When we follow God’s commandments, we protect ourselves from the often scalding effects of sin. As we adhere to God’s laws, we become more in tune with the Spirit, and we use that clarity to make decisions that bring us closer to God. 

I am even more grateful for a lesser-recognized aspect of obedience: our Savior’s willingness to work with us despite our imperfect obedience. 

While I never repeated my childhood error, I’ve repeatedly tripped (and even intentionally walked) into many spiritual bonfires—situations that have harmed my spirit. Despite my frequent mistakes, I’ve always been pulled out of the flames by my Savior when I repented and turned to him for help. 

The Savior has saved other imperfect disciples, too, such as Saul of Tarsus. Saul was an especially zealous Pharisee. He was so committed to protecting Judaism from apostasy that he was given authority from a chief priest to locate Christians, testify against their misdeeds, and put them to death (see Acts 26:10). Despite Saul’s hateful acts and tendency to “kick against the pricks,” the Lord gave Saul the opportunity to repent and be saved (see Acts 26:14). Appearing in a bright light on the road to Damascus, the Lord powerfully invited Saul to open his eyes and turn to light by inviting souls to repent (see Acts 26:18). By accepting the Lord’s calling and demonstrating a desire to be obedient, Saul became Paul: a humble, influential apostle. 

At times, I was a willfully disobedient child. Nevertheless, “by the grace of God,” I can become a righteous disciple too (see 1 Corinthians 15:10). Because of our Savior’s eternal sacrifice and loving grace, we can put aside our vices, mistakes, and imperfections, and we can work toward our divine potential. And when we find ourselves amid damaging flames, in need of rescue and relief, we have a perfect, reliable Savior—a Savior who gave his life so we can emerge from the refiner’s fire purified. That is, as long as we extend genuine, faithful efforts to change and utilize his perfecting Atonement. 

Thanks be to God, who grants us healing, repentance, victory, and even eternal life through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:57)! 

—Jenna Knaupp, Latter-day Saint Insights Contributor

FEATURE IMAGE BY REENA BLACK

This article was selected as one of two winners of the Fall 2021 Thanksgiving writing contest for Latter-day Saint Insights. The work is original and reflects Jenna’s real experiences. We are grateful for the contributions and encourage interested writers to participate in future submission contests.

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