The Message:

At Any Cost, Keep the Commandments

by Elder Gene R. Cook

of the First Quorum of the Seventy

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    As a young man I often wondered about the importance of keeping the commandments of the Lord. For instance, I wondered if the Lord really needed my tithes as I earned so very little. I also found myself asking, as perhaps many of you have, just how important it is to keep the Sabbath day holy. Of course, I later came to realize that He did not need either my obedience or my money nearly as much as I needed to follow those laws in order to receive the spiritual growth and blessings that come from obeying the Lord’s commandments. I would like to relate to you an experience that occurred in my life that helped me to learn the importance of keeping the commandments.

    My father was a man who suggested to his sons that they work early in life. He had a very convincing way of doing that; he would indicate that starting on such-and-such a date, we would begin buying our own clothes and shoes and other personal needs. In this way we were somewhat “pressed into service” to find some kind of a job.

    At age 11, I attempted to obtain my first job working as a newspaper boy. I had just turned 11 and was an entire year away from the minimum age of 12 required for being a newspaper boy. It was difficult at first trying to convince the man that someone so young could really be an effective worker, but with the help of my dad, I talked him into giving me a try.

    The Lord really blessed me as a young man because I was able to effectively carry out that important job. It was an important job to me for I learned as a young man how to collect and be accountable for money, how to deal with the public, and how to sell newspaper subscriptions. I remember the many contests and prizes that I won as a result of much effort in learning how to persuade people to take subscriptions to the afternoon newspaper I worked for. A tenth of my income was always paid willingly to the Lord as tithing.

    At 16, after being a paper boy for five years, I was somewhat surprised when the manager of circulation asked me to be the assistant manager and act as the supervisor of all the newspaper boys in the city. It was quite an honor because of my youth, and I remember how grateful I felt to the Lord. I saw it as a direct blessing from the Lord in allowing me to grow and obtain additional development.

    I worked as the assistant manager for about two years, and I will never forget the great challenge that then came to me. I had been paying my tithing regularly during that time and certainly believed in the principle, but I did not have as sure a witness of that principle as I was about to attain.

    One Saturday afternoon after finishing work, the manager told me that starting a week from the following day, on Sunday, it would be necessary for me to work every Sunday morning. The manager was an inactive member of the Church at the time, and he knew that I was not going to react favorably to the suggestion. But he was quick to tell me that even though I would miss priesthood meeting and Sunday School, I could find some other means of attending meetings, and thus it would not be all that serious to skip those meetings. He then attempted to entice me by telling me that my pay would be increased by 30 percent, thinking that this might change my mind about the principle of not working on Sunday.

    I remember how strongly those words fell upon my heart, but I also remember my response: “I am quite certain that I cannot work on Sunday.”

    “Well,” he said, “you will have to work on Sunday or I will find another assistant manager.”

    I left the office rather teary-eyed that day. I remember asking the Lord why I should lose my job as a result of the Church. I had been working hard to save enough money to support myself on a mission, and now I was going to lose my job unless I were willing to work on Sunday.

    I talked to my father to ask his counsel, and all he would tell me was, “I am sure you will do what is right, whatever that may be.” I was left with the weight of the decision. I spoke later to my bishop and asked him what to do, and his advice was the same as my father’s. However, he added that if I decided to work on Sunday, there might be some possibility of my attending another ward for priesthood meeting as the neighboring ward was holding them in the afternoons at that period of time in the city where I lived. After talking to these two men, the feeling came over me that there was no way to resolve this matter except by finding out what the Lord would have me do.

    The following Saturday I went in and announced to the manager that I would not work on Sunday. He informed me that since that was my choice, I would have one week and no longer as the assistant manager, and then I would be replaced by a young man who was “really willing to work.”

    I left work that day with a very heavy heart, realizing that in five or six days I would be without a job. In one more year I was to go on my mission, and I did not yet have sufficient funds to support myself. I prayed much that week.

    The following days at work seemed very long, and there were very few words spoken between my boss and me. I waited for the next Saturday, which was to be my last day.

    Friday finally arrived. As I was finishing work that evening, the manager approached me and said, somewhat emotionally, “Gene, you are right in what you are doing, and I am wrong in asking you to work on Sunday. I have found a young man of another religion who is willing to work on Sunday, but I still want you to be my assistant manager. And by the way, that 30 percent increase will be given to you anyway, even though you will not be working the seventh day. You are a very good young man.”

    My young friends, I will never forget the feeling of gratitude that came over me at that moment. I will also never forget my feelings that month as I paid more than an honest tithe and faithfully attended to my responsibilities on Sunday.

    What the Lord said about these principles is really true:

    “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

    “Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

    “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

    “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:8–11.)

    He also said:

    “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

    “For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;

    “And on this day thou shalt do none other thing.” (D&C 59:9–10, 13.)

    As you can see, the Lord will pour out the blessings of heaven upon a man, even a young man, and teach him in his heart both the value of paying tithing on that which he earns and the value of keeping the Sabbath day holy. I would pray that all of you might always remember that at any price, the commandments of the Lord are worth keeping. May the Lord bless you all.

    Illustrated by James Christensen