Let me begin, I think, by sharing a couple of short & simple scriptural verses. They are:
- 2nd Nephi 23:3, which declares, "for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness."
- D&C 59:21, which says, "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments."
To expand correct interpretation here, let's clarify a few things. First, rejoicing in God's highness, or glory, doesn't mean you're constantly or even frequently making verbal or otherwise grandiose expressions of praise and thanksgiving to God. A life lived quietly in honest seeking of God's truth and overall virtue, through discipleship to Jesus Christ, is quite sufficient to meet this requirement. More than anything, one who strives to pattern his life after the teachings of Christ glorifies God. As we see from the ministry of Christ and elsewhere in the scriptures, what counts most to our Heavenly Father isn't what we say or feel or think - it's what we do. This is true of positive or negative words, feelings, and acts. Second, it says His anger is not "upon" those who rejoice in His highness, meaning that it is not a lingering and/or frequent occurrence. This doesn't exclude you or I from God being occasionally or even sometimes displeased with how we use our moral agency. It does, however, mean that we need not fear that God is looking over our shoulders in anger at any portion of our lives (see Psalms 103:9)
Third, in the scripture from D&C we read that we do not offend God in anything, or cause His wrath to be kindled against us, unless we confess not His hand in all things. Again, this isn't speaking to some grandiose declaration of God's power in our lives and everywhere else. If you and I strive to have a humble heart, and we acknowledge where all good things flow from, that is the acknowledgement of God's hand in all things that He desires of us. The spirit behind this truth is humility - do I, within my spirit, say, "Well, God does some things that make my life better, but not everything", or do I humbly admit, "My Father-God has given me SO many blessings. All good in my life is because of Him." Hence we read in 1st Peter 5:5, "for God resisteth (the Greek translation of this word means, "opposes, is adverse to") the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." Those of us who strive to yield to the Spirit, which I would call the spirit of humility, are more able and willing to receive God's blessings. This is not only because they are more worthy and in a preparation for them, but also because yielding to this spirit of acknowledgement of God's hands creates a relationship with Him to where He Himself is more able to bless us. This hearkens back to D&C 82:10, which teaches us, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." So, in summation, this part of D&C 59:21 is saying to us, "Look, unless you have a spirit of humility and acknowledgement of Heavenly Father's hand in all things in your life, eventually He will be offended at you and His wrath will be kindled against you." Thankfully, it takes a REALLY long time for God to get angry with any of us, even the rebellious and unrighteous. Apostate Israel of old and the Nephites provide excellent examples of this (see Psalms 103:8, 145:8).
As a fourth and final clarification, it says we don't offend God or cause His anger to be kindled against us unless we "obey not His commandments". However, I think it is VERY important here to distinguish between faithfulness and obedience. Drawing upon Merriam-Webster, since it would include definitions from back in the times of Joseph Smith when D&C was written, here are definitions of "faithful" and "obedient":
- faithful (adj.): firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty
- obedient (adj): submissive to the restraint or command of authority
Interesting, isn't it, how they seem so similar in meaning, almost to the point of being identical? But, if you look closely, there is an important difference between the two. The first indicates a self-initiated process of doing what one has promised, or in accordance with personal duty. It uses the word "firm", but not "unwavering", "perfect", "unchanged", or any like adjective. In its context, the word "firm" here means one not easily moved or disturbed in his course, also penned down in synonymous meaning as "steadfast" in the holy scriptures. Now, examining the second definition, we find an almost robotic, mindless devotion to some overseer or taskmaster in authority. At best, it is a humble surrender to a higher power or authority than the self, yielding all self-interest and self-related power so as to render the individual or being as under the total control of said higher authority. Thankfully, I think you'll find we mean the latter definition in the gospel when we speak so loftily of being "obedient".
So, what's the point of all this intellectual banter about definitions and proper interpretations then? Is it just a bunch of hot air, then? No, it isn't. ;) Let me explain, dear reader. You see, the stipulation here for God being offended and angry with you and I isn't an absence of unwavering, unflinching, perfect obedience. No...that's preposterous. It uses the phrase "obey not", meaning that instead of humbly surrendering to God's power and authority over us as our Father, we consciously choose a way of thinking and feeling that takes us away from that spirit of humble surrender. "Obey not" means to proudly resist God, disobeying His constituted priesthood leaders, your parents - who have stewardship over you - and the scriptures themselves, simply because you choose to, not because you slip due to a moment of weakness or the natural man/woman. It is, in essence, the persistent spirit of pride & subsequent rebellion that earns us God's offense and anger. This is wholly different than our weakness due to the flesh, which God understands (see Isaiah 57:16, Psalms 78:39).
To talk of truth, then, I testify that our Father-God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, are SO anxious, ready, and willing to show us more mercy than we ever would say we deserve. And this is because they love us in a practically infinite amount of ways, through an individual and intimate touch. They hear us, they know us, they love us. We are their children! We are sons and daughter of the living God, and as such I can hardly imagine Heavenly Parents or a Savior who would be anything but slow to anger and offended feelings with us!! Just to give a small glimpse into the feeling and spirit of what I am saying here, the scriptures call God's mercy, "abundant", "rich", "tender", "plentiful", "plenteous", "great", "multitudinous", "infinite", and more that I'm sure I couldn't find. How can this not convince the human heart that because we are His, He wants to give us a break, to heal us, to comfort us...to bring us home? It is His entire work and glory to bring us home, to cause us to inherit exaltation through our efforts and total reliance on His grace! I testify that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be whole again, and we can feel of His perfect love and mercy, to abandon and banish ANY thought that God is anything but pleased with us, and cheering us on with the aid of more spiritual resources beyond the veil than we previously have ever supposed. I testify of God's perfect love for us as His beloved children, and that any thoughts which distract from that love or diminish it DO NOT come from Him!!! I love you, dear readers. Until next time...