My subject is trusting God’s commandments and standards.
The rock group Van Halen catapulted to the top of the charts in the 80’s with songs like Jump, and Panama, and Dreams. They set a new record for highest paid band earning 1.5 million for just one 90 minute concert in 1983. They set new standards for lavish stage shows. Van Halen also became known for their contracts with long lists of extra requirements that included flooring, staging specifications, electrical circuits, and perks such as limosines and back stage food. And one requirement was: in the backstage area for the band there was to be placed a big bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. Yep, that was specifically in the contract. If there was even one brown M&M in the bowl, the band might throw a fit, refuse to go on stage, or even cancel the contract. Legend has it that they were so upset at the presence of brown M&M’s at one concert that $80,000 damage was done to the flooring.
David Lee Roth, the lead singer for the band, was asked about these seemingly eccentric and unrealistic demands. He explained that they were in fact true, but they were not unrealistic at all. From his autobiography:
“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into smaller markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the previous standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.”
“The contract rider read like the Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. There were requirements such as: “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes of current…” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be absolutely no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”
“So, on arrival when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, We knew they didn’t read the contract! Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. We had to double-check everything! Sometimes it would threaten to … destroy the whole show. and Sometimes literally, it was life-threatening.” (Source which I reworded a little to make it clearer)
In other words, the requirements in the contract were important because there were safety issues. The band knew that. They didn’t want the concert hall to question their value, or skimp, or cut corners. That legend of damage to the floor? The concert hall guessed about the weight capacity of the floor, and the heavy equipment sunk into the flooring and it was ruined and had to be replaced.
The brown M&Ms, so seemingly trivial, were critically important, there as an indicator to the band, of the care and attention paid to all the other requirements.
Heavenly Father’s commandments and standards are here to guide us in paths of safety, and keep us away from risks that God knows will make us unhappy. There are also, just like the brown M&Ms in the bowl, some commandments which are there for other purposes, such as indicating our devotion, or making us a light to the world, or symbolism to teach us. The sacrificial lamb was to be without blemish as symbolic of Christ.
The purpose of some commandments are obvious, some are less clear. We stay away from illegal drugs because they can harm us and it is breaking the law. But they are also damaging hard on our spirituality. And it also interferes with our judgement. And you might not smell so good. Which one is God’s purpose? Does it matter?
Not dating until you’re 16? Or not steady dating? Why? Probably because you develop strong emotions and affections for your friend and those may lead to temptation. Again, the important question: does it matter why? God has His purpose in making the standard. Just as every element of Van Halen’s contract had a purpose, even the M&Ms, all of Gods commandments have a purpose. Tithing helps fund the church, but D&C 64:22-23 tells us it is not the money; rather the Lord wants our heart. He wants us to hold nothing back. Tithing is a measure of our devotion, it is not about the money.
Do you know God has been asking his people to dress differently from the beginning? Even Adam and Eve were taught by God to dress modestly and cover themselves. Here is a standard from Moses’ time: Leviticus 19:19 “neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.” Really? The commandment was: don’t wear a Cotton and wool mix? Why? Probably because The Lord wanted his people to remember that they were to not marry outside the church and to keep other themselves separate from the world. Again I come back to the question, does it matter why? If The Lord has commanded it, should we not trust Him and follow?
Here’s another commandment from Leviticus 19:27, “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” So don’t cut your bangs and don’t trim your beard. Really? Why? Probably because The Lord didn’t want his people to adopt these social customs. But we don’t know exactly why. Maybe such grooming indicated things about the people and their values, similar to the way we question someone who puts on too much makeup, or in the 60s, people grew out their hair to show rebellion. We don’t know.
Again, does it matter why? If we love The Lord, will we not keep his commandments and standards? Conversely, if we pick and choose and only keep some of the commandments, are we not holding back part of our heart from The Lord? Why would we try to do just the minimum? Why would we cut corners and see what little we can get away with? D&C 4:2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” Not 90%, not 95%. All your heart.
When we pick and choose commandments, and deliberately disobey a commandment we become rebellious in God’s eyes. Mosiah 2:36-38: “And now, I say unto you, my brethren (and sisteren) that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, and it hath no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved– I say unto you, that the man or woman that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples. Therefore if that man (or woman) repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish…
When we cheat on the lords standards, the spirit withdraws and we are counted among the rebellious unless we change and repent and return to The Lord.”
My young brothers and sisters, asking why about standards helps us understand the purpose, but the why does not matter in the eyes of The Lord. He wants our whole hearts and our trust and to follow all His commands both the big and the small so that he knows our heart is in the right place. He wants us to be an Ensign (an example) to the nations of righteousness. He wants us to have the peace of the safe path. He wants us to be obedient and trust Him in all things.
May we do so.
(Given at Standards Night to parents and youth on January 18 and January 25, 2015)
Postscript: If you’re too young to remember Van Halen (whom of course I am not endorsing) you might recognize “Dreams” with lead singer Sammy Hagar in the background of this awesome Blue Angels video.