What is our great responsibility in this life? To ourselves? To others? To God? What is this life all about anyway, and what is it all for?
While philosophers of all ages have debated these questions the prophets of God have spoken. There are prophets today and they speak the truth as they received it from the Lord himself. All we have to do, if we are truly seekers of truth, is find their words, read them, internalize them, and apply them into our lives. If we follow this divinely appointed pattern our hearts will be changed, our faith will grow, and peace of conscience will settle upon our souls as the dews at dawn.
This week I read, in the words of a prophet, some of the most direct and eye opening comments on this topic I have ever read with relation to the topic of individual responsibility and accountability. For our mutual benefit I share them with you today.
President Joseph Fielding Smith, not to be confused with Joseph Smith, in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith taught clearly the answers to these questions. In chapter 23 he said “I am not at all in sympathy with any kind of movement that tends to destroy manhood by encouraging men to be idle… if a man is physically strong and is able to perform services, he should take care of himself; that the Lord expects him to do…”
The Lord said in D&C 42:42, “Thou shalt not be idle for he that is idle shall not eat the bread, nor wear the garments of the laborer.”
And he continued in D&C 75:28-29 by saying that “…every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown… and the idler shall not have place in the Church, except he repent and mend his ways.”
Joseph Fielding Smith continued after reading these two scriptures by saying this “means likewise that a man should be industrious in spiritual things as well as in temporalities by which he makes his living.”
“We are here for a great purpose. That purpose is not to live 100 years, or less, and plant our fields, reap our crops, gather fruit, live in houses, and surround ourselves with the necessities of mortal life. That is not the purpose of life. These things are necessary to our existence here, and that is the reason why we should be industrious.
“Why, all these things are but temporary blessings. We eat to live. We clothe ourselves to keep warm and covered. We have houses to live in for our comfort and convenience, but we ought to look uon all these blessings as temporary blessings needful while we journey through this life. And that is all the good they are to us. We cannot take any of them with us when we depart. God, silver, precious stones, which are called wealth, are of no use to man only as they enable him to take care of himself and to meet his necessities here…”
“The object of our being here is to do the will of the Fatheras it is done in heaven (which is what?), to work righteousness in the earth, to subdue wickedness and put it under our feet, to conquer sin and the adversary of our souls, to rise above the imperfections and weaknesses of poor fallen humanity, by the inspiration of the Lord and his power made manifest, and thus become saints and servants of the Lord in the earth.
Conscience & Accountability
Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “We are dealing with our faith and conscience… I am not dealing with men respecting my (actions and choices) – my dealings are with the Lord… I am responsible to the Lord and will have to answer to Him… If I do my duty, according to my understanding of the requirements that the Lord has made of me, then I ought to have a conscience void of offense. I ought to have satisfaction in my soul that I have simply done my duty as I understand it, and I will accept the consequences…”
“He who sent his Only Begotten Son into the world… also sent every soul within the sound of my voice… to accomplish a mission… we cannot grow in knowledge of the Lord or in wisdom, without devoting our thoughts and our efforts toward our own betterment, toward the increase of our own wisdom and knowledge in the things of the Lord.”
“It is so easy for humankind to blame somebody else for their own mistakes, and so easy for us, because of our human nature, to take credit when the thing that is accomplished is something that pleases and benefits. But we never want to shoulder a responsibility for our mistakes that do not please, and so we endeavor to place that kind of responsibility somewhere else and on others… Let us shoulder our own responsibilities, and not endeavor to place them somewhere else.”
“What would we be without (the gift of Agency), if we were compelled as some people would like to have their fellows compelled to do their will? There could be no salvation; there could be no rewards of righteousness; no one could be punished for unfaithfulness because men would not be accountable before their Maker…”
Take a child for example. If I come into the room and that child is doing something I deem wrong I would open my mouth to correct them. If they turn and say that their mother made them to do it that way I reply, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Sorry. Continue on then.”
Then, if I still disagree with the action I talk to their mother about it. The accountability for that action belongs to the mother because she is telling the child what to do.
It is the same with the Lord. If He made us act a certain way we would not be accountable for our own actions. This goes against the whole reason we are here: to learn and to grow. The Lord will not make us do anything in this life. He has left it up to us to choose.
Now He has given us commandments, and told us how we can obtain happiness, but He will force no man towards it. It is up to us to choose our own destiny, be it eternal happiness on the one side, or eternal damnation (or being stopped in our progression) on the other.
We will be held accountable for we have been given our agency. The choice is ours. What will we choose? What consequences will we allow to remain in our lives? If we choose to live righteously they will be sweet indeed.
Joseph Smith said, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”
Commenting on this statement by Joseph Smith, President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “This is the principles upon which we operate in the church. We expect our members everywhere to learn correct principles and to govern themselves.”
That is what it means to be Mormon – to learn correct principles, conform our lives to them, and govern ourselves appropriately.
What principles have you learned, or been taught of the Lord, in your life? If you could teach, or pass on, one lesson on how to be happy to your children what would it be?
President Smith continued, “There could be no satisfactory existence without this great gift (Agency)… salvation and exaltation must come through the free will without coercion and by individual merit in order that righteous rewards may be given and proper punishment be meted out to the transgressor…”
“God has done for men all that men cannot do for themselves to secure salvation, but he expects men to do all for themselves that is in their power.”
“…it is contrary to the order of heaven… for holy messengers… to come to earth and perform work for men which they can do for themselves… “
“It is a most serious error to believe that Jesus did everything for men if they would but confess him with their lips, and there is nothing else for them to do. Men have work to do if they would obtain salvation.”
“Our two great responsibilities are to seek our own salvation and to work diligently for the salvation of others… Our first concern should be our own salvation. We should seek every gospel blessing for ourselves. We should be baptized and enter into the order of celestial marriage so that we can become inheritors in the fullness of our Father’s kingdom. Then we should be concerned about our families, our children, and our anscestors.”
“It is your duty… to do the very best that is within our power, and not to shirk, but endeavor with all our soul to magnify the callings the Lord has given us, to labor diligently for the salvation of our own house, each one of us, and for the salvation of our neighbors, the salvation of those who are abroad.”
It is our duty TO DO OUR BEST to do ALL WITHIN OUR POWER – because Christ has already done the rest – and NOT SHIRK. It is our duty to STAND UP, CHOOSE RIGHTEOUSLY, and BE MEN AND WOMEN OF GOD.