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.
4 thoughts on “Individual Responsibility”
My father always told me not to say anything at all, if you can’t say something nice about someone. So, I will start with the “something nice!” I am not a Mormon, nor will I ever be one. Yet, I have to say, Daniel, you are a very impressive young man. You take your responsibilities as a teaching Mormon very seriously and it is to your great credit. I wonder have you ever thought how your being raised in the Mormon faith has (relatively better) equipped you for the task you now shoulder, that of raising children who are not your own biologically?
Many men of all different faiths have difficulty with what they see as the enormity of this task. To some it is a chore, and to the vast majority, it is far from an easy ride. It can make a difference if the children are female – they seem to be more acceptable to many adoptive Dads. A male child can often remind a new Dad taking the reins, of the natural father of the child and he may compare or contrast himself with that man, whether he is alive or dead, either favourably or unfavourably.
Joseph Smith, the founder of your faith, was a polygamist, and as such, Mormons the world over must have at their core, a very different, inate attitude to the taking on of children fathered by other men. So, rather than see his beliefs as something to be brushed under the carpet, something of which to be ashamed in hindsight, perhaps it would be preferable to look upon them as a learning experience not just for Joseph himself, but for Mormons worldwide, generationally. Many of you will know people who have descended from large polygamous families. They are not only a part of your flock, they are a part of your collective psyche.
In today’s world, with the failure of marriage at a high rate world wide, surely the ability of men and women to see themselves more of a larger transferable family rather than just one nuclear family, can be seen as something of value?
The world has evolved past the era when women’s rights were trampled on and ignored. Polygamy does not serve the best interests of the female, there can be no doubt about that. It repressed and ignored them as worthy individuals. Yet, if we are to separate from all what was negative, the positive historical belief that Mormon men are responsible for the care of widows and single mothers, we can see this is something which will aid all men and women of your faith in this modern-day era.
Thanks for your comment Pamela, and I apologize for not having responded to your last email yet. It is still sits in my inbox waiting for me to simply sit down and take the time to write! Which with new family responsibilities I find increasingly less time to do some days!
Thank you for your thoughts and I had not considered such things. There is something in your perspective that is interesting to contemplate.
Rather than that ‘collective psyche’ shaping and preparing me to be a father to someone else’s children, however, I feel that it stems from a different source. It stems from the cleansing power of living the gospel of Jesus Christ itself.
I feel that I must express, and clearly state, if not for your benefit then for other readers who find this article – that Mormons are not Poligamists, nor have they been since the 1800’s. For more information please read the following: https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-and-families-in-early-utah?lang=eng
As Mormons we are monogomous, and believe in only having 1 wife. I was raised with that belief and not taught that Polygamy was appropriate in any way. My parents have been happily married for over 30 years and that is the example from which I take most of the lessons of my life. One of my uncles, and one of my great uncles, were marred over 63 years to give some perspective.
But, even with all that, it was the invitation of, and lessons learning in following, the Gospel of Jesus Christ – actually applying His teaching into my life – that prepared me to be a father. Working at Anasazi as a survival instructor with at-risk youth also helped as well. There I helped raise other peoples children and teach them correct principles so that they could learn to govern themselves in the future.
Thank you once again for your thoughts Pamela. I only felt a need to clarify to you and others from whence that stems, and what Mormons believe about marriage. You are right in saying that we have a ‘positive historical belief that Mormons are responsible for the care of widows and single mothers.’
That aside however – is not why I chose to marry my wife. God brought us together and through several experiences we have had we know that He had a purpose in so doing – and that we were prepared to be exactly what each of us needs. I love her dearly and would not consider having married her for duty, or responsibility, or a need to care for a single mother. I married her out of love – and I do know that this is not what you were implying. But, I feel inclined to say it.
Thank you Pamela for your thoughts and insights. Please keep sharing, and keep on learning.
Sorry, I misspelled “innate”.
Wonderful to hear you express your love for your wife Daniel. Not every man who loves his wife will come right out and proclaim that publicly. Not every woman who loves her husband either, I have to say! Yet it is important to be able to do so, isn’t it? Shyness often stops people from being open about their true feelings. But true love is such a rare gift, that not everyone will know it in their lifetime. Given that sobering fact, it is something not only to be treasured, but also a gift that we should willingly proclaim our great fortune in receiving. To declare our love for our partners in life, that we are one of the lucky ones, surely gives those who will never know the benefit of such a great love, at least the chance to bathe in its warming glow. A powerful love union emanates from a couple to bring joy to those who witness it, such that all are truly blessed.