by Hanna E. Seariac
One of the amazing elements of the Doctrine and Covenants is the way that the Lord teaches us about personal stewardship and responsibility in the scripture. Many callings are given to the saints and the faithful, where God asks them to stretch and grow to fill the capacity of their calling. While we may think about callings as a way for ourselves to grow, how often do we see them as a privilege?
We read, “And thus I grant unto this people a privilege of organizing themselves according to my laws.” (D&C 51:15). God’s commandments and covenants give us the privilege of becoming more like Him, becoming more good, becoming more loving; they compose the greatest privilege that we have in this life—to grow in the principle of perfection and love like our Savior. With that being said, my mind turns to a verse in Luke 9, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26).
When we frame commandments and covenants as privileges that God grants to us rather than as burdens or hindrances, we can remember the words of our ancestors, “Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?/’Tis not so, all is right/Why should we think to earn a great reward/If we now shun the fight?” This acts as a guiding principle for us when we consider how the Lord calls us. Edward Patridge was given a great calling and was told, “And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life.” (D&C 51:19). We inherit eternal life not merely because the Lord grants it to us, but because we become the type of person who could live eternally with the Lord, who brings souls to Jesus Christ, which is the work and purpose of the Lord. The Lord’s organizational structure allows us to have stewardship in specific areas to learn how to love in the way that the Lord does.
One experience that I had that shaped my understanding of stewardship came when I was called to be a Ward Family Home Evening co-chair in my YSA ward three years ago. When I was set apart, my bishop told me in that particular blessing that this calling uniquely allowed me to minister to everyone in the ward and to teach principles of marriage and family. What my bishop instructed me in this lesson acted as a guiding principle for how I approached that calling. I took my stewardship seriously and prayed deeply and sincerely for how to approach that calling. It offered me many chances to sacrifice of my time and myself in a way that I had not yet done. This calling taught me how to love more like Jesus Christ does.
When discussing the bishop’s storehouse, we read, “And let every man deal honestly, and be alike among this people, and receive alike, that ye may be one, even as I have commanded you.” (D&C 51:9). True unity is fostered and cultivated through the covenantal love where we esteem everyone as our brother or sister, and we see how we are all part of the body of Christ. Elder Holland spoke about this concept, “In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it.”
The Lord’s callings to alleviate poverty and to remember that “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33) teaches us that life eternal is knowing Jesus Christ and knowing Him so well that we know how to love like Him. President Oaks exhorted us, “I urge each of you to seek the joy that comes from keeping the commandments of God and exerting a righteous influence for the benefit of those we love.” By emphasizing principles of unity and righteousness in this particular chapter, I believe that we are to learn that the way that we treat each other matters, precisely because of stewardship. Our covenants and callings give us specific areas where God teaches us how to love and gives us principles so that we might be able to become love like He is, and one of the most important aspects of those principles is remembering that we are not in this for ourselves alone.
If we think selfishly that we should live this life in pursuit of worldly goals and ambitions, sacrificing truth for popularity, watering down our faith for social acceptance, being cowardly instead of courage, then we have our reward now and we show Jesus Christ our shame. Not only that, but if we lead others away from Jesus Christ, we do not love them in the way that God has established as an imperative for us to love them in; while God exercises mercy, God also requires faithfulness.
God issues another reminder to, “remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.” (D&C 52:40). Ministering to those who God asks of us to minister to gives us the joy of heaven, but more importantly gives them the love of Christ. In the same chapter, though, we also read, “And let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith.” (D&C 52:9). Centering our ministry on both the scriptures and the Spirit will enable us to teach truth.
We need to gain our own witness of the truth in order to teach it. We do not give ourselves a fighting chance to learn truth if we do not live in the way that God has asked us to live. Here is an example from my own life. I wanted to desperately gain a testimony of the temple and to know whether or not that it came from God. When I had been endowed, I left the temple the first time, unsure of what I had experienced.
I shortly thereafter came to Utah and found that while I could meet the standards to enter the temple, that I did not find myself keeping my covenants with full purpose of heart and with a desire to love God and love my neighbor. I prayed and asked God what He would have me do so that I might have a testimony of the temple and be able to be a covenant-keeper. God instructed me to go to the temple until I understood it. I remember the joy that I felt when I went to the temple after that fervent prayer. I went every single day that the temple was open for a semester, so that I could do the work of the Lord and understood relationships beyond the veil more.
I felt connected to the faith in a unique way that I still feel today. While I do not have spades of pioneer ancestry and I am not from Utah, I truly feel that this is the faith of my forefathers by virtue of my covenants and that my covenants bring me into the House of Israel and the House of God in a way that makes me feel like the Church is truly my family just like my family is my family. There is not a difference in the way that I feel about the pioneers and my ancestors because of the lessons that I learned in the temple. This truly helped me understand what it is like to learn how to become one in the way that God asks us to become one with one another.
In the process of becoming one and consecrating more to God, we can experience trials, tribulations, and commit transgressions. I find the instruction, “And again, be patient in tribulation until I come; and, behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, and they who have sought me early shall find rest to their souls.” (D&C 54:10). Joseph Smith said, “The purposes of our God are great, His love unfathomable, His wisdom infinite, and His power unlimited; therefore, the Saints have cause to rejoice and to be glad.” If something in the process of becoming one and learning to consecrate what we have to God feels like a tribulation or trial, we can remember that God’s infinite wisdom and power means that “everything works together for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28). In the words of Elder McConkie, “I believe in Christ; he stands supmeme!/From him I’ll gain my fondest dream;/And while I strive through grief and pain,/His voice is heard: “Ye shall obtain.”
One of the most spiritual experiences of my life was a tragic accident. I was on the phone with a friend, talking about Church history, and with the sign to cross the street and seeing no car coming, I crossed the street. Unfortunately, a car sped and hit me. I do not remember the moment of the accident as it took me a few minutes to come to, and I remember feeling calm immediately after. Even though my body had a reaction of fear and pain, I myself felt calm and felt that God loved me. The aftermath proved difficult for me.
I needed to sleep a lot following it, and I was in a lot of pain. I remember standing up and feeling myself shaking while being unable to walk for longer than a couple steps, and feeling frustration. Why had God allowed this to happen to me and for how long would I have to suffer in this way? I couldn’t even kneel to pray, but I cried out to God and asked Him why, after one of the most difficult years for everyone, and after my own most difficult year personally, why this would happen, why I would feel like I was being stunted and forced into this situation. My prayer was not immediately answered. When my friend gave me a blessing of healing, he told me two important things: 1) that I needed to share my experiences on social media and with anyone who would listen, and 2) that this experience, this tribulation, needed to happen to me specifically because I would meet someone who went through it and could help them. This blessing gave me the emotional comfort and strength necessary to turn to Jesus Christ and to allow His atonement to change my soul that I did not feel frustration, but rather gratitude towards God for giving me the privilege to learn how to become a covenant-keeper in a way that would allow me to serve Him and my neighbor better.
The reward of keeping God’s covenants differs from the rewards of the world. We might not get everything we want in this life if we are set on the ways of the world, because even if we give up certain elements of faith to receive those things, they might be empty and void in ways that we did not expect, but we will receive and inherit eternal life if we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, as the scripture tells us, “but blessed are they who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment, for they shall obtain mercy.” (D&C 54:6). We do not just commandments and covenants for ourselves; our salvation matters, of course, but the way that we influence the salvation of others also does matter, too.
The way that we do the work of God should not be for our own benefit. We read, “with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands.” (D&C 55:1). Are we more concerned with who follows us than who follows Him? Do we wish to do His work and use our religion for the purpose of bolstering ourselves rather than convincing others to return to Him? Do we sell our birthright for a mess of pottage, because we the reward that we see is available to us now matters more than the reward that God promises us in the eternities? We do not receive a remission of our sins if we do not fulfill our callings and our purpose “with an eye single to the glory of God.”
The story of Joseph Smith with the golden plates comes to mind. While Joseph wanted to take the plates, the angel Moroni instructed him that he had to wait; “This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.” (JS-H 1:46). Joseph eventually was able to get the plates after he developed this singular focus on God. God certainly withholds aspects of light and knowledge from us when we are “pure in heart” and have “hearts [that] are broken” and “spirits [that] are contrite.” (D&C 56:18).
The emphasis on giving to the poor comes up again in D&C 56, which should cause us to reflect on how we give to the poor in our own lives and how we can better fulfill that commandment of His. We also read, “And he that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved…Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious.” (D&C 56:2, 4). God’s anger at those who do not keep His commandments is not something that we should shy away from understanding, but rather step into. The natural man in us prevents us from feeling like God could be angry at us, but if we do not keep His commandments and do not encourage others to do so, we prevent the salvation and exaltation of mankind. If we have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, it is a gamble with the souls of others to preach a different gospel than the one that God has instructed us to preach. Encouraging others to come unto Christ will create a Zion-like community, because all our hearts and minds will be turned towards Jesus Christ.
I want to testify of the power that comes through believing that Jesus is the Christ, keeping covenants, keeping the commandments, and seeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as having the correct covenantal structure for the salvation and exaltation of mankind. If we want to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and feel God’s power work through us, we have to keep His commandments and not make excuses for when we do not. Christ’s atonement is the most important element of our progression, because it cleanses us that we might be filled with the Spirit of the Lord to testify in the way that God needs us to do in our particular spheres. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is so simple that it is accessible to all, when we complicate our theology beyond what the scriptures and prophets teach us, we have created God in our own image and worship ourselves not Him. It is of vital importance to the building of the kingdom of Zion that we seek not our own glory, but the glory for the One who sent His Son and sent us, that we set aside our worldly endeavors and place our minds and our hearts with Jesus Christ. I testify that the Doctrine and Covenants are God’s revelations to His people. I also testify that the Church is true and all that entails. For me, all that that has entailed has included learning to consecrate myself more each day to God, learning to love more deeply, and to first and foremost be a disciple of Jesus Christ, not someone who seeks my own.
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Hanna Seariac is a MA student in Greek and Latin at Brigham Young University. She works as a research assistant on a biblical commentary and as a research assistant on early Latter-day Saint history. Her interests thematically center around sacrifice, magic, and priesthood as it pertains to ancient Judaism, early Christianity, ancient Egyptian religion, and early Restoration history.