Growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Saskatoon brought unique challenges and opportunities. In the 1980s and early 1990s, there was one meetinghouse serving two wards. There was a single stake in Saskatchewan, and I have told my girls stories of how stake dances were often held more than two hours away in Regina. As members, we were small in number, and our beliefs were unknown to most.
Although I suffered little in the ways of real persecution, I have always felt a special connection to the travails and trials of the early pioneer Saints. Consequently, the Doctrine and Covenants have always spoken to me in an especially relatable way. As we continue to gather as individuals and families throughout the restored Church of Jesus Christ and take time and study, the Come, Follow Me May 17-23, 2021 lesson focusing on Doctrine and Covenants 51-57 provides powerful lessons, warnings, and guidance that can help my family today.
Striving to Be Faithful Stewards
This past year, we have all had to adjust many aspects of life as we have tried to navigate various restrictions in an effort to bring this deadly COVID-19 pandemic under control. We have had to change the way we attend church services. Many have been unable to attend the temple, and we have all had to deal with an emotionally charged atmosphere of fears, questions, and hopes. These challenges and changes have caused me to reflect on my sacred stewardships that in these trying times have become even more important and necessary. The Lord has clearly taught, “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 51:19).
This is a daunting charge, but it offers the great reward of eternal life. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “In the Church, stewardship is not limited to a temporal trust or responsibility. President Spencer W. Kimball taught: ‘We are stewards over our bodies, minds, families, and properties. … A faithful steward is one who exercises righteous dominion, cares for his own, and looks to the poor and needy’” (“Stewardship—a Sacred Trust,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 91; see also Spencer W. Kimball, “Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78).
As a family, we have discussed the great challenges the early members the Church of Jesus Christ faced. There are frequent expressions of amazement and gratitude for the steadfastness and faith of these early Saints. They understood the nature of their sacred stewardships and endeavored to do their duty to God. They inspire us to look for ways to serve.
Looking for Opportunities to Serve Those in Need
Isolation is a fact of life for many and especially during COVID-19. However, our charge from God remains unchanged, “And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple” (Doctrine and Covenants 52:40).
As we discussed this scripture as a family, we determined that the needs of the poor continue during these pandemic times. Because a benevolent Father in Heaven continues to richly bless our family, we all agreed to look for opportunities to try and serve in our community. That very Sunday we learned of an opportunity to go and serve at our local soup kitchen, so we signed up to prepare and serve supper for those in need. The wonderful James and Rebekah Olsen family joined us in this service opportunity.
Together, we served a delicious meal to almost 100 people that night. It was great to watch our teens interact with the guests. As many of the guests expressed their gratitude for the meal, it was satisfying to know that we had done our small part to help.
Endeavoring to Be True Disciples of Christ
While the Doctrine and Covenants are filled with inspiring stories of men and women who sacrificed all they had to play a role in the Restoration of the gospel, not all were valiant. A cautionary tale is exemplified by Leman Copley’s who, “had broken his covenant to consecrate his large farm as a place of inheritance for the saints arriving from Colesville, New York” (Doctrine and Covenants 54, section heading). Copley ended up evicting Church members from his property (see Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, vol. 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815-1846 , 125-128).
This event in Church history emphasizes the need we all share to cultivate an abiding testimony. As the Lord subsequently proclaims concerning these incidents: “And he that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved.Behold, I, the Lord, command; and he that will not obey shall be cut off in mine own due time, after I have commanded and the commandment is broken” (Doctrine and Covenants 56:2-3).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve offers great counsel for how to follow Jesus: “He knows that ‘the gate of heaven is open unto all (Helaman 3:28),’ but that the Man of Galilee will finally judge each of us on the basis of a rigorous celestial theology, instead of the popular ‘no-fault theology’ of this telestial world—for Jesus is the gatekeeper ‘and he employeth no servant there (2 Nephi 9:41)’” (“The Man of Christ,” Ensign, May 1975). We live in a troubled world that increasingly opposes eternal truths such as accountability and the consequences of disobedience. It is critically important that our children understand that wickedness can never lead to true happiness.
These powerful sections of the Doctrine and Covenants offer a reminder of the realities and necessities of true discipleship as it applies to each of us in these latter days. God’s purposes will be accomplished, and like those pioneer Saints, we also will be given opportunities to participate in this great work.
As Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, said, “We can offer hands to help and hearts to hasten Heavenly Father’s wonderful work” (“Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work,” Ensign, May 2014, 122). This is one of the great truths taught in these sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. As we teach these principles and seek for opportunities to put them into action, the Lord will continue to bless us.