Jesus Christ has promised us “the riches of eternity” if we carry out faithfully the stewardships he has given us (D&C 67:2). In this lesson, the Lord teaches us what it means to be faithful stewards.
Anciently, a steward was a person in charge of his master’s household. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “household” is economia, and the word for “steward” is economos (Latinized spelling); from these words we get the modern word “economy,” which originally meant wise management of a home.
When the Lord gives us a stewardship, He expects us to manage it wisely. In the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), He explains that some stewards are more faithful than others. Our callings in the Church are stewardships; our roles as family members are stewardships. All Church members are stewards of some talent or task given by the Lord, and He says, “An account of this stewardship will I require of them in the day of judgment” (70:4).
So, what is your stewardship?
Of course, Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of the faithful steward. Christ is the steward of the Father’s plan of salvation. His assignment is clear: To atone for the sins, failings, and weaknesses of the repentant and gather them back into his Father’s presence. He carries out that assignment with honor, fulfilling each instruction of His Father with exactness. To follow Christ is in part to follow His example of stewardship.
The Lord gives each of us a definite stewardship. You might be a mother, a teacher, a ministering sister, a missionary, a caregiver to an elderly parent, a temple worker, or the Primary pianist (like me!)—or many of these things at once. Like the Savior, we can choose to perform with honor and exactness—or not.
How should we carry out our stewardships?
We rely on revelation. We receive our own guidance from the Holy Ghost if we qualify for it. The scriptures are another source of guidance. For example, to be a parent is to have the most important of all stewardships, and the Lord gives precise direction on how to perform in that stewardship: “Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion . . . that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of their parents. . . . And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (68:25, 27).
We are expected to make a serious effort in our stewardships. “The inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor, in all faithfulness; for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord” (68:30).
Additionally, we rely on the instructions of our file leaders in the Church: “Whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (68:4). In learning how to perform my stewardship, I should study carefully what the servants of the Lord have to say—in conferences talks, in the counsel of my leaders, and in the admonitions that come when I am set apart for a calling. My leaders have the right to revelation to help me in my stewardship.
For example, Elder Orson Hyde “was called by his ordination to proclaim the everlasting gospel, by the Spirit of the living God, from people to people, and from land to land, in the congregations of the wicked, in their synagogues, reasoning with and expounding all scriptures unto them” (68:1). The Lord specifically says that Elder Hyde’s mission is “an ensample unto all those ordained to the priesthood” (68:2). Every priesthood holder shares that stewardship and will be held accountable for it.
In another practical instance, the Lord commands Oliver Cowdery to carry to Missouri the money donated for purchasing lands. But he is not expected to go alone: “I, the Lord, will that my servant John Whitmer should go with my servant Oliver Cowdery” (69:1-2). In the Church, we work together to fulfill our stewardships—no one should struggle alone. Alma the Elder defined the stewardship of each Church member this way: “To bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; . . . [to be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things” (Mos. 18:8-9).
In the end, our real stewardship in the kingdom of God is to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” In this way, we imitate Jesus Christ, who came into the world to ease our burdens: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
Our brothers and sisters bear heavy burdens in this mortal life. The weight of family, work, and church assignments can be substantial. Then there are the mournful burdens of sickness, failure, natural disasters, family and social conflict, and death.
The mission of the Lord Jesus Christ is to bear our burdens. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee” (Psalms 55:22). “Cast all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Shouldering our burdens is the Lord’s work; however, He asks us to be His agents—His stewards—in carrying out that mission: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
In the gospel, to the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” To ease the burdens of a brother is to be his keeper. For this reason, the Lord gave this commandment: “In your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld” (70:14). It is not right in the Lord’s eyes that some should bear disproportionately heavy burdens of poverty, ignorance, illness, or debt. The Lord expect us to “equalize” our burdens.
Anciently, the Lord asked the people of Israel to strive for equality, or shivui mishkal in the Hebrew language. Shivui derives from shaveh, meaning “equal,” and mishkal refers to weight. Equality meant “sharing the weight.” It meant helping those who can’t bear the weight of life by themselves. And which of us, at one time or another, have trouble bearing that weight?
So, how do we achieve “equality in temporal things”?
The Lord has said of the Latter-day Saints, “Inasmuch as they receive more than is needful for their necessities and their wants, it shall be given into my storehouse; and the benefits shall be consecrated unto the inhabitants of Zion” (70:7-8). We can donate more generously to the fast offerings and humanitarian fund of the Church to relieve the burdens of the poor. We can minister to neighbors who are sick or elderly or in mourning. We can volunteer to help Church programs such as Pathway and Humanitarian Services. We can open our eyes to opportunities to “bear one another’s burdens.” “Behold, this is what the Lord requires of every man in his stewardship. . . . And behold, none are exempt from this law who belong to the church of the living God” (70:9-10).
The Pathway program is a wonderful instance of “easing the burdens” of others. So many lack the money and the time and the resources to get an education, and, as a result, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Higher education is so expensive and time-consuming; and if you’re a mom or dad working two jobs to make ends meet, college is an unattainable dream. The Church’s Pathway program enables the less advantaged to obtain a college degree online at a fraction of the cost of other institutions of higher learning. Graduates then have hope of a better life for their families. In this way, the many Pathway volunteers are helping to equalize the members of the Church “in temporal things.”
What prevents us from being good stewards?
The consequence of inequality among us is the withholding of “the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit” (70:14). In other words, to the extent we are satisfied with inequality, we lack the revelations we could have and lose the Spirit.
What, then, stands in the way of carrying out our stewardships? The Lord was disappointed with some of the early Saints who faltered, and who then complained they had not received the blessings they had been promised. “Ye endeavored to believe that ye should receive the blessing which was offered unto you; but behold . . . there were fears in your hearts, and verily this is the reason that ye did not receive” (67:3).
Fear is the main thing that diverts us from performing our stewardships. We are afraid that we will fail, that it will take too much time and effort, that our pride will be hurt, or that others will get more recognition. Consider then the rewards that will come if “you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me . . . the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am” (67:10). Can there be a greater reward than to stand in the Lord’s presence and receive His approving embrace?
“Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you”(68:6).
“It is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and eternity. For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father” (72:3-4). No matter what our stewardship may be, we will at some point explain to the Lord Himself what we have done as His stewards. May we define our own stewardships, determine how to fulfill them with our best efforts, and remember that the “riches of eternity are His to give” to good and faithful stewards (67:2).