In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes the limits of our stewardship is clear. For instance, my current calling (church duty) is as the Stake Music Chair. My stewardship is to make sure that appropriate music has been planned for stake-level meetings, and to be a resource and help to the people responsible for music in the individual congregations that form our stake. Anything else that I would try to do as a stake music chair would be overstepping my bounds.
But what about family, friends, and other ward members?
Obviously, the boundaries aren’t so clear. As I have pondered this idea, a few different thoughts have come to mind:
- “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me.”
- Love first, judge later.
- Seek each person’s eternal welfare.
Lead Me, Guide Me, Walk Beside Me
The Savior was a gentle teacher. He taught by giving people things to think about, by asking and answering questions. To me, this example means that I need to try to keep lines of communication open, seek to understand, and allow the other person to think and make their own choices. In so doing, I also need to accept that they will have to bear the consequences. To coerce or to buffer consequences interferes with the divine gift of agency.
I can also make sure that I am setting the best example of righteous living that I know how to set, and I can offer advice when it is actually sought.
Love First, Judge Later
Smart people sometimes make dumb choices in the heat of the moment. Good people have bad days. Saints are still sinners.
While we should never suggest that a sin should be excused, we also have not earned the right to judge. Only Christ was so perfect that he earned that responsibility. The rest of us need to be looking for the good that still exists after the bad has been committed. Friends, family members, and fellow church members are still children of God, no matter what they have done. If we cannot hold onto that truth, we are not in much of a position to help.
Seek Each Person’s Eternal Welfare
Usually, we can love somebody back. We can encourage them to take steps that will bring the Spirit back into their lives, and the Spirit is the best at leading someone to recognize the need for repentance and also help them through the process.
Sadly, there are times when this isn’t true. I once found myself in possession of knowledge that someone had committed a sin so grievous that it would affect their membership in the church. I prayed, I struggled, I cried. I wrestled with what to do for months. Then, one Sunday morning, an impression came as I was studying a general conference talk. To this day, it is the most clear, most powerful impression I have ever received. The time to allow this person to seek humility and voluntarily repent had passed. I made an appointment with my bishop.
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t a process I enjoyed. The one thing that carried me through the healing process was knowing that my intent was the eternal welfare of another’s soul. I learned, over time, to make the amends that I could and leave the rest to the Lord.
So, again, I have arrived at the answer that there is no “cut and dried” answer. Even so, we have been given principles and guidance. To truly know our stewardship, we go back to the “pat church answers” of scripture study, prayer, and living so that we can have the companionship of the Holy Spirit (aka “keep the commandments”). In this, there IS safety and peace — and the ability to know how much stewardship we have as well as how to handle that stewardship.