Responsibility is a promise

It's not unusual for a newspaper to run an article that stirs the emotions of the reader. It is a bit unusual when the feeling is that of responsibility. Such an article appeared in the newspaper a few months ago.

It concerned a young woman and her husband, both BYU students and without a lot of resources, who nevertheless decided they had to raise seven of her siblings. Simply put, the children were being cared for by grandparents, but a stroke disabled the grandmother and a heart attack killed the grandfather. The children were destined for foster homes.For the young couple this wasn't a hard choice at all. Not all of their friends agreed with their decision, but when they cautioned the wife about the problems ahead, she said she thought about the Mormon pioneers crossing the plains. "Would they have left their sisters behind?" While some people wouldn't want the responsibility, she said, that wasn't the way she was reared.

After the article appeared dozens of readers responded with offers of help. They knew they were being taught again what it means to be a member of a family, a community and a church. The wife's response to their offers? What could she in turn do to help them?

That's the way it is with responsibility. It's something we learn, most often from the example of others. The young woman, a convert to the Church, made a connection between her plight and that of people who lived a century and a half ago. And now others cited her example.

Responsibilities surround us like layers of an onion. It wasn't always that way. After we were born, our parents began teaching us to be responsible in a hundred different ways: to pick up our toys, to not waste our food, to share with others, to not hurt other children, to be careful of the words we used, to take care of ourselves.

In a sense, maturity and responsibility are twins. The more mature we are, the more responsible.

So now we're responsible for a whole host of things:

We're responsible for our emotions. We control our anger and frustrations. When we make a mistake, we apologize for it.

We're responsible for our finances. We don't owe any money that we cannot pay back, and we don't buy something unless we have the funds to pay for it.

We're responsible for our cleanliness. We clean up after ourselves instead of leaving our mess for someone else.

We're responsible for our relationships. We're on time for appointments, we take our turn hosting friends, we are willing to make an effort to maintain friendships.

We're responsible for our work. We pull our own weight and don't take advantage of the people with whom we work.

We're responsible for our health. We avoid things that will harm us, and we keep our dental and doctor appointments. We know that we're important to our families.

We're responsible to our neighborhoods and community. We're willing to assume our share of the work that makes a community whole, including volunteer work and taking an active role in community affairs.

We're responsible to our Church. We accept covenants seriously and do all we can to keep them. We are familiar with the scriptures and we accept assignments willingly.

And a great number of other things. Most of us are better accepting responsibility in some areas than in others.

Everyone has different responsibilities. Some are formal and for them we must answer to others, but a great many are simply understood. But they all have one thing in common. At the heart of the word "responsibility" is another word that means "to pledge." Responsibility is a promise we make, mostly to others, sometimes to ourselves. Without it, we would be, well, irresponsible. Immature. Undependable. Untrustworthy.

Without the concept of responsibility, the world could not function. Neither could the Church, which depends completely upon its members' willingness to accept assignments and then perform them. As Church members we recognize this every time we raise our hands to sustain each other.

The 21-year-old Joseph Smith was schooled in the meaning of responsibility when he finally received the golden plates containing the Book of Mormon from the Angel Moroni. " . . . the heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off: but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected." (JSH 1:59)

The prophet never stood back from his responsibility. From that moment, the Kingdom began to grow.

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