Some time ago, as I was officiating in the nightly ritual of getting our little children to bed, I may have seemed a bit dictatorial with the directions to “pick up your clothes, put away your toys, brush your teeth,” and other such utterances. Then our five-year-old wistfully looked up and said, “Daddy, do you own me?” While she has doubtless long since forgotten her question, I have remembered it as a challenge to distinguish carefully between ownership and stewardship.
Often we as parents and leaders may be tempted to direct as owners rather than as stewards. In the last analysis, we own very little, but are stewards over much. This principle of stewardship is so important to workers in the Sunday School, or in any other Church organization, and especially to parents, that attention to it merits our consideration. If this message deserves a title, it might be labeled “The Five A’s of Stewardship.”
1. The first principle of stewardship is for us to acknowledge that God lives, that he is our creator and provider of all that sustains life. We must understand as did Alma that “whatsoever is good cometh from God.” (Alma 5:40.)
2. The second “A” of stewardship comes from our recognition of the Lord as author of this principle. He dignified the steward in his role of service as he declared: “… he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11.) To those led by a proper steward, dignity is accorded. This is clearly illustrated by the statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who declared, “I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves.”
3. Third, accomplishment of effective stewardship may be done in the Lord’s own way through our study of the scriptures. He has stressed preparation before embarkation: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28.)
Then, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, we may accomplish through “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge. …” (D&C 121:41–42.)
How this scripture came to life last evening as the living prophet showed how an effective steward leads! As he assembled the brethren about him, he said many things, but first and foremost was his expression of love for them and then of his desire and availability to help them in any way. As he did this, I thought how great it would be if every Sunday School superintendent with his faculty, every bishop and branch president with his Saints, every parent with his children, could say as did he: “I want you to know that I love you and want to help you in any way that I can.”
4. The fourth aspect of stewardship is that of accountability. We read: “… for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.” (D&C 72:3.) To assist in this preparation, auxiliary teachers report to their executives, home teachers report to priesthood leaders, and apostles report to the First Presidency.
5. The fifth “A” is for approbation or reward for faithful stewardship. The Lord taught this as the parable of the ten talents, as recorded in Luke 19:12–27, in which the effective steward received a greater reward and the ineffective steward was asked to yield his stewardship.
In this dispensation it has been declared: “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.)
As we acknowledge the Lord as our creator, as the author of the gospel plan, then we know we may accomplish successful stewardships in life. We will be accountable in time and in eternity, but we will receive the approbation of the Lord for our efforts that have been lovingly and willingly performed.
In our families, our church, and our work, privileges for stewardship come and go. But we will always find that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity for doing more.