After instructing his people to give generously in order to retain a remission of their sins, King Benjamin adds a warning: “See that all these things are done in wisdom and order.” Don’t try to do more than you can; don’t try to give more than you have. That’s neither productive nor sustainable. For example, he advises the poor, who can’t give to beggars because they are barely making ends meet themselves, to say in their hearts, “I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.” He concludes, “All things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:24, 27).
President Dallin H. Oaks has observed, “The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them” (“Good, Better, Best,” General Conference, October 2007). Anne Morrow Lindbergh expressed the same principle in these words: “My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds” (Gift from the Sea, page 116). Therefore, on a daily basis, we must choose between good activities as we decide how to spend our scarce time and energy.
One way to expand the impact of our actions is by collaborating with other people. As Elder D. Todd Christofferson has explained, one reason the Savior organized a church is “to achieve needful things that cannot be accomplished by individuals or smaller groups” (Why the Church, General Conference, October 2015). But for that collective effort to be effective, we must each be willing to do our part and to trust others to do their part.
To “ordain” is to set something in order. An “ordinance” is the process by which things are put in order. That’s why Alma says that priests are “called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance” (Alma 13:8). When we accept a calling in the Church, we assume responsibilities which enable us to contribute in a way that complements the contributions of others. Well-defined roles and responsibilities help us prioritize our individual efforts with confidence that we are accomplishing more than we could alone.
In the summer of 1829, shortly after the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed, the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery to “build up my church,” relying on “the things which are written” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:3, 5). In response, Oliver wrote a document intended to provide a framework for the organization of the Church. The document was titled “Articles of the Church of Christ,” and it drew heavily from the text of the Book of Mormon. When Joseph Smith wrote a different document, called the “Articles and Covenants of the Church,” (which later became Doctrine and Covenants 20), some of the material from Oliver’s document was included. However, there were differences.
One phrase in particular bothered Oliver. Joseph Smith had written that candidates for baptism must “truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:37). Many of the other requirements for baptism in that passage came directly from Moroni 6:2-3, but that one was an addition, and Oliver felt it was an improper one. He wrote to Joseph Smith, “I command you in the name of God to erase those words, that no priestcraft be amongst us” (“History, 1838–1856, volume A-1” page 51).
A few days later, Joseph traveled to the Whitmer farm, where Oliver was staying, and was able to convince both Oliver and the Whitmer family that the phrase was “reasonable and according to scripture.” (See, for example, Moroni 7:3-5.)
Not long after, the Lord provided the following guidance to help Oliver avoid similar errors:
Thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church…
For all things must be done in order.Doctrine and Covenants 28:4-6, 13
The Church was new; Oliver was still learning how to fulfill his responsibilities. And the Lord taught him a valuable lesson: contributing effectively to an organization includes respecting the roles of other people in the organization, including the authority of those who lead you. Oliver was the Second Elder of the Church; Joseph was the First Elder. Oliver could certainly question a decision made by his leader, raise concerns, and have a discussion. But issuing a command to his leader was not within his purview, and it evidenced a lack of respect for the role Joseph Smith had been called to perform.
Today I will strive to do “all things…in order.” I will remember that the impact of my individual efforts will be expanded as I collaborate effectively with others. I will give my best work to the organizations I belong to, including the Church, while respecting and supporting others in fulfilling their responsibilities.