Our fourfold responsibilities as church members

Apr 23, 2021
5 min read

People around the world and in various faiths have a vast variety of experiences and opinions about the role that the church plays in their lives.

It can be a tricky balance keeping all of our responsibilities in order, and often, they get out of whack resulting in resentment and dissonance.

Naturally, that frustration can result in wanting to amputate burdensome aspects of our lives to keep our sanity. I’ve had to “cut off” my involvement in various things over the years because I was trying to do way too much.

It is possible, however, to maintain four very important duties if we approach them in the right priority. While these things have been taught numerous times I don’t think we can ever teach them enough.

Here is what Gordon B. Hinckley had to say about our fourfold responsibility:

Each of us has a fourfold responsibility. First, we have a responsibility to our families. Second, we have a responsibility to our employers. Third, we have a responsibility to the Lord’s work. Fourth, we have a responsibility to ourselves.

First, it is imperative that you not neglect your families. Nothing you have is more precious. Your wives and your children are deserving of the attention of their husbands and fathers. When all is said and done, it is this family relationship which we will take with us into the life beyond. To paraphrase the words of scripture, ‘What shall it profit a man though he serve the Church faithfully and lose his own family?’ (see Mark 8:36).

Together with them, determine how much time you will spend with them and when. And then stick to it. Try not to let anything interfere. Consider it sacred. Consider it binding. Consider it an earned time of enjoyment.

Keep Monday night sacred for family home evening. Have an evening alone with your wife. Arrange some vacation time with the entire family.

Two, to your business or your employer. You have an obligation. Be honest with your employer. Do not do Church work on his time. Be loyal to him. He compensates you and expects results from you. You need employment to care for your family. Without it you cannot be an effective Church worker.

Three, to the Lord and His work. Budget your time to take care of your Church responsibilities. Recognize first that every officer has many helpers, as we have been reminded today. The stake president has two able counselors. The presidency has a high council of dedicated and able men. They have clerks as they need them. Every bishop has counselors. They are there to lift the burdens of his office from his shoulders. He has a ward council, together with others to whom he may and must delegate responsibility. He has the members of his ward, and the more he can delegate to them, the lighter will be his burden and the stronger will grow their faith. […]

Four, every Church leader has an obligation to himself. He must get needed rest and exercise. He needs a little recreation. He must have time to study. Every Church officer needs to read the scriptures. He needs time to ponder and meditate and think by himself. Wherever possible he needs to go with his wife to the temple as opportunity permits.

Rejoicing in the Privilege to Serve,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 21, 2003, 22

I think it is common for many people to get these priorities out of order, they may place their work or church before their family and personal needs creating stress and family conflict that is avoidable.

Personally, I’ve felt immense pressure to provide and it has been a struggle to balance the perception of that pressure. When you are being productive and getting things accomplished it feels good. Pulling away for recreation can feel like you are missing out or wasting time because there is always work to do.

But the work is never done – ever.

Juggling all these things feels like trying to hit a moving target so I think it is helpful to always frame our choices around the priority that our responsibilities fall in.

Elder Bednar said recently:

Sometimes we reflect on all of our responsibilities at home, school, work, and church and wonder how we can achieve a balance among the many competing demands on our time. Instead of driving ourselves crazy trying to do everything at the same time, we should identify the few fundamental things that are our highest priorities. We then can strive to give each of them the attention they need—one at a time.

When you are at home, choose to make home the priority. When you are at school, choose to make school the priority. When you are at work, choose to make work the priority. When you are worshipping at home or at church, choose to make worship the priority.

It may sound simplistic, but we should not get frustrated and waste effort and time trying to achieve a perfect equilibrium among all of the important things we need to do. As we pray sincerely for God’s help to identify what matters most, He will guide and assist us to focus our efforts day by day.


Where do God and our neighbor fit in?

I have seen some criticism of this particular fourfold viewpoint. One particular individual lamented that loving God and our neighbor were absent from this list.

I don’t think the criticism is valid, however, because they are missing the point of these instructions. Also missing is eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, sleeping, baptism, the sacrament, etc.

While Jesus indicated that the most important commandment in the law was to love God and also our neighbor, those commandments and everything else should be fused into each of these responsibilities.

When you put family first, you are putting God first as well and loving your neighbor by prioritizing the most valuable part of his creation.

When you are working you are providing safety, shelter, and a good life for that family. You are also serving God and your neighbor.

When you are at work in the Lord’s church you are showing your love for him and his sheep, and loving your neighbors by fellowshipping with them and gathering in the spirit of truth.

When you focus on your self, you are caring for someone God loves very much. We need to connect with God, to allow others to serve us and be blessed.

The point here is that when we seek to do all of these things, we have a guide on how to prioritize things so that all things are done in wisdom and in order. (Mosiah 4:27)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *