This morning at breakfast my good friend Brian asked me that as a Latter-Day Saint if I thought that life began at conception. I was not taken back by the question as we have these types of conversations regularly. No, this did not turn into a discussion on abortion, but turned into a conversation that I feel strongly applies to the topic of this week.
In the reading, Fulfilling the Sexual Stewardship in Marriage by Sean E. Brotherson, he talks about the important concept of stewardship. I believe that this concept of stewardship is one that isn’t taken seriously enough in our LDS community, and most Christian communities for that matter. In the book of Genesis (1:26) it says, “26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” This idea of dominion is likened to and has worked in contradiction to the idea of stewardship. Kenneth W. Matheson of BYU said, “Some (people)develop inappropriate attitudes from mistaken interpretations of biblical verses. In Ephesians 5:22, (22 aWives, bsubmit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the ahusband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the bhead of the cchurch: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.) for example, women are encouraged to “submit” to their husbands. Some have erroneously believed that this scripture means women are to submit or yield themselves to their husbands even if they do so unwillingly. Under these conditions, neither the thought nor the act does much to promote marital oneness.”
It is easy to see how if these scriptures used incorrectly could lead to an unequal, unbalanced and unhappy relationship. It is my belief that how a man sees and treats the world is often how he sees and treats his wife and family. The behaviors are closely tied together (If you are really good at hurting black people, you will indeed hurt the environment, I promise you. If you are really good at hurting women, you’re probably also interested in war .. Jericho Brown, OnBeing, June 6, 2019) When someone takes on the idea of dominion and not stewardship over the planet and in this conversation, relationships, you can start to see where troubles would arise.
What Is Stewardship?
So what does stewardship mean? According to the Dictionary, stewardship mean, “1: the office, duties, and obligations of a steward 2: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care (Merriam Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stewardship). So then what is the definition of a steward? The same dictionary says, “one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns (such as the supervision of servants, collection of rents, and keeping of accounts). This definition while helpful is limited as it assigns most things in life as being property owned by someone else for monetary gain.
The 5 A’s of Stewardship
President Russell M Nelson in an Area Conference on August 27, 1972 addressed what he called the “5 A’s of Stewardship.”
1. Acknowledge – “that God lives, that he is our creator and provider of all that sustains life.”
2. Author – “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.)
3. Accomplish – “effective stewardship may be done in the Lord’s own way through our study of the scriptures.”
4. Accountable – “… 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.)
5. 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.”
Let me quickly take these 5 principles and apply them to marriage:
1. As we acknowledge that God live and is our creator and provider, we realize that everything we have in this life is a gift! Our spouses are a gift.
2. Acknowledging God’s role in our life requires humility. Maybe you are not really “all that”? Maybe it is you who is lucky to be with a much better person than yourself? This is accepting His role as author and if He can serve us then it is quite obvious that we are to serve our spouse the way he would serve us.
3. I never really thought of the scriptures as a guide to marriage and often think the pressure to preform to a certain standard is scared most people to even act, or create their own doctrine around the doctrines of marriage and sexual intimacy. As we have seen with people who either break the laws of chastity – in and outside of marriage. So how can we accomplish our roles in the scriptures in our sexual lives? The scriptures in general invite the Spirit in and also help us be better people all around. We are foolish to think we can disconnect our spirituality from our sexual lives. To do so makes us a liar in one of those two aspects of our life as I believe they are all one, not separate categories. Seeing that the Lord is the author of your life and how he wants you to live it, include the idea of sexual intimacy in the story.
4. We are accountable. If there is anything I have taken away from this class is that Marriage is a divine institution ordained by God. I think our accountability in this situation goes without saying.
5. I have never been motivated by rewards, or at least I didn’t think I was. I had always thought that I was more motivated by love than just a reward. But if there is an approbation in being a good steward in our marriages (and other relationships) then I would hope it would be love, peace, and joy with those we love. That is something I think I would be happy to receive.
So let me bring you back to my morning conversation. My answer I think surprised my friend as much as it did myself. I answered, “I believe the life happens before conception. That if I am thinking in a Godly way, the life that is to be gifted to me and my spouse or partner was never mine to begin with. This life, or child, is someone that I should be thinking about, preparing for, and loving way before the actual act of conception happens.” And to me that is what it is meant to be a good steward. That I am thinking about life, my life and the lives of those I love and those that I will love in the future, well before (as well as during) my time with those people.
Let me end on the words of President (then Elder) Nelson from the same address, “”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.”