Because I am involved in the Young Men’s program in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I am involved in helping the youth earn their Duty to God awards (the link goes to the Church’s new Duty to God program website). However, much of the time there is not much I can do to help the youth along other than encourage them and work on the quorum activities. Much of the responsibility for the program fall on the young men and their parents. That is not what I wanted to write about though; I wanted to write about what duty to God means. The idea from this post was spurred along by Bishop McMullin’s most recent LDS General Conference address entitled Our Path of Duty. Bishop McMullin answers the question, “What is this thing called duty?” Here is his answer:
“The duty of which I speak is what we are expected to do and to be. It is a moral imperative summoning forth from individuals and communities that which is right, true, and honorable. Duty does not require perfection, but it does require diligence. It is not simply what is legal; it is what is virtuous. It is not reserved to the mighty or high in station but instead rests on a foundation of personal responsibility, integrity, and courage. Doing one’s duty is a manifestation of one’s faith. “President Monson said of it: ‘I love and cherish the noble word duty.’ For members of the Church of Jesus Christ, our path of duty is keeping our covenants in daily life.”
I love the line “It is not simply what is legal; it is what is virtuous.” Duty is doing what is right simply because it is right. When I think of duty, I think of General Douglas MacArthur’s great speech at West Point: Duty, Honor, Country [all quotes except scriptures come from Gen. MacArthur’s speech]. We belong to God and Christ. Jesus Christ is our King. We fight in a war against Satan and his army. It is in that sense that much of what Gen. MacArthur said to those at West Point applies to us, Christian soldiers who march on to war. He said: “Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.” Duty gives us courage and faith in the tempestuous battles of adversity. Duty is the fortitude to face any opposition. Gen. MacArthur continued:
“[Duty, Honor, Country] build your basic character…. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life.”
I think Gen. MacArthur summarized what duty (and honor) means best when he said: “The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong” (emphasis added). In the Book of Mormon we read of another military leader pleading with the people to do their duty.
“12 And it came to pass that [Captain Moroni] rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.
13 And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—
14 For thus were all the true believers of Christ, who belonged to the church of God, called by those who did not belong to the church.
15 And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come.
16 And therefore, at this time, Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored.
17 And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty.
18 And he said: Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions.
19 And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:
20 Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.” (Alma 46:12-20; emphasis added).
It is the time to take up our banners, our titles of liberty. It is the time to stand up and fight against the rising tide of wickedness and moral degeneration. We must cleave unto God in faith and righteousness. We must join ourselves with His forces and fight the good fight; we must finish the course and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7). The Lord needs soldiers of strong courage and firm morals. He needs us to stand resolute and immovable in our faith. We must answer His rallying call “To arms!” It is time to do our duty to God.
At the end of our lives, whenever that might be, I hope that this can be said of us: “I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.” I pray that we might not only be willing to die for the gospel of Jesus Christ but also live for it by always doing our duty to God.