by Sharon Lindbloom
25 October 2022
Nearly thirty years ago the film Schindler’s List was released to American audiences. The film depicts real-life German businessman Oskar Schindler who was able to keep more than 1,000 Jewish refugees alive and out of concentration camps during the Holocaust of WWII. Oskar Schindler placed himself in great danger and spent his entire fortune rescuing these people. Yet, as the film portrays it, when the refugees express their gratitude to Schindler for all he had done, he breaks down weeping with regret. “I didn’t do enough,” he sobs, “I could have done more, and I didn’t.”
The movie soundtrack includes a beautiful, wordless song that plays behind this scene, appropriately named, “I Could Have Done More.” Recently, as reported in The Church News, Wendy Nelson, the wife of LDS President Russell M. Nelson, treated Latter-day Saints in western Canada to a short video of her husband playing this song on the piano: “[The song] is fitting, she said, ‘because President Nelson always wants to do more.’”
He wants to reach more people with his messages about Mormonism’s “covenant path,” Mrs. Nelson said, including the need for people to strive to overcome the world, attain moral worthiness, serve valiant LDS missions, and receive temple ordinances.
The “covenant path” of which both Nelson’s often speak was explained last week in The Salt Lake Tribune. Matthew Bowman, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, wrote that the LDS church’s First Presidency and Apostles
“use the phrase to describe the series of ordinances church members make. Calling ordinances part of the covenant path emphasizes that baptism, the temple endowment and so on place a progressive series of obligations on members.” (“Matthew Bowman: Is it time for Latter-day Saints to view the ‘covenant path’ differently?” 10/16/22)
Keeping the covenants, fulfilling these obligations, and staying on the covenant path, is a lot of work for Latter-day Saints. The successful fulfillment of these obligations is a requirement, the LDS church says, to enable people to obtain blessings in this life and in the life to come.
For example, one obligation Mormons take on in their baptismal covenants is to keep God’s commandments. The LDS church website explains,
“When you were baptized, you entered into a covenant with God. You promised to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ, keep His commandments, and serve Him to the end… separating yourself from the world and standing as a witness of God ‘at all times and in all things, and in all places’ (Mosiah 18:9). Your efforts to stand as a witness of God include everything you do and say.”
During the temple endowment ceremony, Mormons make several additional covenants with God, including keeping the “law of sacrifice” (i.e., “to sacrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God”) and the law of consecration (i.e., to devote “your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion”). (See “The Covenant Path” at mormonscholar.org. Temple covenant wording current as of 2018.)
Sacrifice all. Devote everything.
Wendy Nelson said her husband “always wants to do more” to help people find, and then stay on, the covenant path. This entails getting people to make and keep extensive promises to God and to the LDS church. President Nelson wants to do more in his continuing efforts to get others to do more.
To co-opt Mrs. Nelson’s words, this is fitting; for Mormonism is all about doing all we can do. Eleventh President Harold B. Lee explained that salvation is granted “only after we have done all we can to save ourselves by keeping His commandments” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, Chapter 3). The church’s next president, Spencer W. Kimball, added weight to this heavy burden when he insisted, “To ‘try’ is weak. To ‘do the best I can’ is not strong. We must always do better than we can” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 164-165).
Lest we think “all we can do” is limited to keeping temple covenants and obeying the ten commandments (as impossible as this is by itself), thirteenth LDS president Ezra Taft Benson specified that it is not only these things, but “all we can do” also includes (among other things) caring for those around us by providing for their temporal needs (clothing, food, encouragement, and prayer (see The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 354).
And this brings us back to the song President Nelson performed from Schindler’s List, “I Could Have Done More.” Looking at the teachings of LDS leaders, it’s clear that no one can possibly do all that could be done. There is always one more person that we had the means to feed. One more prayer that could have been said. One more kind word that could have been offered.
Oskar Schindler believed he hadn’t done enough. He recognized that he could have saved more people – one more, two more, maybe even ten more. As hard and tirelessly as he worked to rescue those Jewish refugees, he could have done more.
President Nelson wants to do more. And he could. He could do more. But he has made and will make choices that prevent him from reaching one, two, or ten more people than he otherwise has been able to reach. He is deeply committed to his religion and to his followers, yet still he cannot do enough to meet Mormonism’s requirement of “all we can do.”
And like President Nelson, each of us has already missed opportunities to do a bit more than we have actually done. If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize, as did Oskar Schindler, that “I could have done more, but I didn’t.”
When Jesus issued His call in Matthew 11:28, it was a call for us to set these burdens down. They are too much for us to carry. We are unable to perfectly keep the commandments. We are unable to fulfill all the promises we make to God. We are unable to do enough. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest.” Jesus came to replace this “yoke of slavery” to the law (see Galatians 5:1) with His own yoke that He describes as easy. He came to replace our heavy burdens of striving to do “all we can do to save ourselves” with a gracious burden that is light. Jesus can offer us this amazing gift because He lived and died without regret. He never needed to say, “I could have done more, but I didn’t.” Jesus did give His all. And what He did was enough.
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