"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
"Duty is an action, or an act, that is due in the way of moral or legal obligation; that which one ought or is bound to do; an obligation." Duty has the sense of moral obligation or the binding force of what is morally right. "Duty is also an action which is directly required by one's position or station." Duty may also be "the action or conduct due to a superior; homage, submission; due respect, reverence; an expression of submission, deference, or respect." (Oxford English Dictionary) Interestingly, duty has the same root as the word for habit.
While the word duty is used infrequently in the Old and New Testament, the concept of duty plays a large role in the Restoration scriptures. There are numerous references to the duties of particular offices in the church and priesthood. The Lord required that "mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion — That they themselves may be prepared … and know more perfectly concerning their duty." (Doctrine and Covenants 105:9-10)
And, of course, in the exclamation point to Doctrine and Covenants Section 107, a revelation on the priesthood, requires, "Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand." (Doctrine and Covenants 107:99-100)
Doing our duty is a teaching close to President Thomas S. Monson's heart. "I have contemplated what I might say to you. There has come to my mind a favorite scripture from Ecclesiastes: 'Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.' I love, I cherish the noble word duty. The legendary General Robert E. Lee, of American Civil War fame declared: 'Duty is the sublimest word in our language. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.' " (Ensign, November 2006)
In the October 2008 General Priesthood Meeting, President Monson commented on the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. "Each priesthood holder … has a calling to serve, to put forth his best efforts in the work assigned to him. No assignment is menial in the work of the Lord, for each has eternal consequences. President Taylor warned us, 'if you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty.' The old adage is ever true: 'Do your duty, that is best, leave unto the Lord the rest.' "
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News.
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