Work Is an Eternal Principal
Great material for this lesson is found in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, Chapter 12. These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are found at the bottom of this page.
The first sentence in this section reads, “Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have shown us by Their examples and teachings that work is important in heaven and on earth (p. 155). It is important that this idea be discussed with the two scriptures which end this section.
The manual states, “Then He [God] placed Adam and Eve on the earth to take care of it and to have dominion over all living things (See Genesis 1:1-28.) (p. 155). In this reference, God gave Adam and Eve, and man in general, dominion over the earth. Here is the scripture:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them…have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:28).
Elder Henry D. Taylor, Assistant to the Quorum of the twelve, had this to say in conference about the above reference:
These objectives could not be achieved without effort, and so the Father further admonished Adam: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." (Gen. 3:19) He was to labor and struggle for a living (Conference Report, April 1968, p. 30).
It is interesting that the above sentence from the lesson teaches that Adam was to have “dominion” over “every living thing “upon the earth. An interesting statement from Joseph Smith that may relate to this dominion:
The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Gen. 1:26, 27, 28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures. Then to Noah, who is Gabriel; he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in his day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 101).
Just as “work is an eternal principle” (section title), this dominion is apparently eternal.
We Are Commanded to Work
This wonderful title needs to be discussed and appreciated. Directly after partaking of the forbidden fruit, which would lead to the Fall of Man, Adam was told by God:
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread… (Genesis 3:17-19).
A portion of the above is quoted in this section of the lesson. Some have mistakenly thought that this statement by God was punishment for what Adam had done in partaking of the fruit. If there is question about this, see this blog, Chapter 6 (February).
For the principles taught in this lesson, it needs to be understood that the above was definitely not a punishment. A key is the phrase, “…for thy sake…” in the Lord’s statement. “Work and Personal Responsibility” (this lesson’s title) are eternal principles and important to the Plan of Salvation. In a conference address (the entire talk is well worth reading), Elder Neal A. Maxwell wonderfully expressed the doctrine of work:
Our Heavenly Father has described His vast plan for His children by saying, “Behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39; emphasis added). Consider the significance of the Lord’s use of the word work. What He is doing so lovingly and redemptively is, nevertheless, work—even for Him! We, likewise, speak of “working out our salvation,” of the “law of the harvest,” and of the “sweat of the brow” (see Moses 5:1; see also Inspired Version, Gen. 4:1). These are not idle phrases. Instead, they underscore the importance of work. In fact, brethren, work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity (Ensign, May 1998, 37).
As we know, the Lord never gives commandments except that they are for our benefit:
…revelations and commandments…for the benefit of the children of men… (D&C 135:3).
The Lord wants us to succeed. President Heber J. Grant pled:
Let every man feel that he is the architect and builder of his own life, and that he proposes to make a success of it by working (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 109).
President Grant also added:
We should have an ambition, we should have a desire to work to the full extent of our ability. Work is pleasing to the Lord (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 113).
In this section it states, “Adam and Eve worked in the fields so they could provide for their own needs and the needs of their children (see Moses 5:1)” (p. 155).
Following is the reference from Moses 5:1:
AND it came to pass that after I, the Lord God, had driven them out, that Adam began to till the earth, and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, as I the Lord had commanded him. And Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him.
It may be worth noting that “Eve…did labor with him” in the above does not mean Eve got a paycheck. The Lord has counseled:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
It may be helpful to discuss the concept that fathers are held responsible by the Lord to “provide the necessities of life.” As important is and understanding that “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Consideration also needs to be given for the listed exceptions.
President Grant discussed a powerful doctrine closely associated with the doctrine of work:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven, upon which all blessings are predicated, and no man will get the blessing without fulfilling the law [see D&C 130:20-21]. I wish to impress upon the Latter-day Saints that we get in this life what we work for, and I want to urge every Latter-day Saint to be a worker (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 115).
The above law is closely associated with the “Law of the Harvest,” as declared by the Lord:
Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap… (D&C 6:33).
President Gordon B. Hinckley discussed this law further:
…the law of the harvest—“Whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap” (D&C 6:33).
They know that you do not reap wheat after sowing oats. They know that you do not get a racehorse from a scrub mare. They know that if you are to build another great generation, you must work with vision and faith. You must dream and plan, serve and sacrifice, pray and labor (Ensign, Nov 1989, 94).
This section ends with a wonderful quote from President Grant, “Work is to be reenthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (p. 157). Following is the rest of the quote, which may be helpful. The historical context of this is the beginning of the establishment of the welfare program of the Church. The basic principles in the following quotes are still in place in today’s Church welfare program.
Our primary purpose [in establishing the Church’s welfare program] was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.
Our great leader, Brigham Young, under similar conditions, said:
“Set the poor to work—setting out orchards, splitting rails, digging ditches, making fences, or anything useful, and so enable them to buy meal and flour and the necessities of life.”
This admonition is as timely today as when Brigham Young made it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 115).
Many ideas throughout this lesson deal are founded on the basic principles of the Church’s welfare program. It may be important to discuss this program to better understand this lesson. A terrific summary can be found on the Church’s website, “lds.org” then look at the top bar and click on “A-Z Index” then “W” and look for “Welfare.” The information found there is essentially the same as that also found in True to the Faith booklet, pp. 184-6.
The manual encourages, “Children should do their part in the work of the family” (p. 157).
President Grant had personal experience concerning this idea:
When President Grant spoke of the value of work, he spoke from lifelong experience. As the only child of his widowed mother, he learned early to sweep floors and to wash and wipe dishes. He also helped his mother in her work as a seamstress to support the two of them. “I sat on the floor at night until midnight,” he later remembered, “and pumped the sewing machine to relieve her tired limbs.” 2 Heber’s efforts to assist his mother continued past his childhood, as he entered the world of business in his youth to help support her (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 109).
As mentioned, the manual presents the idea that “Children should do their part in the work of the family” (p. 157). It may be helpful to discuss the question, “Should an allowance should be tied to chores (or grades, for that matter)? One of the problems with this is that the parent becomes the “boss” and the child the “employee.” This also places the parent as policeman, enforcer, etc. On the other hand, If allowances are kept separate from chores, this may further encourage “…Personal Responsibility” (second half of the lesson title).
We Can Enjoy Our Work
The question asked at the beginning of this section is, “How does our attitude affect our work?” (p. 157). President Grant counseled:
I have endeavored to impress upon the minds of the youth the necessity of their working to the extent of their ability; and also while so laboring never to become disheartened. …
“Arise, therefore, and be doing, and the Lord will be with you [See 1 Chronicles 22:16.]
I have found nothing in the battle of life that has been of more value to me than to perform the duty of today to the best of my ability; and I know that where young men do this, they will be better prepared for the labors of tomorrow (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 114).
President Grant also said:
Every young man who will endeavor to employ all his time, never stopping to count the amount of compensation he is to receive for his services, but rather be inspired with a desire to labor and learn, I promise, will achieve success in the battle of life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 115).
A terrific example for this section comes from the life of Heber J. Grant:
When [I was] a youth, attending school, a man was pointed out to me who kept books in Wells, Fargo and Co’s. Bank, in Salt Lake City, and it was said that he received a salary of one hundred and fifty dollars a month. Well do I remember figuring that he was earning six dollars a day, Sundays omitted, which seemed to me an enormous amount. … I dreamed of being a book-keeper, and of working for Wells, Fargo & Co., and immediately joined the book-keeping class in the Deseret University [now the University of Utah], in the hope some day of earning what I thought at that time to be an immense salary.
I quote with pleasure … from Lord Bulwer Lytton: “What man wants is not talent, it is purpose; not power to achieve, but the will to labor.” Samuel Smiles has said: “Purposes, like eggs, unless they are hatched into action, will run into decay.”
Lord Lytton took it for granted undoubtedly that where a youth dreamed nobly and manfully, that it would inspire him to have a purpose in life, and to ‘hatch the same into action,’ and not allow it to ‘run into decay.’ Having purposed to become a book-keeper, I immediately set to work to attain this object. Well do I remember the amusement I furnished my fellow-students. One remarked when looking at my books, ‘What is it; hen tracks?’ Another said, ‘Has lightning struck an ink bottle?’ These remarks and others, while not made to hurt my feelings but in good-natured fun, nevertheless cut deep, and aroused within me a spirit of determination. I resolved to live to set copies for all who attended the university, and to be the teacher of penmanship and book-keeping in that institution. Having a purpose and also ‘the will to labor,’ and agreeing with Lord Lytton that, ‘In the bright lexicon of youth there’s no such word as fail,’ I commenced to employ my spare time in practicing penmanship, continuing year after year until I was referred to as ‘the greatest scribbler on earth.’
The result was that some years later, I secured a position as book-keeper and policy clerk in an insurance office. Although at fifteen, I wrote a very nice hand, and it was all that was needed to satisfactorily fill the position which I then held, yet I was not fully satisfied but continued to dream and ‘scribble,’ when not otherwise occupied. I worked in the front part of A. W. White & Co’s. bank, and, when not busy, volunteered to assist with the bank work, and to do anything and everything I could to employ my time, never thinking whether I was to be paid for it or not, but having only a desire to work and learn. Mr. Morf, the book-keeper in the bank, wrote well, and took pains to assist me in my efforts to become proficient as a penman. I learned to write so well that I often earned more before and after office hours by writing cards, invitations, etc., and making maps, than the amount of my regular salary. Some years later, a diploma at the Territorial Fair was awarded me for the finest penmanship in Utah. When I engaged in business for myself, there was a vacancy at the university in the position of teacher of penmanship and book-keeping, and to make good the promise to myself, made when a youth of twelve or thirteen, that I would some day teach these branches, I applied for the situation. My application was accepted, and my obligation to myself was thus discharged (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 109).
President Heber J. Grant was a terrific example of work. The following story from his life may be useful in this lesson:
Being an only child, my mother reared me very carefully. Indeed, I grew more or less on the principle of a hothouse plant, the growth of which is ‘long and lanky’ but not substantial. I learned to sweep, and to wash and wipe dishes, but did little stone throwing and little indulging in those sports which are interesting and attractive to boys, and which develop their physical frames. Therefore, when I joined a baseball club, the boys of my own age and a little older played in the first nine; those younger than I played in the second, and those still younger in the third, and I played with them.
One of the reasons for this was that I could not throw the ball from one base to the other. Another reason was that I lacked physical strength to run or bat well. When I picked up a ball, the boys would generally shout:
“Throw it here, sissy!"
So much fun was engendered on my account by my youthful companions that I solemnly vowed that I would play baseball in the nine that would win the championship of the Territory of Utah.
My mother was keeping boarders at the time for a living, and I shined their boots until I saved a dollar which I invested in a baseball. I spent hours and hours throwing the ball at Bishop Edwin D. Woolley’s barn, which caused him to refer to me as the laziest boy in the Thirteenth Ward. Often my arm would ache so that I could scarcely go to sleep at night. But I kept on practicing and finally succeeded in getting into the second nine of our club. Subsequently I joined a better club, and eventually played in the nine that won the championship of the territory and beat the nine that had won the championship for California, Colorado, and Wyoming. Having thus made good my promise to myself, I retired from the baseball arena (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, Chapter 7).
The above manual can be found at “institute.lds.org” then click on “Institute Courses & Manuals.”
When the following:
“We can help one another in our work. The heaviest load becomes lighter when someone shares it” (p. 158)
is discussed, it may be good to point out that the next lesson in this manual is “Service” (Chapter 28).
God Condemns Idleness
In addition to the scriptural references in this section, President Grant, in a conference talk, added the following great references:
D&C 88:124; D&C 68:30-31; and D&C 60:13.
The question asked at the end of this section is, “How does idleness affect an individual? a family? a community?” (p. 159).
Again, reflecting upon the basic principles of the Church’s welfare program, President Grant declared:
Let all of us be industrious and useful to the full extent of our strength and ability. We are told to earn our bread by the sweat of the brow [see Genesis 3:19].
… It is an easy thing to throw a dollar to a man, but it requires sympathy and a heart to take an interest in him and try to plan for his welfare and benefit. And it is a principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ, now, as it always has been, to help every man to help himself—to help every child of our Father in heaven to work out his own salvation, both temporally and spiritually .
I desire to call attention to a statement by President Brigham Young:
“My experience has taught me, and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out, to man or woman, money, food, clothing, or anything else, if they are able-bodied and can work and earn what they need, when there is anything on earth for them to do. This is my principle and I try to act upon it. To pursue a contrary course would ruin any community in the world and make them idlers.”
And what would ruin a community would ruin a state, and I might incidentally remark, a nation also.
We are going to instill in the minds of the people as far as possible that statement by Brigham Young … to the effect that it was his policy not to give anybody anything unless he earned it; that people must do something to earn that which they receive. Nothing destroys the individuality of a man, a woman, or a child as much as the failure to be self-reliant (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 116).
Brigham Young also had wise counsel concerning this:
True wealth consists in the skill to produce conveniences and comforts from the elements. All the power and dignity that wealth can bestow is a mere shadow, the substance is found in the bone and sinew of the toiling millions. Well directed labor is the true power that supplies our wants. It gives regal grandeur to potentates, education and supplies to religious and political ministers, and supplies the wants of the thousands of millions of earth’s sons and daughters (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 237).
President Grant added:
The…spirit—to get all we can, and give as little as possible in return—is contrary to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 114).
President Grant also encouraged:
Let us hope that that spirit of independence that was with our pioneer fathers may be re-awakened in us, and that none who are Latter-day Saints holding the Priesthood of God will be guilty of being idle (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 113).
Work, Recreation, and Rest
The Lord in our day has stressed the importance of recreation:
Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of … and wholesome recreational activities (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
President Thomas S. Monson stated:
Our house is to be a house of order. ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1), advised Ecclesiastes, the Preacher. Such is true in our lives. Let us provide time for family, time for work, time for study, time for service, time for recreation, time for self—but above all, time for Christ (Ensign, May 1984, 18).
Brigham Young also explained:
The Lord never commanded me to dance, yet I have danced: you all know it, for my life is before the world. Yet while the Lord has never commanded me to do it, he has permitted it. I do not know that he ever commanded the boys to go and play at ball, yet he permits it. I am not aware that he ever commanded us to build a theater, but he has permitted it, and I can give the reason why. Recreation and diversion are as necessary to our well-being as the more serious pursuits of life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 189).
This quote is even more interesting when it is known that Brigham Young explained:
When I was young I was kept within very strict bounds… I had not a chance to dance when I was young, and never heard the enchanting tones of the violin, until I was eleven years of age; and then I thought I was on the highway to hell, if I suffered myself to linger and listen to it (Brigham Young: American Moses, by Leonard J. Arrington, 189).
It is also interesting that Brigham Young received the following from the Lord (as opposed to the above from man) concerning the pioneers going west:
If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving (D&C 136:28).
Brigham Young added:
There are many of our aged brethren and sisters, who, through the traditions of their fathers and the requirements of a false religion, were never inside a ball-room or a theater until they became Latter-day Saints, and now they seem more anxious for this kind of amusement than are our children. This arises from the fact they have been starved for many years for that amusement which is designed to buoy up their spirits and make their bodies vigorous and strong, and tens of thousands have sunk into untimely graves for want of such exercises to the body and the mind. They require mutual nourishment to make them sound and healthy. Every faculty and power of both body and mind is a gift from God. Never say that means used to create and continue healthy action of body and mind are from hell (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 189).
It is not surprising, then, that Brigham Young sponsored wholesome “recreation” early on in Utah:
Theater in Utah has its beginnings in the Mormon Church and its support of innocent amusement for its people… In 1852 the Musical and Dramatic Association reorganized as the Deseret Dramatic Association, with Brigham Young as an honorary member. The Social Hall was erected and served as a principal place of amusement from 1852 to 1857. Built of adobe with a shingle roof, the Social Hall has been called the first Little Theatre in America and Brigham Young has been considered by some to be the father of the Little Theatre movement (“Utah History to Go” website).
In Chapter 26 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, there are some great insights by Brigham Young that may be helpful for this section of the lesson. Here are some examples:
We are now enjoying our pastimes. We often meet together and worship the Lord by singing, praying, and preaching, fasting, and communing with each other in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Now we are met in the capacity of a social community—for what? That our minds may rest, and our bodies receive that recreation which is proper and necessary to keep up an equilibrium, to promote healthy action to the whole system (p. 186).
I built [the] theater to attract the young of our community and to provide amusement for the boys and girls, rather than have them running all over creation for recreation. Long before [it] was built I said to the Bishops, “Get up your parties and pleasure grounds to amuse the people (p. 188).
President Ezra Taft Benson, in a First Presidency Message requested:
Families must spend more time together in work and recreation. Family home evenings should be scheduled once a week as a time for discussions of gospel principles, recreation, work projects, skits, songs around the piano, games, special refreshments, and family prayers. Like iron links in a chain, this practice will bind a family together, in love, pride, tradition, strength, and loyalty (Ensign, Jul 1992, 2).
In another First Presidency Message, President Benson declared:
Successful families do things together: family projects, work, vacations, recreation, and reunions (Ensign, Aug 1993, 2).
The last question in this section is, “What can we do to keep a good balance between work, recreation, and rest? How can parents help their children maintain this balance?” One answer from the above quotes is “Plan on Playing as a family.” President Ezra Taft Benson explained how the resulting anticipation is healthy:
Wholesome recreation is part of our religion, and a change of pace is necessary, and even its anticipation can lift the spirit (Ensign, Nov. 1974, 66).
Concerning the statement in this section that, “There is an old saying: “Doing nothing is the hardest work of all, because one can never stop to rest” (p. 159). President Grant agreed:
I have never seen the day when I was not willing to do the meanest [or lowliest] work, (if there is such a thing as mean work, which I doubt) rather than be idle (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 113).
The Blessings of Work
To supplement the truly powerful statements in this section is the following sentiments from President Grant:
I do not ask any man or child in this Church, although I am more than eighty years of age, to work any more hours than I do. … I do not know of anything that destroys a person’s health more quickly than not working.
I believe there may be a disposition on the part of some Latter-day Saints to say, “Well, after we get to be sixty-five, we will not have to work any more.” … I have done just as much work for the past sixteen years, since I passed sixty-five, as I ever did before. And with the blessings of the Lord, if He will let me stay here another fifteen or sixteen years—which I doubt—I want to do just as much if not a little more than I have done in the last sixteen years. I am a firm believer that work does not kill anyone, but that laziness does kill a man at an early age.
There should be in the heart of every man and woman, the cry, “I am going to live. There is nothing given to me but time in which to live, and I am going to endeavor each day of my life to do some labor which will be acceptable in the sight of my Heavenly Father, and if it is possible, do a little better today than I did yesterday” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 117).