1990 – weekly chores – mopping floor and cleaning goldfish bowl

An interesting article showed up on my Facebook feed this morning, and – combined with someone’s comment during our family calls last Sunday, which will be addressed in a different post – that got me to thinking about work. I searched just this blog and discovered that 1/3 of the posts mention work. I guess I’ve been thinking about it for a while! Anyway, here’s the article:

Family Work

It’s fairly lengthy and scholarly, but here are some of the ideas that stood out to me:

How does ordinary, family-centered work like feeding, clothing, and nurturing a family—work that often seems endless and mundane—actually bless our lives? The answer is so obvious in common experience that it has become obscure: Family work links people. On a daily basis, the tasks we do to stay alive provide us with endless opportunities to recognize and fill the needs of others. Family work is a call to enact love, and it is a call that is universal.

Some people dislike family work because, they say, it is mindless. Yet chores that can be done with a minimum of concentration leave our minds free to focus on one another as we work together. We can talk, sing, or tell stories as we work. Working side by side tends to dissolve feelings of hierarchy, making it easier for children to discuss topics of concern with their parents. We also tend to think of household work as menial, and much of it is. Yet, because it is menial, even the smallest child can make a meaningful contribution.

Scholars compared children who did “self-care tasks” such as cleaning up their own rooms or doing their own laundry, with children who participated in “family-care tasks” such as setting the table or cleaning up a space that is shared with others. They found that it is the work one does “for others” that leads to the development of concern for others, while “work that focuses on what is one’s ‘own,’” does not. Other studies have also reported a positive link between household work and observed actions of helpfulness toward others.

Traditionally, many have considered this need to labor as a curse, but a close reading of the account suggests otherwise. God did not curse Adam; He cursed the ground to bring forth thorns and thistles (Moses 4:24), which in turn forced Adam to labor. And Adam was told, “Cursed shall be the ground for thy sake” (vs. 23, emphasis added). In other words, the hard work of eating one’s bread “by the sweat of thy face” (vs. 25) was meant to be a blessing.

At every turn, we are encouraged to seek an Eden-like bliss where we enjoy life’s bounties without working for them . . .  However, back to Eden is not onward to Zion. Adam and Eve entered mortality to do what they could not do in the Garden: to gain salvation by bringing forth, sustaining, and nourishing life. As they worked together in this stewardship, with an eye single to the glory of God, a deep and caring relationship would grow out of their shared daily experience. 

1998 – “screeding” helpers – preparing to plant grass

I love this principle of the gospel, that God has his work and we have ours. (See Moses 1:39 and D&C 11:20, or this blog post.) Here are some of my other favorite quotes on the subject. With time, I imagine I could find more. What are your favorite quotes?

Elder Neal A. Maxwell – April 1998 general conference – “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel”

Work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity.

The gospel of work is part of “the fulness of the gospel.” Though joyful, missionary work is work. Though joyful, temple work is work. 

Be careful, fathers, when you inordinately desire things to be better for your children than they were for you. Do not, however unintentionally, make things worse by removing the requirement for reasonable work as part of their experience, thereby insulating your children from the very things that helped make you what you are!

2004 – taking a break from chopping down a tree

President Ezra Taft Benson – October 1982 general conference – “Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships”

“Children must be taught to work at home. They should learn there that honest labor develops dignity and self-respect. They should learn the pleasure of work, of doing a job well.”

1989 – doing the dishes

Elder S. Dilworth Young – April 1972 general conference – “Missionary Training Begins Early”

The dusty, ill-kept room with its unmade bed is the devil’s best means of discouragement.

(Note that this talk was geared to President Russell M. Nelson whose first son – after nine daughters – had just been born. I imagine he followed some of this advice; his son did serve a mission in Russia.)