Saturday, January 8, 2011

“Reflections on a Consecrated Life….Work”

General Conference time is a great time for reflection and personal revelation. Each conference I come away empowered on how to make my life and my family's life more deeply devoted to Christ and keeping our second estate. Elder Christofferson's recent conference talk in October continued to expand my mind and further illuminate true principles.

His talk, "Reflections on a Consecrated Life," bring out five key elements that will help us consecrate our lives to our Savior. His five suggestions were: purity, work, respect for one's physical body, service and integrity. I have thought about his second element, work, much since October. To begin to express my thoughts would be painful for you the reader. My thoughts have gone from Brigham Young to Headgates to the Family Proclamation on to Louis L'Amour and to the scriptures. Back and forth I jump in my mind from a life time of personal study to add these latest thoughts and to have it all make sense with everything else in my grey matter. Of course new thoughts sometimes cause me to challenge old thoughts and societal norms which lead sometimes to "brain pain" in trying to sort and sift. However, despite some new things the more I ponder the more answers come, answers that I have been mulling over for years. Okay, boring, what's the point you may be asking? We'll let's hope I have one. Here are my thoughts.
First off this is what Elder Christofferson said about work.

A consecrated life is a life of labor. Beginning early in His life, Jesus was about His Father's business (see Luke 2:48-49). God Himself is glorified by His work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). We naturally desire to participate with Him in His work, and in so doing, we ought to recognize that all the honest work is the work of God. In the words of Thomas Carlyle: "All true Work is sacred; in all true Work, were it but true hand-labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the Earth, has its summit in Heaven."

God has designed this mortal existence to require nearly constant exertion. I recall the Prophet Joseph Smith's simple statement: "By continuous labor [we] were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance" (JS-H 1:55) By work we sustain and enrich life. It enables us to survive the disappointments and tragedies of the mortal experience. Hard-earned achievement brings a sense of self-worth. Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires.

At this point I have to break in and say this was really painful for me to hear. You see I think I spend more time figuring out how to simply my life so I won't have to work than recognizing that the point is that I am expected to work. I do think that simplifying my life is essential because than I am always able to serve God- I am not a slave to anyone or anything (like my 'stuff.') You see the perfect world for me doesn't involve any laundry, ironing, dusting or mopping. But alas, it seems like that is supposed to be my inheritance. As Adam was taught,
"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 her or the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen. 3:17-19)

Elder Christofferson uses these phrases: constant exertion, continuous labor, and life of labor. All this talk of work is making me tired.

So then, what is work? First that required that I had to get up and get the 1828 Dictionary. (More work. It was heavy and takes a while to find words. I couldn't get the definition in my previous "insta-knowledge" way with the internet. Grumble.) Here were some definitions, "In a general sense, to move, or to move one way and other; to perform…to labor; to be occupied in performing manual labor, whether severe or moderate;… to be in action or motion…to act; to carry on operations; to operate; to carry on business…to obtain by diligence…" Elder Christofferson said that the results would be it improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires our lives.

From this I realize that work requires motion and activity. It can be in varying degrees of physical exertion but it is hard regardless. I spent some time brainstorming what things are work and what things are not with my children. Here's a general list: doing housework, shoveling snow, raking leaves, pulling weeds, memorizing multiplication tables, practicing the piano, reading Shakespeare, writing an essay, etc. Like I said, it's a short list with general ideas.

We decided that sometimes some things could be work for one person and not for another. For example, to spend time playing the hymns or the songs from the Children's song book on the piano is not hard for me, it requires minimal effort. However, for my daughter it still requires effort when she plays out of these books. Reading Shakespeare is still work for me. While doing house work doesn't require brainpower it is still work and is maybe part of what Elder Christofferson refers to as "repetitive."

Here I need to throw in something from Brigham Young that I have been thinking about. He said something to the effect that a righteous man's day consisted of eight hours work, eight hours of play and eight hours of sleep. Now that I have established in my mind what the eight hours of work could look like just what does the eight hours of play look like?

Elder Christofferson spoke of this also. He said,
"Having spoken in praise of labor, I must also add a kind work for leisure. Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work. Music, literature, art, dance, drama, athletics-all can provide entertainment to enrich one's life and further consecrate it. At the same time, it hardly needs to be said that much of what passes for entertainment today is coarse, degrading, violent, mind-numbing, and time wasting. Ironically, it sometimes takes hard work to find wholesome leisure. When entertainment turns from virtue to vice, it becomes a destroyer of the consecrated life. 'Wherefore, take heed that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God' (Moroni 7:14)."

I love Elder Christofferson's words. I have often wondered what "wholesome recreational activities" (from the Proclamation) really looked like. The dictionary under leisurely says, "not in haste or hurry; slowly." I appreciated his examples of music, literature, art, dance, drama and athletics that will help me to recognize what whole recreational activities are. Perhaps being able to truly enjoy things like music and literature require a good amount of work before hand before they can become enjoyable. (Learning to play the piano or understand good literature takes work!) The pace than in this leisure time -perhaps the eight hours has Pres. Young said- is slow, peaceful, relaxed, happy. It is not intense. Elder Christofferson says that it is hard to find good things to do for leisure, but with the help of the Spirit we can find those things that will "enrich {our} life and further consecrate it." That's another point too. We want wholesome leisure so that no matter what we are doing we are always trying to stay consecrated and keep Christ as our living center.

In reviewing with my family these thoughts we discovered that we don't work enough. (Now you moms of young children do work a lot so don't think for one minute that you aren't). But my littles are 8, 10, 11 and 12. They all know how to cook and clean and take care of themselves. (We are still working on keeping their hands off their siblings though). So housework, yardwork, and even school work is divided up effectively and we get it all done quickly. We have also realized that thanks to Headgate principles, For the Strength of Youth and wonderful people like you we have learned what sweet leisure could look like. We have few things left in our life that are mind-numbing and time wasting. Yeah, progression! Our life has been powerfully blessed from these changes too! That bad news is though that we spend too much time in leisure. Yeah, that's nice it's good and wholesome, but if we are over our quota we aren't progressing.

I am super grateful for pondering and revelation that allow me to realize this! During our day now we are trying to work up to our eight hours of work. It's been hard work! We seem to do okay and can work for several hours in the morning, but the rest of the day is a challenge. (I really have simplified my life down!) Later in the day I've said to the kids we need to work right now. Everybody pick something that is work for them and let's do it for an hour. So I'll study something, one will practice the piano, one may work on their lashings for scouts because they can't figure them out, one will read something that is challenging….etc. Usually half way through several will moan and say, "This is too hard. Can't we do something that is easier?" That's when I realize that we really do have to work.

Anyway, I realize we are not working enough. Time to reinstitute some of my headgate thoughts that I had laxed on. I also realize that we are doing well in our leisure, which I am very pleased with, I just next to cut it back.

I know everyone will read these quotes and thoughts differently, but I hope I've challenged you to realize that if we want to be about submission and consecration than we must be working. Mortal life is good isn't it?


Kestrel said...

I love that talk, it's one of my favorites. I hadn't thought about work like that - as in, having to work at being good at reading Shakespeare or piano. I thought of it just as hard physical work, but I like your thoughts. Right now I am working on respect for my physical body - that's hard work right there too!

Rebekah said...

Great post. Just last night my hubbie was having issues with his job and wanting to find a new one. I was at a loss so suggested he get a blessing. Our home teacher came over this morning and we discussed some of the things you talk about in this post along with the idea that he needs a pardigim shift. I'm printing this and finding the talk you referenced along with the book our HT suggested (8th habit by covey) for some couple study. I've got lots of work ahead of me....:)

Christy said...

How interesting. This has been on my mind this week as well.

I started to comment here, but when it ended up being a really long comment, I decided that I should save it for my own blog. :)

I will say here, though, that I think our lives are too easy, and that many of us have too much time for leisure. Not all of what we call work is actually work. And, like you said, some things that we might consider leisure are work for some people.

crazy4boys said...

Another thought-provoking post. And your timing is great!

I think that the Lord does want us to simplify and make "work" easier. I don't think it's wrong to get rid of "stuff" and to have systems in place for keeping order. If our housework only takes a few minutes each day (I wish) then we have that much more time to "work" at serving others, learning new skills, developing talents, building the Lord's kingdom and so on and so forth. If our house is so cluttered and disorganized that we spend hours a day dusting plastic plants and searching for lost items, then we are not being wise stewards. He is, after all, a God of order.

I love the quote from Brigham Young. I think we'd need to alter it slightly as my kids need a bit more than 8 hours of sleep (around 10 right now), but that still gives us WAY more work and play time than I thought we had. What is eating up all our time that I don't feel like we have 6 to 8 hours of work and play??? And I consider school to be most of their work right now, with a good hour or so of cleaning.

We're working really hard to change their attitudes, and ours, about work. It is a GOOD thing, not something to complain about. There is joy IN the work - we can have fun doing it and it's not necessary to rush through it in order to get to the fun stuff. And all things glorify, a good work ethic and a clean home included.

Mrs.Smith said...

Great thoughts! Echoing your ideas, practicing skills/talents can be "work" -- I'm remembering time spent on penmanship as a youth. I enjoyed it (recreation?), but it was challenging (work?). I don't think it needs to be miserable to classify as work... although my kids might beg to differ.

I'm going to add these thoughts to some I've had about being in one's "element." Thanks so much for sharing your insight with us!

Karen said...

Great thoughts. I'll have to look at my life more closely and see where we stand on this. I do think we also ought to be working more. Too bad I have to lead by example because I don't really feel up to it! Thanks for your thought-provoking words again!

Kimberly said...

This is a great example of how the gospel directly conflicts with wordly teachings.

The world teaches we should want to just relax all the time and that work is bad.

It's always so disheartening to see clearly where you've been deceived *sigh* Excellent thoughts though. Thank you!

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

Why wasn't this posted when I taught this talk in RS at the end of December?

Oh. I needed to work it out for myself.

Love your thoughts, especially about work. We do a LOT of work around here, especially in the late spring, all summer, and early fall. Definitely more than the 8 hours a day Brigham Young suggested! Do we get to roll the hours over? :D

Inspire with Style vinyl designs said...

I am a late comer to your blog. I was reading comments on this talk and came across your blog.
I am a home school mom of 4 and I so appreciate your words. I struggle with how much work to give my children in addition to their academia. This talk and your comments are just a great reminder that life can be more work, but yet doesn't need to be less fun