Gospel Principles #27: Work and Personal Responsibility
Goal for this lesson:
To help sisters recognize the value of the work they already do and encourage them to search for the joy in their work.
Is there anyone in this room who has never taught a RS lesson? (if I was there, I would raise my hand) Well, that’s okay. You should be glad. It’s hard work, it takes preparation, prayer, and thoughtful research. And this is on top of all the other work I have to do. (you can list your weekly work on the board) Anyway, I just wasn’t feeling up to it this week so I didn’t do it. I thought we could just all chat with each other instead of have the lesson.
(Perhaps you’ll get a few raised eyebrows, or some enthusiastic chatty Patty’s. At worst, everyone will pack up to go home early.)
Okay, I did prepare a lesson. I was just using that as an object lesson. In fact, on the LDS website there’s a page devoted to the topic of work and here is the heading:
“There Is No Substitute for Work”
Isn’t that the truth?
How much of your time do you spend working? Tell me more about the work you did this week. (fill out list on the board)
Now tell me a little bit about why you do all of this work?
(Collect answers until someone gets near to-)
Work Is an Eternal Principle
We know that work is a commandment, but even if we forgot it momentarily, doesn’t it seem like life is set up as a commandment to work? Wouldn’t humankind die pretty quickly if we couldn’t or wouldn’t work?
Do you remember when you learned the value of work? What happened? Who helped teach you?
How have you grown in your understanding of the principle of work? Do you have an experience you can share?
If you have children at home, how are you teaching them the principle of work?
(Here’s the story I would share.)
“Growing up, it felt like my mom made me work a lot. I set the table, cleaned the bathrooms, folded and put away my own clean clothes, packed my lunch, weeded, vaccumed, and did the cat litter. I don’t remember my mom helping me do my chores. I felt like my mom loved to see us do her work and I resented her for it. I knew she didn’t like working and neither did I. Looking back, I know that I had a bad attitude, but this is really what I remember.
My best friend, on the other hand, hardly did any chores. Her mother did everything, even ironing her t-shirts. I was always jealous of how little housework she had to do.
So, now that both of us are grown with families of our own, who do you think has the tidiest house? If you guessed me, you’d be wrong. We both have messy houses. Both of us struggle to value work or take pride in having a tidy home. (Neither of us blames our mothers, we just struggle in this area).
When we talk about it, we talk about wanting to teach our children to work by working with them. Robert D Hales said the same thing, “Work together as a family, even if it may be faster and easier to do the job ourselves. Talk with our sons and daughters as we work together.”
I know that work is an eternal principle, that it’s good for me, that I’ll die if I don’t do it. But, I still don’t like it. I’d rather lay on the couch and read a book than sweep and mop the floor. Sometimes it’s an issue of motivation.”
What motivates you to work?
(List work motivators:)
Love, duty, necessity, self-discipline, accountability, God, etc.
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. —Colossians 3:23-24
This may be a good place for someone to talk about their moments struggling with work, whether it’s a single mom balancing job and mothering, or someone in a job they don’t like.
Sometimes doing work isn’t so bad if it’s for people we love, like our family or friends. But what about working for people we don’t like very much? You may want to tell the story of scrubbing toilets for Jesus. (a must-read essay)
Just like we have different talents, some of us are better at different kinds of work. You can have the class discuss work that they enjoy and other kinds that are more difficult.
[I would probably only touch briefly on this section or just skip it. If you do choose to teach it, please be sensitive to people who may struggle in this area. Most people who are doing fine supporting their families will pat themselves on the back. Those who are struggling paying bills will just feel guilty (or potentially resentful of their spouse). Those without families may feel left out.]
We Can Enjoy Our Work:
I’d love to have this be a group discussion about ways we find to enjoy the work that we dislike. Perhaps this could turn into a work swap!
“I’ll wash your car if you organize my kitchen.” We had a similar Enrichment activity where each person wrote a gift of some kind of work and we traded amongst each other. It’s a good way to get sisters to know each other better and feel connected.
I love learning secrets about how people make work fun for them. I had a friend who thinks about cleaning as a race. She always does everything as fast as she can and it makes it fun for her. I remember doing my homework that way, but cleaning that way isn’t as easy.
God Condemns Idleness:
“Work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity” -Neal A Maxwell
Here’s where I reveal my deep, dark, secret- I spend time on the internet instead of working. Sometimes it’s better than others, but I shop online, blog, read the news, watch a funny show, etc instead of doing my work (including mothering).
How do you keep yourself from giving in to idleness? Does anyone want to form a Internet Addicts Anonymous club? Or can we be accountable to each other?
Whatever your weakness, no one is perfect at working. Let’s all think of ways that we can improve our work ethic, or help those around us this week.
Here’s a slip of paper for you to write down one work goal this week. You keep it, and I will ask you next week and we will be accountable to each other.
Work, Recreation, and Rest
(Read from the lesson-)
“We should each find the proper balance between work, recreation, and rest. There is an old saying: “Doing nothing is the hardest work of all, because one can never stop to rest.” Without work, rest and relaxation have no meaning.”
Blessings of Work:
“Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God.” D. Todd Christofferson
In so many of our Relief Society lessons, the ending is “if you do, X, Y, and Z principle then God will bless you.” It’s easy to begin to believe that God is a vending machine for the righteous. But we know that’s not how it works. We don’t (usually) just plunk in our coins of prayer, scripture reading, fasting, etc, and get blessings wrapped in cellophane.
When it comes right down to it, God seems to change us from the inside out. He asks us to do things that are hard for us, then as we struggle with these tasks, He gives us greater insight and strength so that we are capable of meeting the goal. Work is a perfect example of this. The harder the work is, the stronger we get. God is helping mold us to be more like him and we get these blessings through the change that comes to us as we follow His principles.
I pray that we will all work at valuing work this week.
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.