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.

Family Responsibility:

[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.


Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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16 Responses

  1. Starfoxy says:

    When we had this lesson (a long time ago in Gospel Essentials class), someone brought up the point that what is ‘work’ varies from person to person. For example playing the Violin is Joshua Bell’s job, but for many other people it playing an instrument is strictly recreational. Farmers grow things to make a living, other people garden as a relaxing hobby.
    They brought up the idea that recreation may be less about not working but more about doing different sorts of ‘work’ at different times to add variety and dimension to our lives. It isn’t (always) sitting about doing absolutely nothing that is restful, it is the change that creates rest.

  2. Rachel says:

    After 4 years in Primary, it’s back to RS lessons I go. And guess what? This will be the first lesson I teach. Thanks for some great ideas!!!

  3. cchrissyy says:

    I’d like more examples of work as in jobs and education, and not so many of cleaning and home organization.

    Sorry, I couldn’t find a more positive way to say that. But a discussion of the universal human principle of Work shouldn’t be so gendered. If the men do the same topic, I’m sure the word “job” will get more than one mention.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    A great outline, Jess! Thank you!

    I would like to also highly recommend the essay “A Woman’s Work is Never Done” in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne’s book, All Gods Creatures Got a Place in the Choir. It does focus heavily on domestic work, but the ending I think is significant (sorry, this quote is kind of long, but in case people can’t find the essay):

    “…the message in the magazines seems to be: ‘You’re doing too much. Combining family and job is too great a burden. Quit (now)’…

    That argument suggests that what you do is the problem…(But) the problem is far more complex. I suspect that it has to do with the deepest elements of our socialization as women. Everything in our upbringing and experience teaches us to be responsible and caring, dutiful and kind, but no one teaches us how to set boundaries to our duties–that is, to work from sun to sun.

    After all, doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Her candle goeth not out by night.’ Another eighteenth-century woman, Esther Burr, worried about that passage. She finally decided that it had been misconstrued. A well-made candle wouldn’t die on its own, she argued, but a righteous woman knew when to snuff it.”

  5. EmilyCC says:

    One more 🙂 (because I’m researching something else today, but I keep finding great work quotes!): “Sometimes we get discouraged because the needs in the world around us seem so great and our resources seem so few. We think, “We’re not doing enough. We can’t do enough. Nobody could do enough.” When we think like that, we focus on what is left undone, and we lose the joy that comes with service. I want to tell you that we don’t need to compare ourselves to anyone else, either collectively or as individuals…We can do great good when we work as a united sisterhood, as long as we don’t burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations that rob us of the joy of achievement.” Chieko Okazaki, Aloha, pg 21

  6. Ana Pemberton says:

    Where is Lesson 25?

  7. kim says:

    Im Kim from The Netherlands,
    I turned 18 in march, and I just got the calling to be a relief society teacher.. I was worried.. very worried
    This is going to be my first lesson this sunday and this blog helped me a lot!

    so thank you for giving me idea’s on how to do this!


  8. Laurel C. says:

    LOVED the essay “Cleaning Toilets for Jesus.” That adds a very important aspect of working and serving others… sometimes serving is all about our love for our Heavenly Father and Jesus. Period. I’m going to make that point strongly in my lesson. Sometimes work isn’t rewarded with money, praise, or increased love… sometimes you do it because you love God more.

    I also love your insights about wanting to blog, write, or surf the Internet more than doing housework. I am guilty of the same sin. How much more interesting it is to do family history research, write, read, or browse the Internet. But I know my kids need to see me working… I need to model the behavior I expect from them. Another point I’ll make in my lesson.

    THANK YOU for a wonderful Relief Society lesson outline!

  9. Karen Williams says:

    Does not changing habits take work? Learning new skills takes work? Going through a parenting class and then using the techniques one learns is work. Changing eating, exercising and thoughts for better health takes work. I’d like to know anyone elses comments in this. From personal experience the above examples have taken a lot of work on my part and the results I desire sometimes takes years and sometimes it’s a life-long journey.
    Thanks for your posts.

  10. Rachel says:

    I thought I’d share a few things I’m going to be talking about–

    –The idea that ” work” changes through the life cycle–babies work at walking, etc.
    –We’re to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, using the quote from Silvia Allred in Feb’s VT message. This goes along with Karen’s point–it doesn’t matter my situation, there are always things I can be working on, even if that it an internal work nobody else ever sees.
    –We know from positive psychology studies that the happiest people are those who who have goals embedded in your long term values that you’re working for, but also that you find enjoyable.

  11. Rachel says:

    Oh, and I’ll use Elder Christofferson’s talk about a consecrated life–he devotes a section to work and leisure.

  12. Jessaca Porter says:

    I love the scripture that you quoted about working as though you are working for the Lord, rather than people. Although, when I looked up Colossians 3:23-24, this is not the wording that it uses (I like the wording that you used, it’s easier to understand). Where did you find your scripture reference?

    P.S. I have been teaching RS for 3 years now, and there has not been a lesson that I don’t come to this site for help and inspiration. Thanks for all of your thoughts and help!

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