A key priority from the 2017 Area Plan is for members of the Church to “take personal responsibility to work to improve [their] lives.” This means that each of us is responsible to work hard and to be diligent as we seek to improve our situation in life.
It was in 1936, during the worldwide Great Depression, that the First Presidency spoke about “the evils of a dole” and asked that “work…be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (Conference Report, Oct. 1936).
The principle of work is basic to the plan of our Heavenly Father for the salvation of His children. Throughout scripture, He has instructed us to take responsibility to work hard to be self reliant and provide for ourselves. To Adam and Eve, he gave the commandment, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Gen. 3:19).
The Book of Mormon has many examples of groups of people that learned how to work and were blessed by the Lord:
Nephi wrote that he “did cause [his] people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.” (2 Nephi 5: 15,17)
The people of Ammon “were industrious, and did labor exceedingly.” (Mosiah 23:5)
The Jaredites “were exceedingly industrious … and they did work in all manner of ore … and all manner of metals; And they did work all manner of cloth. And they did make all manner of tools to till the earth. And never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. (Ether 10:22-28)
Joseph Smith wrote that his family was “under the necessity of laboring with [their] hands” and that “by continuous labor [they] were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance.” (JS—H 1:55)
The Lord is very clear that we are to work to provide for our needs, for the “idle shall not eat the bread … of the laborer.” (D&C 42:42)
President Thomas S. Monson, has taught that work is a critical component of our mortal success. He has used his famous “Formula W” to help us understand the importance of work:
“Work Will Win When Wishy Washy Wishing Won’t” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, February 1985).
The Family: A Proclamation to the World clearly defines the roles of husbands and wives, and the principle that they both work as a team in providing for and nurturing their families:
“By divine design, fathers … 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.”
We learn then that “work is the foundation upon which self-reliance and temporal well-being rest. Members should prepare for and carefully select a suitable occupation or self-employment that will provide for their own and their families’ needs. They should become skilled at their work, be diligent and trustworthy, and give honest work for the pay and benefits they receive.” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, chapter 6)
In God’s plan for His children, work is a fundamental aspect of our mortal experience and each of us must come to accept and magnify that call.
One of our faithful mission presidents recently shared a story with me of a young Brazilian returned missionary who joined the Church as a young adult. He had no education and no real direction in life, but he found the Gospel and started to grow. He faithfully served a full time mission where he learned to set goals, plan, work hard, and exercise faith. When he returned home, he was counseled by his Bishop to find a vocation. The Bishop knew that refrigeration mechanics were in short supply and so the young returned missionary found a six-month training course that would provide the skills he needed. He used a PEF loan to pay for the course and graduated with a certificate of completion. He was hired by a company that specialized in refrigeration equipment and he excelled at his work. He ultimately started his own company and hired others to come and work. Along the way he met a faithful Latter-day Saint girl and was sealed in the temple. He and his wife had children and raised a family. He became a self reliant father and husband and provided for his family. He was able to serve in his local ward and stake partly because he was self reliant and had resources that he could consecrate to the work of he Lord. (Shared by President Denelson Silva, Angola Luanda Mission.)
In this Church, we work. Men work to provide for their families. Women work to nurture their families. Missionaries work to preach the Gospel. Priesthood and auxiliary leaders work to magnify their callings as “shepherds of the flock”. Home and visiting teachers work to “watch over the Church” and to “lift up the hands that hang down.” No man, if physically able, would ever allow his wife or children to go without, so long as he is capable of working to provide for his family.
Regardless of our background, we have all embraced the gospel culture. No matter what our own parents or grandparents may or may not have done to work to provide for themselves, our doctrine is absolutely clear – we have a responsibility to work to provide for ourselves and our families. Each of us will be blessed as we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) Every child of God will be blessed as they learn to work.
My personal witness is that work is a blessing and that each of us will be blessed by the Lord as we take personal responsibility to work to improve our lives.
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 Liahona