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Doers of the Work

Audio: "Doers of the Work"
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It is always a wonderful opportunity to meet with university students. We love you! I testify of the resurrected Christ. He lives! And I know He has a unique, individualized plan for each of us. I testify that we can trust Him, because He is perfectly trustworthy. Those who stay on the covenant path will see remarkable blessings as we bind ourselves to Jesus Christ and humbly accept His will and timing in our lives.

My message today has been on my mind for some time. Not only because of my Church service, but also because of a 40-year business career.

From that perspective, I want to address the virtue of honest, sustained work. Not only work in building the kingdom of God here on earth but also in building a work ethic that elevates your studies, enhances your ability to develop personal talents, and prepares and sustains you in your chosen careers.

Recently, I have heard phrases such as: “It is too hard,” “Give me something easier,” “Why can’t I have it now?” and “I am bored.” The prophet Ezekiel defined iniquity as “an abundance of idleness.” [1] Feeling entitlement and embracing mediocrity seem to be a festering disease in our society. It is discouraging to me (alarming really) to see an assault on the virtue of hard, focused work. “Quiet quitting,” “bare minimum Mondays,” “acting your wage,” and now “loud quitting” are slogans attributed to Gen Z. (But I know you are better than that!)

In contrast, we see our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have all the riches of the earth and heaven and yet they continually work. They are workers! They have shown by Their examples and teachings that work is important in heaven and on earth. [2] Work is an eternal principle and has been taught from the foundation of the world.

Our first parents were commanded to work: “Therefore, the Lord God sent [them] forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.” [3]

A common backlash against doing hard things is, “I want life balance.” Of course we need life balance. No one should spend all their hours working! We need to spend time with family and friends, we need to devote time for Church and community service, and we need to dedicate time for our employment. However, the pursuit of life balance is not an excuse for procrastination, idleness, laziness, or apathy. In a day when working from home is acceptable, we need to be honest with our employers regarding our time.

President Spencer W. Kimball said, “I feel strongly, that those who accept wages or salary and do not give fair time, energy, devotion, and service are receiving money that is not clean.” [4]

As you evaluate your own work ethic in your temporal and spiritual pursuits, you might consider the following:

  • Am I dependable: do I show up and show up on time?
  • Am I responsible: do I take accountability and avoid blaming others?
  • Do I show initiative: when I am finished with a task, do I find something more to do, or do I wait for someone to tell me what to do next?
  • Do I love to learn: am I learning all I can in my present circumstances?
  • Am I doing more than I need to do, so that I am continually learning?
  • Am I focused: do I set aside time-wasting distractions?

When plagued by indecision or procrastination, remember that effort precedes energy. Just get moving, start working, and once you get into it then the energy comes.

I do not like exercising, but once I start, miraculously I seem to find the energy. I do not like to write papers and seem to procrastinate endlessly. However, once I start typing, I find the momentum to keep going. Effort precedes energy.

Since early adulthood, I have been guided by a powerful statement attributed to President Abraham Lincoln. When asked how he was able to become president of the United States, he modestly replied, “I kept preparing myself just in case.” [5]

I have shared that phrase with many. A missionary who has been out for a few weeks asks how to become a leader in the mission: “Prepare yourself just in case.” New hires who wonder how they can become a partner: “Prepare yourself just in case someone might ask.”

Once, I extended a calling to a young man who was struggling with church activity. I invited him to serve on the family history committee. His response was, “Oh, I would not like to do that.” He explained that he felt his talents were in administration, and he thought being the elders quorum president would suit him better. The Lord could have called him to be the elders quorum president, but that would be like asking a three-year-old to walk in his father’s boots. He was not prepared and, therefore, would not get very far.

A guiding principle that I have tried to apply throughout my life is, as Elder David A. Bednar teaches, “Be quick to observe.” [6]

For missionaries who want to be successful, the law of observation suggests they observe and adopt the characteristics that make successful missionaries effective. Someone who wants to improve their teaching skills can watch and learn from the best teachers. Ambitious employees who want to advance their position can observe and learn from senior management. How do they act, and what skills do they have that can be emulated?

We don’t aspire to Church callings, but we can observe those we admire and strive to adopt the positive attributes we see in them. After all, isn’t that what we are claiming to do when we sing, “I’m trying to be like Jesus”? [7]

President Meredith served as our area seventy while we served as mission leaders in North Carolina. I noticed that when President Meredith conducted a meeting, he was always precise, articulate, and polished. It is a trait I admired, so I asked him how he became so proficient. He said, “I played back general conference over and over again, listening to how the First Presidency conducted the meetings. That became my pattern.” That is just one of many traits I have observed in President Meredith that I have tried to incorporate in my own life. Such observations have helped me to be a better husband, father, employer, and Church leader.

Now, the reality is that just because we have prepared ourselves doesn’t mean we will be asked. No worries! No effort to improve ourselves will ever be lost, and we will be better servants as we prepare. But to you, my young friends, be prepared, because He will ask something, even if it isn’t what you expect. The Lord uses our preparation in the way He knows is best for us, rather than what we have planned for ourselves. Our preparation allows us to answer His call when it comes, no matter what it is.

Benjamin Disraeli, a former British prime minister said, “One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready when his opportunity comes.” [8] I have come to understand that the law of observation is a gift of the Spirit. It is a gift we should pray for and seek after. [9] It is one of the ways the Holy Ghost teaches us and prepares us to be useful laborers. My heart aches when I see people with great potential who, because of pride or apathy, are slow to observe. My hope is that you will have the eyes to see, ears to hear, and faith to act.

Many of you worry about what to study, what career to pursue, or whom to marry. I was in such a quandary shortly after my first mission, and I felt lost. My faithful father gave me great counsel, and I will pass it along to you today. He said, “Ron, when making life decisions, always pour your options through the filter of, ‘How and where best can I “build the kingdom God?”’” [10] Becky and I have followed that counsel as we have considered employment, where to live, and what activities we engage in. I testify, because our first desire has been to serve Him, we have been blessed temporally and spiritually. We have been guided and directed in ways we could not have possibly imagined. When being interviewed for Church callings, we did not know what would be asked of us, but we always knew the answer: “Yes.”

That has made all the difference in our lives!

Brothers and sisters, I invite you to cherish the blessing of work. Do not settle for anything less than your very best. Be honest in all that you do. Be quick to observe, and “seek . . . first to build up the Kingdom of God.” [11]

As you do so, you will be blessed. You will be guided and directed to a happy, prosperous, Christ-centered life. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Notes

[1] Ezekiel 16:49.

[2] David E. Sorenson, “The Blessing of Work,” BYU Devotional, March 6, 2005, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/david-e-sorensen/blessing-work.

[3] Genesis 3:23.

[4] Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Oct. 1952, 52.

[5] Attributed to Abraham Lincoln; see also Robert R. Steuer, “Just in Case Someone Asks, I Will Be Ready,” BYU Speeches, September 30, 2008, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/robert-r-steuer/just-case-someone-asks-will-ready.

[6] David A. Bednar, “Quick to Observe,” BYU Speeches, May 10, 2005, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/david-a-bednar/quick-observe.

[7] “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus,” Children’s Songbook, 78.

[8] Benjamin Disraeli, “Top 10 Benjamin Disraeli Quotes,” Brainy Quotes, https://www.brainyquote.com/lists/authors/top-10-benjamin-disraeli-quotesBrainyQuotes.com.

[9] See Doctrine and Covenants 46.

[10] Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:38 [in Matthew 6:33, footnote a].

[11] Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:38 [in Matthew 6:33, footnote a].