Making Work Easier

Many people have at least a basic understand of the pioneer history of the Latter Day Saints (the “Mormons.”) Those pioneers that came from different parts of the world, and traveled West to escape religious persecution, were truly the foundation of the early Mormon church.They knew how to work, harder perhaps that almost anyone who came before, or after them.

Fast forward to 1936, when the LDS church inaugurated its “Welfare Program,” designed to help people avoid “the evils of the dole.” In the wake of the Great Depression, the LDS church was decrying an attitude of “something for nothing,” and offering instead a program that would allow church members to get the help they needed, with the expectation that they would give something in return. That program has seen such success over the years, and has changed so many lives for good, that one could hardly argue that it is not inspired.

Today, LDS church members are frequently hired in positions that require honesty, and a willingness to work. That is not to say that only LDS people have these traits (or that all LDS people have them,) but rather to point out that the business world in general recognizes that the LDS church produces hard workers, with good work ethics, good morals, and good leadership skills. In general, we strive to take after our ancestors, and place emphasis on work and self-reliance, in all that we do.

But does that mean we “love” work? Does it mean that work is somehow automatically easier for a Mormon, that for another person of some other faith or no faith at all? Of course not. And that brings me to the topic that I wanted to write on this week, which is: how can we make work easier? By this I mean mentally easier: easier to find motivation to get it done; easier to find value in it; easier to just do it.

In one of the classes I’m taking currently, we had discussion about work this week. One comment that was made by a classmate stood out to me in particular. They said something along these lines:

How can we make work easier? Strive to see and understand who it affects. Find joy in the results of what you’re doing, and the positive things that it accomplishes in the lives of others.

I wish I could recall their words exactly, because they hit me pretty hard. I have personally struggled with my work at times, not because it is too hard, too challenging, or too excessive, but for other reasons I haven’t fully pinned down. I’ve struggled with finding the right motivations, staying on task, and really finding joy in my work.

The first part of what my classmate suggested was that we try to understand who our work affects. This takes the focus off of the work itself, and places the focus on the results. This sort of “results orientation” is something that I have a fondness for, having learned it in the culture of companies I’ve worked for, and used it in my own business culture and ideals. But this thought takes the idea of results orientation to another level, and changes it to “personal impact orientation.” In other words, not just “what are the results of my work?” but “how is my work affecting the lives of other people?” This, to me, is powerful thinking.

The second part of what my classmate says really expands upon the first, and invites me to look for the positive impact of my actions and work. It is easy to relate success, accomplishment, and project completion to a “job well done.” But perhaps I’ve been selling myself short. Perhaps in my work I should be looking for the impact I’m having on people, and what my work means in their lives, in any way I can, in order to find joy in what I do.

It is simply easier to work, even when the work is hard, tedious, or even painful, when we know that our work means something, that it changes lives, and that it impacts the course of history. I think that in some way, we can find that in all that we do that is good and honest. No matter what the job is, the fact that it gets done helps someone, or even many people. Our task is to understand who our work helps, and find out how the results of our work are blessing the lives of those around us.

I pray that we might all find this joy. Please feel free to post, here or on my questions page, if you have any thoughts you would like to share, or questions you would like answered.

Finding Opportunities to Change

I’m currently taking a few college classes, and one of those is a religion class. In that class, we’re asked to choose an attribute of Jesus Christ, and find ways to become more like Christ. We are to focus on that attribute in our scripture study, and find ways to grow in that attribute. We are also, of course, to pray for help.

This week, we were asked to think about opportunities we have to become more like Christ, and then to determine 4 things we could purposefully do to grow in that way. We were asked to find opportunities to change. I know, from what I’ve experienced personally and from what I’ve seen others experience, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change people. In Ezekiel 36, versus 26 and 27 we read:

(26) A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

If you read these verses casually, without looking at the rest of revealed scripture, you might think that God is going to do all the work, that He is going to replace our heart, and make us obey His laws. I personally believe that our loving Heavenly Father is going to do all that he can do for us, without taking away our individual choice and accountability. He does all that he can for us by giving us opportunities.

Experience shows that God is not going to force anyone. Look at the interactions between Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ: Judas was an apostle, he was close to the Savior, he had every opportunity to follow Jesus. And even with all of that, Jesus did not force him to choose what was right. He did not expose Judas’ heart and make him change it. Jesus did not use His endless power to force Judas to change.

Likewise in our lives, God will give us every possible opportunity to change, but he will not force us. He also expects that we are going to do our part by studying, praying, believing, and acting. We aren’t to sit on a couch and wait for God to change our heart, or drop opportunity in our lap. We are to walk the roads of life, and look for opportunities to become more like Christ. We are to help the Samaritan brother, the one that doesn’t believe as we do, along our way. We are to fill our lamps with oil, not wait for someone else to give us their oil. We are to invest our talents, and make them grow for when the Master asks for an accounting. We are to seek out the lost sheep. We are to work in the vineyard, no matter how late we feel we’ve arrived.

All of these parables that the Savior gave us demonstrate followers that were willing to act. We can’t sit around waiting for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change our hearts and our lives. We have to “follow” the master, actively and enthusiastically, if we ever want to become more like Him.

I know that we can do it. Though we are expected to act, we are not left alone. Christ has promised us “another comforter,” even his Holy Spirit, to help us find the way. I know that Jesus Christ walked the earth, and that He lives today. I know that we will be given every opportunity to become more like Him, but that He expects us to take the opportunities he gives us, and do all that we can with them. My prayer is that we will all be more open to those opportunities, and that we will all work harder to seek them out, no matter how hard they might be to find.