I learned many important lessons from my Grandma Jennie. She was the youngest of 17 children and lived through many challenging times. She had a unique gift for communicating in colourful and poignant ways. In her later years she called herself a "tough old bird." When asked how she was doing she replied, "Oh, I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in." One of her catch phrases I learned most from was, "Don't worry about the mules going blind, just load the wagon!" In other words, "Don't let your anxiety about the future stop you from moving forward in faith."
Grandma Jenny's father was Lyman Skeen, a pioneer. When there were obstacles in life, real or perceived, Lyman taught his children that the best way to overcome those challenges was to press forward. There was no whining, complaining or idleness--only action! No doubt he had a significant influence on Grandma and contributed to her “toughness.”
The first action emphasized in Grandma's advice was, "Don't worry." Worry can be characterized by fretting over the unknown or over problems that are unlikely to occur. Worrying can freeze our faith and bring life to a standstill. It can lead to discouragement and depression. Our seven year old granddaughter was asked during Family Home Evening to define faith. After thoughtful pondering she replied, "Faith is just not worrying." When we have faith we don't worry and we move forward with our lives.
Faith in Jesus Christ Inspires Action
In order for our faith to have power and invite the Lord's blessings it must be grounded in Jesus Christ. Several years ago there was a popular clothing logo with the words "No Fear." The slogan encouraged spontaneity without worrying about future events or consequences. It also implied that the wearer had the capacity to face any challenge. To me this logo represented the world’s answer to not worrying. Moving forward because we have confidence in ourselves will not bring the same degree of success as when our faith is centred in Jesus Christ and his ability to bless our efforts. The Savior promises us, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33).
There are things we can do to build our faith in Jesus Christ and help us avoid worrying. We can attend church weekly and partake of the Sacrament worthily. We can offer meaningful personal prayers and participate in daily focused scripture study. Each of these activities invite the Spirit and help us maintain an eternal perspective by nurturing our faith. As we pray and study topics in the scriptures relating to our specific needs and challenges, we find answers and receive revelation to guide our actions. In addition, our efforts help us qualify for blessings the Lord desires to give us.
Blessings of Work
Joseph Smith taught that faith in Jesus Christ is a principle of power and the moving cause of all action (Lectures on Faith 1:10,13,15). When we are filled with faith we have positive thoughts and faith in our future. This faith inspires diligence and work. As Grandma Jenny would say, we move forward and "load the wagon," trusting that things will work out.
Work acts as a healing balm and quells rising doubts within us. It serves as an outlet for pent up anxieties and brings a feeling of comfort and well being. In the movie Out of Africa when Karen Blixen faced devastating heartache her response was to go into the field with the farm labourers. She went to her farm supervisor and said, “Give me work.” She used physical labour to calm her soul until she could find courage to move forward with life.
Our Church leaders past and present demonstrate the power of faith and work. When David O. McKay was a young boy his two older sisters both died within days of each other, one of rheumatic fever and the other of pneumonia. One year later his father was called to serve a mission in Scotland. David was only eight years old and the oldest child in the family. His mother was expecting a baby. David’s father was concerned about accepting the mission call because it would mean leaving his wife alone with the responsibilities of the family and the farm. However, when hearing of the call, his faithful wife Jennette was firm in her response: “Of course you must accept; you need not worry about me. David O. and I will manage things nicely!” (Llewelyn R. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay, 1956, 6).
David O. McKay learned a valuable lesson from his parents regarding moving forward with faith and depending on the Lord. The heavy responsibilities he carried as a young boy when his father was away helped prepare him for challenges he would later face as a prophet of God.
There Are Many Forms of Work
The work the Lord requires often involves sacrifice. Paying our tithing in difficult economic times when we have little income may test our faith. But when we pay our tithing our faith in the Lord increases and we are blessed with strength and courage. We find ways to obtain an education, pursue job opportunities, and accomplish other goals.
Working to qualify for blessings may involve physical labour as well as mental, spiritual, or emotional effort. Individuals seeking an eternal companion often find it challenging to find a person they want to marry. It requires faith to attend activities, go on blind dates and pursue relationships that at the outset may not appear to hold much promise. But it is often through exercising faith and doing this “work” that goals and aspirations are realized. The Lord expects us to do our part. His blessings are given in His own time, but we can do much to facilitate those blessings. We can stay actively involved while waiting patiently for desired conditions or events to unfold in our lives.
For some it requires faith to marry when there are seemingly insurmountable challenges and obstacles, such as barriers related to finances, education and employment. It required faith for Sister Cook to proceed to marry me when I lost my job and we were not sure how we would make it financially. We carried a load of “the unknown” for a period of time as we pressed forward and married. I have witnessed countless other couples do the same. Eventually the Lord’s hand is manifest in our lives, and we treasure the decision we made to move forward in faith. His love for us sinks deep into our hearts and strengthens our resolve to faithfully follow Him in all things.
Our missionary daughter met a less active man who returned to Church after not attending for many years. He was so joyful that she asked him what had kept him from attending previously. He related that his job kept him from Church for over five years, but he felt prompted to quit his job in order to attend. He rejoiced in the blessing of being with the saints, attending every Sunday and never missing an activity. He was without work for a time but he was eventually blessed with a new job that allowed him to continue worshipping on the Sabbath. His courage, faith, and works were rewarded with blessings, including a job.
Faith and Work Bring Joy
Exercising faith and overcoming obstacles can be a joyful process. It invites God into our lives and allows us to feel of His all-mighty power and love for us. We witness the blessings He showers upon our heads as we trust Him and work to qualify for His Atoning power. As He helps us with our struggles we are blessed with increased hope, which is an abiding trust that He will always fulfil His promises to us in the future (Preach My Gospel, 117). We are free from worry.
The older I get the more I appreciate the advice of my parents and grandparents. When I was young I thought my Grandmother’s advice only related to life in our small country town of Plain City, Utah. Little did I realize that 50 years later I would be in Africa facing a multitude of new challenges, but still applying the principles she taught me, “Don’t worry about the mules going blind, just load the wagon.”
I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know it provides answers to our questions and direction in our lives. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. May we follow Him and experience increased peace and joy in our lives.