“A man has a responsibility to himself. He has a responsibility to his family. He has a responsibility to the Church, and he has a responsibility to his profession. In order for him to live a balanced life, he must try to find an avenue by which he can serve in each of these areas.”
These are the words of President Harold B. Lee, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were addressed to an audience at the University of Utah on January 15, 1971, but they raise a question for all of us.
Lives there a man or a woman who is not concerned with the problem of finding time to do all of those things that should be done? How is it possible for a Latter-day Saint to properly serve his church, achieve success in his occupation, provide service to his community, and at the same time devote an appropriate amount of time and energy to his family?
This may be one of the most critical personal questions confronting the active member of the Church today. By its very nature modern life places an overall stress on the individual that requires special strength. But when one starts looking at the specifics of rearing children, maintaining a home, succeeding in an occupation or profession, contributing something to the good of the community, and serving the Lord through the Church, the demand on the individual can almost be overwhelming.
Dr. Philip Washburn, director of the Timpanogos Mental Health Center in Provo, Utah, is a Latter-day Saint who has worked professionally with many members of the Church. He believes that a major challenge to many members is the effective management of their time and resources and the elimination of the pressures generated in trying to do all of the things they want to do.
Common objectives bring common problems, but Dr. Washburn says that “these problems can only be solved on a highly individualized basis.
“Resolving these pressures,” he declares, “requires that each person honestly evaluate his capabilities to determine the limit of his physical energy and his intellectual capacity. He then has to adjust his living patterns accordingly.”
There may be some danger, however, in using this kind of an evaluation as a rationale for not accepting responsibility for tasks we could accomplish with the Lord’s help—tasks that might raise the level of our capabilities.
Generally, though, without some assessment of what we are actually capable of doing, we may overcommit and achieve little or no success.
The Church needs people who believe in temporal and spiritual achievement, people who are convinced that it is possible to accomplish great things in the kingdom here on earth and in eternity, and they believe it so firmly that the conviction propels them into activity. These are the kinds of people who contribute to the growth of the Church, but even those with high energy levels must exercise mature judgment in so balancing their responsibilities that the things they promise to do will not conflict with others of equal importance.
Of course our personal lives cannot be operated exactly like a business, with its disciplines and its plans scheduled to a somewhat predictable future, but as individuals we do have disciplines to guide us and we do have a plan, one of eternal salvation, and it is very predictable. As individuals we can arrange our time so that commitments do not pile up, forcing us to neglect one responsibility in order to satisfy another.
Dr. William G. Dyer, chairman of the Department of Organizational Behavior at Brigham Young University, suggests an approach for the individual that is similar to business precepts in its principles:
1. Identify priorities. By determining an order of importance in the things we plan to do, we can eliminate a great deal of the stress of decision-making.
2. Maintain a time log. You may be surprised to learn that you are not really allocating your time as you may think you are.
3. Make adjustments according to the criteria developed from your time log.
“In establishing priorities, look carefully at what you consider as needs; do not confuse them with wants. Without realizing it, many people place too high a priority on recreation. While it is an important part of the activities of any well-balanced family, it is, in relation to occupations and church work, a relatively low priority, particularly when it does not involve the entire family.
“In allocating time for the family,” says Brother Dyer, “the critical issue is not so much the time spent with the family as the quality of interaction that is important.”
A rather interesting view on successful family life has been expressed by Dr. Russell M. Nelson, a heart surgeon who was recently named superintendent of the Deseret Sunday School Union for the Church. Brother Nelson and his wife have nine daughters.
“An indispensable element of any sincerely successful family life is the cultivation of the love affair between husband and wife,” is how he introduces his idea.
“In a large family there is a tendency for the mother to devote her time totally in the service of her children, and when this interferes with the husband and wife relationship, it is—no matter how well the children are managed—a hollow victory.
“Children come and go,” he adds. “They go on missions, they go to college, they get married, and for various other reasons they leave home, and if in the meantime the love affair between parents is permitted to atrophy, this is a big price to pay. The condition holds little promise for the eternities.
“A love affair between husband and wife is dynamic. We must recognize this as a growing thing. It is as a garden; if unattended, it soon shows the signs of neglect. Along with the responsibility for properly raising children and honoring our obligations in a profession and in the Church, we also have the responsibility for keeping the parental love affair strong and active.”
The answer to the issue raised here is not simple, and the question is not such that one person can readily answer for another. To get a broad view of some of the thinking that has gone into solutions developed by individuals, the Ensign visited by telephone conference with a group of Latter-day Saints in leadership positions. Although each participant was guided by the fundamentals of the gospel, there was an interesting variety of viewpoints on the question of organizing time.
Franklin S. Gonzalez, stake president and realtor in Lubbock, Texas, and father of six, commented that “any faithful Latter-day Saint with a responsible Church position has a claim upon God for special help with his family. It means, however, that he will have to work harder and more efficiently to be a good father.”
“We have two basic assets to spend—time and money,” said Howard B. Anderson, Regional Representative of the Twelve, television executive in Los Angeles, California, and the father of four. “I find as the children grow older that more of our activities are oriented around the family. About the only support I can give now to community activities is financial. When the children move away from home, I can start to allocate more time to the community.”
There was a discussion on the efforts to schedule activities. “I think schedules can be a great help,” observed LaNeve Kimball, Provo, Utah, YWMIA president, homemaker, and the mother of twelve, “but they can also be a handicap. I want to be there when my children come home so that I can listen to the things they need to talk about immediately. Attitude is more important than schedules. The Lord helps us each day as we ask for guidance; we never start the day without personally asking for his help and guidance.”
W. Paul Hyde, bishop and institute director in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the father of three, also noted difficulties in establishing schedules. “There are so many variables in life that it is only a few hours before I am unable to adhere to schedules. I have come to the conclusion that it is more a matter of attitude.”
The organization of assignments was discussed. Brother Gonzalez pointed out that “there are many elements involved, but I think the foremost is planning. In my case, it means preparation of agendas so that in a stake presidency meeting, for example, we can accomplish in an hour what otherwise might take two or three hours. Consequently, we can anticipate more time with our families.”
On the matter of delegation, he added, “I don’t see how we can meet our obligations without delegating responsibility according to the recommendations of the General Authorities.”
An unbalanced life is more easily recognized than it is corrected. An imbalance caused by undue attention to any one area is critical. Brother Anderson commented, “I have seen men who were incapable of dealing with their family responsibilities and who used church work as an excuse. I am as impatient with that as I am with the man who uses his business as a pretext for not taking care of his family and his church responsibilities.”
Brother Gonzalez stressed the order of importance for every needful thing. “This concerns the matter of deciding early in life that business is not more important than church or the family within it; the Church and the family are really one. We are talking,” he said, “about spending a great deal of time in church work and not neglecting our families because of it. By holding family home evenings and conforming to the Lord’s program, we are in a sense guaranteeing recreation and relaxation time, refreshment time, and instructional time with the family.”
Sister Kimball added, “The family home evening is invaluable. We are so blessed to be Latter-day Saints and to have a prophet to guide us in these matters. I recall a passage of scripture in the Book of Mormon in which we are admonished to seek first the kingdom of God. [See Jacob 2:18.] This is why we need the gospel to guide us in developing a sense of values.”
Speaking of the value of family home evening, Sister Ruth Grover, Relief Society president and homemaker in Evanston, Illinois, and the mother of two, recalled her experience in lecturing about the Church at Northwestern University. Following the lecture, the center of intense interest was in the family home evening manual that she had displayed. “The world is hungry for this truly inspired program,” she said.
Regarding family relationships, Brother Anderson remarked, “My church and professional assignments require a great deal of travel, and finding time to have family home evenings is a serious problem because of this. I believe that in the family a most effective relationship is one-to-one. Whenever I can, I take my wife or one of the children with me on a trip.”
Bishop Hyde commented on the wife being the heart of the home. “When the father is somewhat limited in family time because of his professional and church responsibilities, she can do a great deal toward meeting the needs of the children by her attitude.
“There have been times when I had to leave and one of the children has said, ‘Oh, Daddy, do you have to go out tonight?’ and my wife has said, ‘Aren’t we glad that we have a daddy who was chosen by our Heavenly Father to help him build his kingdom?’ It is such a tremendous help when I can leave with a spiritual feeling instead of one of contention,” he added.
Agreement was expressed by all participants concerning the value of a cooperative husband or wife in matters of being united in disciplining children and in attaining a closeness in the problems inherent in any busy family.
As each individual is unique in the sight of God, each individual is also unique in his responses to the circumstances in which he lives and in his particular selection of the priorities that govern his actions.
It is in this process of consideration and selection, guided by prayer, that responsibilities become clear in their order of importance, and that time and energy may be most productively used in service to the Church, occupation, community, and the family, bearing in mind the famous quotation by President David O. McKay, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
[illustration] Art by Richard Hull