Lesson 23: Developing and Improving Employment Skills

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 168–76


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand the importance of work, how to wisely select employment, and how to improve our work skills.

Introduction

The first recorded instruction given to Adam after the Fall was the eternal principle of work. The Lord told Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” (Genesis 3:19).

Our Heavenly Father has given us this same commandment. The First Presidency of the Church declared, “It is a blessing that we are required to work, and we should do it willingly and without complaint” (“First Presidency Urges Frugality,” Ensign, Mar. 1975, 75). Work is one of the keys to eternal life. Our wise and loving Heavenly Father knows that we will learn more, grow more, achieve more, and benefit more from a life of work than from a life of ease.

  • Show visual 23-a, “Work is a blessing given to us by our Heavenly Father.”

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    23-a, Work is a blessing given to us by our Heavenly Father

Wise Selection of Employment

Choosing our occupations is very important. We must gather facts, make prayerful decisions, gain training and experience, and then search for employment that will enable us to provide for our families.

Gather Facts

When we are young we should determine the kind of employment that would be best for us by considering our talents, abilities, and interests. We will probably be more successful if we do something we enjoy. Although some of us who already have jobs were not able to choose our employment, we can follow the same steps to improve our employment situation.

Before deciding on an occupation, we should consider the future and security of the job. With the constant changes in the world, many jobs cease to exist and others are created. One way we can learn about the future of a job we are considering is by seeking the counsel of friends, relatives, fellow priesthood brethren, and Church leaders. In some cities there are employment counselors and agencies that can help. Often, trade schools, high schools, and universities can tell us which jobs are available. If newspapers are available, the “Help Wanted” section can indicate which jobs are in demand.

When choosing a job, we should look for one that will help us keep close to the Church and our families. There are some jobs that may require us to be away from home for long periods of time or offer working conditions that may prevent us from living the gospel as fully as we should. Such conditions can be avoided by choosing our jobs carefully. If we find ourselves in an unsatisfactory job situation, we can work to qualify ourselves for another job.

Pray

  • Show visual 23-b, “The Lord will confirm our choice of employment if we ask Him.”

It is very important that we seek the Lord’s help when looking for employment. The decisions are ours to make, but the Lord will help us choose wisely if we pray earnestly. But prayer alone is not sufficient. President Brigham Young said: “My faith does not lead me to think the Lord will provide us with roast pigs, [and] bread already buttered … ; he will give us the ability to raise the grain, to obtain the fruits of the earth, to make habitations” (Discourses of Brigham Young [1954], 291).

  • How does President Young’s statement relate to finding a job?

As we make our final decision, we need to pray and receive the peace of mind that comes when we know we are being guided by the Holy Ghost. Then we need to act on our decision. The following story shows how Brother Taisho Komura of Japan used these principles to change his life and employment:

Taisho Komura was employed as a barber in Japan. One day he was contacted by the missionaries and later baptized.

During their discussions, he had learned about keeping the Sabbath day holy. The Sabbath, however, was his busiest day in the barber shop. So, after praying about his employment situation, he decided to enter school to change his occupation.

  • Have several class members relate how prayer has helped them make good decisions about employment.

Develop Employment Skills

  • Show visual 23-c, “Developing a skill requires time and effort.”

Developing employment skills requires time and effort. If we want to improve our employment situation, we must be willing to study and work to gain the necessary skill and training.

Apprenticeships, correspondence courses, inservice classes, vocational schools, manuals, and books can all help us develop our skills. Interviewing with potential employers, visiting work locations, and actually working at different jobs will also increase our knowledge and skills.

Reading and writing are two basic skills that will help in obtaining employment. If we are seeking employment and cannot read or write, we should ask help from someone who can. We should never hesitate to use the knowledge and information available from our families, Church members, and the community.

  • What skills and talents can each of us share with our brethren in the quorum?

  • Have the previously assigned person report on the employment services available in the area.

When we have a goal to achieve, we must be willing to make personal sacrifices to reach it. This means being willing to do all that is necessary to develop our skills. Success comes only if we fulfill the requirements and make the necessary efforts to achieve it. “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

The following story shows how a member of the Church in the South Pacific succeeded in his efforts to improve his employment skills and provide for his family.

As a young man, Viliami Havili had learned the importance of individual effort in learning and improving skills that would enable him to provide for his future family. When he did get married, Brother Havili worked hard to earn and save enough money to buy some farmland offered at a low price.

The farmland he bought was thought to be of little value because it was on hilly ground and near the ocean, where the winds could easily destroy the crops. But he worked very hard to prepare the ground for planting. He also spent much time studying all of the latest farming techniques. Because some of the information he needed to know was available only in French books, he taught himself French well enough to read what they taught about agriculture.

From these books, he learned how to fertilize the soil, which many other farmers in the area had never bothered to learn. He learned how to use certain chemicals to kill insects and to cure plant diseases. He also found out which crops were selling and being exported for higher prices. Not surprisingly, through his many efforts and with the Lord’s help, Brother Havili became a successful farmer.

Like Brother Havili, we can be successful in our employment when we prepare ourselves with the necessary skills.

Search for Employment

A qualified person cannot be hired until he makes contact with a potential employer. Nor can a man who plans to be self-employed sell his products or services until he makes contact with possible buyers. If we are unemployed, we have the responsibility to actively look for work.

If a priesthood leader finds it difficult to locate work, he may need to obtain help from his priesthood quorum. As quorum members, we can be a resource for each other in searching for employment. We can also obtain help from our stake or ward employment specialist. Members who have questions about the services available through the Church can ask their quorum leader or bishop.

  • What are some of the possibilities for employment in our area? What can we do as quorum members to help each other find work?

Improving Work Habits

The Apostle Paul counseled the brethren of the Church to be “not slothful in business” (Romans 12:11). We should always try our best and look for ways to improve our work habits. To do this, we must have good attitudes about work. The following checklist may help us to keep some of the more important work habits in mind.

  • Do I use my time well?

  • Do I cooperate with my employer, my supervisor, and my fellow employees?

  • Am I using the supplies or property of my employer for personal use without permission or without paying for them?

  • Could I be more prompt in coming to work and returning from rest periods?

  • Am I performing my job in the best way I know?

  • Am I pleasant with my fellow employees, supervisor, and employer?

The following story shows how one of our Church leaders was blessed by improving his work skills:

President Heber J. Grant learned when he was a teenager the importance of improving work skills and putting forth extra effort. One day when he was playing marbles with some other boys they saw a bank bookkeeper. One of the boys remarked, “That man gets $150.00 a month.” Heber figured to himself that he would have to shine 120 pairs of shoes every day for a month to make that much money. So he there and then resolved that someday he would be a bookkeeper for a bank.

In those days all records and accounts of banks were written with a pen, and one of the requirements of a good bookkeeper was the ability to write well. To get this job, Heber first practiced his penmanship.

At the beginning, his penmanship was so poor that his friends would make fun of it. This touched his pride, and he said, “I’ll some day be able to give you fellows lessons in penmanship.” Because of his efforts to develop this skill, he became a teacher of penmanship at a university. He wrote greeting cards, wedding cards, insurance policies, stock certificates, and legal documents.

He said, “I once made $20.00 on New Year’s Day by writing forty dozen cards with (Happy New Year) and a man’s name in the corner. … When [the next] New Year’s Eve arrived, I was in the office quite late writing calling cards. Mr. Wadsworth [the boss] came in and pleasantly remarked that business was good. … He referred to my having kept the books [for another company] without compensation. He said a number of complimentary things which made me very happy. He then handed me … $100.00 which doubly compensated me for all my extra work. The satisfaction enjoyed in feeling that I had won the good will and confidence of my employer was worth more to me than twice $100.00.” (See Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the Life of a Great Leader [1951], 39–42.)

Conclusion

The ability to work is a blessing. The Lord has told us through His prophets that it is our responsibility to work and provide for our families. We can learn good work habits and skills from practice as well as from those who have had experience. To find a job that is rewarding, we should gather the facts, pray about our decisions, and develop employment skills.

Challenge

Make a plan to improve in one of the areas mentioned in the personal checklist of work habits found in this chapter.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Gospel Principles chapter 27, “Work and Personal Responsibility.”

  2. 2.

    Review lesson 12, “The Father’s Responsibility for the Welfare of His Family,” in this manual.

  3. 3.

    Ask a class member to find out what schools and services are available in the area for improving work opportunities and skills. If your ward or stake has an employment specialist, you could ask him or her to present this material.

  4. 4.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.