Lesson 15: Sharing in Family Work

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 131–38


The purpose of this lesson is to help us develop positive attitudes about work and to encourage this attitude among our family members.

Introduction

“[A newspaper printed] an interview with a retired shepherd whose age [was] listed at 165. His name [was] Shirali Mislimov. He was born and has lived all his life in the Caucasus Mountains … between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. …

“Mislimov still chops wood. ‘I am convinced an idler cannot live long,’ he told his interviewer. …

“The article said that the old man still ‘digs around trees in an orchard, which he has replanted several times in his lifetime.’

“‘Constant work, mountain air, and moderate eating helped me reach such an advanced age,’ said Mislimov, who neither drinks nor smokes” (Wendell J. Ashton, “The Sweetness of Sweat,” Ensign, July 1971, 35; italics added).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell told how he learned the importance of work in his youth: “I was blessed with parents who, as devoted Church members, taught me many things about the gospel early in my life, including the importance of the gospel of work. They were both hard workers and tried to save what money they had. … It was easy for me to learn to like to work because I had parents who worked without complaining” (“Gospel of Work,” Friend, June 1975, 6).

President David O. McKay said, “Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that the power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success” (quoted by Franklin D. Richards, “The Gospel of Work,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1969, 101).

  • Why is our attitude about work important? How does our attitude affect the job we do? How can our attitude about work influence our children?

Work for the Entire Family

  • Show visual 15-a, “Every family member should share in family work.”

Regardless of who we are or where we live, we all have work to do. Fathers generally provide food, clothing, and shelter for their families. Mothers usually manage the home and train the children. All family members are responsible for household duties. Children should understand that they are an important part of the family and that their help is needed.

  • What are some routine tasks at home that we and our children are responsible for? (Answers could include repairing and maintaining yards and buildings, caring for animals, removing trash, preparing meals, tending children, sewing, shopping, and cleaning.)

Sometimes we may have to create or find work for children. Elder Loren C. Dunn told how his father solved this problem:

“While we were growing up in a small community, my father saw the need for my brother and me to learn the principle of work. As a result, he put us to work on a small farm on the edge of town where he had been raised. He ran the local newspaper, so he could not spend much time with us except early in the morning and in the evening. That was quite a responsibility for two young teenagers, and sometimes we made mistakes.

“Our small farm was surrounded by other farms, and one of the farmers went in to see my father one day to tell him the things he thought we were doing wrong. My father listened to him carefully and then said, ‘Jim, you don’t understand. You see, I’m raising boys and not cows.’ After my father’s death, Jim told us his story. How grateful I was for a father who decided to raise boys, and not cows. In spite of the mistakes, we learned how to work on that little farm, and I guess, although they didn’t say it in so many words, we always knew we were more important to Mother and Father than the cows or, for that matter, anything else” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 12; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 11).

Organizing and Assigning Work

All family members benefit from work done at home, and so they should be willing to do their share. Each family member should be assigned duties that fit his or her abilities. This will prevent idleness and get all the work done. Even little children can be given simple tasks.

When organizing and assigning family work we should meet with our family members and make them part of the decision making. We may do this during family home evening, or we may hold a special family meeting. However we manage it, all family members should be involved in the organizing, since all will be expected to do their share of the work.

One way to organize housework is to make a list of all the work that must be done, listing the tasks in order of importance or difficulty. Then a family member’s name can be placed on the assignment sheet next to each work item. When the list is complete, it should be posted where all can be reminded of their duties. If a family member cannot read, pictures can be drawn to symbolize words and names.

  • Display a poster of the following sample list, or refer to the information on the chalkboard:

    Family Responsibilities

    Clean yard

    Shop

    Father

    Mend and launder clothing

    Prepare meals

    Mother

    Milk the cow

    Feed the animals

    Carry out garbage

    John

    Wash dishes

    Tend younger children

    Mary

    Clean cooking area

    Gather fuel

    Sarah

To provide a refreshing change and a variety of experiences, family members may want to exchange duties from week to week or month to month. If this is done, the assignment list should be replaced with a new one. Of course, this chart is only one method of organizing family jobs.

  • Invite a few class members to share how they organize family jobs.

One family who used this sample method found that it gave them a way to teach personal responsibility to their children. During a family home evening the family made a list of household jobs. The six-year-old boy agreed to care for the yard in front of their house. This meant he had to water the plants, pull the weeds, and trim the grass.

A few days later the father noticed paper lying around and the lawn looking neglected. He thought of doing the boy’s job. It would be easy to do. But he knew if he did, he would take back the responsibility he had given. So he left the yard as he found it.

The next night the yard looked worse. His son was simply not doing his job. His neighbors’ clean yards made his own yard look worse. The father thought of the expense if the plants should die. He even wondered if he had given too big a job for a six-year-old. But again, he decided his son was more valuable than things, and he refused to take over.

Instead, the father asked his son if the two of them could walk around to see how things were going. The son agreed. After they walked around the yard, the boy said, “Oh Dad, it’s so hard!” The father said, “Would you like me to help you?” “Oh yes!” his son said. “Wait here.” The boy ran into the house, brought out two bags, and asked his father to clean up part of the yard while he cleaned the rest. A few minutes later they finished.

Within two more weeks that son had become completely responsible for the yard. He knew if he did not take care of it, no one would. He knew that his father depended on him and trusted him. (Adapted from Stephen R. Covey, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations [1970], 145–46.)

  • How did this father help his son fulfill his responsibility? In addition to providing personal help, what else can we do to make routine tasks more pleasant? (We can give small rewards to encourage children to finish their projects.)

Teaching responsibility and sharing the workload is important. Organizing the family so all have specific duties can help parents to do this. However, we must not forget to also leave time for rest and relaxation. Elder Franklin D. Richards reminded us to schedule time for relaxation as well as work: “In searching for ways to develop a love of work, we must not overlook the matter of relaxation. Although work is absolutely essential to achievement, relaxation and proper rest are likewise necessary. [The power to pace oneself] is an important factor in developing a love of work. The Lord expects each of us to work out a proper balance between work and relaxation as well as the physical and spiritual aspects of life” (Improvement Era, Dec. 1969, 103).

The Value of Working Together

  • What is the value of working together as a family? (List the responses on the chalkboard. Be sure to include the following: we will experience joy in seeing the results of our combined labor, we will feel closer to our families, our children will learn to cooperate and share responsibility, we will experience joy as parents because we are obeying the will of the Lord, and each family member will benefit from learning to work.)

“In one Latter-day Saint family where the father was a physician, the parents were concerned that their children learn the value of work. They realized that they were passing up an opportunity for their children’s growth by hiring a custodian to clean the office.

“The children, excited about the opportunity to earn a regular income, took over the task of cleaning the office each morning. Teamwork became an important factor. The girls in the family would clean the office one morning while the boys stayed home to assist with household duties; then on the following morning they would rotate duties. …

“As a result of the project: (1) the children became familiar with their father’s vocation. … (2) The children felt that they were a part of their father’s business, and they felt a personal pride in his work. (3) The children had a regular work project with daily tasks to perform and a feeling of responsibility for seeing that the job was done. (4) The children developed teamwork. … (5) The children had a regular income” (Elwood R. Peterson, “Family Work Projects for Fun and Profit,” Ensign, June 1972, 8).

  • What is the law of the harvest? (“We reap what we sow.” Write this phrase on the chalkboard.)

Each task we perform has its own natural reward. As we plant gardens and care for them, we enjoy the fruits of our labor at harvesttime. As we build and repair our homes, we live in greater comfort and security. As we keep our clothing clean and attractive, we enjoy greater comfort and set a good example of cleanliness. As we prepare nutritious food and keep dishes clean, we enjoy better health.

One of the goals of family work is to develop character and learn to work. Individuals become dependable as they take on responsibility and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “I hope that we understand that, while having a garden, for instance, is often useful in reducing food costs and making available delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, it does much more than this. Who can gauge the value of that special chat between daughter and Dad as they weed or water the garden? How do we evaluate the good that comes from the obvious lessons of planting, cultivating, and the eternal law of the harvest? And how do we measure the family togetherness and cooperating that must accompany successful canning? Yes, we are laying up resources in store, but perhaps the greater good is contained in the lessons of life we learn as we live providently and extend to our children their pioneer heritage” (“Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 78).

The following incident shows how one family member learned the value of working with her family:

“During the mid-summer months there were acres of sugar beets to be thinned. This means that we had to dig up some of the small vegetables to make more room for the beets to grow larger. We loved to eat the sweet roots of the beets that we thinned, but we got awfully tired of bending over all day thinning them out. One day I tried to stay at the house and not have to go down those long beet rows on my hands and knees. I told my father that my head ached—which I’m quite sure it did—but he didn’t give me permission to rest. So we all walked out into the field and began to work.

“After thinning for a while I complained that my head ached. My father apparently didn’t believe me because I wasn’t sent to the house. Again and again I complained of my head aching. … At last my father said, ‘All right, you go to the house and tell your mother to come and thin beets in your place.’ This horrified me—I couldn’t think of my mother coming into the field and doing my work. I told my father that I preferred to stay and work: as I worked, my head quit hurting and I didn’t complain again.”

  • What did this girl learn from her experience? (Answers may include the importance of work, doing her share, respect for her parents.)

Conclusion

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

“I do not believe people can be happy unless they have work to do. One can really be more of a slave to idleness than to work. Work also keeps us humble and reminds us of how all our blessings come to us from our Heavenly Father. …

“The gospel of work is a very important teaching of the Church. If we learn to work early in life we will be better individuals, better members of families, better neighbors, and better disciples of Jesus Christ, who Himself learned to work as a carpenter” (Friend, June 1975, 7).

Challenge

Be cheerful and uncomplaining about your work. Plan, organize, and prepare a family work schedule this week that assigns family members their duties.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 23, “Developing and Improving Employment Skills.”

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

    Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson, or write the information on the chalkboard.

  4. 4.

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