"The Law Of The Harvest: What Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap"
A Moment To Ponder
(Reflective Questions and Self Evaluation)
*These questions should be answered a second time after reading this chapter.
- What am I sowing? What will I reap?
- How am I spending my time? Am I idle or anxiously engaged?
- What spiritual value does physically hard work have?
- Am I self-reliant or dependent? Where will it lead me?
- What is the difference between work and service?
- Do I put my trust in God's will?
- What am I working at today to fulfill my earthly mission?
A humorous story portrays an interesting analogy of the Law of the Harvest.
Orville and Leroy were brothers. Today, as nearly everyday, they were enjoying a delightful summer morning. It was time for their usual mid morning rest before their noon day snooze. Laying on their backs, comforted by the soft pile of hay, they gazed into the blue sky as the cotton ball clouds slowly blew by. It was apparent that they had accomplished little if anything that morning. This seemed to be a common practice on the southern homestead.
Orville and Leroy by no means were small. In fact, it appeared these large farm boys, preferred eating to work. And this morning, nothing felt better than to relax after a breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and biscuits. These boys had big dreams for the farm and life, even though the farm was showing great signs of neglect.
Orville, while spinning a piece of straw on his lower lip, was in deep reflection. Looking into the clouds, gave birth to dreams of a fabulous future. In their slow and drawn out southern accent, a conversation ensued between the two of them. With pauses between phrases, one can sense the intensity of thought.
Orville: "Ya know what I wish?"
Leroy: "Nope... What do you wish for?"
Orville: "I wish I had a million dollars!"
Leroy: "If you got your wish of a million dollars, would you share it with me?"
Orville: "Heck no!" "You do your own wish'n!"
This comical sketch is funny and interesting. Orville let his brother know in no uncertain terms, nothing usually comes without effort. Leroy would have to take accountability for himself, and "do his own wish'n." Leroy was just as capable as Orville, and Orville wanted him to know that. However, Orville's logic was missing an important understanding of the reality of life.
Life is not supposed to be easy. There is no eternal law that says "you get something for nothing."
My mother always taught me, "You reap, what you sow." Her insight surely originated in the scriptures.
Read: D&C 6:33 "A promise."
"Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you." (Hosea 10:12)
"Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." (Job 4:8)
Here we have the "Law of the Harvest." Sow nothing, reap nothing. Unfortunately in this story, the brothers did not understand the "Law of the Harvest." Someone needed to teach them, wishing is not the same as working, and money does not grow on trees."
Leroy felt entitled to some of Orville's fantasy fortune, just because they were friends and brothers. And even though we live in a country where some believe welfare, entitlement, and living off of the efforts of others is okay; the truth is that it is not okay or acceptable. The Lord has always tried to teach his people that work is good for the soul, and that laziness and idleness produce no good results. The avoidance of work hampers our progression. Warning us, the Lord says:
"By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through." (Ecclesiastes 10:18)
Such was the case of Leroy and Orville's farm.
The Lord wants us to be actively engaged in good works, and to be productive. Work is good for the body and soul. We certainly know that nothing of value comes without effort. Through hard work we will one day harvest the fruits of our labor. The Lord further cautions us to cease to be idle.
Read: D&C 58:26, D&C 107:100
An excerpt from a talk given by Marion G. Romney in the October 1982 General Conference entitled "The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance" has always impressed me. Elder Romney shared this story from the Reader's Digest which I quote:
"In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don't know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved ...."The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets .... "Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the something for nothing' lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout."
The lesson taught here is that the gulls never learned to work. They were not self-reliant. They did not know where to fly to look for food. They lacked the skills to take care of themselves. They lived with a philosophy of entitlement, "getting something for nothing."
Over twenty six years ago Marion G. Romney added to this story, what has become a prophetic statement fulfilled in our day. Read what he says after quoting this story.
Read: "The Celestial Nature Of Self Reliance"
I love the saying: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Give a man a fishing pole, and you feed him for life."
Self-reliance is a principle of vital importance in this mortal experience. Self-reliance means many things, such as: to stand on one's own two feet, to be self-sufficient, to not put the burden of your care on another. Self-reliance comes as a result of using free agency wisely. Self-reliance applies to work, to being true to one's convictions, to holding to the rod of righteousness, to enduring to the end, to embracing godlike attributes of integrity and honesty.
Work cultivates these virtues and builds self-reliance. Honest labor makes us stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. A byproduct of work is an increase in gratitude and an appreciation for what God has allowed us to achieve and become. Honest work is the catalyst of our eternal progression.
God knew that work is good, and He instituted its practice in the beginning. Speaking of Adam and Eve, read how the Lord would describe their lives
Read: Moses 5:1
By the "sweat of their brow," Adam and Eve would learn self-reliance. This principle of self-reliance would be cultivated in an environment of adversity and opposition. There would be trials and challenges to overcome, and with them great lessons of eternal significance to be gained.
Read: 2 Nephi 11:2
It all fits into a perfect plan where man would choose, and then work to realize the reward of that choice.
Physical labor has a purpose that is both temporal and spiritual. It provides for our basic survival needs of food, shelter, and clothing, It also prepares us to fulfill and achieve our mission as well as God's purposes here on earth.
There are many great examples of hard work in the scriptures. Noah constructed an ark, Nephi a ship, the brother of Jared barges, and Solomon a temple. Moses gathered a people. Enoch built a city.
It is interesting to consider how the Savior may have spent his growing years, before his ministry. We know that Joseph was a carpenter as referenced in Matthew 13:55, where the question is asked by the town's people; "Is not this the carpenter's son?" He was schooled by his father in carpentry. The Book of Mark in the New Testament offers another perspective.
"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? . . ." (Mark 6:3)
I would suggest that Jesus being, the eldest son in a family of four brothers and sisters, had the responsibility of providing for his mother and siblings at his father's passing. Joseph is not mentioned in this scripture. Perhaps Jesus ran the family business of carpentry. Imagine the countless hours he must have spent. How many homes did he build? How many hours did he spend at the end of a saw, a mallet, or a chisel?
I am sure this helped him physically prepare for his ministry. Later his physical preparation would be acknowledged as we learn of him fasting for forty days and forty nights, or learning of the hundreds of miles he traveled on foot. The stamina and strength on the cross, or in the Garden of Gethsemane is more than one can comprehend. Jesus understood and experienced physical challenges far beyond that of any mortal.
The apostles Peter and his brother Andrew were fisherman. (See Matthew 4:18) How many times did Peter greet the sun while rowing on the open sea? How many sunsets and nights were spent casting nets and then harvesting them? How many blisters? How many back aches? How many sleepless nights?
Joseph and Hyrum Smith were farmers. How many trees did they fall? How many stumps did they pull? How many wells did they dig? How many boulders did they remove from endless fields? They cleared hundreds of acres before they plowed, sowed, and reaped.
The greatest men to walk the earth were all prepared for their ministries through hard work. They understood the phrase "by the sweat of their brow." The lessons of perseverance, dedication, stamina, endurance, long suffering, and determination could not be learned from a book. These attributes could only be attained through real life experience.
Strenuous physical labor prepared them for their demanding ministries. Think of the hundreds of hot and dusty, wet and cold miles traveled on foot by the greatest ministers of past dispensations. Jesus and his apostles, Paul, the sons of Helaman, latter-day missionaries who all traveled by foot. The commonality of these men was that they were tried physically before they were tried spiritually.
I loved the teachings expressed by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon. The final words of a dying prophet resonate today, some 2,100 years later, in one of the greatest sermons ever to be delivered in ancient times. King Benjamin spoke of work and service, and the attitude that we should have towards men and God.
Read: Mosiah 2:14
"With his own hands," he provided for the temporal needs of his family and self. After that need was fulfilled, he rendered years of service to his people without compensation. What is more important was the motivation of this service.
Read: Mosiah 2:17 The truth about service.
I am impressed that he ruled by example. Much like the Savior, this king did not ask his people to do anything that he was not doing himself. Although service can be defined as work, I like the distinguishing factor that service is for someone else, and not one's self. It is motivated by love and generally accomplished without compensation. The reward lies in the joy of having done something for someone else without condition and without expectation. These acts of charity are typical of celestial beings.
I had a wonderful father-in-law. He was no stranger to hard work. He grew up on a farm in southern Utah. Even after he left the farm for military service, college, and then professional life, he would always come home to the farm to help during the harvest. Fifty pound bales of hay loaded onto the trailers by hand from dawn to dusk was his task.
The term "by the sweat of his brow" was truly understood and experienced. This discipline carried forward into his work life, where he would arise at 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. every morning and return to his family by 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the end of his work day. In forty years, he never missed a day of work.
What is even more amazing is that for many, many years he served as a bishop after those long hours at the plant. At age 70, he would drive to the Los Angeles Temple once a week to serve. It was over 100 miles round trip and a good three to four hours of driving. At the age of 78, he would go out at night with the missionaries at least once or twice a week. He was a great example of hard work and one who devoted himself to the Savior. He knew that "when you were in the service of your fellowmen you were only in the service of your God."
I will always remember him for his sense of humor. He once posed a question to me:
"Do you know how to become a millionaire?"
Of course, being a newlywed, I wanted to know the answer, and would anxiously ask:
He would then chuckle with that glimmer in his eye and say:
"Work a million hours!"
I laughed and then I calculated out his answer to get a better grasp on what that meant. A million hours is equivalent to 4,167 days or 114 years. It was then obvious that becoming a millionaire would require a lot of hard work. I then asked myself, when will I sleep?
Although a joke, it did teach a principle. "Nothing of value comes without time and effort."
I learned of work at an early age. Although I did not labor on the farm, I learned of the farm ethic. Although not awakened by a rooster, every Saturday I was startled by a the early morning reveille; "Get up! There is work to be done!" At the age of ten, I manicured three yards that were maintained weekly, a pool daily, two cars to clean in and out, shoes to polish, and a list that appeared endless (because it was). I can still hear my father's voice.
Those early Saturday mornings often lasted till dusk. By sixteen I started painting houses on my own in the summers, and the work schedule turned into days rather than hours. Demolishing buildings alone, hauling truckloads of trash to the dump, carrying lumber and drywall all day, digging trenches around houses, taught me "by the sweat my brow." I assumed the nick name of the "human forklift" or "the human ant." I became acquainted with physical labor so unfamiliar to the youth of our times.
After all my experience, I could never quite match a father who built his first car at sixteen, or a grandfather who was working on the railroads at fourteen years of age. But because of these fine men, a pattern of work was passed on to me. They implanted a work ethic which began in my youth and followed me into adulthood.
I recall my new bride accusing me of being "a man who did not know how to have fun." She would quote the saying; "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." I confess, I was a dull and boring boy, and worked all the time. Nevertheless, the virtues and traits developed through hard physical labor were engraved in my soul. They have benefited me, just as they did the prophets cited in this chapter.
The strength of character that is built through hard work cannot be achieved in any other way.
I have found that one who puts their faith in God, does all that they can, and works hard, will always have sufficient for their needs and that of their loved ones. With the help of God, and the right attitude, they can be self-reliant. There is a formula provided by King Benjamin that contains a promise to those who are willing to work:
Read: Mosiah 2:22, Mosiah 2:41
I stand in awe at the goodness of God, and how he is willing to extend His hand to help those who have properly prepared. Sometimes lessons must be learned first. As President Kimball would say, "faith precedes the miracle." I would like to add and share a very personal experience, where I learned some beautiful lessons of life.
For seven years, I had been praying about employment. Finally, I got my answer! I had worked in the brokerage industry for several years. I found myself disenchanted with the value system espoused in the great and spacious building in which I worked each day. Perhaps, I was a fish out of water. Being somewhat confident in my abilities, and discouraged with my employment, I left. To my surprise, I could not find a job. It was a difficult period. I found myself carrying a mortgage out of state, paying rent on another home, and no source of income. I was frugal and had a savings account that was beginning to disappear. I did not believe in welfare or unemployment. The worries grew and I continued to pray. For nearly two years I had no viable employment. I supported myself and a family of five with occasional odd jobs and painting houses, skills learned as a teenager.
One day feeling rather sorry for myself, and wondering what would be the plight of my family, I began to become very depressed. I prayed for answers. How could I continue to endure this trial and the others that seem to be emerging? (I did not know there would be more in my future which would even be greater.) Soon after that prayer, I called the first counselor in the bishopric feeling that I would focus on my church calling. This would help me to feel better.
He indicated that he had been praying to find someone to go with him to offer a health blessing to a brother in the hospital. I was willing. As we drove to the hospital, I learned that his friend suffered an accident. He was a self-employed contractor who was restoring a house. This brother had fallen through the roof and broken his neck. As we visited this brother with his head in a metal encasing, I noticed a family portrait of him, his wife, and six children. I wondered: "what would he do? Did he have insurance? How would he financially survive?"
As it turned out, he had previously been given a blessing so we decided just to visit with him. In our efforts to give comfort to him, the reverse was true. He comforted us. In those moments of enlightened conversation my problems seemed small. It was a life changing experience for me.
This good brother, as he laid stabilized and confined on his back made the comment, "This accident has been a great blessing in my life." My immediate thought was, "How could this be?" This humble husband and father proceeded to describe the love he felt from others, the faith that he had in God, and what he was learning from this experience.
I never saw that brother again, but the impression I felt has never left me for 25 years. I went home humbled and different. As soon as got home, I went to my room, knelt down on my knees, and with tears of humility I apologized to my Heavenly Father for my lack of faith. I would never complain of my life situations again. I would be grateful in hard times. My repentance opened my spiritual eyes. My prayers took on a different direction. I learned why my seven year prayer had not been answered. I learned where I had gone astray. I had not put my trust in God's will.
My prayers changed. Instead of asking for gainful employment of my own choosing, I ask the Lord to send me where I could be of service to Him. Soon, I found employment with new challenges in the banking industry. After 1,200 miles of travel, and hours of interviews, my prayers were answered. And, they were answered in ways I never would have expected. A door was opened in Yuba City, California.
I knew no one in that city so far away. I called the Stake President to see if he knew anyone that I could live with until I got situated. He called my Bishop to make sure I was legitimate. He then called me back a couple of weeks later, and indicated that Dorothy and Ivan Mitchell were willing to let me stay with them. They were so kind. I do not even remember if they charged me rent.
In their eighties, Ivan and Dorothy were the cutest senior couple. They were temple workers. Having both been widowed, they found each other and had only been married a couple of years. They were as sweet as sweet can be.
I called them, and in his loving and tender way, Ivan said; "We'll give you chance!"
Three weeks later, I called again to let them know, that I was on my way and would arrive in a few days. To my surprise, the phone conversation revealed that Dorothy had suffered a heart attack and was in the hospital. Ivan assured me that it was okay, that the room was ready and there would be no problem. I learned later that Ivan was frail and had fallen before Dorothy's spell.
Once again, my prayer was answered. "Lord, send me where I can best serve thee." I knew nobody in that city. I had no idea where I would live. There were no rental properties available, yet there was my job. For four months, I lived with this couple. I was blessed to help them everyday after I got off work. I would clean their house and yard, do their dishes, and anything to show my gratitude and appreciation. I became their caregiver in a time of need. We grew to be great friends. I loved them and considered them my adopted grandparents.
What was the miracle of these answered prayers? I was blessed to find work, and to serve where the Lord wanted me to serve. The Mitchells were blessed to find a caregiver. All were edified and blessed. The miracle of employment came after the trial of my faith, and only after I submitted my will to God's will.
In the LDS Church Hymn Book, page 270, there is a song, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" which has some touching counsel. Read it's lyrics! You can even play the song if you desire.
The personal story above is meant to encourage all of those who find themselves without work. I know with certainty that when we put our trust in God's will, ahead of our own, He will provide us with the experiences we need for our learning and benefit. As King Benjamin taught in the Book of Mormon:
Read: Mosiah 2:22, Mosiah 2:17
Work is a blessing. It is also a vital part of God's plan. On the Road to Exaltation there will be much work ahead. The mountain we climb will only be conquered by the "sweat of our brow."
Service provides a special blessing and promise. Performed in a way in which God has prescribed, one will never find himself wanting. We seek the kingdom of God through service to our fellowmen. Putting God first will assure that all of our temporal needs are met.
"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? . . . for your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."