Labor or Leisure? Which Is Our Prime Goal?

June 28, 2021

On a recent walk, I looked up the street and saw a boy perhaps nine years old trying to wrestle a trash container from the curb to its usual resting spot near his house. The boy was perhaps a foot shorter than the container, making the task far more difficult than it would have been for an average full-grown adult. As I moved toward the boy’s house on my walk, I watched him try to pull the container over the lip of his driveway, only to have the bin tip over on its side.

To me, it would have been an easy matter to pull the container upright again. But for the boy, the task was Herculean, and I watched him struggle mightily to lift the bin. He tried and failed over and over again, despite approaching the problem from various angles.

My first impulse was to be a good Samaritan and help him out. I approached him, saying, “Need some help?”

“No,” he replied firmly. “I got it.”

Thinking he might just be embarrassed, I almost reached down anyway to pick it up for him. But a voice in my head said, “If you do that, you will deny the boy an opportunity to grow from struggling.”

Heeding the prompting, I simply walked on by. When I got perhaps fifty feet beyond the boy and his bin, I heard a triumphant yell and turned around to see him smiling with the now upright container next to him.

The experience made me think of how often parents give their children tasks that stretch them so they can grow. Parents who spare their children difficult work, on the other hand, nurture a dependence in them from which they may never escape.

And so it seems to be with our Heavenly Parents. They allow us to struggle so we can grow. In the Book of Mormon, for example, the penitent Enos had to “wrestle . . . before God” (Enos 1:2) and pray “with many long strugglings” (Enos 1:11) to get the answers he needed. Enos recorded, “After I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith” (Enos 1:12).

Earlier in that same book of scripture, Nephi and his brothers needed to build a boat so they could reach the Promised Land. Nephi worked diligently, while his brothers Laman and Lemuel “were desirous that they might not labor” (1 Nephi 17:11). When they reached the Promised Land, Nephi taught his people “to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (2 Nephi 5:17). In contrast, his rebellious brothers and their associates “did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” (2 Nephi 5:24).

Which path do we follow? Is our main goal in life to pursue pleasure and leisure and to avoid the hard things that advance God’s work? Or are we committed to join in God’s “work and . . . glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), however difficult that might be?

Credit for image at top of page: Stock photo from

Author: Richard E. Turley Jr.

Richard E. Turley Jr. served for twenty-two years as managing director of the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and eight years as Assistant Church Historian and Recorder. He also served as managing director of the Family History, Public Affairs, and Church Communication Departments.

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