White Bar
Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional
October 12, 2010 
  
 
 
"Making a Living and a Life"
Elder Lynn G. Robbins
First Quorum of the Seventy 

  

Elder Lynn G. Robbins photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

“In the beginning”...when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, the Lord told Adam that he would thereafter “eat bread in the sweat of [his] face” (Genesis 3:19).  Adam really had only one choice as to his life’s work – he “began to till the earth . . .” we are told in Moses 5:1.  He clearly had some challenges that you and I have not had to face.  However, his work environment did have some advantages.  Among others, he was able to set his own hours and approve his own sick leave and vacation time and he could not be fired.

 

He was not tempted by Jones’ law, either,  which states that our needs are determined by what our neighbor has. Without neighbors there were no property line disputes.  There was no coveting or jealousy, or envy, or selfishness or any of the sins that come with competition and comparison. 

 

In fact, Satan had very little to work with – there were very few sins with which he could tempt Adam and Eve.  Think about it – if you were the first man or woman what could he tempt you with?  Stealing? – no -- from whom?  Coveting – no.  Envy?—no.  Gossiping? – impossible – think about it.  Living beyond one’s means? – also impossible.  When you reflect on it, most serious sins involve others and would not become a possibility for Satan until the human race began to multiply and he could use competition and comparisons to appeal to the pride of men.

 

In President Ezra Taft Benson’s classic talk Beware of Pride he said that “pride (the universal sin) is essentially competitive in nature . . .The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: ‘Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. . .’ (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.) . . . Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. This is the enmity of pride.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4)

 

The competition that Satan was so anxiously awaiting could not take place until Adam and Eve began to multiply and replenish the earth.  When it finally did happen, it was in the work place and in the acquiring of material possessions where it occurred. It was here that he claimed Cain as his first victim as Cain fell prey to the Master Mahan principle “that I may murder and get gain” (Moses 5:31).  

 

The acquiring of wealth and material possessions would become Satan’s most fertile ground, tempting mankind with the cunning strategy that this world is our destiny and that anything and everything in this world is available for money. 

 

Working in this world to make a living was part of the Lord’s plan for His children, not just to survive, but to see how we would get along with others in making that living – to see if we would be honest in our dealings with our fellowmen.   Satan quickly recognized the work environment as a strategic setting to stir up all manner of sin, including covetousness, jealousies, self-indulgence, living beyond one’s means, anger, contention in marriages, infidelity, greed and envy, selfishness, even theft and murder. 

 

Motives in the work place 

Here at BYU Idaho you are learning, not only how to make a living, but more importantly, how to make a good and honest living.  Your mid-term tests and final exams are indicators of your progress in preparing for a profession, but they pale in comparison and importance to the celestial tests the Lord will be monitoring as He observes your daily behavior in your dealings with your fellowmen. What you do to make a living, or how many dollars you earn, aren’t nearly as important to the Lord as whether you:  

  •   Are building His kingdom including strong and valiant families.
  • Are honest in your dealings with your fellowmen and using your God-given talents in their service; 
  • and if you are filling your life with good works, that positively impact your community and world.

         

In Charles Dicken’s classic story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes an amazing transformation, from a ruthless money lender, to a caring and charitable businessman and philanthropist.  As his motives evolve in the story, transforming him from a cruel and stingy miser to a compassionate member of his community, we witness a marvelous impact on him and others that touches us profoundly.

 

 

 

The motives that drive people are the hinges upon which major outcomes swing.

In making a living, the Lord identified two opposite motivators – God and mammon.   We know that money itself is not evil; in fact, it represents “the sweat of our face” – a commandment of the Lord.  Mammon goes beyond money to “the love of money” and is referred to as “the root of all evil” we read in 1 Tim. 6:10. 

 

I want to share some illustrations of the interplay between a love of God and our fellowmen on the one hand, and the need to make a living on the other.  There are several combinations of these two motives which, for demonstration purposes, I will give the following grades:   

 

Grade

Primary Motivation

Secondary Motivation

A

 Love of God and fellowmen ©

Income  $

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A- Level     

At the A-level, The Lord established the correct order with priorities as we read in Jacob 2:18-19,, “Before you seek for riches, seek the kingdom of God.  And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good . . .”  At this level the primary motivation is a love of God and our fellowmen.  Of necessity, there is a secondary motivation to earn a living. 

 

If a love of God and fellowmen is the primary motivation, then the working man or woman will be a kingdom builder and a full-tithe payer. They will have a “zeal towards their fellow men . . . and will be perfectly honest and upright in all things” (Alma27:27).  As a laborer they will be “worthy of their hire” (Luke 10:7).  As an employer they will give a “just recompense of wages,” (D&C 124:121).  They will be a beloved employer and endeavor to help, not only their customers, but also their employees and community. They will have a baker’s dozen mentality with superior customer service. Sometimes this person will even render service at no charge to help someone in need, such as those doctors who travel to Third-world countries to help the disadvantaged.  Their products and services are of the highest quality. 

 

Those at the A-level aren’t working for mankind, but living for mankind, trying to lift and help others.  In addition to making a living, they are making a life.  They have a different vision than those at lower levels.  Because of their love for their fellowmen, they define their business in terms of customers’ needs, such as a builder of homes rather than merely a brick mason.   At levels B through D, business is usually defined in terms of products and services rather than customers’ needs

 

Grade

Primary Motivation

Secondary Motivation

A

 Love of God and fellowmen  ©

Income  $

B

 Money  $

Love of fellowmen  ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B- Level     

A love of God can only exist at the A-level, since the person who loves God would always put Him first, not being able to serve two masters.  At the B-level, the primary motivation is money, but there is still a love of fellowmen and a genuine desire to provide good products and services to customers.  This could even be an A-level person or company who has been sidetracked by the world.  It is difficult for a company which goes public to remain at the A-level.  The pressure on the board of directors and corporate officers to increase the value of the stock is so great that many lose sight of the A-level vision that helped them achieve their success in the first place.  Concern for the stockholder and the bottom line will almost always force an “A” company to the B-level and sometimes lower. 

 

Grade

Primary Motivation

Secondary Motivation

A

 Love of God and fellowmen  ©

Income  $

B

 Money  $

Love of fellowmen  ©

C

 Love of money   $

Indifferent to clients or customers

 

 

 

 

C- Level     

At the C- level, the “love of money” is the only motivator.  The businessman or woman engineers minimal quality, or the appearance of quality, into their products and services so that they may be competitive and survive, but look for the cheapest ways to produce, without any true concern for their customer. Their personal integrity is compromised as they begin to engage in dishonest practices, such as deceptive advertising and meaningless guarantees.  The customer is often considered a nuisance when problems arise and usually neglected so that the businessman or woman can be on to a new customer.  Since the business already has its profit, they are slow to respond to customers with complaints.  You’ve probably had a “C” company sell you something and then not service it afterward, which not only frustrated you, but caused you to lose any loyalty whatsoever to that company.  You’ll never shop there again.

 

Grade

Primary Motivation

Secondary Motivation

A

 Love of God and fellowmen  ©

Income  $

B

 Money  $

Love of fellowmen ©

C

 Love of money  $

Indifferent to clients or customers

D

 Filthy Lucre   $

Harmful to clients and customers

 

 

D- Level     

At the D-level, the unwary are more victims than customers.  Once again the motivation is the love of money, but this time at the peril of the customer, who will be harmed and maybe even injured or killed.  Profits at this level are known as “filthy lucre.”

 

“Filthy Lucre,” President Spencer W. Kimball said, “is that had through sin or sinful operations and that which comes from the handling of liquor, beer, narcotics and those many other things which are displeasing in the sight of the Lord. . . those who deal in the forbidden are recipients of filthy lucre.”  (Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide 1984, p. 84)

  

This is the category of which the Doctrine and Covenants warned, “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you . . .” (D&C 89:4)     

 

In addition to those things mentioned by President Kimball, we would also include tobacco, pornography, prostitution, and gambling, etc.  While some of these things may be legal, they can still be unhealthy, immoral and maybe even lethal.  In his insightful book Winners Never Cheat, Elder Jon M. Huntsman writes, “Cigarettes are an example of a legal product that, when used as directed, causes death.  Tobacco companies cloak their consciences with the simplistic observation that no one forces people to smoke."  (Winners Never Cheat by Jon M. Huntsman, p 75)

 

No profession is exempt from Satan’s influence. 

The interesting insight with this model is that all professions, businesses, and services can be found at all levels or grades A - D. 

 

There are A-level accountants and there are D-level accountants.  The D-level accountant cooks the books, which occurred at ENRON and WorldCom where dishonest business practices eventually caused the business to collapse.  Their focus was on the bottom line at the peril of their customers and shareholders.  

 

There are A-level bankers and D-level bankers. 

 

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, Bailey’s Savings and Loan is an A-level bank with a love of their fellowmen and a genuine desire to help families get out of the low quality housing in Potter’s Field and into a respectable home of their own. 

 

 

Potter, on the other hand, was a ruthless and uncaring man who thought nothing of stealing the $8,000 that Uncle Billy misplaced in a rolled- up newspaper while making a deposit.

 

 

At one point in the movie, Potter makes George an offer he can’t refuse, to come and work for Potter at many times the income George is currently making, including some very attractive benefits.  One of those benefits was George’s dream --to travel.   George is momentarily mesmerized by the offer, and then realizes he is being offered a job with a D-level employer.  Upset with himself for even considering the offer, he calls Mr. Potter, “Nothing but a scurvy little spider” (which is a good description for a D-level person) and walks out.  

 

 In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge made the transformation from a ruthless D-level lender as the story begins, including a total disregard for his fellowmen and a desire to “decrease the surplus population,” to an A-level gentleman as the story concludes.

 

One reason you occasionally hear jokes about attorneys is because people often consider it a profession that rarely transcends the D-level. Those at this level were referred to as “cunning” in The Book of Mormon. (See Alma 10:15) While it is true that there are lawyers at the D-level, there are many who are or have been A-level -- Howard W. Hunter, James E. Faust, Dallin H. Oaks, Quentin L Cook,  D. Todd Christofferson, to name a few.  One reason the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, has become one of the all time literary classics is because of the inspirational example of an A-level attorney, Atticus Finch.

 

Another profession, which people tend to place in the D category by nature, is politicians.  You can think of several D-level politicians right now, as there are many to choose from throughout the world. 

 

The A-level politicians are men like King Benjamin and Mosiah from the Book of Mormon, or George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from our history books.  For these men money was not their primary motivator, but actually risked their own fortunes defending their country.  They were true patriots, whose primary motivation was a love of God, their fellowmen and their country.

 

What about teachers?  It is only fair that they should receive the same grades that they give their students.  The best teachers get an A.  They are often voted “Teacher of the Year.”  D-level teachers are biding their time until retirement.  They don’t really care for the children in their class and can even damage or destroy a child’s self-worth by labeling him, calling him names and publicly ridiculing him.  

 

At our local grade school the vast majority of our childrens’ teachers have been at the A and B-level.  However, in two different years, two of our children were placed in classes with D-level teachers.  The D-nature of each teacher manifested itself quite quickly.  It was clear that these teachers did not like teaching and did not like children, often doing cruel things to them.  My wife is intolerant of “C” and “D” level teachers assigned to our children.  When the principal would not or could not move our children to another classroom and teacher, my wife pulled the children out of the school and placed them in a distant school less convenient to our family.  The inconvenience of driving them to the other school was a small price to pay for the life-impacting benefits gained from the better teachers that our children received, in those instances.

  

How about carpenters?   Have you ever purchased anything made by a “C” or “D” level carpenter?   What was the product like?  Do you still have it, or did you have to get rid of it because of poor quality?   What kind of carpenter do you think Brigham Young was?  Or the carpenter from Nazareth?

 

 An A-level store owner gives, in the Savior’s words, a “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38), while the D-level store owner uses “a false balance” (Proverbs 11:1) tipped in his favor. 

 

Even for the respected industry of medicine, there are doctors at the A-level and there are doctors at the  D-level.  A D-level doctor is one who will selfishly perform unnecessary operations to satisfy his greed, or those who have signed up with rogue Internet pharmacies and prescribe dangerous drugs to people they have not examined. (See “The Pill Peddlers, Reader’s Digest, Oct. 2004, 141)

 

 

 

The Golden Rule – a Principle of Happiness and Success

 

Sometimes we hear stories of a D-level person who is not playing by the rules and appears to be prospering and out-performing those who are playing by the rules, almost as if they had an unfair advantage. In such cases we feel a sense of injustice and frustration, as noted in this quote from Jeremiah 12:1,

 “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?  Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?”                                                                  

  

Appearances can be deceiving.  It may seem that the wicked are prosperous and happy, but we know that “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) Given 20 more years, who do you think the customers will naturally gravitate to, George Bailey or Mr. Potter?  Who will be most successful over the long run with the greatest customer loyalty? 

 

The most basic of all marketing principles is to give the customer what he or she wants and deserves.  It is a principle that was taught by the Savior which we know as the golden rule, “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets”  (3 Ne. 14:12).   Many businesses forget that principle.  Some cut corners and produce inferior products.  Some are guilty of price fixing.  Some are guilty of deceptive advertising.  These and many other strategies are the ways Satan tempts men to serve mammon.  The following are some important questions to ask of everyone in the workforce: 

  •  
    • Do you give an honest day’s work for your pay?
    • Are you loyal to your employer?
    • Are you honest with the customers?
    • Are your products and service of the highest quality? 
    • Do you charge fair prices?
    • Are you concerned for the welfare of your employees? 

 

Scrooge finally started paying Bob Cratchet a fair wage and providing comfortable working conditions.

 

Referring once again to the book, Winners never Cheat, Elder Huntsman referred to a Wall Street Journal report which ranked attributes that recruiters looked for in hiring new personnel.  He noted that the three highest ranking traits were Christ-like attributes—Interpersonal skills, an ability to work well within a team, and personal integrity.  “Curiously,” he said, “work experience and strategic thinking were in the middle of the list of the 20 most desired traits for new hires.”  (Winners never Cheat by Jon M. Huntsman, p 91-92)  As the world becomes increasingly more wicked it will become more and more difficult to find people of integrity.  I believe the search for people of integrity  is already drawing more and more recruiters to BYU-Idaho.  You are a rare and highly prized commodity.

 

Three Helpful Principles:

Some decisions that face members of the Church are not always easy or clear. 

Here are three helpful principles to help you make A-level choices.

 

Can you ask the Lord’s blessings with a clear conscience?  We learn in Alma 34:24-25 that you can pray for success in your labors -- “over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them. . . over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.”  The Church Handbook of Instruction  teaches us that “Members of the Church should endeavor to be involved in activities and employment upon which they can conscientiously ask the blessings of the Lord and which are consistent with the principles of the gospel and the teachings of the Savior.”  (Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1 2006, p. 179)

 

When questionable products or services are involved, is the person’s involvement direct or indirect?  Can an A-level grocer, for example, sell coffee and tea to those customers who know nothing of the Word of Wisdom and for whom it would not be a sin?  The grocer might do so at the request of his customers to meet their demands when he clearly would never produce coffee himself.  His involvement is indirect. 

 

Does the product or service hurt society?    Some products and services may be detrimental to the individual while others damage the community.  Coffee and tea, for example, would be products that have individual consequences. Alcohol and pornography, however, have proven to also have community consequences.  Alcohol has resulted in traffic accidents and domestic violence; pornography has led to divorce and broken homes, pedophilia, rape, murder, etc.  “Pornography damages individual lives, families, and society . . . Church members should . . . oppose its production, dissemination, and use.” (Emphasis added, Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1 2010, 166)         

          

An A-level company feels a community responsibility that goes beyond respecting individual agency or rights and customer demands.  

 

Years ago, while on a stake visit, President Kimball interviewed a brother who was a grocer by trade.  I quote President Kimball,

“What do you sell in this store?’ . . . ‘Groceries and miscellaneous merchandise.’  ‘Your competitors sell other things including forbidden things, do they not?’  I asked.  ‘Yes, but we have felt it was not right. . . We lost trade, of course.  People leave our store and go to the other store and buy many dollar’s worth of groceries where they can get a few cans of beer or some wine, but we do not sell it.’  And I could not refrain from saying, ‘God bless you, my faithful brother. . . . Your dollars are clean.’”  (Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide 1984, p. 84)

 With these additional thoughts, we can add one more level to the model which we will label “F”.   

 

Grade

Primary Motivation

Secondary Motivation

A

 Love  ©

Income  $

B

 Money  $

Love  ©

C

 Love of money  $

Indifferent to customers

D

 Filthy Lucre   $

Harmful to customers

F

 Filthy Lucre

Harmful to customers and to society, nations destroyed.

 

F Level  

At this level are the unscrupulous individuals and companies whose involvement is ‘direct’ and whose primary business damages or destroys society. 

 

What about those whose involvement in F-level products and services is not direct, nor is it their primary business, such as a grocer who sells beer and wine or pornographic magazines fearing he will lose business if doesn’t provide it?  Because his primary business and motivation is good, he may not be at the D or F-level, but due to his disregard for principle #3 above, and as an abettor of the forbidden, he is now excluded from the A category as that level has been compromised. 

 

Many at the F-level were identified earlier at the D-level, but may actually fit better at this level because of their negative impact on communities and nations.  At this level, we also find the parasites of society, those who don’t contribute, but only take -- organized crime, con artists, internet scams, Ponzi schemes, etc.  At this level, you have murder and elimination of competition.  It is at this level where secret combinations operate, like the Gadiantons who destroyed both the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations and according to Moroni will be a very real threat in our day. (see Ether 8:24.)  These are they who by secret design and murder place their friends on the “judgment seats” of the world --dictators and tyrants who destroy nations. The Apostle Paul referred to such individuals as “rulers of the darkness of this world.” (Ephesians 6:12)

 

Some at this level, like purveyors of pornography, justify their wares based upon law and legality.  Will freedom of speech protect pornography in the New Jerusalem?  Absurd!   The phrases, “Pro-choice” and “Freedom of Speech” when promoted by Satan, are really evil euphemisms masquerading as good – a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing  who is demanding to dine with the sheep. 

 

A-level and a Zion Society

 

Speaking of the New Jerusalem and life in the millennium, work in a Zion society will be guided by the law of consecration and having all things in common.  Because the earth has ‘enough and to spare’ there will be no unemployment in the millennium.  The great millennial motivators will be the first two great commandments, a love of God and a love of fellowmen.  It was these same A-level motivators that resulted in the great prosperity and happiness enjoyed in both the City of Enoch and with the Nephites for 200 years following the Savior’s visit to them.  One way to prepare for future life in the millennial day is to make sure our motives and behavior are at the A-level today.

 

President Benson mentioned that, “It was essentially the sin of pride that kept us from establishing Zion in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was the same sin of pride that brought consecration to an end among the Nephites. (See 4 Ne. 1:24–25)    

Pride seduces a person from the A-level to the B-level or lower.  It would be difficult, if not impossible, for a proud person to remain at the A-level, because of the “enmity” he has towards his fellowmen men, citing Pres. Benson. (ibid)   This enmity is opposite the love of God and our fellowmen which is the first motivator at the A-level.

 

Conclusion

A common and recurring nightmare for many people is to suddenly realize they have forgotten to attend class all semester, and it is now time for the final exam.  In the dream, they are panic stricken wondering how they could have ever been so absent-minded, with no time remaining to turn in assignments or to cram for the imminent final exam.  They are grateful to awaken in the morning and realize it was only a dream. 

  

This dream has a parallel.  For many it will be a nightmare come true, when at judgment day, they realize they neglected the most important class of their life and are totally unprepared for the ultimate of all final exams. Alma forewarned of the nightmare when he asked, “can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance . . . ? (Alma 5:18)   

 

In A Christmas Carol, Marley is living this nightmare, bound in the chains he “forged in life, link by link.”  He vocalizes the nightmare, in response to a comment made by Scrooge, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.”  “Business!” cried Marley, . . . “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! . . . Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?  Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”   (The Annotated Christmas Carol, ed. Michael Patrick Hearn (1976), 79)

 
 
 
 
 

I mentioned your mid-term tests and final exams as indicators of your progress in preparing for a profession, but said they pale in comparison and importance to the celestial tests the Lord will be monitoring as He observes your daily behavior in your dealings with your fellowmen.  In your pursuit of an income, may you remember, as Marley stated, that mankind is your true business.  You should be congratulated if you earn “A” grades here at BYU-Idaho, but they are meaningless if you don’t achieve the more important “A” grade in life.  The Savior is your example in becoming an A-level individual. 

 

In conclusion, may each of you be guided by the Spirit in all your employment decisions -- in finding A-level employment and in being an A-level employee, yourself.  May you each use your God-given talents in the service of your fellowmen and making your communities and world a better place to live.

 

I bear my testimony of the Savior and his perfect example.  His desire is for you to be happy and successful -– and to make both a living and a life.  He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10)  He cares for you and will bless you as you follow true and correct principles, I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Images: 

Still images from A Christmas Carol (Renown Pictures Ltd. 1951) courtesy of VCI Entertainment.

It's a Wonderful Life @1947, Republic Entertainment . Republic Pictures and It's a Wonderful Life are registered Trademarks. All Rights Reserved. Licensed through Paramount Pictures.