Honorable Employment

During the 1970s and early 80s, the Church held a welfare session occasionally during general conference. Many of the talks were about specific programs or organizations that are no longer relevant. But during the October 1975 conference, President Howard W. Hunter spoke about principles relating to toil and employment that are universal in their application.

I particularly liked his definition of “honorable employment”:

“Now, may we refer specifically to vocational work or employment. The employment we choose should be honorable and challenging. Ideally, we need to seek that work to which we are suited by interest, by aptitude, and by training. A man’s work should do more than provide adequate income; it should provide him with a sense of self-worth and be a pleasure—something he looks forward to each day.

May I suggest a definition of “honorable employment.” Honorable employment is honest employment. Fair value is given and there is no defrauding, cheating, or deceit. Its product or service is of high quality, and the employer, customer, client, or patient receives more than he or she expected. Honorable employment is moral. It involves nothing that would undermine public good or morality. For example, it does not involve traffic in liquor, illicit narcotics, or gambling. Honorable employment is useful. It provides goods or services which make the world a better place in which to live. Honorable employment is also remunerative. It provides enough income so that we may be self-sufficient and able to support our families, while leaving us enough time free to be good fathers and church workers.

I love that President Hunter emphasized that labor should ideally fill us “with a sense of self-worth and be a pleasure” rather than a toil. So many people find work that they can hardly tolerate. I feel especially lucky to be a lawyer and to involved in a profession that keeps me intellectually stimulated and allows me to feel like I can make a real difference in the world. President Hunter’s talk inspires me to try to find the most satisfying work that I can, rather than to be involved in a grind for billable hours.

Work should also leave us with enough time to spend with our families and on church callings. That balance gets harder and harder in the modern world. Technology has made greater and greater demands on our time. We may not always be so lucky. But we certainly should try to strike the proper balance in our lives.

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