In his general conference talk last weekend, President Russell M. Nelson said, “Please do the spiritual work to increase your capacity to receive personal revelation.”
This isn’t the first time President Nelson has asked us to do this, but something about this phrase—spiritual work—hit me differently. The natural man in me instantly thought, “Oh no. Work means effort, work is hard, work is arduous, work is exhausting.”
I was also very quickly reminded of the catchy tune from the 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “Whistle While You Work.”
Wondering if there were any other nuggets of wisdom in the song beyond the principle of “whistling while you work,” I looked up the lyrics, and one phrase at the end stood out to me: “When hearts are high, the time will fly, so whistle while you work.”
The idea that a song, a tune, or a whistle could lift my heart and lighten those exhausting, arduous parts of work was definitely appealing and made me wonder what I could do to “whistle” while I do the spiritual work President Nelson has asked of us.
In my exploration of this topic, I’ve learned that since we aren’t all in the same place spiritually, spiritual work also looks different for everyone, too. But here are a few resources I’ve found in the days since President Nelson’s talk that I personally hope to use in my efforts to incorporate spiritual work into what I’m already doing and make it more joyful.
Keep the Messages Close
In a recent Q&A, Sister Sheri Dew shared, “Every day, I’m listening to at least one conference talk or major address by a prophet, seer, and revelator. And I think it makes all the difference in the world to have those words constantly, daily, in my heart and mind. And over time, you just know. The Spirit keeps telling you over and over again, ‘That’s true. That’s true. That’s true. That’s true.’”
I’ve heard this advice for years now, and I’ve also heard of a hundred different ways to implement it. But until I did it myself, I didn’t get it.
For me, incorporating the words of Church leaders into my busy day has helped me be able to reprioritize and refocus. As I’m listening, regardless of the message being shared, the spirit in my home, car, or office often changes, or at the very least, my spirit is changed to a more peaceful, often more joyful, state of mind. It sounds trite but it’s true.
I’ve also been amazed at how often messages I’m only halfway listening to come up later in my mind as an answer to prayer or an anecdote to share with a loved one. Revisiting the messages of general conference has become something I honestly look forward to and a very joyful part of my gospel study.
Take a Pause
If I am overwhelmed, stressed, or burnt out, I’m not doing any kind of work—spiritual or otherwise! Instead I am spinning in circles, mentally stretched too thin, not making any kind of progress. And the tune I’m whistling primarily sounds like a pan flute of chaos, with no beat or rhythm whatsoever.
If I can take a minute (even if it is truly just sixty seconds) in prayer or scripture study or quiet pondering, I often find myself thinking: "Why am I flustered right now? Why am I stressed? Is this eternally important?" And simply taking a breath, noting my stress, and taking a step back often helps me put the mental load of worldly things off to the side for a moment and brings me more joy than just about anything else because I find myself feeling happier, more present with my family, more thoughtful of others, and more eternally grateful. And my spiritual work, along with my steady march down the covenant path, can resume.
Filling My Home And Our Routine With Things of a Spiritual Nature
I often sense anxiousness in parents over whether they’re doing enough to teach the gospel to their kids. And I’ve felt that too. But I have been able to find solace as I’ve seen the truly small and simple things—my son’s attendance in nursery and the surprising amount he remembers from those sweet teachers, reading gospel-themed books together, having photos of the Savior and the temple on the walls of our home, singing Primary songs before bed—that are helping those important gospel messages stick with him.
What seems like spiritual work now can become a natural part of our lives—much like how for many of us, attending Church is part of a routine. For example, if screen time is a part of your family’s regular routine, try swapping one 30-minute episode for a Friend-to-Friend devotional or a Book of Mormon Video. Or swap a tablet game for a Gospel for Kids app coloring book page.
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I believe that “doing the spiritual work” that President Nelson has asked of us does not have to be grandiose or “faster than we have strength.” I do believe it needs to be intentional, but I believe it can be joyful, too. I’ve felt deep joy when I see my little boy learn and share what he knows about the plan of salvation, Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly Father. I’ve found joy when I have taken the opportunity to look beyond my own needs and serve others on both sides of the veil. I’ve had life-altering, precious, joyful moments in the temple. And looking back, all of that joy has been a result of effort. It has all come from work!
And as President Nelson mentioned, the ultimate payoff for this work—the capacity to receive personal revelation—is also incredibly appealing and should help motivate us to start working, but in case you need an extra boost, remember you can always whistle while you work and you might just find your heart lifted.
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