Sunday, May 20, 2007

Work

Work is a gift from our loving Heavenly Father who currently works with His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. (Moses 1:39). And since the Fall, work has been a part of life on Earth. Adam and Eve, who had been accustomed to eating the fruits of the Garden of Eden without effort, were cast out to till the soil and tend flocks. For them, survival required work. But work does more than sustain the physical needs of mortality: It is a means through which we grow spiritually and bless others. In fact, the most important work we can do, the work within our own homes, is an unpaid position and can be very expensive.

Just as an unexercised muscle atrophies, so does an unworked soul. Idleness shrinks us as people; thus, we must be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" to prevent littleness of soul. (D&C 58:27). And we grow in proportion to the degree of effort required by our work.

Also, we cannot forget that growing pains always accompany work-induced growth.

In my life, the times of greatest growth have also been the times of greatest exertion and pain. As a missionary, I awoke at 6:30 a.m., studied for two-and-one half hours, spent at least ten hours in the streets and homes of Ecuador, and was in bed by 10:30 p.m. just to do the same thing the next day. More often than not, I met with rejection and heartache and was left to trust in the Lord and have faith that someone would listen to my message.

I recall a young couple whom my companion and I approached in the street. We introduced ourselves as missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and offered to share the message of the Restored Gospel and that through Jesus Christ our families can be eternal. They listened politely, for a moment, and gave us their address so we could stop by. We left them a pamphlet and continued contacting others along the road. After a few hours, we walked near where we had contacted the couple to find their pamphlet tossed apathetically in the road.

But the rejection of a first encounter does not compare to when a family tells you to stop coming back to their home. For example, in Cayambe, I met Edwin and Lourdes Maygua, a young couple with two children. On our second visit with them, I asked Edwin, "Do you know the Book of Mormon is true?"

He paused for a moment, then replied, "Yes."

I was shocked: no one had ever learned of the truth of the Book of Mormon after only one visit. I asked Edwin how he knew.

"I read the chapter I said I would, and I prayed. After I did, I felt something I had never felt before. This book is true."

In missionary parlance, this was a "golden" couple. I could see him and Lourdes dressed in white for their baptisms and for the day they would enter into the temple to be sealed to each other and to their children for all eternity. But our following visits never lived up to the first two, and after a few weeks, Edwin and Lourdes told us to never come back.

That was the longest walk back to my apartment I have ever had. The skies seemed black and the stars veiled. It's been a long time since I hurt that bad.

Rejection and frustration filled the final year of my two-year mission. And I only witnessed two people join the Church as the result of my efforts. But near the end of my mission, as I sat in my apartment sorrowing, I felt immersed in the power of God, and I knew more powerfully than ever that Jesus is the Christ, the living Son of the living God and His Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My mission was hard, but I would go back in a heartbeat. For without it, I would not be the man I am today.

Today, I find myself amidst another trying, work-filled undertaking: law school. And to aggravate things, I'm a student at the Marine Corps of law schools, Baylor. But for you to understand my struggles and growth as a law student, you need to know how a Mormon farm boy from rural Utah ended up at Baylor Law School:

I graduated from BYU in the spring of 2004 with a degree in History and dreams of becoming a published writer. As a new father, I was anxious to find a job to support my wife and daughter. But despite my 3.93 GPA and Magna Cum Laude honors, no one wanted me, not even for an interview. And I was willing to work anywhere.

After four months of unemployment and living in my wife's grandmother's basement. I was distraught, depressed, and flabbergasted that no one wanted me. After hours of prayer for guidance and speaking with my dad about what I should do, Dad asked if I had considered studying law. I hadn't. But after our talk, I couldn't put it out of my mind. I kept returning to it over and over until my wife and I decided our next step in life would be to go to law school.

Within two weeks, I had a job as a bank teller.

But we continued to make plans for law school: I would go to the University of Utah or BYU so we could stay close to home. But just in case, I applied to several other schools in the inter-mountain region. Still the Lord had other things in mind for me.

And by the time I was done applying, I hadn't even thought of Baylor Law School. But a letter from Baylor came, encouraging me to apply and offering to waive the application fee. I had nothing to lose so I sent an application.

By this time, I decided BYU was our best option, and when I received my acceptance letter from them, I sent them notice of my intent to enroll. Then the letter from Baylor arrived with an offer which forced us to reconsider our decision.

After hours of prayer, heartache, and meditation in the Temple, my wife and I knew we were needed in Waco.

And I am sure our life here and my experience at Baylor Law school are much harder than they would have been had we stayed in Utah. My first quarter was awful, especially when I realized that I could not see myself at a law firm whose only purpose was to make money.

During one especially challenging day, I sat through Civil Procedure listening to how the professor could compute forty percent of any number in seconds without a calculator. And I decided I was done. I had not felt better in weeks.

When I went home, I triumphantly announced my decision to my wife. She broke down. "We prayed about this, and it's right. We left our families and came all this way, and even if you never practice one day as an attorney, I know this is where the Lord wants us to be."

Her faith kept me in law school.

Then I discovered criminal law, and the Lord's plan unfolded itself a little more: He wanted me to be a prosecutor. And little by little, I started enjoying myself. In hindsight, the Lord really does know what He's doing, especially since the only criminal classes BYU and Utah offer are Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure while Baylor offers Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Advanced Criminal Procedure, Criminal Practice and Procedure, Juvenile Justice, Appeals and Habeas, Sentencing, White Collar Crime, internships with the district attorney's office, and the opportunity to receive a concentration in Criminal Law.

I will be much better prepared to be a prosecutor when I graduate from Baylor than I would have been upon graduating from BYU or the University of Utah.

This fall, the challenge of Practice Court with its severe growing pains awaits me. With great trepidation and anxiety, all I can do is trust the Lord that He will be with me and help me through the process. And I know He will: He hasn't forsaken me yet; why would He during the most difficult stretch of Law School, especially at a Law School He selected for me?

But I don't expect my growth to end upon graduation. A prosecutor has more power to work good in society than any other type of attorney. Yet I expect to meet frustration and sorrow. And I'm sure I'll wonder, like I did as a missionary, whether I'm making any difference. Yet despite the difficulty of the task, I will continue to work.

And as a prosecutor, I hope to bless the lives of others. Several weeks ago, during finals weeks, I asked my friend, Sean, to bless me by the power of the Priesthood. During this blessing, Sean prophesied that my work as a prosecutor will have a great effect on the community where the Lord has prepared for me to go, and even some of those whom I prosecute will thank me in some future time for my work.

Still my discussion on work would not be complete without mentioning the most difficult job anyone can have, that of a Mother. The job of a Mother requires long hours, high stress, and no pay. It's exhausting, and I speak from experience. When my son was born, I took over as the mother of my daughter while my wife and my son were in the hospital.
After two days of running around and doing what my wife does every day with our daughter, I was thankful when my in-laws flew in from Utah. The day after they arrived, I sat in the chair next to my wife's bed at the hospital, leaned back my head, and took a five-hour nap.

Law school is easy compared to Motherhood!

Thus, work with its accompanying growing pains is vital for our growth as human beings. As we dedicate ourselves, our growth bleeds over into the lives of others, and we become the means of blessing the lives of countless others, many of whom we will not know until after this life is over.
And notwithstanding its difficulty, we must never shrink from work.

3 comments:

avacadojer said...

My Baptist friends often laugh when I tell them I feel called to be a lawyer. Then they look at me funny when I suggest that family law may be the direction he has for me. I'm glad that despite some of our vast theological differences, we can agree on something so practical as being called to our profession.

OsoDelSol said...

Let's not say the "PC"-word....

AZ Public Defender said...

A wise man once told me that even if work is not a temporal necessity, it is still a spiritual necessity. The soul just rots away when it isn't working.