As mentioned recently, I’m going to publish these in big batches just to have them available in the archives but without expecting any discussion. Please scroll down Keepa’s front page to find today’s usual posts.
For links to other parts of this series, see this chart.
For a statement on the unofficial nature (i.e., personal interpretation for discussion purposes, not necessarily representative of church doctrine) of these lessons, see this notice.
PROBLEMS OF THE AGE
Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.
By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner
VI. – Conservation of Life
Life’s Mission. As a definition of the purpose of all life, we may say that its mission is to live, produce its kind, and die. There is nothing in such a definition to explain a multitude of attributes and peculiarities of human life; but out of the three duties, to live, to produce our kind, and to die, may develop the secondary functions of our being. Our duty to live is what in this chapter we may term the “conservation of life.” whatever robs us of our vital powers, our ability to live, takes from us so much of our designated mission in the world. We have no right to assume that it is all right if we continue indifferent to our existence, for our existence is tied up with the existence of others. We are part of an organized life. We belong to a class of social beings who have a united mission in the world, that can be accomplished in keeping with the Divine purposes only as we protect our bodies and fit them for a sound and long life – the life allotted to man.
The Interdependence of Life. – There is a relationship in all living things that is frequently overlooked when our duty to life in different aspects is considered. Man in the Garden of Eden was commanded to till the earth. In other words, he was to promote life both in the animal and in the vegetable kingdoms. That was a part of his duty, and that duty is just as pronounced today as it was then. In order that our lives may become as full and as complete as God intended them, we must strive to bring ourselves in harmony with all life, not merely with the life of human beings. The man who cultivates a blade of grass, who promotes life in its simplest form in the vegetable kingdom, promotes likewise his own life. He makes his own life better than the man who stands aloof, who says, “It is not my business to cultivate the soil; it is not my business to encourage growth, except within my own body.” And although the shepherd, the peasant, have in all ages stood at the bottom of the social scale, they have had about them qualities of endurance that have made them survive through all conditions of social life.
A sturdy peasantry, a country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be revived.
Life a Religious Duty. – The Latter-day Saints, in settling the valleys of the mountains, were called to a rural life. Their earliest teachings portrayed superior advantages of man’s intimate communication with nature, that was both to live and help live; and therefore, he was instructed in the religion of good farming, of progressive animal industry. He was building up a new communion of life. Because the sermons of those days took on the practical character of men’s daily life, they were ridiculed as being devoid of spirituality, whereas man’s spiritual powers are enriched by his association with nature, by his companionship with those forms of life which God created in the beginning for his sustenance.
Our Duties under a More Complex Life. – As we have progressed in a material way, there has grown up among us a large so-called middle-class, men whose duties keep them from the intimate association with nature which they formerly enjoyed. The new life, however, does not relieve them of the duties that belong to our duties in the world. It is always a helpful sign when merchants, mechanics, manufacturers, feel a love for the soil, plan the growth of living things, and look to the soil for an enjoyment that society does not give. We have perverted our lives through social ambitions, when we should have striven to become producers, and thus take part in the conservation of life.
Conservation of life here does not mean simply that we are to save our own bodies, that we are to make them strong and healthy merely; while it does include these duties, it has a higher meaning, a meaning of a Celestial character. If we may farm on a larger scale, well and good. If circumstances prevent it, we may raise a garden or work in an orchard; but no matter how humble our circumstances in life, we are never so poor that there may not be a charm of life about our home, and the cascade of flowers that hangs about the window. There is something in the growth of living things that makes for higher morality and greater worldly efficiency. So we are called to promote life in some form, and he who feels merely the sensation of his own living without enjoying the touch of life that God has given about him can never be the highest conservator of human progress.
Our Children’s Lives. – It is our duty not alone to conserve our own lives but to conserve the lives of our children; to bring them into touch with nature; to interest them in the myriad forms of life about them, to watch it, to follow it, to enjoy it, and to utilize it. Such habits in child life detract from the constant temptation to become self-absorbed. This self-absorption has much to do in leading our young people away from the higher ideals of the world. This self-absorption creates selfishness, selfishness makes our youth unhappy, robs them of faith and destroys their lives. It is a real hindrance to the progress of youth to rob it of an association with nature. A horse means more to a boy than something to ride or to drive. It means a new interest; it means companionship of God’s life manifested in the creation of animals.
What a beautiful thing it is to read the account of the Creation contained in the first chapter of Genesis! How beautiful it is to imagine such a period in the world when all that exists helps and sustains human life is brought into being. If such living things were a part of God’s unbounded interest in man, it is the duty of man to keep himself in touch with the things that were created for his joy and needs in life.
Our Girls. – There is no greater mistake made than the all too common belief that there must be a complete separation between our girls and the soil. Woman’s mission in life is more intimate with the functions of birth than that of man. She should feel the inspiration, the strength, and the value that come to humanity from all the living things of God’s creation. There is no fancy work so beautiful as the flower. The burdens of the farm are not hers to carry, but there is the garden, the flower beds, the living animals and things about home that should enter into woman’s conceptions of broader and better life. To her education the companionship of the vegetable and animal world belongs. It should not be forgotten that there come to us in life great benefits through a spirit of inspiration. We may not define it, we may not trace its workings, we may not measure its values, but it helps us. It enlarges our visions of life. It is the breath of life that we need today. God is changing things in this world of ours. Women are breaking away from the stifling atmosphere of a dusty past; they work on the farm, they are harrowing in the garden, they are taking upon themselves the duties that belong to the broader world from which they have been too long removed. In the earlier days of our history in Utah, women felt and loved the touch of nature. They felt the inspiration of all life about them. They sometimes went to the field, more frequently to the garden, and labored among the domestic animals that contributed to the support of the home. For this they were ridiculed by the magazines and papers of the world. They were held up as slaves; they were cartooned. But their conceptions of life were sound. Their examples of industry and out-door life have won out, and the world has come to realize that what was in their hearts to do was the God-ordained end of human happiness to conserve life. A false modesty and false social conceptions drove them rom the simpler and plainer duties of their life into the maukish ways of an artificial world about them. The war is now demonstrating the truth of woman’s place in the living world, a place for which she contended in the earlier days of our colonization in the valleys of the mountains.