“[Joseph Smith] said it tried some of the pious folks to see him play ball with the boys. He then related a story of a certain prophet who was sitting under the shade of a tree amusing himself in some way, when a hunter came along with his bow and arrow, and reproved him. The prophet asked him if he kept his bow strung up all the time. The hunter answered that he did not. The prophet asked why, and he said it would lose its elasticity if he did. The prophet said it was just so with his mind, he did not want it strung up all the time.” (Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, 395)
In our age of over-programming, this is a needed reminder. All too often we try to wedge more and more into the crannies of our schedule. Of course we want to make the most of every day, but we can go overboard. Our time management permutates into time micromanagement. And, as the Law of Diminishing Returns reminds us, the more we try to micromanage our time, the less effective our efforts become.
Indeed, Aristotle said that a well-rounded life includes relaxation as well as activity (Ethics IV.8). We forget that we are both spiritual and temporal beings (D&C 29:35). This temporal aspect requires maintenance, just as much as our spiritual sides need attention. Even God Himself rested after the days of creation, something which workaholics seem to forget.
The same need for rest and relaxation applies to families as well. In 1995 the Mormon Church issued a declaration called “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This document contains both doctrine and counsel on how to overpower the corrosions that are eating at the family.
One paragraph contains this sentence:
“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
We all understand the importance of faith, prayer, compassion, and so forth, in rearing families, but wholesome recreation activities? And that listed right after a reaffirmation of the gospel of work?
As I see it, this is not just another platitude about “taking time to smell the roses.” The roots run deeper. As I mentioned earlier, rest, or to be true to the Hebrew, cessation is a divine activity. Our present-day work week is based upon God’s creative week: six days on, one day off. The weekdays are used for our “day jobs.” Saturday is a special day where we take care of odd jobs around the house, and we use it to prepare for the new week. Sunday is a holy day, set apart from the commonplace days. On that day we are to offer our “oblations and [our] sacraments unto the Most High, confessing [our] sins unto [our] brethren, and before the Lord.” (D&C 59:12)
But never forget that rest is a divine activity. God preformed specific tasks on each of the days of creation, culminating with the creation of Adam and Eve. Then He rested. This rest was as much a part of creation as were the six other days. Of course I am not implying that God needed rest in the way we do. But He clearly stopped working for some reason. It is imperative that we follow this pattern in our lives, even if we do not fully understand the whys and wherefores.
We need to rest because we have to make room in our schedules for God. Sunday allows for proper worship. Instead of focusing on our bills to merchants, we can focus on the debt of the Atonement. This great sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is the hinge of all history, should also be the hinge of our own personal histories and life plans. Recreation, in effect, allows us to get our bearings, to jump out of our intellectual and behavioral ruts, and to switch focus from our daily anxieties to the peaceable things of eternity. Once we are refocused, we in turn become reinvigorated for the upcoming battle next week.
“Will you pardon me if I tell you about my father? When he was about the age that I am now [87 years], he was fully retired. But he was active. He lived in a rather simple but comfortable home in a rural area. He had an orchard around him and enjoyed giving away the fruit. The yard of his home included lawns and shrubs and trees. It had a rock wall about two feet high separating one level from another. Whenever the weather was good he would sit on the wall, an old hat on his head to shade his eyes from the summer sun. …”
“I discovered that when he sat on the wall, hours at a time on a warm day, he would reflect on the things he had read from his library.”
“I think he grew old gracefully and wonderfully. He had his books with the precious treasures they contained of the thoughts of great men and women of all the ages of time. He never ceased to learn. As he sat on the wall he thought deeply of what he had read the night before. He acquired the habit as a student here under Dr. Maeser. It was part of his BYU experience.”
“At times I almost envy him: time to read and time to ponder. What a blessing. He reminded me of leaves on the trees. When autumn comes with killing frost, the leaves change their color, and they give off a new beauty until they eventually drop to form a carpet on the ground.”
“Now, you are young, and why am I telling you of an old man and the wall on which he sat? I am telling you because I think it has a lesson for each of us. We must never cease to learn. We believe in eternal progression and that this life is a part of eternity to be profitably lived until the very end.” (The BYU Experience)
In addition to learning, we also need to take time to rest. We set down our tools, shut off the computers and other gizmos, retire to our rooms, and pray. We need to make time for unstringing the bow. We need time for God.