Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Principle of Preparation

This is a paper I wrote last year. I needed to review the principle so I thought I'd share it here. It's a bit lengthy so feel free to skim...

My eyelids pop open with the realization that today promises to be an impossible day. The tasks before me loom like an ominous, dark cloud and that familiar feeling of dread begins to creep into my being. My feet barely hit the floor before to-dos tumble around in my mind: home school, chores, morning routine, laundry, Liberty Girls, basketball practice, drama class, and the decision of what to make for dinner that would be easy, quick and healthy, knowing we have little food to work with because I need to go shopping. Just the thought makes me want to lie back down and pull the covers over my head.

We’ve all had those days where it is not humanly possible to squeeze in all that we think we need to accomplish. Yet there are people who seem to pull it off. Mr. Gilbreth in Cheaper by the Dozen achieves record time as his family prepares for an outing or when all twelve children are dressed, the morning routine done like clockwork. What is the difference? Why can some seem to accomplish so much in little time while others scramble to keep their heads on straight?

Some may argue that having systems in place ensure the Gilbreth family success with the to-dos in a family of fourteen. While certainly systems account for their time breaking records, I wish to explore an even more fundamental level of his accomplishments—preparation. In Webster’s Dictionary the word “prepare” is defined as “to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use or activity” and also “to put in a proper state of mind.” The motion study expert and father of twelve had to identify what end result he desired and then prepare a system that would answer that end. He spent time teaching and drilling the children to respond quickly when asked. His whole profession involved an in-depth study of the most efficient way to carry out tasks and then spent his time preparing his subjects to execute at that level.

The definition “to make ready beforehand for some purpose” calls to mind another large family on the other side of the globe. Imagine for a moment that you are in the countryside surrounding Salzburg, Austria in the early 1940s on Easter Sunday. “This morning, when the families walk to church, you see them carrying bundles large and small. On the Sunday of Sundays even the food which will be on the table later for sumptuous Easter breakfast is blessed [by the priest]. The father carries the big ham, the mother, the artistically baked Easter bread with raisins popping out all over, and the children are entrusted with the basketsful of Easter eggs and little dishes of salt.” In The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Maria Augusta Trapp details how all this food is then blessed by the priest.

In our day and age we would scoff at all that extra work while chiding to “keep it simple”. However the longer I consider the Catholics in Austria, the more I realize the “extra” work they did was a form of worship, a way to adore the Lord for His ultimate sacrifice. They spent the beginning of Easter holidays in “feverish” spring cleaning mirroring the internal cleansing that occurs during Lent. Everything they did during the Easter season symbolized their adoration for the Lord.

The Austrian Easter ceremony caused me to reflect on the scriptures. What does God have to say about the topic of preparation? The entire mission of John the Baptist was to “prepare” the way of the Lord. Why was his calling so important? What would cause the Lord to say to the multitudes about John, “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:9-11)?

These questions lead to more which in turn lead me to the answer for which I seek. What if John the Baptist never came? What would have happened when the Lord came into the world? I can imagine that the people would not be, using Webster’s words, “put in the proper state of mind.” There is that theme again, anticipating or preparing for the Lord is part of worshipping him. The people needed to know he was coming so they would be ready to accept him as their Savior.

Another prophet spent a good portion of his life preparing. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world…” (Hebrews 11:7) Not only did he build the physical structure, he gathered two of every animal, seeds and food, not to mention preparing his family for the impending journey. Noah showed his great faith by acting when the Lord commanded. Each act of preparation must have been for Noah an act of faith, a way to worship God.

Just as God commanded Noah, He has given us commandments that if we heed can allow us to show our faith in Him. In Doctrine and Covenants 85:3 it states, “He may tithe his people to prepare them.” How is living the law of the tithe preparation? By sacrificing we learn to a small degree to be like the Savior who sacrificed His life. We will also be prepared to live the law of consecration. God teaches his children in Doctrine and Covenants 38:30, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” We can find comfort in preparing for emergencies, storing food, saving money for a rainy day and doing our family history. Many of God’s commandments share an element of preparation since the scriptures tell us that “this life is a time to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 12:24) By preparing we can show our love and devotion to God. We are promised that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

We get a glimpse of these blessings in the temple. Everything we do in the temple has to do with preparation. The ordinances help prepare us and others to return to live with our Heavenly Father. Once while living in New York I arrived just in time, but rushed to a temple session. My mind was racing with everything I needed to do before I could enter the endowment room. Later as I sat pondering how I treated a trip to the Lord’s holy house, I was struck by my lack of devotion. My mind was not clear and ready to worship or receive much needed revelation. I vowed to be better prepared when attending the temple. Around that same time, a sweet, elderly sister taught us how to care for our temple clothes. As I did as she had taught and washed my temple clothes, I was again struck at how even preparing to enter the temple is a form of worship.

Formally worshipping the Lord in the temple obviously shows our faith and devotion, but does the principle of preparation apply temporally? How does the Gilbreth children executing record time in anticipation of an outing show adoration to the Lord? Everyone is given the same amount of time in this life. We are stewards over that time. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. counsels, “Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” By using the time we have been given wisely, we can in effect show our respect to the Giver of the gift.

Attitude and awareness are the defining elements. The manner in which I prepare a meal for my family, prepare clothes by doing the laundry, or prepare my children for bedtime can show my adoration and faith if I do so with an attitude of devotion. Making time for each activity throughout my week creates space: space to love and play with my children, space to pray, space to hear and act upon promptings. This space can potentially eliminate impatience, hurrying, tardiness, frustration and the destructive effects to relationships and our personal state of being these negative experiences can cause. By using the time God has given me in an efficient way, I can show my gratitude and respect. I will become an instrument in the Lord’s hands available to His inspiration and guidance. No longer will I crawl back in bed defeated, I will welcome each day with peace and confidence. It’s about time.


  1. This is great. What I needed to hear today. I often think of the Amish who are the same way. Everything they do is a devotion to God. Simple duties, great devotion. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! You are inspiring!

  3. That last comment was from Charlotte not Ally!