Celebrate and delight in the ordinariness of life

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Young Women's Session of the April 1997 Conference. 

I knew as soon as I read this part in Sister Pearce's talk that hers was going to be my favorite this week. This is what she said:
When I think of pioneers, tragic scenes come to mind: handcarts in blizzards, sickness, frozen feet, empty stomachs, and shallow graves.

However, as I learn more about that monumental trek I am convinced that along with those very real and dramatic scenes, most of the journey for most of the people was pretty routine. Mostly they walked and walked and walked.

When the pioneers broke camp each morning, the cattle had to be fed and watered, fires built, breakfasts cooked, a cold meal for noon prepared and packed, repairs made, teams hitched, and wagons reloaded. Every single morning. Then they walked about six miles before halting to feed and water cattle, eat lunch, regroup, and walk again until about 6:00 p.m. Then the routine of unhitching and watering teams, making repairs, gathering tinder, building fires, cooking supper, a line or two in a journal before dark, sometimes a little music, prayers, and bed at 9:00 p.m.
I think about this a lot: how the mundane parts of life are so much of what we do here. If you don't find God in those places, you're hardly going to feel Him at all! And then I loved this next part where she shows the parallels with our lives now:
So what does all this have to do with us in our current world? I believe it has everything to do with us. Most of our lives are not a string of dramatic moments that call for immediate heroism and courage. Most of our lives, rather, consist of daily routines, even monotonous tasks, that wear us down and leave us vulnerable to discouragement. Sure, we know where we’re going, and if it were possible we would choose to jump out of bed, work like crazy, and be there by nightfall. But our goal, our journey’s end, our Zion is life in the presence of our Heavenly Father. And to get there we are expected to walk and walk and walk.

This week-after-week walking forward is no small accomplishment. The pioneer steadiness, the plain, old, hard work of it all, their willingness to move inch by inch, step by step toward the promised land inspire me as much as their more obvious acts of courage. It is so difficult to keep believing that we are making progress when we are moving at such a pace—to keep believing in the future when the mileage of the day is so minuscule.
Yes! "The mileage of the day is so miniscule." I feel that every single day! And it is SO MUCH easier to do one big push of effort than to take slow, barely-moving steps. Sometimes I lie in bed and imagine perfect conversations with my children where I just explain to them what they are doing wrong and why it matters, and I make it so clear and so reasonable that they can't disagree! They will have to see the wisdom of what I'm saying! But unfortunately in real life those conversations never go as I imagine—I get frustrated, they get annoyed, and we all end up repeating our same mistakes over and over again. It is really hard to see any progress looking toward the future! And I think I see it least of all in myself! 

So it's very comforting to read how Sister Pearce continues:
Do you see yourself as a heroic pioneer because you get out of bed every morning, comb your hair, and get to school on time? Do you see the significance of doing your homework every day and recognize the courage displayed in asking for help when you don’t understand an assignment? Do you see the heroism in going to church every single Sunday, participating in class, and being friendly to others? Do you see the greatness in doing the dishes over and over and over? Or practicing the piano? Or tending children? Do you recognize the fortitude and belief in the journey’s end that are required in order to keep saying your prayers every day and keep reading the scriptures? Do you see the magnificence in giving time a chance to whittle your problems down to a manageable size?

President Howard W. Hunter said, “True greatness … always requires regular, consistent, small, and sometimes ordinary and mundane steps over a long period of time.”

How easy it is to want quick and dramatic results in exchange for a day’s labor! And yet how happy people are who have learned to bend to the rhythm of paced and steady progress—even to celebrate and delight in the ordinariness of life.…

When you get into bed at night, rehearse the things you have accomplished during the day. Allow yourself to feel the satisfaction that comes of work completed or even partially completed.
I just love all of this. Seeing the significance of the everyday things, celebrating the small details that make a happy home, being patient with yourself and others…it's such a good perspective, and it's one I need to remind myself of constantly! (My friend Montserrat writes about this subject beautifully too!) I'm going to try harder this week to "feel the satisfaction that comes of work completed or even partially completed"—and I'm going to try to delight in the knowledge that even when I don't see it, I am making progress on my journey to Zion!


  1. Thank you for sharing Sister Pearce's talk! I was asked to create devotionals on "Women of Influence" for our girls' camp. I wanted to include a devotional on the young women themselves. This talk will be excellent for the point we are wanting to make, that though they may see themselves as very ordinary, they are doing a great work and can influence so many.

  2. I loved all of this! I truly have spent so much time wondering/thinking about how/why most of life is so mundane and monotonous and this was all just so so good!


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