4 essentials

When I was pondering Elder Perry’s talk “Let Him Do It with Simplicity” again this week, I had a thought: this is how we grow.

Let me explain.

There are patterns in nature that help us organize and simplify our lives.

When anything in nature grows, it begins from a small cell. That cell divides into two, and then those cells divide into four, then eight, and so on. In a human body, the cells which were once identical begin to differentiate and eventually grow into major organs and parts of the body: the spinal cord, the brain, the heart. Then the differentiation and complex specialization continues until the baby’s intrauterine growth is completely, and the child is born. The development doesn’t ever stop, though: we keep growing until we are adults, then aging, and then we die.

With all of that specialization, there are still those major organs upon which our body relies to survive. While we want our nails to look beautiful, it is probably a bigger priority to make sure we have food, sleep and exercise to keep our heart pumping and our brain functioning, right?

This pattern of development provides us a way to look at what we need to focus on in life, to simplify all the stuff that we are supposed to think about and do for our family. (This may seem like a strange application of biology, but it’s fascinating to me!)

First, look at the whole body. All that complexity is stored in one whole: you. My body reminds me that the most basic focus of life is who we are: we are children of God. Knowing this is step one. So that is the first thing we would want to help our children understand. Like the single cell is the most fundamental unit of creation, gaining this knowledge is the most fundamental place to begin.

Second, we consider our relationship to Christ and to the children of God around us. We look outside of ourselves to see others and we learn how God wants us to treat others. We learn that Heavenly Father loves each of his children, and so we need to treat others with the same kindness with which God treats us. We need to know that God will help us with everything we need to know on earth, including how to strengthen and create eternal families.

Third, after we know who we are, we can begin to learn the basics of survival and happiness within that context: we need to learn how to feed and clothe ourselves and provide shelter and fuel for ourselves. We need to know that God will help us learn how to take care of ourselves, and He will help provide what we cannot do for ourselves, because we are His children and because He loves us.

This process of our knowledge dividing and growing reminds me of the first part of development.

Once we know that and we have reached adulthood and are ready to form a family, we can marry. Two people, a man and a woman, married by proper authority, begin that family. This reminds me of the next step in development, in which the cells differentiate and begin together to form the different major parts of the body.

Interestingly, as a couple, we have to learn those same 3 steps over again. In this new setting, we are trying to treat that second person as a child of God and strengthening that eternal family unit. We have to learn to work together to be fed, clothed, sheltered, and fueled, relying on God.

Once we have a child, our family “body” has grown to three, and the pattern repeats. Now together we are responsible to teach that child, beginning again at teaching the child who they are, what their relationship is to God, Christ, and others, and then moving on to food, clothing, shelter and fuel, all in the context of their relationship to God. As we add children into a family, it reminds me of the specialization that takes place in the further development of the organs. That reminds me of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 12:14, which says, “For the body is not one member, but many.” And Paul goes on to describe how each body part is essential to the rest of the body.

All the knowledge we gain can essentially be divided up into those four categories of basic gospel knowledge and then food, clothing, shelter and fuel. (According to Elder Perry, you can also group gospel knowledge under fuel). After that, our learning just becomes more and more specialized, the more we learn and the greater experience we gain.

So with these categories from Thoreau and Perry, I have reorganized my “Teach ‘Em” tab. To find those posts that relate to some specific knowledge of teaching, such as teaching children music, look under one of the four tabs. You’ll find those pages that used to be in a very long list under the tab are now divided into one of the four categories: to take care of their body, to get dressed, to provide shelter, and to obtain fuel.

I hope that this reorganization helps me remember that when life gets overwhelming and just feels too complex, just go back to the basics: who we are, why we are here, and what is essential in the context of love and faith.

To read a far more inspiring article on nature and what is essential, read or watch “What Matters Most” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. 

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