‘When you get the Spirit of God, you feel full of kindness, charity, long-suffering, and you are willing all the day long to accord to every man that which you want yourself. You feel disposed all the day long to do unto all men as you would wish them to do unto you. What is it that will enable one man to govern his fellows aright? It is just as Joseph Smith said to a certain man who asked him, ‘How do you govern such a vast people as this?’ ‘Oh,’ says Joseph, ‘It is very easy.’ ‘Why,’ says the man, ‘but we find it very difficult.’ ‘But,’ said Joseph, ‘it is very easy, for I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves’; . . . How easy it is to govern the people in this way!”
— President John Taylor on the teachings of the Prophet, Joseph Smith
My personal life is closely intertwined with that of my family as the most valued and most sacred unit of society. This includes my ancestors and pioneers who have gone before, those of us now living, and future generations as well. As can be seen from the photograph above, the Woodworth clan is a living, growing group, part of a much larger tribe. Together they are a great source of joy and satisfaction.
The links below connect you to various facets of our personal lives. To the casual outsider who visits these websites, we are probably just another average American family. But those of us on the inside have a different perspective – a feeling that we are unique, at least to us; that we are richly blessed; that each person has gifts and talents to be fostered; and that we have a collective responsibility to make the world a better place.
So in the attempt to be open and transparent, we share some of our background and experience, our values and who we are, and how we try to be an influence for good in the home, the neighborhood, and around the globe. But I want to add a caveat: These are simply our values and our stories. They may not apply to other families. I’m merely illustrating our passions and lifestyles, what we believe God desires us to do as we proceed along life’s highway, how He wants us to live. I do not want to suggest or imply that others ought to do the same. Each family must find its own path.
As Kaye and I have raised our kids over the years, several core values were practiced, as well as preached. They are summarized below, although not in any particular order. This is certainly not a manifesto or mission statement like many companies, as well as some families and individuals, utilize. As an OB consultant, I quickly saw the futility of formal declarations that people put on paper, and then soon forgot or contradicted. Instead, I focus on values that are deeply-held assumptions about life. They give real meaning, as evidenced in one’s behavior and felt in one’s heart. They are not a framed, glass-enclosed declaration that simply hangs on a wall.
In reflecting back on decades of family practices and experience, a few core values become apparent in the Woodworth family:
Stewardship: This means that what we have is not really our own, but rather that our talents, skills, jobs and money, health and possessions have all been given us by God. We haven’t really earned them, nor do we fully deserve them. Rather, our task is to use these resources to bless the lives of others. We fully ascribe to the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race” (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 227). Thus, we in the Woodworth clan have tried to enlarge and leverage the gifts and abilities we have been given by helping, loving, and serving others. Ultimately, we feel we must each account for what we’ve done with the gifts and resources we enjoy.
“Make it your quest to find and fulfill your informal calling in life.” — Warner Woodworth
Hard Work: Real, actual labor is an essential part of being a Woodworth. Kaye and I determined from Day One that we wanted our kids to learn to work and to be productive members of society. You can’t “give” if you don’t have the dollars and/or goods to give away. Plus, we believe that hard work is a fundamental dimension of mortal life. This idea harkens back to the Bible: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19).
Thus, our kids have had chores to do from early childhood – making beds, cleaning rooms, feeding the pets, mopping the floor, vacuuming, washing dishes, working in the yard. All these provided a healthy foundation for a strong work ethic. By ages 8-9 they began to wash and dry their own clothes, prepare meals, do Saturday house cleaning and so forth.
Each child also was required to obtain outside jobs that earned money as our family grew. Starting from about age 10 on they mowed/raked lawns, did gardening and babysitting for others, got paper routes, and so forth. I still recall delivering newspapers on occasion for David, my eldest son, to residents in BYU married student housing while he was gone to scout camp for a week. There I was, a 35-year-old faculty member, riding a bike and tossing papers on apartment porches. My graduate students who saw me doing this teased me because I “wasn’t making enough income as a young professor,” thinking that I needed to supplement my university salary! For several years, 8 of the kids, as well as Kaye and I, had a huge after-school paper route all over northeast Provo which we could only do by driving our big van full of kids and papers to deliver to customers. It was time-consuming and not very profitable. But it taught us to work hard together. It also gave us meaning for the motto: “The family that works together, stays together.”
Later, as they got older, the kids obtained jobs at fast food joints, supermarkets, car washes, Hogi Yogi, etc. With each child, we established a savings system and opened a credit union account. Ten percent of each child’s income went as tithing to our church; 40 percent went to savings for their future LDS missions/college, and the remaining 50 percent was theirs for them to spend for clothes, movies, burgers, or whatever. This taught them the importance of giving back to God first, preparing themselves financially for missionary work and a university education, and learning to save and budget their finances. Later, they had significant savings for their missions and college. One of them had accumulated $8,200; another $6,400; another $4,300; another $2,700; and so forth. There is nothing quite like hard work and the experience of becoming self-sustaining.
“There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.” — Henry David Thoreau
Spirituality: A quest for the religious life is a deeply-held Woodworth family value. We have taught our children by precept and example the importance of being Christ-centered in one’s daily existence. We all attended a 3-hour block of Sunday religious services every week, usually arriving 20-30 minutes ahead so we would be prepared in advance, get in a reverent mood, and sit on the second or third row at the center of the chapel in order to be able to really focus on the sacrament, speeches, music and prayer. Trying to get a mob of 8-10 of us already in plenty of time was a weekly challenge, but it produced wonderful, long-term results. Our children gradually grew in “truth and light,” learned to be honest with others, and to serve those in need. They paid their tithing (10%), they learned to love music and sing the hymns, they grew through the Church’s programs: primary, young women’s, scouting, Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood. As young adults, they have been, or currently are, in bishoprics, elder’s quorum leaders, young women’s leaders, primary teachers, Relief Society presidencies, and so on.
Equally important, we have always read the scriptures daily in our home. With various and hectic schedules, we committed to rising at 6:00 am so as to open the scriptures and study together out loud, discuss and apply them to our lives, and then hold group prayer, kneeling as a family. These kinds of spiritual investments gave us moral energy to get through the day, confront personal challenges and try to “be a little kinder, a little more generous, a little more thoughtful of one another” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1999).
“Give of yourself through social tithing.” — Warner Woodworth
Ecological Sustainability: As a family, we committed to being good stewards over the earth and our natural resources. We view all of God’s creations as His and have tried to live in a sustainable way. Some of our practices in this area include the following: 1) Appreciating the simple gifts of sunshine, the great Rocky Mountains we see out our front windows, the four seasons, the blue sky; 2) Having a clean house and yard, caring for and working in the soil, enjoying the various fruit trees, pine, spruce and fir on our property; 2) Installing double-pane windows to keep the heat in during winter, and out during summer, along with the help of deep ceiling insulation and a willingness to never have air conditioning and the electric energy it consumes; 4) Remaining in our older, low-cost home that is now almost 50 years of age (in contrast to those who are continually buying and selling, getting bigger and better homes with more appliances and gadgets); 5) Conserving water through family rules such as 5 minutes maximum to shower (as well as having only 1 ½ bathrooms for 9-10-11 people during some periods of our life; 6) Encouraging our 7 boys to be active in cub scouts, boy scouts, and explorers where they not only earned Eagle Awards but learned environmentalism; 7) Lobbying hard and succeeding in getting legislation to control and cut back on huge billboards and other ugly manifestations of commercialism in Utah, a problem that until recently had gradually turned the once-lovely environment of towns like Provo into eye sores of “Californication;” 8) Using bicycles, motorcycles, and compact cars to get to work over several decades, thereby cutting our per capita pollution, as well as the costs of buying of gasoline, and so forth; 9) Lobbying Provo officials for 5 years to instigate curbside recycling for both natural yard waste and/or products such as plastic, glass, metal, and cardboard.
Fifteen years ago after the kids were all gone and we didn’t need big green lawns for family football and other games, we recently made a further rather radical shift in terms of environmental stewardship by converting all our property to xeriscape (except for a small back yard for our vegetable garden and house pets to still enjoy). This is a relatively new thing in Utah, a state that for decades has had the highest consumption of water per person in the U.S. After 5 recent years of drought and with the projection that we may suffer another 5 years before the cycle improves, we took drastic measures in fall 2003. We were troubled that Utah Lake was down 10 feet, Deer Creek, Lake Powell, and the Great Salt Lake were even worse, and our rivers statewide had dropped by 35-40 percent.
So we decided to take up our sod, put in desert plants that can survive with hardly any water, add mulch/wood chips, and transform our property into a Utah desert-appropriate yard instead of the traditional, but absurd, Kentucky Bluegrass most residents enjoy. Will it work? It’s too early to tell, but we are hoping to pioneer a new ecological movement in Utah that will begin to flourish in the coming years.
Humanitarian Service: One of the strongest Woodworth values is that of helping others, empowering the poor by learning to “lift up the hands which hang down” (Doctrine & Covenants 81:5). Ever since Kaye and I were teenagers, our parents taught us to seek the welfare of others. Later, as our children were born, they too were socialized to have a deep sense of volunteerism. This has meant that as a family, and as individuals, in church groups or through other nonprofit organizations, we give of ourselves. Sometimes it’s been simple, like assisting an elderly neighbor with yard work, visiting a shut-in, or carrying out a musical program at a center for the elderly. Many are “one-shot” events. Others are ongoing, such as Kaye’s cooking and delivering several meals a week to an elderly widower across the street, in one case for 11 years, in another for 8 years.
We have sought to redefine who is “thy neighbor” for our children, instilling in them an awareness and love for the poor and suffering, not only in our community but around the globe. Thus, we’ve taken various of our sons and daughters for 10 to 15-day expeditions to Third World projects such as that of the Ouelessebougou-Utah Alliance in Mali, West Africa, HELP International in Central America, Enterprise Mentors in Guatemala, and so on. You can check out more about these efforts by going to our family projects link.
Suffice it to say: humanitarian service is a basic value in our Woodworth traditions. Whether assembling literacy packets for an Eagle Scout requirement, Kaye’s organizing quilting projects with neighbor women to comfort child abuse victims at the Children’s Justice Center, our family making sandwiches for the local homeless shelter, one of our teenage sons simply taking $5.00 from his wallet, cash from his hard-earned summer job, and giving it to a beggar on the street – all are evidence to me that our children are learning important principles.
They are developing skills and strategies that will ultimately move beyond the simple giving of handouts to offering a hand-up. They are becoming more aware than many Americans about suffering around the globe. They are coming to understand that big institutions like the Red Cross or the United Nations won’t solve all the problems – that it takes personal investment, personal compassion, and personal action. They are growing in their commitment to the poor, in their hope for greater socio-economic equality and justice, in their internalizing of a real love for those in need. And importantly, they are learning how to empower those who suffer, giving them tools to help them move toward becoming self-reliant, not just remaining dependent on the charity of others.
After telling of some who have made a difference serving others, President Hinckley asked: “If not now, when? If not you, who? It is not enough that you get a job, that you get married, that you feverishly work to produce the kind of income which will make possible the luxuries of the world. You may gain some recompense in all of this, but you will not gain the ultimate satisfaction. As Isaiah has declared, ‘Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God…he will come and save you.'” (Isaiah 35:3-4) — Gordon B. Hinckley
“It is a very great poverty to decide that a child must die that you might live as you wish.”
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Consecration: In some ways, this final Woodworth value encompasses everything else – stewardship, environmental sustainability, service, work, and spirituality. In essence, family consecration means we give our resources to God for His purposes. Rather than trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” in my case I have always tried to live below the Joneses. So I shop at Deseret Industries and other thrift stores, thereby cutting costs, while at the same time recycling perfectly good clothing, books, and gadgets. Let me offer a couple of illustrations of what I mean.
Kaye and I save our money so as to pay cash for every new car, thereby avoiding interest payments and on-going debt. We buy the cheapest model available with the fewest frills. Then we drive the vehicle until it starts to fall apart. The record over the years speaks for itself: Ford Escort (8 years and 3 wrecks); large Dodge Van (10 years and 2 wrecks); Ford Aerostar Minivan (6 years until it was totaled after 3 accidents); Jeep Sahara (14 years, 4 wrecks including one into the river by Sundance during a snowstorm). It had a canvas top and sides. It was a blast to take the upper parts and doors off each summer, but winter was a bear because the canvas connections to the metal weren’t tight so I had freezing cold air blowing in all the cracks, along with the fact the heater never worked. Saturn Basic Sedan (5 years, two wrecks). She now drives a Toyota Yaris, a little vehicle that’s as basic as they come, and has done so for 11 years. So much for these automobile illustrations! They’re merely easy-to-understand examples of what I mean about reducing costs so we have more resources to consecrate.
For the Prophet Brigham Young, consecration was defined as giving our “surplus property” to the have-nots (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 113). Likewise, President Lorenzo Snow taught that it meant “to employ our surplus means in a manner that the poor can have employment and see before them a competence and the conveniences of life” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 307). For the Woodworths, this means we must be low-end consumers so that we have “sufficient for our needs,” thus being able to give the extra to those who have so much less.
But how can middle-class families do this in today’s high consumption society? For me, it’s been quite simple. I refuse to move up the social ladder by buying a new home every 5-10 years, each of which is usually bigger and more expensive than the previous one. How do I avoid the temptation to go more upscale? I never read the Real Estate section of the newspaper. We never go to Home Shows where the salivating starts for many prospective homebuyers. I don’t even watch TV’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
The same is true for clothing and other personal items. In fact, I’ve found that the secret to minimal consumption is quite obvious. I just don’t go to shopping malls or department stores. If I’m not there, there is no impulse buying and no credit card debt. Of course, my students say that I’m just oblivious to current trends, and to some extent, they have a point. To a degree, I’m just the stereotypical absent-minded professor! Yes, it’s just my nature. But I argue that consecration has to be intentional to really succeed. Avoiding modern commercialism must become a strategic choice, or one will become engulfed in what President Spencer W. Kimball called the “false gods we worship” (Ensign, June 1976). Today’s materialism fosters a lust for new styles and ever-growing consumerism. To avoid this personally is not exactly easy in our society. In fact, to do this as a family is actually very hard.
But to my great satisfaction, I have been amazed in recent years to see a growing anti-consumption movement in both Europe and North America. Millions of families, like the Woodworths, are downsizing their homes, avoiding all credit-card debt. They are seeking a return to the Garden of Eden – organic foods, natural landscaping, square-foot gardens in their back yards, co-housing. In sum, we are witnessing a new simplicity movement. For more information about these kinds of family values and practices, see the links on this page.
Thus, for me, consecration means cutting back, living simply, eliminating debt, choosing to want or “need” less and, thereby, being able to own less. By so doing, we’ve found that the degree of happiness and satisfaction rises, and the “little things” in life become more meaningful. Consecration has gradually become an important value for us to embrace and internalize. By simplifying, we’ve found that we can live on less than half of our annual income, and be able to give the rest away. This means our religious offerings help the Church to expand the Kingdom of God on earth, as well as bless the world’s poor. Also, we pay taxes so that the government can help to build a better society. And we as a family have a significant surplus to invest in our own small, but quite effective strategies to fight global poverty and to ease human suffering.
All these values culminate in a kind of Woodworth family “Call to Action.” Rather than just focus on our wants, we have learned to empathize with the less fortunate, “the least of these,” as the scriptures declare (Matthew 25:40). We have come to understand that when we don’t buy the luxury SUV, or a cabin in the mountains, or designer jeans, then we begin to understand what Jacob meant when he encouraged us to “think of the poor like unto yourselves” (Jacob 2:17). Empathy and solidarity with the have-nots teach us what stewardship and consecration are really all about.
“The law of consecration is a celestial law, not an economic experiment. . . . I repeat and emphasize that the law of consecration is a law for an inheritance in the celestial kingdom. God, the Eternal Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and all holy beings abide by this law. It is an eternal law. It is a revelation by God to his Church in this dispensation. Though not in full operation today, it will be mandatory for all Saints to live the law in its fullness to receive celestial inheritance.” — Ezra Taft Benson
Family Value Links
To learn more about the values our family believes in and tries to practice, information can be accessed by clicking on the topics below: