Editor’s note: We want to give special thanks to all those who contributed to our series this past week on pornography addiction. Over the course of the next weeks and months, we’ll continue to share more stories and resources on the topic. In the meantime, we’re back to our regular rhythm of sharing content on a variety of topics related to Mormon life and belief. Today, the topic is on finding divine purpose in the the daily routine of life.
One Eternal Round: Finding the divine in the mundane
This scriptural phrase, “one eternal round” is one from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants (both books that are considered scripture by Mormons) has been one that has intrigued me. It shows up various times in the scriptures. I’ll include one of those references here, from D&C 35:1:
Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever.
I never really quite understood what “one eternal round” meant; I probably still don’t to a great degree. But I did read something a couple of years ago that gave some significant meaning to this concept for me. I come back to these quotes when I’m feeling worn out by the routine and repetition of life, especially that which comes with the role of being a mom. Actually, I think it could apply to any aspect of our lives that feels repetitive but is necessary.
Elder Maxwell wrote the following:
Chesterton notes our low capacity for being able to deal with monotony and says in a moving passage: “It is possible that God says every morning, `Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes all daisies separately, but has never got tired of making them.” The divine delight in what seems to us to be mere repetition is one clue to the sublime character of God. Since we must, at times, accept what appears to us to be routine, repeated experiences, we too, if we try, can find fresh meaning and fresh joy in the repeated experiences. God’s course is one eternal round but it is not one monotonous round. God is never bored, for one who has perfect love is never bored. There is always so much to notice, so much to do, so many ways to help, so many possibilities to pursue (Neal A. Maxwell, A More Excellent Way, p.84-85).
Repeatedly God has described His course as reiterative, “one eternal round”…. We mortals sometimes experience boredom in the routine repetition of our mortal tasks, including even good works; and thus vulnerable, we are urged not to grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9; D&C 64:33; 84:80; Alma 37:34). But given God’s divine love, there is no boredom on His part amid His repetitive work, for his course, though one eternal round, involves continuous redemption for His children; it is full of goodness and mercy as His long-suffering shows His love in action. In fact we cannot even comprehend the infinite blessings which await the faithful—”eye hath not seen, nor ear heard . . .” (1 Corinthians 2:9) (Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine, p.53-54).
Charity means never being bored with the routine of my life. Wow. (I guess I need to be praying that much harder for charity!) Seriously, though, once in a while I can catch a glimpse of what Elder Maxwell is talking about. When I really put my heart into my roles as wife and mother and homemaker (might I say I open my heart to these things?), I feel the Spirit. I have felt the Spirit baking bread, doing laundry, taking care of sick children, cooking a nutritious meal for my family. But, sadly, often I think of my days in terms of (boring, tedious) routine. And I often actively seek for a break from that routine. A break is not a bad thing in and of itself (!), but I sense from these quotes that I’m often missing the beauty of my daily to-dos, especially the ones that relate to my “most important” work in my home.
And so, I want to remember Elder Maxwell’s thoughts. It makes me think that perhaps there is nothing in our lives that can’t be part of our training for godhood; even the repetitious, tedious tasks can perhaps be teaching us something.
One last quote, from President Joseph F. Smith (former prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):
After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all man-kind, is the truest greatness. …We should never be discouraged in those daily tasks which God has ordained to the common lot of man. Each day’s labor should be undertaken in a joyous spirit and with the thought and conviction that our happiness and eternal welfare depend upon doing well that which we ought to do, that which God has made it our duty to do. Many are unhappy because they imagine that they should be doing something unusual or something phenomenal. Some people would rather be the blossom of a tree and be admiringly seen than be an enduring part of the tree and live the commonplace life of the tree’s existence (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p.285-286).
Let us not be trying to substitute an artificial life for the true one. He is truly happy who can see and appreciate the beauty with which God has adorned the commonplace things of life (Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 40, pp. 752-3 Dec. 15, 1905).
“One eternal round.” Next time your life feels like an endless circle of daily to-dos, I hope that perhaps these quotes can help you as they have helped me.
Boy, I surely needed to read this today! What wonderful insights! If I could add just a little bit to this–I have found, when I am feeling profoundly grateful, that I have charity. When I have charity, I feel profoundly grateful. To me, they are almost the same thing. It’s difficult to feel grateful for the opportunity to perform those mundane tasks again and again (even people who are the blossoms of the tree have to eat and bathe over and over again) but when I DO, it feels like a privilege. Happy Sunday!
Thanks for these quotes. They are very helpful with some research I’ve been doing. This gave me a whole new insight into that phrase “the same today as yesterday, and forever.”
Even when I go to a lodge or hire a vacation home, I arrange the furnishings, hide unsightly bedspreads, make little center piece arrangements with some free fruit from the lobby and change the place into my space.
Michelle, thank you for linking to this post on Segullah. I had never heard those quotes you reference and I love them. The first one by Maxwell reminded me of a part of the Screwtape Letters I was struck by:
* But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. . . If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. ”
One eternal round, each day many things the same yet also different, and the opportunity to be transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of our routine.
Very nice, good quotes. I was also thinking, maybe God’s work is not so monotonous because he teaches everything to to take care of itself so he doesn’t have to (plants, flowers reproduce on their own is my only example). What does that teach us — teach our kids to take care of the things they can so we don’t have to?
Hm. I dunno how it works, Emily. Elder Maxwell suggests that maybe He’s more involved than we think. I can totally see the way you are headed with that, too, and it could be. I think there is a lot of spiritual value in teaching, in passing along things so that we are not ‘controlling’ it all.
Or maybe it’s something else altogether. It’s interesting to mull over, dontcha think?
Thank you for this thoughtful take on “one eternal round.” That’s wonderful!