"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
May 24, 2012
Value in the Village
by Orson Scott Card

When I was nine years old, the order book from Scholastic's Teen-Age Book Club stayed open on my fourth-grade teacher's desk for several weeks.

During that time, I saved my lunch money and allowance and every other dime I got, skipping meals and treats and toys so that I could order as many books as possible.

I ordered books I wasn't even interested in. When they came, I read them all.

The world measures value in money -- whatever money means.

Stored-up labor? Earnings on investment in property or education? The potential to buy needed commodities or desirable experiences?

Whatever money is, people want more of it. "Enlightened self-interest" leads people to behave in ways to bring in the money they need to live in the way they want.

"Enlightened self-interest" is a misleading term, because we think it means "selfishness." But for someone who wants to provide for his family, "self-interest" means earning enough to meet his wife's and children's needs.

For Mormons, that "enlightened self-interest" means managing money well enough to pay tithing and still meet the family's needs.

But it's still measured in money, and money belongs to the world. In the economy of the ward and branch -- the Mormon village -- there are different ways of representing value.

How does our village economy work? Everyone contributes time and expertise, laboring in whatever work we are called to.

Not everyone does their work with equal vigor, not everyone has equal skills, and no two callings are exactly alike. But our village economies work because the active members generally do their work well and reliably enough for the economy to function.

What is the product of that economy?

Don't say salvation or exaltation, or even repentance or forgiveness or conversion. Those are the work of God, Christ, and the Spirit, working in the minds and hearts of individual souls.

What a village produces by the effort of that ward or branch are things like these:

1. Teaching. It's the main thing we do in our Sunday meetings. From other people's study, experience, and thought, we gain greater understanding of or new perspectives on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. Community. The village provides a set of social forms through which children grow up, find mates, establish families, make friendships, and take care of each other's needs, so that the individual feels known and cared for, and has a safety net in times of crisis.

3. Opportunities for Meaningful Service. If you're not actually teaching, you are serving in other ways that support the village. As we perform the calling, we receive the rewards of that calling -- the sense of satisfaction when the job is done well and the growth that comes from dealing with challenges.

4. Friendship. Because the village requires so much time from us, our closest non-family friendships are likely to be drawn from the people we have served beside.

These are precisely the things that many people expect to buy with the income they derive from the world's economy. People gather money to get their kids in good schools, or to pay tuition for college so they can get better jobs. They want to buy nice houses in nice, safe neighborhoods.

By attaining certain income and educational levels, they want to get the right kinds of friends -- and help their children enter a courtship pool that will lead them to happy, stable marriages. They try to find jobs that provide not only income but also satisfaction with the work they've done.

When a Mormon village functions as it should, it does a better job than the world does in meeting those needs -- and it costs no money. Only time, labor, study, faith, love, and obedience.

Even when the village is imperfect (which is usual) or troubled (which happens often), those who plunge in, commit to village life, and live by the principles of the gospel as best they can, receive enough of the village product to compensate for the time, effort, and thought they put into it.

In the long run.

In the short run, though, it can often seem that we are putting far more into the village than we receive in return. We persist in our service and commitment through those times because of our commitment to the gospel and to the Church as a whole.

But there is one thing that can sour us on a village to the point that we can no longer bear to make the sacrifices required of us.

You see, I deliberately left out one of the products of a village which is absolutely essential to the economy:

5. Honor and Respect. Over time, individuals who serve faithfully in any callings in the village are rewarded with the respect and affection of the wisest of the Saints.

But if it happens that you don't feel you are receiving honor and respect from others, it can take away any joy you receive from the other products of the village economy.

Next week: Respect as the Coin of the Village Economy.

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About Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and scripts.

Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs plays. He also teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.

Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.

More about Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card currently serves as second counselor in the bishopric.

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