From their early beginnings in the East, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints developed infrastructure in Kirtland, complete with an ashery and sawmill, to produce building materials and funds for the temple. During the trek West, countless stories are told of the tireless work ethic of those heroic men and women. Soon after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, desert wasteland quickly became an oasis of industry as members were sent on missions specifically to develop the land. With the beehive as their symbol, the pioneers were always striving for an industrious society.
Today, Sunday School lessons and pilgrimages across Wyoming plains in bonnets and Nikes give us only a taste of the suffering experienced by the pioneers. Now, our biggest struggles are frequently not a result of too little, but rather of having too much. Our shifting mindset from industry to entitlement is a plague that often perpetuates itself through our daily actions and attitudes.
It’s troubling that one day my generation may be remembered as the “entitlement generation.” But I am even more troubled when we, who could do more to escape that label, at times rightly deserve it. By consistently choosing to work hard, we can live our lives avoiding entitlement.
Even in rough economic times, our level of material wealth still far exceeds that of the pioneers. Such blessings have contributed to defining many twenty-somethings today as the “entitlement generation,” or the “me generation.” Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times cited, “the collision between the values of a privileged era and the realities of a prolonged era of economic stagnation” as this generation’s defining experience.
Today, thousands of young people globally come to the streets looting, sitting in, destroying and idling, as they demand the government provide more jobs and the one percent give up its greed. As we watch these groups flexing their political muscle in the form of loosely organized protests, young people today are the group most likely to pass up their right to vote.
I tend to take offense every now and again when I am labeled as an entitled young adult. Although tuition is subsidized 70 percent thanks to faithful tithe payers, many of my friends and I do our part to remain debt-free by working our way through school, maintaining good grades, searching for modest housing and keeping a tight belt on what we spend. I watch my graduated friends who are frustrated at the prospect of “boomeranging” back to their parents’ homes after four years of school. In an effort to sustain themselves, they circulate resumes, network and, in some, cases roll up their sleeves to develop and market their own products. As a result, I hardly find “entitled” the right way to characterize our lifestyles.
However, in that very assertion, I admit that my complacency toward my possessions gives clout to the very label I seek to distance myself from. Many of the “first world problems” I experience on a daily basis, including a charger that frequently shorts out, the “long” 10-minute, uphill walk to work, and reaching the bottom of my peanut butter jar often reflect my expectations — rather than gratitude — for my blessings. Similarly, we, who grew up in a largely prosperous decade, have yet to live through the ebbs and flows of multiple market cycles our parents have.
Like many of my generation, I don’t want to spend my life labeled as a spoiled brat who is ungrateful for the sacrifices others have made to get me to where I am. I want to work through lackluster prospects, and refrain from pointing my finger at others for my problems. In the end, the label may never disappear, but I certainly can’t expect it to go away if I am not willing to make my actions and attitudes consistent with a hardworking, thankful lifestyle in the first place.
Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve teaches us, “A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires.”
As we consistently strive to operate with this mindset, we can look back to our pioneer ancestors and their example of industry to continue that legacy. By working hard in a spirit of gratitude and obedience to the commandments, we are ultimately honoring the very cause that they gave everything to uphold.
Megan Conrad is a political science major and the receptionist for The Universe. This viewpoint represents her opinion and not necessarily those of BYU, its administration or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.