The Sweetness of Sweat
July 1971

“The Sweetness of Sweat,” Ensign, July 1971, 35

The Sweetness of Sweat

Last week my wife, Belva, and I had arranged to call for another couple to accompany us in our car to a reception and dinner in a city forty-five miles away.

Shortly before we were to leave, they advised us by telephone that they would be delayed. “The newspaper presses have had a breakdown, and our sons’ newspapers will be late coming,” the man said. “We must wait to pick up the newspapers with our car so the boys can get them delivered. I’ll call you just as soon as we receive word that the newspapers have arrived where we are to get them.”

At first his words were a bit upsetting. But when we arrived at their home and saw three lads (the youngest was eight) busily preparing newspapers for delivery, our feelings turned to admiration.

Those parents had put first things first: their sons and their work.

The man is a successful business leader, with degrees in both engineering and law, and a former stake president. The mother is stake Relief Society president. More important to me is the fact that they have been teaching their nine children early the sweetness of sweat.

Certainly their children’s lives will be happier and healthier because of learning to love work at a tender age.

The other day I read an account in a Miami newspaper1 of an interview with a retired shepherd whose age is listed at 165. His name is Shirali Mislimov. He was born and has lived all his life in the Caucasus Mountains in that area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea where the borders of Turkey, Russia, and Iran meet. The Caucasus Mountains rise as high as 18,468 feet and have a number of passes over 10,000 feet high, some crossed by roads.

Mislimov still chops wood. “I am convinced an idler cannot live long,” he told his interviewer. Mislimov’s home is in Barzavu, 6,000 feet above sea level in Azerbaidzhan, Russia.

The article said that the old man still “digs around trees in an orchard, which he has replanted several times in his lifetime.”

“Constant work, mountain air, and moderate eating helped me reach such an advanced age,” said Mislimov, who neither drinks nor smokes and who eats only chicken broth, cheese, and a curded milk called airan.

Methuselah is recognized as the person in human history to reach the oldest age. But other than saying that he died at 969 years, the Bible tells us little about Methuselah. Genesis does tell us that his grandson, Noah, almost reached the same age as Methuselah—950 years—and Genesis says much more about Noah, a prophet who “walked with God.” (Gen. 6:9.)

Noah seemed to have been born to work. His father, Lamech, named him Noah, saying, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” (Gen. 5:29.)

Noah was a builder. He was 600 years old when the ark was completed and the floods came.

Lamech’s comment that God had cursed the earth recalls the words of the Lord to Adam: “… cursed is the ground for thy sake. …” (Gen. 3:17.) Then the Lord added: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread. …” (Gen. 3:19.)

The Lord did not curse Adam. He cursed the earth “for thy sake.” Through the ages man has received more than bread through the sweat of his face. He has received happiness.

Bismarck, the powerful Prussian statesman, once said: “To youth I have but three words of counsel: work, work, work.”

What a happy sight that was, watching those small brothers folding their newspapers at dusk. They may not become Noahs, but their lives should be fuller and finer and their sunset years longer and more glowing because wise and loving parents taught them early to love the sweetness of sweat.


  1. The Miami Herald, March 18, 1971, article by Peter J. Shaw, United Press International writer.