Born in American Fork, Utah, D. Todd Christofferson graduated from high school in New Jersey, earned his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, where he was an Edwin S. Hinckley Scholar, and his law degree from Duke University.
Among other callings, he has served the Church as a Regional Representative, stake president, and bishop. As a young man, he served as a missionary in Argentina.
D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Katherine Jacob Christofferson, are parents of five children.
At the time of his call to the Quorum of the Twelve, he was serving in the Presidency of the Seventy. During his tenure in the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Christofferson had supervisory responsibility for the North America West, Northwest, and Southeast Areas of the Church. He also served as Executive Director of the Family and Church History Department. Earlier, he was president of the Mexico South Area of the Church, resident in Mexico City.
Prior to his call to serve as a full-time General Authority of the Church, Elder Christofferson was associate general counsel of NationsBank Corporation (now Bank of America) in Charlotte, North Carolina. Previously, he was senior vice president and general counsel for Commerce Union Bank of Tennessee in Nashville where he was also active in community affairs and interfaith organizations. From 1975 to 1980, Elder Christofferson practiced law in Washington, D.C., after serving as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica during the trials and other proceedings known as Watergate (1972-74).
Happiness and Work
Each Wednesday, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds a meeting to counsel with Area Presidencies around the world. Typically, the Seventies who form these Area Presidencies join us virtually, but sometimes in person. Being very creative we call this the Area Committee meeting (quite an exotic title, I’m sure you’ll agree). Generally, we are also joined by the Presidency of the Seventy, the Presiding Bishopric, and the men and women who comprise the General Officers of the Church (such as the Relief Society Presidency). In addition to reports and discussions with Area Presidencies, we often hear from guests with expertise in a wide variety of subjects. As you might imagine, during the pandemic, for example, we heard from a prominent public health expert at the University of Minnesota and a key official with a major pharmaceutical company that created one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Last March, we heard from Arthur Brooks who teaches a course in happiness at Harvard University. Professor Brooks is an engaging and happy person himself. He explained that there is some science in the subject of happiness. Research has shown, he said, that there is a genetic element, and also that one’s circumstances (or what some might call luck) can play a role in the level of happiness we experience. What intrigued me most, however, was the influence of something he termed a “portfolio of habits.” There are four things in this “portfolio:” faith, family, friends, and meaningful work.
Professor Brooks felt he couldn’t instruct us much on the subject of faith other than to note that it is important to be intentional in cultivating faith—not just waiting for it to happen. With respect to family and friends, he was clear in asserting that marriage is a reliable source of human flourishing, and that person-to-person contact leads to friendship while social media contact without more does not. He characterized living on social media as “binging on junk food.” Of course, during the height of the pandemic, we had to rely a little more on this “junk food” than we might have wished.
The most intriguing part of the “portfolio” of happiness for me was what Professor Brooks called meaningful work. He said that two things make work meaningful: earned success and service to others. Earned success is success based on diligent effort. It is effort or work that uses skills that match your interests and passions, that leads to a sense of accomplishment, and that contributes to upward mobility in life. The second element, service to others, means that your work makes life better for others in a tangible way.
By this definition, each of you is engaged in meaningful work. There is no question that higher education of whatever kind is hard work, and success is based on diligent effort. I assume that your educational endeavor is tied to your personal interests and skills. This current work of yours will lead to upward socioeconomic mobility. And I am confident that one of the most important motivations for your hard work and sacrifices is the desire to make life better for others, especially those you love most. In the end, your current meaningful work will prepare you for even greater meaningful work in the future.
This concept of meaningful work as an essential element of happiness is consistent with gospel doctrine. We start with our Heavenly Father Himself who declared, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”i Talk about meaningful work! Talk about upward mobility and making life better for others! God’s success in His work is clearly earned, and in the category of earned success, we would most definitely include the Atonement and Resurrection of His Only Begotten Son, our Redeemer Jesus Christ. It is not coincidental that God’s work goes under the title of the Plan of Happiness. Former Church President David O. McKay once remarked, “Learn to like your work. Learn to say, ‘This is my work, my glory, not my doom.’”ii
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, includes several paragraphs explaining Church doctrine on the subject of work. This section of the encyclopedia was written by Professor David J. Cherrington at BYU and cites a number of General Authority statements. Let me repeat just a few:
“The role of work, as it has been consistently explained in the scriptures and taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, involves four principles: Work is a universal obligation; work enhances the quality of life on earth; daily work has eternal consequences; and work will continue in the eternities. ...
“Work is necessary for personal development and represents a major source of happiness and fulfillment. ‘Our Heavenly Father loves us so completely that he has given us a commandment to work... He knows that we will learn more, grow more, achieve more, serve more, and benefit more from a life of industry than from a life of ease.’iii
“The obligation to work was stated when the Lord commanded Adam and Eve to dress [or cultivate and tend] the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), and was reemphasized later when they were driven out. The ground was cursed for their ultimate benefit (Genesis 3:17-19), and work is viewed as a blessing and opportunity.”iv
Elder L. Tom Perry, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, related an experience in General Conference from his boyhood about how he was taught the doctrine of work by his father:
“How grateful I am for a father who had the patience to teach me how to work. I remember as a lad, when I was only seven years old, we were remodeling our house and tearing out some of the walls. In those days two-by-sixes were used as studding. To the studs was nailed the lath, and over the lath came the plaster. When tearing out walls, the slats and the plaster were easy to knock off, but, of course, that left the nails in the [studs].
“Each night after the workers had finished, I had the responsibility of gathering up the two-by-sixes... and, with a crowbar, remov[ing] the nails. After the nails had been pulled out of the studs, I was told to straighten them [with a hammer]. Finally, I threw the straightened nails into a large green bucket and stacked the two-by-sixes in a neat pile. ...
“I will never forget my consternation as I watched the workmen using new nails as they built the walls back up and completed remodeling our home. The pile of nails that I had straightened and put in the green bucket grew and grew and was never used. I went to my father and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be better to save the new nails and use the ones I have straightened?’ ...
“My father showed me something very important. He took a new nail and, using an odd angle, drove it into a board. He was able to drive it straight and true. Then he took one of the nails I had straightened so carefully, and, using the same odd angle, hit it again and again. It soon bent and was impossible to drive into the board. So, I learned that a used, or bent nail, is never as strong as a new one. But then why had my father asked me to straighten those nails?
“As a boy, I never remember receiving a satisfactory answer. It was not until I had a son of my own that I started to understand. ...
“Work is something more than the final end result. It is a discipline. We must learn to do, and to do well, before we can expect to receive tangible rewards for our labors. My father must have known that if he focused on the outcome of my labors, he would only become frustrated with how inadequately I did things then. So, he found tasks that were difficult and would challenge me, to teach me the discipline of hard work. He was using the straightened nails not to rebuild our home but to build my character.”v
I believe that all honest labor done well is service to God for “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”vi Some years ago, Thomas B. Griffith, recently retired as a United States Circuit (appellate) Court Judge in Washington, D.C., addressed the J. Reuben Clark Law Society on the subject, “How Do We Practice Our Religion While We Practice [Law]?” In his remarks, Judge Griffith recalled a story told by a professor on the BYU business school faculty “of an Italian immigrant who, when he passed through Ellis Island in the early 20th century, recorded on his papers under the box marked “Occupation”: ‘I am a servant of God. I mend shoes.’”vii
Judge Griffith continued:
“That anecdote reminds me of what Dorothy Sayers, the Catholic apologist, translator of Dante, and mystery novelist, wrote:
“The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
“Church by all means, and decent forms of amusement, certainly—but what use is all that if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry? No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth... No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie (Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos? (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949), 56-57; emphasis in original).”viii
As we praise the rewards of labor and the blessing of having work to do, a word of caution is in order. Virtue carried to an extreme, ceases to be a virtue. As President Dallin H. Oaks has observed, our strengths can become our downfall if they are unbalanced by other strengths or carried to the extreme.ix A devotion to justice can lead to an unhealthy rigidity or even vengefulness if not balanced by other virtues such as mercy and love. Mercy can stray into excessive tolerance and indulgence if not balanced by justice and responsibility.
In this same way, a commitment to work, a truly vital gospel principle, can turn negative if not balanced with rest and renewal or if carried to an extreme in which it becomes a kind of religion. Writing in The Atlantic magazine, commentator Derek Thompson described the phenomenon he called “workism.” “Workism” is the “belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.” Especially for some rich, college-educated people, work has morphed into “a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community.”x
A report on this subject to the Quorum of the Twelve’s Area Committee in 2019 noted that a recent Pew Research study among teens in the United States found that they “were much more likely to say that ‘having a job or career they enjoy’ was extremely or very important to them than they were to say that getting married or having children was extremely or very important. And it wasn’t even close. While almost all of the survey respondents (95%) said an enjoyable job or career was extremely or very important, only about half felt that way about getting married, and just four in ten put a high level of importance on having children... Today’s rich Americans can afford more leisure [and family] time, but many prefer to work more instead.
“Work itself has intrinsic value, and life can be miserable for those dealing with long-term unemployment. But the American conception of work has shifted from jobs to careers to callings—from necessity to status to meaning... To make work and success in work the centerpiece of one’s life is also to risk submitting one’s worth to the vagaries of the market. ...
“[Derek] Thompson argues that the rise of social media has amplified the pressure on many of today’s young workers to craft an image of success. Many of them spend hours creating an online presence intended to show their accomplishments in their vocational calling. Overwork and burnout are outwardly celebrated as markers of achieving success in one’s calling. This could be a ‘blueprint for spiritual and physical exhaustion.’ Rather than making people more productive or creative, the long hours they put in to achieve success could be making them more ‘stressed, tired, and bitter.’” ... Workism is a religion that will make most of its adherents miserable.”
Among other things that the adherents of “workism” fail to appreciate is that leisure and rest also have great value. An old Chinese author, Lin Yutang, quoted one of his fellows in his essay entitled, “The Importance of Loafing,” who said, “Leisure in time is like unoccupied floor space in a room.” “It is that unoccupied space,” he said, “which makes a room habitable, as it is our leisure hours which make life endurable.”xi
It is self-evident that we need rest for physical renewal, but enough leisure for rest and meditation is also essential for spiritual renewal. Indeed, without spiritual renewal, the spirit can become slave to the body. The combination of work and rest builds a sense of accomplishment and self-worth while maintaining the dominance of the spirit. This is the idea behind a Sabbath day. A venerable rabbi of the past, Abraham Heschel, wrote, “On the Sabbath, we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.”xii
Renewal is also the idea behind our recourse to the temple, the House of the Lord. As we step into the temple, we step out of the world. We eat the nourishing bread and drink the pure water of spiritual peace. We sometimes speak of temple work, but we could also speak of temple rest. Sometimes when the scriptures speak of rest, they are simply referring to a different kind of work. It is the work of ministering in the Lord’s cause: teaching, lifting, comforting, fellowshipping, proclaiming the gospel, and uniting families eternally. The rest of the Lord is also deliverance from sin, trials, troubles, cares, and sorrow.xiii
Let me conclude with one further observation about the principle of work. “Work will not cease with death. ‘Work with faith is a cardinal point of our theological doctrine and our future state—our heaven is envisioned in terms of eternal progression through constant labor’ (Richards, pp. 10-11; cf. Rev. 13:14; D&C 59:2). [Elder Neal A. Maxwell noted that], Detailed information about the nature of work in the hereafter has not been revealed. However, ‘what little information we have of a tactical nature suggests that we will be intelligently involved doing specific things which are tied to the eternal purposes of our Father in Heaven’ (Maxwell, p. 26; cf. Sill, p. 7).”xiv
I pray that you will be blessed with work—meaningful work—physical, mental, and spiritual, throughout your life and on into eternity. I know that if you are, it will be a key ingredient in your happiness. And so, I pray for your happiness, now and forever. I bear witness of the reality and love of our Heavenly Father whose work and glory are to achieve the immortality and eternal life of His children. I bear joyful witness of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, keys to the success of the Father’s great Plan of Happiness. I invoke God’s blessings upon each of you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow , 1586.
 Moses 1:39.
 David O. McKay, “Man Is That He Might Have Joy,” Church News, (August 8, 1951): 2, 4.
 Howard W. Hunter, “Prepare for Honorable Employment,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 122.
 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, , 1585–1586.
 L. Tom Perry, “The Joy of Honest Labor,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 63–64.
 Mosiah 2:17.
 Thomas B. Griffith, “How Do We Practice Our Religion While We Practice?” Clark Memorandum, Fall 2004, 15.
 See, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 11–19.
 Derek Thompson, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” The Atlantic, Feb. 2019, accessed on June 15, 2021, at: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/religion-workism-making-americans-miserable/583441/ .
 Lin Yutang, “The Importance of Loafing,” from The Importance of Living, as cited in Bruce B. Clark and Robert K. Thomas, Out of the Best Books, vol. 5 , 220.
 Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, , 13.
 See Matthew11:28–30; Alma 40:12.