Viewpoint: Focus on Things That Matter Most—Four Key Relationships

Contributed By the Church News

  • 13 July 2014

Each of us has been given an unknown, limited block of time that will define our own mortality. What will be our priorities?

“Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency 

A reporter recently sat down for an interview with a venerable Church leader who was well into the tenth decade of his life.

The elderly man is something of a living reference book on the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the past 80 years. He had associated and traveled with several Church Presidents, dozens of Apostles, and countless other general and auxiliary leaders. He had both witnessed and played key roles in the development of many important programs that define the Church today.

The reporter, perhaps understandably, was anxious to make the most of his time with the veteran leader. This doubled as a treasure trove of great story ideas—that rare “source” that journalists cherish.

At one point in the interview, the reporter’s smartphone began to vibrate: an incoming call. He ignored his device and hoped the man across the table would do the same. Again, the phone vibrated.

The Church leader nodded at the impatient phone. “It’s OK,” he said, “you can get that.”

Embarrassed, the reporter picked up his smartphone and glanced at the familiar name and number appearing on the tiny screen.

“No need—it’s just my wife.”

It was a poor choice of words, and the reporter knew it. The elderly leader stiffened a bit in his chair and then, firmly, told the reporter to take his wife’s phone call.

At the end of the brief phone conversation, the humbled reporter turned back to the Church leader.

“Young man,” the 96-year-old-man said softly, “I lost my wife six months ago. I miss her so. I would give anything just to speak with her on the phone at this moment.”

The two continued with a broad interview that stretched across many key gospel truths. But perhaps the day’s most essential truth was the one that caught the reporter by surprise. Never again would he dismiss a simple phone call from his wife or another loved one. He would remember his priorities. A kind and seasoned man had reminded him of those matters that matter most.

Of course, the Savior taught a similar lesson nearly two thousand years ago while visiting the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary recognized the divine weight of that moment. Imagine, the Lord Himself was a guest in her home. She sat at His feet, listening to and absorbing all He said.

Each of us has been given an unknown, limited block of time that will define our own mortality. What will be our priorities?

But Martha was distracted by her domestic preparations around the house. The minutia of the moment had claimed her attention.

“Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.”

Perhaps, like the reporter, Martha regretted her blunt words the moment they left her mouth. And, once again, a wise Teacher utilized her offhand remark to share a timeless lesson on organizing one’s priorities.

“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40–42).

Each of us has been given an unknown, limited block of time that will define our own mortality. We, like Mary and Martha, must decide how we use our own precious allotment. What will be our priorities?

“We must learn to prioritize our choices to match our goals or risk being exposed to the winds of procrastination and being blown from one time-wasting activity to another” declared Elder Ian S. Ardern during the October 2011 general conference.

“We are well taught about priorities by the Master Teacher when He declared in His Sermon on the Mount, ‘Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness.’”

In his October 2010 general conference address, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, also taught “of things that matter most.”

“Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

“It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Overscheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.”

But we can find relief from such albatrosses, he said. We can know of the things that matter most by focusing on four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves.

“If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.

“Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.

“Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.”