The Things That Matter Most


Conference photo

Some years ago, I read an editorial in the Deseret News entitled “The Mechanical Rabbit.” I quote:

“Most of our readers must have smiled the other day when they read of the greyhounds in Britain who don’t know a rabbit when they see one. So long had they chased a mechanical rabbit around the racetrack, that when a real rabbit bounded across the track, the dogs didn’t give it a second look.

“Stupid, eh? But sad too, this perverting of the natural instincts. …

“We chase mechanical rabbits, too.

“We chase paychecks, and don’t give a second look to the glint of the rising sun on a snow-topped peak.

“We chase our way through the appointments of a crowded desk calendar, and fail to take time to chat with the next-door neighbor or to drop in on a sick friend.

“We chase social pleasures on a glittering noisy treadmill—and ignore the privilege of a quiet hour telling bedtime stories to an innocent-eyed child.

“We chase prestige and wealth, and don’t recognize the real opportunities for joy that cross our paths. …”

Wordsworth said words appropriate to this condition: “The world is too much with us: late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

“Race on, you poor, blind over-civilized hounds. You’ll never catch your rabbit until you learn to recognize a genuine one.

“But, you’ll have company in your race; the company of unnumbered men who’ll never catch the joy they chase until they, too, learn to recognize a genuine one.”

This points up our challenge: See “that the things that matter most … are not at the mercy of things that matter least.” (Ashley Montague.)

Someone rephrased this thought: “Too often we are involved in the thick of thin things.”

In modern revelation the Lord said:

“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

“Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men. …” (D&C 121:34–35.)

Here is instruction to straighten out our values.

Note again the admonition: “their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world”—not on the things of the spirit. And they “aspire to the honors of men,” rather than seeking approval of God.

Have we sought “so much” for material things while missing, even ignoring, the things of God? The beauty of nature at this or any other season goes unseen and unappreciated.

Our lives are ruled by a schedule and appointments while the Christian acts of kindness wait—ofttimes in vain.

Our most flagrant violations, perhaps, occur in our own homes. We chase worldly pleasures and neglect our own innocent children. When did you tell stories to your children? Or go fishing or hunting with your son? Or help him earn a merit badge? Have you counseled with them concerning their personal achievement program?

The trials through which today’s young people are passing—ease and luxury—may be the most severe test of any age. Brothers and sisters, stay close to your own! Guide them safely! These are perilous times. Give increased attention. Give increased effort.

The responsibility rests on the family to solve our social problems. Youth search for security. They search for answers to be found only in a good home. No national or international treaty can bring peace. Not in legislative halls nor judicial courts will our problems be solved. From the hearthstones of the homes will come the answers to our problems. On the principles taught by the Savior, happiness and peace will come to families. In the home youth will receive strength to find happiness.

The world is full of foolish schemes. They contravene and hinder the purposes of the Lord. Some seek to change the God-given roles of the sexes. Some invite mothers to leave the home to work. Others entice fathers to find recreation away from their families. These questionable practices weaken the home!

Some fathers provide a good house, clothing, cars, and food, and forget what real fatherhood is. Fatherhood is a relationship of love and understanding. It is strength and manliness and honor. It is power and action. It is counsel and instruction. Fatherhood is to be one with your own. It is authority and example.

Elder Packer has counseled: “Most fathers concentrate on material security for their children. Security stored up for this lifetime with the world’s situation as it is, could, and probably will, vanish. To really secure one’s children, give them the memory of a happy home life. This is a pattern, a blueprint for them to follow, an image for them to create, an ideal for them to realize.”

Create a wholesome atmosphere in your home. Let seeking minds find adequate family support for growth and development.

Mothers sometimes turn to the business world for their own selfish purposes—sometimes due to necessity. Again the home is weakened. Face the fact that true fatherhood and true motherhood are fast disappearing. The failure of fathers and mothers to assume their rightful responsibilities actually creates the disturbed conditions we face. As Latter-day Saints, we must resist the thrust of the world against our homes. Repentance is in order for many of us. We must put our values in proper perspective. Put time and attention and means on the things that matter most. Few, in their more sober moments of reflection, do not know where true values rest. It takes a reminder, however, to keep them properly in focus.

King Benjamin counseled parents not to “suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither … that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil. … But … teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; … teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14–15.)

The Lord placed upon parents the responsibility to teach their children. This means more than to teach them verbally. There are better, basic ways to communicate values to our children.

For instance, in a society that tolerates divorce as the inevitable result of 50 percent of its marriages, there is great difficulty transmitting the principle of family solidarity. Children from broken homes seldom carry the idea that the family is an adequate problem-solving organization. Children whose entertainment comes largely from television find their needs for involvement in life frequently frustrated. Where a doctor who stops at the scene of an accident may be sued for administering aid, it is difficult to transmit to children the idea of service and responsibility.

In a home where the accumulation of worldly goods has become so important that the father works inordinately at providing financial security at the expense of spending time with his children and sharing his counsel and encouragement; and in a home, likewise, where the mother forsakes her children in order to get more “things,” it is a poor place to teach the worth of a human being in terms of love and sacrifice.

The Lord has said: “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.” (D&C 93:40.)

Dr. [Paul] Popenoe said, “Our youth are not products of their own lives, but of what their parents give them. If we can get parents to set a good example, we will take away the greatest stumbling block between generations.”

The Lord said: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6.)

We must learn, before it is too late, the truth spoken by Elder Richard L. Evans: “There never was a tonic that would cure more social ailments than a healthy, happy home. There never was a greater source of social stability than an affectionate and understanding family. There never was a better way of helping children to happiness than the close confidence of wise and loving and responsible parents.” (From Within These Walls [New York: Harper & Bros., 1959], p. 191.)

I was reared in a home of wise, loving, and responsible parents. I was reared in a home where a sweet mother was always awake when I came home, like Brother Dunn’s parents. There was always an opportunity to report and to talk. These sessions are some of my choicest memories. In that home was nurtured the testimony that I bear you today. I know that God lives; that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know that President Joseph Fielding Smith is a living prophet today, with the keys of the kingdom. I know that if we will follow the counsel we have been given in this conference, our homes will be better, our service more effective, and our joy more full. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.