We Have Been There All the Time

Paul H. Dunn


Thank God for the youth of the Church! I don’t know where we could have a better object lesson than this delightful group behind me.

President Richards always hits a sensitive note. I have thought through that parable of the talents many times and have read it perhaps a little differently than you have. The Lord said when we do what we are supposed to do, “Well done, … good and faithful servant.” (Matt. 25:21.) In my case, He might well say, “Well, Dunn!”

On behalf of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, we greet these three new brethren to our quorum.

As I travel around the Church and see many of the challenges and as I have listened very carefully in this conference and in other meetings, I appreciate more fully the concern of our president to reach out to those who are lost or inactive. He made a very interesting point in an earlier service, a very interesting observation, and I would like to quote it. He said, “Prevention is far better than redemption.” Did you get the difference? Prevention is far better than redemption. Would you young adults, young married couples, young people everywhere, please take note?

While my daughters were growing up, during the many trips we took in our car, the most often-asked question was, “When will we get there, Dad?” And “How long will it take?” I couldn’t help but think that those questions are much like some that we adults ask. We think we will be happy when we arrive at a certain destination, our schooling is finished, we get a better job, we arrive at a certain income, the baby is born, our bills are paid, we recover from our illness, we own a new car, some disagreeable task is finished, we retire, or we are free from all responsibility.

My father used to teach us that life is a journey, not a camp, and he indicated that too many people are camping. I’d like to challenge all of us, particularly the young people and young couples that are married, to see life as a whole and to enjoy the marvelous journey.

I remember a grandmother who had been widowed early in her life and was moving out of her home. Her granddaughter, about to be married herself, was carefully helping her pack the boxes of dishes and the faded towels. “See that sewing machine over there in the corner?” the grandmother asked. “Your grandfather always left his hat there when he came home in the evening. I used to scold him all the time about it. ‘Just put your hat on the hook,’ I’d say. ‘Why does your hat always have to be on the sewing machine messing everything up?’ Then one day he got pneumonia and died, leaving four little children and me to miss him for a lifetime. How many times through the years I’ve thought, What I’d give to see that hat on the sewing machine, placed there by his own hand!”

Like the grandmother in this story, we too often let trifles cloud our vision. We get caught up in nonessentials or in a multitude of meetings, both in and out of the Church, that have no particular meaning or purpose. We sometimes nag the people we love the best over little inattentions, small faults, mere nothings in the whole scheme of things. Instead of treasuring the all-too-rare moments we share with our dear ones, we pick at faults, imagined or otherwise. How many of us say to our wives, our husbands, our children: “Why can’t you do this?” “Why don’t you do that?” Or “Someday when I have the time …”

Our last daughter left for college this past month, and the eighteen years of daily living with her were suddenly over. Where had they gone? What minute, what hour, what day or night had swallowed up all those joyous, giggling, growing-up years? The first night she was away, I slipped into her bedroom, looked at her record player, and thought of all those times I had mechanically said, “Would you turn down the music!” And I thought, too, how often in the days ahead we’d be longing to hear the music. Thank God she and her parents have many wonderful memories to savor in the years ahead.

Our daughter Janet lies in a hospital bed at this very moment, and she and we know what great moments we have to share. And you know, Janet, our great faith and our feeling.

Why do those sudden moments of clarity, when we realize how precious our loved ones are, come so rarely? How do we let ourselves get caught up in faultfinding, digging, or scolding at those who are nearest our hearts? Is it ever worth it? As C. S. Lewis once advised, “Take care. It is so easy to break eggs without making omelettes.” (Cited in Richard L. Evans, Richard Evans’ Quote Book, Salt Lake City: Publisher’s Press, 1971, p. 169.)

Maybe each of us needs to stop amidst our busy, dashing, breathless lives—even amidst our many meetings. It recalls to mind an experience—perhaps you know it—of a little inquisitive boy who came to church with his father, and as they walked into the foyer, the boy noticed the usual trophy case over which were placed several large plaques. Curiosity got to the little boy. He pulled on his dad’s coattail and said, “Dad, what’s that one?”

The father moved a little closer and read the inscription, patted his boy on the head, and said, “Son, that’s a plaque honoring those who died in the service.”

To which the little boy said, “Morning or evening?”

I appreciate that the Lord has instructed us that there are important meetings, but then there are other meetings which are not well planned or properly structured. Yes, even amidst our meetings and our commitments we need to really see: to see the way his eyes wrinkle when he laughs, see the tilt of her head as the light catches her hair, remember his dash of humor. Maybe when things get in the saddle and ride us, we need to step back for a moment of clarity. We need to remember why we are doing all of this—remember how much we love those we love.

A young mother was running late to a very important meeting one time. As she dashed from her bedroom, her little three-year-old stopped her and said, “Mommy. Mom.”

To which the mother replied, “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“Mom, I need to tell you something.”

“Not now,” said the mother with an impatient wave of her hand.

“Mom,” began the little girl again.

“Oh, what is it?” said the mother.

“I just wanted to tell you I love you!”

Well, life is fleeting at best. We turn around and we’re young, turn around again and we’re old. Minutes rush past. We can’t stop them in all their rush. We’re eighteen; we’re twenty-eight; we’re forty-eight; we’re gray. Is there ever enough time to nag, scold, dig, or complain at the people we love most? We fool ourselves if we think there is. There’s only time to stop, as one has put it, to smell the flowers.

Do you remember Julia Ward Howe who told a senator on one occasion, “I am in need of help for a very special person”?

“Julia, I am so busy”, he said, “I can no longer concern myself with individuals.”

She replied, “That’s remarkable. Even God hasn’t reached that stage yet.” (See Richard Evans’ Quote Book, p. 165.)

Concern yourself first with individuals, with relationships, with loved ones. What else really matters? Don’t imagine yourself, regardless of who you are, busier than the Lord, who puts souls first above everything else.

The other night I was flying home from a distant conference. I had been away only three days, but as the flood lights of the airport loomed up, I welled up with anticipation and excitement. I felt as though I could have been a great hero returning from space—and what caused this excitement? I was going back to my family. Does it have to take flights away from home, a child leaving for college, or the death of a husband who will never again leave his hat in an awkward place to remind us how sweet are the moments with our loved ones and friends? How brief they are in the run of time? Does it take these things to stop us in our picking at trifling faults to realize the beauty of every minute together?

“When will we be there?” “How long will it take?” “How much longer, Dad, will it take?” are questions often asked by impatient children. “When will I arrive?”—a question asked by adults as they face the pressures of life. For all of us, let it not take a lifetime before we realize that we have been there all along, that life does not offer anything sweeter than the love of dear ones and the sharing of time together.

You remember what President Kimball said: “Prevention is far better than redemption.” God grant us the wisdom to know that life is a great journey, and may we have the sense to enjoy it. I bear witness to these truths in the holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.