Little Things Are Important

By Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Of the Council of the Twelve

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    Condensed from an address delivered at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 26 October 1986.The question is not one of managing time, but one of managing ourselves with the time we have. The so-called little things are really important if we are to gain eternal life.

    I have been impressed recently with the thought that this life is made up of little things—little things that are very important. I believe that the little things are very important in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationship with others, and in our relationship with God.

    The Lord has said, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

    I have often thought that some of the most common little things in our lives are the minutes that pass in each hour of the day. For each human being, time is a necessary resource. It can neither be ignored nor changed. We must spend it at a fixed rate of 60 minutes every hour. We cannot add to or take from the number of minutes in a day.

    The question is not one of managing time, but one of managing ourselves with the time we have. Each minute is a little thing and yet, with respect to our personal productivity, to manage the minute is the secret of success.

    Relationship with Self

    Let us first think about our relationship with ourselves. You must take proper care in your life to see that the little things regarding your personal life are in order. You must learn to care for your health and your mental well-being. Do you maintain proper exercise that will give you the extra energy and strength you need to do your daily labors? Are you wise in your diet? Do you eat foods that are good for your body? Do you think about things that keep your spirit strong and your attitude positive?

    Our bodies are truly the result of what we eat, what we think about, and the exercise we receive. If we are not wise, these little things can soon cause major health problems that will limit our success and ability to serve.

    Relationship with Others

    With regard to our relationship with others, I am amazed when I think of the perfect example that the Lord Jesus Christ provides in all aspects of our existence. If we were to meet him, we would find him very pleasant and perfect in all his relationships and dealings with each individual.

    Do you take the time to remember some of the simple courtesies that are so important in relationships with others? Do you remember the smile, the compliment, the positive comment, and the word of encouragement? We should do these important little things without hesitation.

    Patience and long suffering, considered by some to be unimportant in this life, are some of the greatest attributes we can develop when dealing with our fellowmen. Whether it be in sports, in business, or in our Church associations, if you can develop these two great attributes, you will find that you really can work with people and have a good influence in their lives.

    Other important little things that deserve our attention are the small acts of service we do for our fellowmen. President Spencer W. Kimball said:

    “I have learned that it is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we think more about others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves. … God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom” (“Small Acts of Service,” Tambuli, December 1976).

    Relationship with God

    When creating our spiritual bodies, our Heavenly Father took great care to place in each of us every little potential of character, of compassion, joy, and of knowledge that we would need for our personal growth. The beginnings of each godly character trait is in each and every one of us. With that assurance, we are truly able to become gods as he has commanded us. Do you recall the Savior’s words to the Nephites, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).

    We must pay attention to the small things that will help us to grow and develop in our relationship with God. We should learn from the words of the prophet Alma to his son Helaman, “But behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

    The desire to develop spiritual qualities will lead us away from other unrighteous desires. It will cause us to pray more intently and to be a little more forgiving of our neighbor’s faults. We will love more and criticize less. If we seek personal growth in a Christlike direction, we must make our life’s purpose the acquisition of these spiritual qualities.

    Certainly one of Satan’s main messages in today’s world is that we really do not need to worry about the unimportant matters. Lucifer is a master at gradual deception. He can make little things seem so harmless when, in reality, they will quickly bind the soul and destroy the spirit. He can make immodest dress and suggestive behavior seem very acceptable. He can cause us to think that a little indiscretion in speech and manner is still quite wholesome. But soon those little steps repeat themselves in an ever-descending pattern until one is at a far-lower level than ever imagined.

    I suggest, on the positive side, that we watch for all possible little opportunities to overcome evil and increase our spiritual strength. We must “let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly, that our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God” (see D&C 121:45).

    Little things, which, in reality, become such big things, help us understand more clearly as we learn to conquer them one by one in our effort to gain more and more strength. And this we do in a spirit of humility and gratitude to our Heavenly Father.

    Our living prophet today, President Ezra Taft Benson, observed as a member of the Twelve that all these things are possible. He said, “Our Father’s children are essentially good. I think they have, all of them, a spark of divinity in them … and they want to do what is right” (Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 4 Oct. 1973, page 3).

    We should try to live every day with absolute faith, for we have learned in life that the Lord keeps his promises and watches over those who trust Him. He has been so good to all of us that we should have a strong belief that He must really love us in spite of our faults.

    I testify to you that these so-called little things really are important if we are to gain eternal life in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

    Illustrated by Kay Stevenson and Perry Van Schelt