Choosing Eternal Priorities


Several years ago in Osaka, Japan, I received a telephone call from one of the Japanese officers of the Church requesting an appointment. I invited him to my hotel room and there listened to one of the most intelligent and articulate young men I had ever met.

He was a college graduate. He had majored in a special field of science and was employed by a stable, conservative corporation. One of his classmates, who had been at the top of the graduating class in the same field, was employed by a young, progressive firm in Tokyo. Several times in recent months this classmate had tried to entice his friend to change jobs. One of the vice-presidents of the firm in Tokyo made contact with the Church member, saying he could set his own salary at three or four times what he was then making.

The response was, “If there is the slightest question in the minds of the officers of my church about my leaving Osaka, which would require my being released from my Church position, it doesn’t matter how much money you offer me, I will have no interest in your proposal.” The vice-president replied, “I am not a Christian. I know nothing about your religion, but you are the kind of man I want in my organization.”

Should he move from Osaka to Tokyo, which would require his release from his Church assignment? Of course, I assured him that he could serve the Lord in Tokyo as well as in Osaka.

He moved to Tokyo. Later, while visiting that city, I received another call from the same man. We visited for quite some time. He had become extremely successful. He had broadened his experiences and was now a consultant teaching top management in major corporations how to operate their companies. His time was in great demand. He was making a handsome income. But he was neglecting his Church work and his family responsibilities.

I told him I wouldn’t tell him what he should do, but that there was a scripture that would tell him if he truly was converted: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.) I sensed that this scripture might have caused a few little ripples; however, we parted as good friends.

A few weeks after I returned home, I received a letter from him. He said he had his priorities straightened out. He had resigned from the company. His first priority now would be his family and the Church, and his second priority would be employment. Setting priorities and then reviewing them to see that we are not straying is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn.

Of course, in setting priorities we must establish objectives. Then establishing priorities aids us in achieving our goals. You may have heard of the pilot who announced to his passengers that he had some good news and some bad news. The good news was, “We are traveling at 600 miles per hour.” The bad news, “We are lost.” I suppose his objective was to arrive at his destination. But his priorities were confused. Many people have the same problem.

Recently an attractive young woman came to my office with her parents. She came from a good family, but she had lost her way and now was in serious difficulty. She was unmarried and expecting a child and wondered what she should do. My heart went out to her. I think she loved the Lord. She had forgotten that those who love the Lord keep in touch with him and keep his commandments. She had control of her emotions until I asked her if she said her prayers. Then she began to cry.

How important it is that we communicate daily, and more often if necessary, with our Heavenly Father. He always loves us whether we are good or bad. It takes initiative on our part, however, if he is to bless us.

On the first Thursday of each month, General Authorities meet in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple under the direction of the First Presidency. One of the most inspiring experiences associated with this meeting for me is to view three paintings portraying events in the Savior’s life. They hang on the wall over the chairs where the First Presidency sits. One shows the Savior on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Another shows him on the cross. The third shows him just after he had risen from the tomb. This latter one is the one that captures my attention most of all.

The artist has portrayed what I visualize as the feelings one would have in the presence of the risen Lord. The Savior is standing straight and tall, looking down with a smile at the face of a lovely woman. She is reverently kneeling before him, looking up into his eyes with a worshipful expression on her countenance.

To me, being worthy to be received by the Savior could well be the first priority of every Latter-day Saint woman and man.

Akin to that, of course, would be the goal of temple marriage and becoming a righteous parent in Zion. The establishment of a righteous, eternal family is our most important responsibility. The Lord commanded that we multiply and replenish the earth. He also said, “Children are an heritage of the Lord … happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” (Ps. 127:3, 5.)

There are some strident voices in society today teaching lessons that come from Satan himself. They would say marriage is not necessary for a man and woman to live together; that sexual intercourse out of wedlock is a part of normal, acceptable relationships; that should a couple marry, there should be not more than two children and better still, no children at all.

The daughter of one of our fine Church families recently announced to her parents that she would not have any children and that she was embarrassed by the size of the family in which she was a member. There are four children in the family, and she told her parents they’d better not have any more. Yet the Lord has said, “Children are an heritage of the Lord.” I’m not sure the Lord has predetermined when a couple has its “quiver full of them.”

Some of you will begin families in a few years—you will never have a more important responsibility in this life than to rear a righteous family.

Another top-of-the-list priority is best described in the opening phrase of a hymn: “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice.” What a wonderful blessing to have a living prophet on the earth today, one who speaks to the Lord. When he speaks to us as the prophet, it is as though the Lord himself were speaking. It is essential then to have the courage to obey. If we listen to him and fail to obey, of what value is it to listen?

One of the great lessons on obedience is found in 2 Kings 5:1–14 [2 Kgs. 5:1–14]:

“Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.”

The King of Syria sent Naaman to the King of Israel thinking he could cure him of leprosy, which he could not do. Elisha heard of the King’s distress and suggested that Naaman come to him, Elisha.

“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.

“And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.”

Naaman was upset, because the answer was so simple. He felt it was beneath his dignity and rode away in anger.

“And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

Even the Savior learned to be obedient:

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

“And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:8–9.) Certainly obedience is a worthy goal and should be a high priority in life.

There seems to be no end to the priorities, and they all seem so important. Yet many of them can be worked on simultaneously. One of these is service, as taught by the Savior in the gospel of Luke:

“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, What shall I do to inherit eternal life?

“He said unto him, what is written in the law? how readest thou?

“And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God … with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

“And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

“But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?”

Jesus then told of the Good Samaritan who found the robbed and wounded man. The victim of thieves had already been passed by a priest and a Levite. The Samaritan took care of his needs. Then Jesus asked the young lawyer:

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

“And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:25–29, 36–37.)

Service to mankind should be a hallmark of a true Latter-day Saint’s life. There are many other principles to remember in setting priorities as well, and though they cannot all be listed here, sacrifice would certainly be one of them.

You may remember from the scriptures the story of a young ruler who obeyed all the commandments, but who could not give up his riches.

“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

“And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

“And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:22–24.)

Those who pay their tithing, fast offerings, ward budget, and all that is asked are preparing themselves to live the law of consecration. I am convinced that as soon as we are prepared, that great law will be given us.

There are those who are ready now, but there are not enough. I know of one lovely woman who is ready. She had been injured in the accident which took her husband’s life, leaving her a widow for the second time in her young life. She had not fully recovered from the mishap and had a family of young children to raise. Yet she paid tithing on the insurance settlement for her husband’s death. The clerk said to the bishop, “Sister So-and-so needs this money much more than the Church does. Don’t you think we should return it?”

The bishop asked me. I answered his question with a question: “What does Sister So-and-so need more than the blessings that come from paying tithing?” Imagine how the Lord will open the windows of heaven for this young mother because of her faith and devotion.

When I think of all the energy possessed by the youth of the Church, and how important it is that such energy be properly channeled into righteous desires, my heart overflows.

I know God lives. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he and the Father appeared to Joseph Smith—a boy 14 years old. I know that for several years following that great vision, Joseph studied and prayed and was taught and trained for his mission. It didn’t just happen any more than it’s going to just happen to you. We have to train and learn how to discipline ourselves if we’re going to achieve the fullest measure of our creation.

Priorities are the key. And the greatest priority is, above all else, to seek first the kingdom of God.

[photos] Photos by Longin Lonczyna, Jr.