Nathan Yeung, a priest in the Victoria First (English) Branch, Hong Kong International District, spends about an hour a day at early-morning seminary, seven hours at school, another hour traveling to and from school, two to three hours per day doing homework, and another two to three hours a day practicing the piano, studying martial arts, playing on his school basketball team, or singing with a school choir. If he eats breakfast on the run and spends only an hour at dinner, that leaves about eight hours a day for everything else, including sleeping.
But this story isn’t about Nathan and everything he’s doing, because most of the youth in his branch are just as busy doing just as many interesting things.
Lesa Lai, a Laurel, keeps a similar schedule, except school lasts a half hour longer, travel is one hour each way, and it’s volleyball, soccer, or track—depending on the season. For Shan Singh, a priest, it’s rugby and serving as vice president of the student council.
It’s the same story for Alice Andersen, Celestine Yeung, Musashi and Chihiro Howe, Chelsea and Casey Messick, and the other young men and young women in the district.
These youth are typical of many Latter-day Saint teenagers around the world who seem to balance on the circus high-wire while juggling Church activity, family time, school, jobs, and extracurricular activities. How do they pull off such a difficult act without falling into the trap of missing what is most important?
That’s the million-dollar question. “It’s all about priorities,” says Chelsea, a Laurel. “If you make time for the most important things, everything else falls into place.”
Chelsea, Nathan, and their friends in the Hong Kong International District are learning that it’s easier to find balance when your feet are firmly planted on a solid gospel foundation. They have recognized the importance of making personal time for the gospel. “That is the most important part of my day,” says Nathan. “If I don’t read and pray and go to seminary, my day is bad.”
“Most of our friends at school aren’t members,” says Lesa. “So it’s up to us to make personal time for church. I try to read my scriptures every day and listen to Church music.”
Sometimes prioritizing means giving up something good to make time for something more important. “I had to give up my job because I was too busy,” says Chelsea. The others have all run into similar situations.
Along with the gospel, a top priority for these young men and women is family. “Family is important,” says Casey, a teacher. “I know I can always turn to them for help. I can trust them. I know I can be with them forever.”
But sometimes finding time together is tough. “It’s not just my schedule,” Lesa notes. “We don’t get much time together because my siblings are gone a lot too, and my dad travels a lot.”
So with their families, these youth have had to find ways to make time for each other. “I used to go out a lot with friends on weekends, but now I try to save that time for my family. I see my friends on school days,” says Celestine, a Mia Maid. “And when my dad is home, we all try to accommodate his schedule.”
Each of the youth agrees that weekends are most often free for family time if carefully planned. “Especially Sunday,” Chelsea says. “Sunday is for family.”
“I try to make sure I have time for them whenever they’re planning something,” says Nathan. In addition, his family always tries to have dinner together. “And family home evening is important.”
“Family home evening helps keep us together,” Musashi, a teacher, agrees. “And we try to plan family activities on Saturday. It’s important to make time for family, because the goal is to be with them forever.”
Balance is only one of the blessings that come from setting spiritual growth as a top priority.
“Making time for the gospel is good for the spiritual part of your life,” says Musashi. “It helps your testimony grow.”
It’s also important because it helps you set a good example, according to Shan. “Other people can tell when you’re living the way you should,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll get questions from my friends because of the way we live.”
“If I don’t read and pray and go to seminary, I’m not prepared when missionary opportunities come,” says Nathan.
For Chelsea, it’s about remembering the real reason we’re here. “Doing things like praying and reading scriptures is a reminder that Jesus Christ should be the center of your life. Remembering that affects everything you do,” she says. “Otherwise, it’s easy to get so busy you forget why we came.”
When we remember to focus on the Savior, we realize that life isn’t about walking the high-wire while juggling different activities, but it’s about standing on solid ground. As Helaman said, “Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; … which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12).
“When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take highest priority. Then it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of life. Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction. He would have good people fill life with ‘good things’ so there is no room for the essential ones. Have you unconsciously been caught in that trap?”
—Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “First Things First,” Ensign, May 2001, 7.