What Matters Most

Patricia P. Pinegar

 

Brigham Young UniversityIdaho Devotional

October 16, 2001

 

 

Greetings to you young brothers and sisters. I want you to know that I admire you. Why? Because President Hinckley speaks so highly of you, and I believe him. I respect you, for tomorrow you will be the leaders of the Church and the parents of the next generation. I also worry about you because you are living in a confusing, messed up world.

I am a grandmother and hope most of you have living grandparents. We as grandparents pray daily that your ability to recognize and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost will be sharp, keen, magnified and that you will make righteous choices. We pray that you will internalize the principles of the gospel, that you will know that they are true, that your testimony of Heavenly Father's love for you will be strong and without doubt, and that you will feel a tender love and gratitude for our Savior and desire to please Him, above anyone. If you do not have a living grandparent, please know that there are many people, President Pinegar and I included, who nightly pray for you, the noble youth of the Church.

I believe that there are also those beyond the veil who are cheering for you to make choices that will help you be happy. I was visiting our daughter in California several years ago and attended a Young Women class. I asked one of the young women what helped her make righteous choices. She answered, "I think of the children I will have when I get married. I picture them in heaven cheering for me to be good. They are my cheerleaders."

In 2 Kings 6:8-17 we are reminded of the help that is beyond the veil. Elisha the prophet told the king of Israel how to conduct a battle with Syria. The king of Syria was very upset and wanted to know who the traitor was that had leaked his war plans to Israel. Then, in verse twelve:

And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber. And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! How shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

My dear brothers and sisters, we have support beyond the veil. Without a doubt, I know we are Heavenly Father's children. He cares about us, He loves us, and He has a plan for our success and happiness. I trust in His loving plan with all of my heart. I know that through the covenants and ordinances we embrace, and as we grow in righteousness, we will see Him again, be with Him, and enjoy all that He has in store for us. I feel a deep longing to express, in person, my gratitude and my apologies to my Savior, who is my light. For us to receive the great blessings of the eternities we must be righteous. For us to feel peace within our hearts while we live here on earth we must be righteous. There is nothing that the world calls fun or pleasurable that can compare to the inner happiness and joy that comes from being righteous, nothing. That may be something you don't think much about, but if you will take time to identify how you feel when you make an unrighteous choice and compare that to how you feel when you make a difficult but righteous choice, you will know what I am talking about.

You have so many choices to make during this time of your life. Today I want to talk to you about what matters most. As I speak to you I would like each of you to identify three things:

First, identify what matters most to you. Think long term.

Second, identify the things you are currently doing that will lead you to what matters most.

When you leave this devotional, I hope that your heart will rejoice knowing that you are on the right track, and that you will have a great desire to continue in your righteous ways.

First, what does matter most?

A few weeks ago I was tending grandchildren while their Mom and Dad, Traci and Hans, participated in a sprint triathalon, that's the shortest triathalon. It was early in the morning. I fed Truman, nine months old, his bottle and put him on the floor with some toys. Grayson, five years old, and Chole, three years old, sat by my side on the couch and I began reading them a story. The story was getting exciting and Truman started fussing. We gave him more toys and continued our reading. He fussed again and we found his binky and popped it into his mouth. We were close to the climax of the story and he fussed again. Grayson said, "Truman is more important than this book."

In Alma 32:23 it says, "Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned" (grandmas).

I don't know how the story ends, but Grayson helped me think about what matters most.

There are so many things that matter, so many choices to make. What should your major be? Should you study for the big test or attend the devotional? Which of the many boys that asked you to hang out this Friday night will you say yes to?

Elder Scott, in his April 2001 conference address, teaches us:

Are there so many fascinating, exciting things to do or so many challenges pressing down upon you that it is hard to keep focused on that which is essential? 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? (The Ensign May 2001)

Can you see the value in identifying what matters most in your life in the long term?

I still remember the story I heard as a teenager of a boy's first experience preparing a field for planting. He knew how to run the tractor, and his father charged him with making straight rows so they could plant the corn. After a couple of rows his father stopped him and had him look at his work. The rows were not straight. The young man asked, "But Dad, how do you do it?" His father then told him to pick a post at the end of the field and head straight for it. Identifying what matters most in your life will give you a post to head toward, a guide to always have before you, to help you stay on track.

I believe as baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints you know what matters most. I had a memorable experience as a mother of young children that helped me remember where I wanted to go and what was most important to me.

I was at one of those stages in life when I was feeling discouraged and wondering if changing diapers, fixing meals, vacuuming up the Cheerio and graham cracker crumbs was really what life was all about.

One late afternoon I was vacuuming the family room before my sweetheart came home from work. I liked him to think I had everything under control. That day he arrived home early. He walked into the family room and put his arms around me; I quickly turned off the vacuum. He kissed me and told me that he loved me. It was wonderful to feel his love. He whispered in my ear, "I think I know what you're going to be in the hereafter." I needed a spiritual insight. He continued, "You are going to be the chief vacuumer." I can laugh about it now but it wasn't funny then. I may have cried; I don't remember.

That evening I called a babysitter; and the next morning, with stacks of paper, a pencil and in the spirit of fasting, I went to a small cabin my parents owned. I prayed and I wrote. I made a list of all the things I needed to do and wanted to do. I wrote them as they came to me in no special order, page after page. I went for a walk and then wrote more--mend the clothes my children are growing out of, read the scriptures, clean out the moldy vegetables in the bottom of the refrigerator, go to the temple more frequently, clean the drawers in the bathroom where the toothpaste was stuck in the comb, live with Heavenly Father with Ed and our children in a forever family, be more patient when putting the children to bed, and on and on. When I couldn't think of another thing I had to do or wanted to do, I went for another walk. When I got back I read through my list and put the number one by what mattered most--to live with Heavenly Father with Ed and our children as a forever family. Then I wrote number two and three and four and on down the list. I didn't ever put a number on the bathroom drawer with tooth paste in it.

I knew what I wanted to have happen in my life. I knew before I had this experience what mattered most to me. I had that eternal vision, but it was buried under everything else I needed to do. I needed to clearly identify it again, to have it in my heart and mind, to see that post at the end of the field.

At times a terrible catastrophe happens in our lives that shakes us up and forces us to identify our values. That happened to all of us recently. As I experienced with you the terrible events of September 11 and watched the twin towers collapse and crush thousands of lives, my thoughts went to earlier that morning as those dear people said their good-byes to their families. There was a yearning in my heart that their good-byes had been sweet and tender, that they had expressed love for each other and given hugs. I think many Americans have redefined their values and goals.

While I have been talking, have you thought about what matters most to you? Have you identified your post at the end of the field? If you haven't, when you go home make a list of all the things you need to do and all of the many things you want to do. Be sure to list both short-and long-term goals. Then number, one by one, what matters most.

Identifying what is most important in our lives is vital but it is only the beginning. Next we must identify the things we need to do to move toward that goal.

Second, what are you currently doing that will lead you to what matters most?

Back to my cabin experience. After I finished numbering the things I wanted and needed to do, I made a rough calendar of a week. I remember asking myself, "If that is what I really want I had better make certain I find time to do those things that will lead me and our family in that direction. I then scheduled specific times on my calendar for action:

Personal scripture study

Temple attendance

Family time to share with our children our testimonies of what matters most and to pray and study with them.

Organizing, preparing and fulfilling my church calling, for being a kingdom builder, serving.

I want to talk to you about two of the actions I scheduled on my calendar, for I believe if we do these two things, faithfully and well, the Holy Ghost will direct us to do the other needful things that will lead us to what matters most.

These two righteous actions are talked about over and over. I am afraid at times we turn off the invitation to really faithfully incorporate them into our lives. Too often we are like Naaman who was upset and insulted when told to bath in the dirty Jordan river to rid himself of leprosy and chose not to comply until those who cared encouraged him.

I believe personal prayer and personal scripture study are two of the essential things Elder Scott was talking about. Personal prayer and scripture study will keep us on the right track.

Let us not drag our feet like Naaman.

Are you having regular, meaningful personal prayer? I hope you can say a resounding, yes! Personal prayer keeps us close to our Heavenly Father and heading toward our fence post. It is easy to pray when we feel comfortable in our relationship to Heavenly Father.

The Bible Dictionary explains (page752):

As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

Jesus taught us how to pray, He gave us the Lord's Prayer. He prayed as an example for us. We can read the prayer of the resurrected Savior in 3 Nephi 19 beginning in verse 19. Twice in this chapter He expressed gratitude. He thanked the Father for giving the Holy Ghost to His disciples and for purifying them. When we spend much of our praying time naming our blessings, our days will be filled with gratitude. And of course we need to plead for help in our personal lives and for our friends and family. We know that Jesus prayed for others and we know that the Savior prayed for help for himself, that the cup might pass from Him, but He and His loving Father knew what had to be.

The scriptures remind us again and again to ask and it shall be given. Heavenly Father has so many blessings available for us, waiting only for us to ask.

In Matthew 7:7-11 we are instructed to ask for what we need and that a loving Heavenly Father will give good things to them that ask.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone: or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

At times the answers to our pleadings come more slowly than we want, and at times the answers come quickly.

Several years ago our family was serving a mission in England. Ed was the president of the England London South Mission. Our three youngest children accompanied us. After our first year in England, our son Cory returned to Provo to finish his senior year in high school. Cory's life was taken in a car accident shortly after he returned home. We were given permission to return to Provo for Cory's funeral, then we returned immediately to England and our mission responsibilities.

It was a difficult time. I missed everyone in our family. A few weeks after our return to England we received a letter from our daughter Kelly. She had included pictures of her children. It was so good to see their faces. I paused at that moment and offered a silent plea, "Heavenly Father, I wish you could send me a picture of Cory." In the next few days a letter arrived at the mission home from a young man from our ward. He had befriended Cory during Cory's year in England. He explained that he had felt a strong impression that he needed to write and tell us what a good influence Cory had been to him. He told of his recent desire to serve a mission because of Cory's example. It was a tender letter and touched my heart. I thanked Heavenly Father for sending me such a beautiful picture of Cory.

Heavenly Father loves us. He will take care of us in the best way. Please acknowledge His loving kindness, ask for his help, and listen to His answers. He will help you stay focused on what matters most.

Another essential action that will keep us moving in the right direction is to hold to the iron rod, the word of God. Are you making time in your busy schedules for daily personal scripture study including the study of our prophets' messages? Again, I hope you can say a resounding, yes!

Several years ago I traveled to Declo, Idaho, to speak at a Young Women camp. While I was there, the young women participated in an iron rod experience. When it got dark the young women were taken in groups and told to hold fast to the iron rod, which was a PVC pipe. They were led along a dark, narrow, steep trail. I joined a group of young women and held to the rod. A little girl who was there for the evening with her father and mother held on behind me. I could hear her little voice making comments to her mother as we stumbled through the dark holding fast to the rod. We stopped now and then to witness a spotlighted scene. One was a group of young people partying. There were definite signs of alcohol. The young people in the scene pointed at us and laughed and called us "goody goodies." They urged us to let go of the silly rod and come and join them in their fun. We held on tighter. We continued to move along the trail and viewed several other scenes until we came to a grandmotherly lady who was holding a plate of cookies. She said, "I have some delicious warm chocolate chip cookies. They are for you. All you have to do is to let go of the iron rod for only a minute and come and have one. They are so good." The little girl behind me said, "I bet she's lying. I bet those cookies have raisins in them instead of chocolate chips."

Later that night as I drove down the canyon with the little girl and her parents she suddenly blurted out, "I'm not safe anymore." I asked her why she wasn't safe. She answered, "I'm not holding onto the iron rod any more." I put her parents on the spot as I asked, "Do you have family scripture study?" She told me they had it every morning. "Good," I responded, "that means you're safe. Having scripture study is holding on to the iron rod." She gave a relieved sigh and sat back in her seat.

In D&C 11:22 we are commanded:

. . . . Study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which is now translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereto.

When we allow the Holy Ghost to help us, the scriptures will tell us all things what we should do (2 Nephi 32:3). The scriptures help us focus on what matters most. They give us direction on how to get to our goal.

There are so many fun ways to study the scriptures. You will learn something new every time you read them.

You might try purchasing several paperback copies of the Book of Mormon. Read one focusing on faith. Mark all of the scriptures that apply to faith. When you are finished start another and mark scriptures on repentance, another and focus on examples of our Savior and Father's loving-kindness. As you read the scriptures, you might pretend you are a part of the multitude. How would you have responded when the Savior fed you bread and fish when there was so little to begin with, or when He raised Lazarus, or helped the blind man see?

As you read the scriptures, try to liken them to your life. Read a few verses then write down how you can apply that verse in your life. Today I will . . . .

Consider this scripture and how you might apply it. The experience described in Matthew 14:23-31 helps us understand how the distractions that take us away from our goal can put us in danger. The Savior had concluded teaching and feeding the multitude and wanted to be alone.

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch on the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Do you have winds boisterous in your life? What is drawing your attention away from what matters most? What can you do about it?

I love the scriptures. I especially enjoy my favorite comfort scriptures that encourage me and help me feel my Father and Savior's love. In the verses we just read, "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him," reminds me that He is there for me, but I need to call out to Him.

The scriptures that remind me that I am His child, His little girl, and that He is aware of me, are a great comfort.

D&C 50:40-41 tells us:

Behold ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; and none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.

Throughout the scriptures the Savior uses the comforting visual image of a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing, where they will be warm and protected. In most of these scriptural references the Lord expresses His desire to love and protect us, but we would not.

In D&C 29:1-2 He invites us to do our part:

Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins; Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer.

The third action I want you to identify is the feeling of inner happiness and peace that comes from being righteous and heading toward what matters most. Righteousness should fill us with joy.

In Isaiah 32:17 we learn:

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

To identify and feel these feelings of peace and assurance we need the Holy Ghost. Each of us has been given this miraculous gift at baptism. If we, as Paul encourages in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, "stir up the gift within us" by fearlessly living righteously and trusting in the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, we will learn the truth of all things and feel joy, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind."

We are so blessed to understand in part our Father's plan of happiness for us. I hope right now you are feeling really good about yourselves. I hope you can say:

I know what's most important to me.

I'm on the right track.

And when you leave this building I hope you will feel the pleasure of our Father in Heaven.

Isaiah 55:12 says:

For ye shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Listen to the trees. They are clapping for you.

I pray you will be able to feel the loving approval of our kind Heavenly Father as you do your best to identify and head toward what matter's most.

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