Friday, May 25, 2012

A Time to Prepare

In the October 2011 General Conference, Elder Ian S. Ardern delivered an address titled, 'A Time to Prepare'. It was an excellent talk worth reviewing again and again. In his remarks, Elder Ardern reminded us:

Time is never for sale; time is a commodity that cannot, try as you may, be bought at any store for any price. Yet when time is wisely used, its value is immeasurable. On any given day we are allocated, without cost, the same number of minutes and hours to use... What time we have we must use wisely.

Though it often seems like we own the time that is granted to us, the Lord has made it clear that he is very interested in how we use that time. He has instructed us to 'cease to be idle' and to be 'anxiously engaged in a good cause' (Alma 38:12, D&C 88:124, D&C 58:27). President Brigham Young taught that 'we are all indebted to God for the ability to use time to advantage, and he will require of us a strict accounts of [its] disposition' (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 286). Indeed, the Lord has said that 'he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father' (D&C 72:4).

While our choices certainly determine how we use our time, clearly our relationship with time is one of stewardship. The gift of time we receive from our Heavenly Father is also a responsibility and an opportunity to prove our ability to manage ourselves well.

In the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25, Christ taught us something about how stewardship assignments work. The master of the house gave three of his servants some coins to invest while he was away. Two of the servants had doubled the investments assigned to their care to the pleasure of their master. 'Well done, good and faithful servant,' the master told them. 'Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.'

The third servant hid the coin given to him in the dirt. The master of the house was angry with this servant's slothfulness and took away this servant's stewardship, casting him out of the house.

As the stewards of our time, the Lord has commanded us that we 'shalt not idle away [our] time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent' (D&C 60:13). We are idle when we are 'uninvolved in righteous works'. The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet explains a few of the reasons why: 'Idleness can lead to inappropriate behavior, damaged relationships, and sin.' It continues, 'One form of idleness is spending excessive amounts of time in activities that keep you from productive work, such as using the Internet, playing video games, and watching television.'

Elder Ardern had the same message last October. He said:

The poor use of time is a close cousin of idleness. As we follow the command to 'cease to be idle', we must be sure that being busy also equates to being productive... I sense that some are trapped in a new time-consuming addiction—one that enslaves us to be constantly checking and sending social messages and thus giving the false impression of being busy and productive... Electronic games and cyber acquaintances are no lasting substitute for real friends who can give an encouraging hug, who can pray for us and seek after our best interest.

Perhaps this kind of idleness--when hours are wasted while appearing or even believing we a busy--is more dangerous than the bored image of idleness as a void of activity. In a recent CES Fireside, Elder David A. Bednar shared a similar concern as Elder Ardern. He said:

Sadly, some young men and young women in the Church today ignore 'things as they really are' and neglect eternal relationships for digital distractions, diversions, and detours that have no lasting value. My heart aches when a young couple—sealed together in the house of the Lord for time and for all eternity by the power of the holy priesthood—experiences marital difficulties because of the addicting effect of excessive video gaming or online socializing. A young man or woman may waste countless hours, postpone or forfeit vocational or academic achievement, and ultimately sacrifice cherished human relationships because of mind- and spirit-numbing video and online games...

I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls. The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies, and music. But in a cyber world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense. I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes.

If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.


In the Book of Mormon, Alma taught Zeezrom that though we all die, this life is a 'probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God' (Alma 12:24). Brigham Young taught that when we do meet God, we will be expected to give an accounting of that time. And Christ taught that if we are accounted worthy, we may be admitted into the 'joy of the lord' where we will be made 'rulers over many things' because of our wise stewardship.

Our use of time matters. With so many warnings to use our time well, we should be careful to put first the things that matter most, particularly our families and our relationship with our Heavenly Father. I join my testimony to Elder Ardern's:

I know our greatest happiness comes as we tune in to the Lord (see Alma 37:37) and to those things which bring a lasting reward, rather than mindlessly tuning in to countless hours of status updates, Internet farming, and catapulting angry birds at concrete walls. I urge each of us to take those things which rob us of precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us.

To have the peace the Savior speaks of (see John 14:27), we must devote our time to the things that matter most, and the things of God matter most. As we engage with God in sincere prayer, read and study each day from the scriptures, ponder on what we have read and felt, and then apply and live the lessons learned, we draw nearer to Him... 

Time marches swiftly forward to the tick of the clock. Today would be a good day, while the clock of mortality ticks, to review what we are doing to prepare to meet God. I testify that there are great rewards for those who take time in mortality to prepare for immortality and eternal life.

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