Each of us face many decisions on how we use our time each day. Some of these decisions are routine or mundane and do not require much thought: Each morning I know I will spend time getting ready for work. I will use some of my time each day for eating and sleeping. On Sundays my family will use our time to go to church. These decisions-- and thousands of others-- are made without much conscious thought.
Other decisions require many devoted hours of study and research. Perhaps we are considering a career change, a college major, a move to someplace we've never been or a change in our family life.
The decisions we make without conscious thought or while racking our brains can both have major implications for our lives. As we consider our choices, Elder Oaks has reminded us that it is, 'not enough' to do something good. 'The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them,' he explains. 'Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.'
Though the agency to allocate our time is ours alone, living prophets provide guidance and counsel that will inform our judgment and direct our lives toward those things that are best. These choices may not always be popular or easy. A particular choice may require we do something difficult or carry a burden we'd prefer not to carry. Elder Oaks reminds us in such times that 'even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.'
Prophetic priorities also protect us against dangers that could derail our lives and destroy our futures. Though the Word of Wisdom was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith in 1833, it was President Heber J. Grant that emphasized adherence to this principle from 1918 to 1945. This was the time of prohibition, the Great Depression and World War II, when smoking and drinking were accepted norms and even considered glamorous.
Beginning in the 1960s, while illegal drug use was reaching epidemic proportions, researchers began to discover the significant health risks of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Elder Quentin L. Cook recently explained that 'obeying the Word of Wisdom gave our members, especially our youth, a preventative inoculation against drug use and the resulting health problems and moral hazards.' The prophets, like watchmen on a tower, saw the danger afar off and prepared those who would listen from the influences and addictions that could have destroyed them (see D&C 101:44-54).
In a January 2013 devotional, Sister Elaine S. Dalton taught that 'as dedicated disciples we must act and make prophetic priorities our priorities. In order to do this we will need to be riveted on the words of the current prophets, seers, and revelators.' The most recent general conference included a major announcement on missionary work and the announcement of several new temples. From the topics listed in the Ensign, there were nine talks about serving others, six about discipleship, six about the priesthood, eight about marriage, family or children, and twelve about Christ, repentance or the Atonement.
Are these priorities our priorities? Could a passer-by identify our priorities with a quick glance at our daily planner or by observing how we use our time today?
As another general conference approaches, we should remember to ask ourselves what we will strive to become because of what we hear from the Lord's prophets. In a separate address, Elder Oaks taught, 'We are accountable and will be judged for how we use what we have received... The principle of accountability also applies to the spiritual resources conferred in the teachings we have been given and to the precious hours and days allotted to each of us during our time in mortality.'
There are more opportunities to do something good than any of us could possibly have time enough to do. If we seek to make prophetic priorities our own, decisions of any size will contribute to a life filled with what is best. We will be protected from danger, find peace and joy in our decisions, and be led home to that God who, like any good father, is rooting for us to pass the tests we face. If we've let prophetic priorities be our guide, that will be the best of all.