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“Priorities,” Ensign, Apr. 1971, 9


Yesterday, after a hard doubles tennis match, I sat down on a wooden bench in front of my metal locker and began to turn the dial on the lock. The lock is like the one our son has for his bicycle, with a metal bar, about a quarter-inch thick, extending in hairpin shape from the circular dial portion.

My sweat-moist fingers began turning. The dial spun to 6, then 38, and finally 28.

The lock did not open.

I tried again.

Still the lock remained closed.

Again my impatient fingers turned.

The lock remained fastened tight—as tight as a bulldog’s closed jaws.

This had never happened with this lock before. I needed to shower, to get back to the office for an appointment.

Before turning the dial again, I paused to think about what I might be doing wrong. As I pondered, the thought came: You have been dialing the three numbers out of order. You have been dialing 6, then 38, and finally 28. The order should be 38, 28, 6.

I tried again. The lock opened readily, as it always had.

The trouble was that in the ecstasy of one of my rare victories in tennis and in the rush to get back to the office, I had mixed up my priorities on that lock. I had dialed 6 first instead of last.

In the triumphs and trials of life, in the rush of days, it is so easy to get our priorities mixed. Sometimes I have let activities that should come last come first, like that 6 on the lock dial.

Jesus gave us a great lesson on priorities. Remember one of his visits to Bethany, the small village on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem? In Bethany was the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary, good friends of Jesus. After Jesus entered their home, Mary sat at his feet and listened to his words, but Martha busied herself with preparations for their guest. Martha “was cumbered about much serving.” She became concerned and came to Jesus, saying, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”

Tenderly, the Master replied, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40–42.)

Martha, troubled about many things, had let her priorities become mixed. Preparation of the house had come before the more important priority: the visit of the guest himself.

I remember a home where two of us called one evening. Furniture in the living room had been covered with white sheets, and so we were shown into another room. We went away from the home feeling that the woman was more concerned about keeping her furniture spotless than in giving a warm welcome to visitors.

This week we called at the home of neighbors whose son had just spoken at our sacrament meeting. He was about to leave for a mission in Brazil. He gave a sincere, touching, most mature talk. He paid tribute to his parents. We have watched the young man grow from a tot. He is an outstanding youth, an athlete too, with a brilliant scholastic record in school.

At the home I chatted with the young man’s maternal grandmother. We talked about the young man’s parents.

“What a wonderful father to that boy his dad has been!” she said. “I remember when he and my daughter were building this home. They did much of the work themselves. I recall when the father was on the ladder painting. When one of his two sons would call to him with a problem, the father would lay down his brush and climb down the ladder. Then he would listen to the boy’s problem and give fatherly help. I knew how eager he was to get the home finished. But completion of the home did not come before his concern for those for whom the home was being built—his wife and two sons.”

With his family, that father has apparently kept his priorities in proper order.

Every able-bodied man should be a good provider for his family. Yet some men let the providing take priority over those for whom they provide. Some let their ardor for their Church positions crowd out the precious moments for their wives and children at home.

Years ago a noble woman said to me of her beloved husband, a respected Church leader in our area, “He is so busy doing Church work, I hope he does not forget how to be a Christian.”

Every man and woman will be happier if he gives his best to the Church, his job, his community service, and his hobbies. But even happier is he who remembers the lesson of Jesus to Martha and keeps his priorities right.

Art by Ed Maryon