“Keeping Our Balance: Recognizing and Resisting Excesses,” Tambuli, Jan. 1983, 27
Late in April 1981 the world’s first space shuttle was fired into orbit and for two days circled the earth, undergoing the first of several experiments to test how well she would perform on her own.
We waited anxiously for Columbia’s re-entry and landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The precision of this landing was remarkable. Traveling 18,000 miles per hour, the space shuttle descended through the atmosphere, slowed to the proper speed, and then landed perfectly on a runway a few hundred yards wide and a few miles long—a mere speck on our planet.
In a sense, our journey from our existence as spirit children of eternal parents, through earthly experiences, and finally back to celestial realms, is like the voyage of the Columbia. While on this journey we need to gain the kind of experience and knowledge that enables us to make it back to God—to perform in a manner that will lead us to our eternal potential. Everything we do here has an impact on how and where we land there.
Sadly, our re-entry into eternal spheres will find many of us missing the mark, some in the telestial world, some in the terrestrial world, and some touching down in the celestial world. This kind of landing, I think, depends largely on our ability to achieve inspired balance in our lives.
The Columbia performed well because it did not suffer from any major imbalances. Guided by experts, the Columbia happily achieved just the right balance in speed, direction, and timing to enter space, perform flawlessly, and return safely. But as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our guidance is infinitely more sure because it comes from God, the author of our spiritual salvation. In our mortal journey, we have been given the scriptures and the Spirit as guides, and prophets to lead us. As the Lord’s mouthpiece, President Spencer W. Kimball reminds us how to secure our salvation.
As plain and direct as a prophet’s counsel is, however, we sometimes tend to get sidetracked. Some members wish to follow the Prophet when it is convenient, but ignore him when sacrifice or deeper commitment is required. Some, forgetting the simplicity of the gospel, may over-emphasize one part to the neglect of another. Others may complicate the guidance given them, blurring the plainness of divine directives and losing their sense of spiritual balance. Some even fall prey to rumor, fanaticism, distorted virtues, misplaced values, and shallow religious commitment.
My experience has convinced me that many human beings are vulnerable to speculations, and Latter-day Saints are by no means immune to the problem. “Have you heard?” “Do you know?” If you promise to keep a secret, I’ll tell you what I learned!” Such attention-getters are guaranteed to claim our immediate interest. What usually follows is hearsay, ranging from speculation about who the next bishop or stake president will be to the timing of the Millennium.
However, prophets counsel us with great care. Full of faith and hope, they know God and share with us his inspiration. Furthermore, we can verify the source of that inspiration at any given time by listening to the Spirit. Sadly, I’ve noticed that some of us are prone to excesses in many varieties. For example, some of us eat excessively, while others ignore getting healthful nutrition. Some sleep too much, others not enough. Some ignore proper body care and conditioning, while others almost worship the physical body. Certainly one must gain all the new information he can in matters dealing with the health and care of our bodies, but I believe the Lord expects us to use wisdom and common sense. The key words are balance and moderation—thoughtfully applying all the truths one knows, not just a big emphasis on one of them.
Balance plays an important part in our recreation and entertainment. It is true that all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy, but Johnny becomes concerned only with his own pleasure if he insists on recreation at the expense of his responsibilities to family, work, and spiritual development. A person may neglect his or her family, or through a poor example encourage children to value entertainment and material possessions above work or concern for their fellow beings.
President Joseph F. Smith said this of moderation: “The Saints should not be unwise, but rather understand what the will of the Lord is, and practice moderation in all things. They should avoid excesses and cease from sin, putting far from them ‘the lusts of men’; and in their amusements and pastimes adopt a course that looks to the spirit as well as the letter, the intention and not the act alone, the whole and not the part, which is the meaning of moderation. In this way their conduct will be reasonable and becoming, and they shall find no trouble in understanding the will of the Lord.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 239.)
Even in the practice of religion we may become unbalanced, especially if we concentrate our total efforts in one area while ignoring other equally important commitments. Scripture study, parenting, Christian service, and church callings all vie for portions of our time. The emphasis of one at the total expense of all others brings us short of the Savior’s expectations. He taught that we should do the one “and not to leave the other undone.” (Matt. 23:23.)
Sometimes our quorum meetings and Gospel Doctrine classes become forums for debate rather than instruments for spiritual development and service. While bantering about opinions, we sometimes fail to consider how the needs of widows, the sick, and those in mourning are to be met.
The Lord has declared that “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27.) The kingdom will be built by people who freely give their time, talents, and resources. There are great needs in the world-wide Church today—missionary service and missionary contributions, temple work and temple building, generous fast offerings and genuine concern for the poor, family education and training. Within each stake, some needs may be different, but no less important. Quality home teaching and visiting teaching, compassionate service, visiting the sick, Christian service, effective leadership, and excellent teaching are truly needed everywhere continually.
Let us ask ourselves, how are we doing with our time, talents, and material resources? Are we on the mark, or have we fallen short because we have committed too much of our time to the secular, given our talent exclusively to our careers, and used our resources only for self-indulgent pleasures? Do we heed the pure teachings of the Savior?
Temptations are often sophisticated and subtle. Focusing on our weaknesses, they are timed to reach us at just those moments when we are most vulnerable to their power. By such means, the tempter designs to destroy the balance in our lives and thus deflect us from the course that will bring us home to God.
When the resurrected Christ appeared to the Nephites, he asked them, “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?” (3 Ne. 27:27.)
In our quest for balance, we all struggle with problems and temptations, with excesses and deficiencies. We all need the strength that comes from knowing that Jesus Christ is our personal, literal Savior, whose atonement and saving grace make it possible to overcome spiritual and physical death and endure to the end, and return to our eternal home. It is wonderfully reassuring to know that it is our Heavenly Father’s goal to guide and teach us as we fashion ourselves into perfectly balanced beings like the Savior.