“Are You Living a Ten-Dollar Life?” Liahona, February 2020
Years ago, when I was a stake president in Paris, France, I was told that President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) was coming to Paris for a couple of days and that I was going to be his driver. I would pick him up at the airport and take him to his hotel so he could rest. The next day I would take him to do a number of visits. One visit he wanted to make was to a U.S. military cemetery, where his brother, who died of influenza during World War I, is buried.
But when I picked up President Hinckley, he didn’t look very tired. He held his cane up and said, “President Caussé! Let’s go to work!”
He wanted to go to the cemetery right away. Unfortunately, I had arranged with the director to go there the next day, so when we arrived, it was closed and nobody was there.
The next day, we were so busy that we didn’t have time to go back to the cemetery. That evening, President Hinckley handed me a $10 (U.S.) bill and said, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to go to the cemetery. I would be very grateful if you could buy flowers and put them on my brother’s grave.”
I bought flowers, but I didn’t use that bill. The following Sunday afternoon, I went with my family and put the flowers on the grave. We took a picture of our family in front of the grave with all the flowers and sent it to President Hinckley.
I still have that $10 bill. It’s in my scriptures. If I were to ask, “What is the value of this bill?” most people would say, “Ten dollars.” But for me, it’s worth far more. This bill was worth ten dollars, but for me, it’s priceless now. It’s a memory of a moment I had with a prophet of God.
In our lives, there are a lot of things that have a very finite, temporal value. There are a lot of people who live what I would call a “ten-dollar” life. These are the kind of people who might say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (2 Nephi 28:7).
But the value of every minute of life here on earth has a tremendous impact that goes beyond this life into the eternities. The opposite of the attitude of “eat, drink, and be merry” is to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20).
Here are just a few examples of placing eternal value on things:
The temple. For most people, it’s just a beautiful building. It is beautiful, but for us, it’s the house of the Lord, where we can receive ordinances and make covenants that allow our lives with our family to be eternal.
The Book of Mormon. Most people would say it’s just a book with a nice story. But for us, it’s the word of God.
Tithing. Most people would say, “That’s money you give to your church.” For us, it’s not just money. It’s an expression of faith and obedience to the Lord’s commandments. And it represents blessings we can receive when we’re faithful.
The Word of Wisdom. A lot of people would say it’s about physical health. That’s true, but it’s more than that. We know that if we follow the Word of Wisdom, the Spirit of the Lord will be with us.
Marital intimacy. Most people think it’s only physical pleasure. But between a man and woman who are married, and especially those who are sealed in the temple, it’s more than that. It’s about having a family and expressing love and unity within a marriage.
Education and work. Most people would say it’s how we have a comfortable life and meet our families’ needs. But we believe it’s also about building self-reliance, which is a spiritual principle. We can exercise our agency to become independent and help others.
The temporal and spiritual sides of our lives are closely intertwined, and we shouldn’t try to separate them. The material aspects should be in service of eternal objectives.
The Lord has said, “All things unto me are spiritual” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:34). He has also said that “man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:33–34). Our spirit without the body cannot be made perfect, and that’s the reason there is a resurrection. Exaltation is in the harmonious relationship and unity between the temporal and spiritual.
Decisions about seemingly temporal or material things should be made with the Spirit of the Lord. The Lord has an eternal perspective. He knows everything from the beginning to the end. He loves us perfectly—even better than we love ourselves. Seeking His will, rather than our own, will make our lives happier and better. We can know His will through His Spirit, which comes through prayer, reading and pondering the scriptures, and counseling with our families.
So, how can we know His Spirit? The Lord has said:
“That which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23–24).
In other words, what edifies us, what builds us up, what brings us joy, what creates light in our lives is inspired from God. Sometimes even our own thoughts are inspired by God.
I’ve made decisions based on spiritual impressions when my intellect was saying to do something else. That has always proven to be superior to what my intellect would dictate.
For instance, after my wife and I decided to get married, we agreed to put an eternal perspective on our marriage—to always be active in the Church, to be married in the temple, and so on. Those choices have blessed us tremendously and have given duration and depth to our marriage.
At one point in my life, I had a highly paid job with great responsibility and recognition. One day my wife said, “You are so busy in your work. You should pray and think about whether you should find a new job that would make you more available to serve the Lord.” We prayed and received a confirmation by the Spirit that I should change jobs. But I was still a little resistant. When I prayed about it, I told the Lord the name of the only company I would consider working for if I quit my job.
Three weeks later, I contacted a recruiting agency and had an interview. In the end, the person said one of his clients had just requested a new director. It was the company I had mentioned in my prayer. It’s a small company that has such openings only every 10 years or so. It was a miracle.
I jokingly told my wife, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is I’m going to be hired by that company. The bad news is I think the Lord has something in store for me.”
I signed on with that company on a Friday. On Saturday I was called as the stake president.
My wife and I placed greater value on the promptings of the Spirit and serving God than in material blessings or our intellectual satisfaction or social recognition. We sought the Lord’s will and received spiritual confirmation that everything would be all right. That was one of the greatest experiences in my life.
I’ve never regretted putting the spiritual above any other consideration. Sometimes it feels like a sacrifice, but I’ve learned that in the long run, this is the only thing that counts. Don’t live a “ten-dollar” life. Aligning our lives with the purpose of our existence is a combination for joy and happiness, not only in this life but in the life to come.