by Robert John Stevens, May 16, 2016
When I think about all the low-priority discussions I’ve heard in Sunday School and other meetings over the last fifty years, I sometimes wonder why teachers talk about niche topics while ignoring big the issues.
I’m trying not to say too many teachers teach stupid stuff: Most just follow their lesson manuals and try to avoid contention, and nothing is stupid that relates to God.
I am suggesting perhaps we spend too much time discussing minor things when there are so many high-priority items we can attend to.
Perhaps nobody prioritized better than Brigham Young. Ponder this head-spinning advice he gave in Salt Lake City at General Conference on 5 October 1856, immediately after learning hand-cart pioneers were stranded in the snow, starving and needed immediate assistance to survive:
Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. …
I shall call upon the Bishops this day. I shall not wait until tomorrow, nor until the next day, for 60 good mule teams and 12 or 15 wagons. I do not want to send oxen. I want good horses and mules. They are in this Territory, and we must have them. Also 12 tons of flour and 40 good teamsters, besides those that drive the teams. … First, 40 good young men who know how to drive teams, to take charge of the teams that are now managed by men, women and children who know nothing about driving them. Second, 60 or 65 good spans of mules, or horses, with harness, whipple trees, neck-yokes, stretchers, lead chains, &c. And thirdly, 24 thousand pounds of flour, which we have on hand. …
I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains. And attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, or temporal duties. Otherwise, your faith will be in vain. The preaching you have heard will be in vain to you, and you will sink to Hell, unless you attend to the things we tell you. — as quoted in Go Bring Them In from the Plains, July 1997
Tens of thousands of missionaries schedule their days to tend to the most important things possible. That gives them great satisfaction and inner peace. For the rest of who are capable, we may feel guilty leaving church to help others in physical or service-oriented capacities unless upon arrival we are directed to by church leaders.
Maybe it is time to rethink the proper role of religion and to prioritize how we can best contribute with our remaining time.