Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jacob's counsel on priorities

Many years ago, about 1976 I think, I did one of the most foolish things I have ever done.  This was the year that Volkswagen produced and began selling the Rabbit.  Their advertising campaign was so ingenious and persuasive I just knew I had to have this car.  At that time in our lives we were always just scraping by financially. So when Jo Anne reluctantly gave her permission for me to go ahead, I bought the most stripped-down model that was available.  I think it had a radio, but no air-conditioning, no tinted windshields, and only two doors.  It was sort of a red color -- it should have been a lemon color.  At the time we had four children, an Indian placement student, and a dog.  We would take long trips with the seven of us and the dog somehow stuffed into the Rabbit with our luggage strapped on top.  Today Jo Anne and I would have been jailed for violating the seat belt law and for pre-meditated child abuse as well.  Come to think of it though, the Rabbit had no seat belts.

I spent hours at the Volkswagen dealership trying to get them to fix an eternal series of problems.  I think Germany got back at us for winning World War II by manufacturing the Rabbit.  At times I would wonder who really won the war.

One of the happiest days of my life was the day I traded in the Rabbit for a new car.  Now don't think badly of me or question my intelligence or sanity, but guess what I traded for?  That's right, a Volkswagen Vanagon!  Some of us never seem to learn.  As always, balancing ourselves precariously on the edge of financial disaster, I bought the most stripped-down Volkswagen Vanagon available.  It had no tinted windows, no radio, no air-conditioning, and no carpeting on the floor.  It did have some utilitarian rubber mats that you could hose down, which was a plus when going to the beach.  The bottom half of the van was a sick lemon color and the top was a kind of cream color.  We took a number of summertime trips to Utah in that van, with Jo Anne and the kids almost dying from heat prostration.  It was always a roll of the dice whether we would make it to Las Vegas without a problem.  Once we had to spend a week in St. George while the repair people at the very busy Volkswagen repair establishment ordered parts that must have had to be shipped from Berlin.  I imagined seeing Hitler standing by the van, giving me an evil smile and growling, "Gotcha!"

I have spent good money on other worthless things during my lifetime and always get a little bit of a guilty conscience when I read Jacob's counsel regarding our priorities: "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy..." [2 Nephi 9:51]

Not only am I guilty of spending "money for that which is of no worth," but also my labor at times for that which "cannot satisfy."  On one occasion before I became wiser and paralyzed -- in retrospect it might have been a blessing to have become paralyzed sooner -- Jo Anne talked me into wallpapering the little bathroom just off the master bedroom.  It was a tiny room, which was encouraging at first glance. However, the old wallpaper had to be stripped off and it didn't seem to want to come off.  I sweated, strained, and cussed (just a little bit).  Finally I got it off, but then had to prepare the walls to receive the new wallpaper.  I thought I had measured the first roll of wallpaper correctly, but in trying to hang it I realized I had cut it too short -- and wallpaper won't grow.  The paste began to harden as did my heart toward this tiny bathroom and the supposedly "easy wallpaper job."  Hour after hour went by and then I began to think, which is always dangerous when performing manual labor.  How many people would ever come into our master bedroom and then into the tiny bathroom?  Who were we trying to impress any way?  Couldn't there be a better use of my time than laboring on something that seemed to be so useless and unsatisfying?  Jo Anne, painfully aware of my lack of talent as a handyman and fix it guy, came to my rescue and finished the job herself.  That was painful as well, because I heard about it for some time afterwards.  I wonder why I never felt comfortable using that bathroom.

We live at a time when it is so easy to spend money for that which is of no worth and our labor (time) for that which cannot satisfy in any worthwhile or lasting sense.  Several years ago President Hinckley, in speaking to the young men in the general priesthood meeting, cautioned them to: "... Please, please ... not fritter away your time or your talents in an aimless pursuit.  If you do so, it will lessen your capacity to do worthwhile things. I believe it will dull your sensitivity.... and as you look back, you will be disappointed with yourselves."  [Gordon B. Hinckley, May 2005, Ensign.]
Given the electronic age we are living in, it is not difficult to know what President Hinckley was talking about.

Jacob went on to say in verse 51 of 2 Nephi 9, "... and come unto to the Holy One of Israel and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted."
Jacob has beautifully told us how to order our priorities in life.  I realized within just days after my accident 20 years ago the truthfulness of Jacob's teachings regarding our priorities.  I realized almost immediately that whatever material possessions I had, or whatever degrees or honors of men I had received, meant absolutely nothing.  The only thing that mattered at all was the relationships I had with my wife, my family, my good friends, and the Lord.  Before then and since then I have tried to "come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which "perisheth not, neither can be corrupted."  It has made all the difference in the world.  I haven't always been successful, but I do know what my priorities should be, and as I seek to follow Jacob's counsel, my life has truly been blessed.


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