Prioritize 'big and little issues,' general says

Properly prioritizing the big things and the little things in life is the way to happiness, according to retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Robert C. Oaks.

Speaking to LDS chaplains at a banquet in the Church Office Building on Sept. 30, Gen. Oaks said: "The great challenge for all of us charged with the responsibility of helping people keep spiritual matters in their proper perspective is to demonstrate to them by our teaching and by our example that the gospel standards of Jesus Christ, as restored in these latter days, are the only milestones for a happy life on this earth and through the eternities. That's as simple as I think it can be put about our great challenge."Gen. Oaks, who retired as a four-star general in July, was the keynote speaker at the banquet, which began a seminar for LDS military chaplains during the general conference weekend and on Monday and Tuesday. About 180 attended the banquet.

Gen. Oaks, a member of the first graduating class from the U.S. Air Force Academy, was Commander in Chief, U.S. Air Force in Europe, and commander of Allied Air Forces in Central Europe when he retired. He grew up in Provo, Utah, and now he and his wife, Gloria, live in McLean, Va.

In his address to the chaplains, Gen. Oaks recalled the words of a noted historian: "Will Durrant talked on the human need to know that the little things are little and the big things big before it's too late. . . . The saintly life will be constantly striving to match its big things with the big things of the Savior; big things like faith and love and charity and morality and obedience and sacrifice.

"It sounds so easy when we say it in this environment, but the reality of our earthly existence makes things in life appear very big and we are constantly tempted to make those `appearing big things' the big things in our

life." He related a recent experience in his own life that gave him a clear perspective of the proper priorities. During the days of the celebration of his retirement, he was bitten by an "irreverent" insect and went into anaphylactic shock. He was unconscious and near death for five hours.

"My retirement ceremony four days later came close to being my funeral ceremony," he said. " . . . To go from about all the honor and glory the world can heap upon you to near death in 21/2 days has a way of emphasizing how frail our existence here is and how fleeting and fragile are the honors of the world.

"One doesn't have to be very perceptive spiritually in that situation to realize that the only things we take with us out of this life are the treasures that we have logged on the heavenly ledgers, treasures measured in the Lord's terms."

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed