Treasures of heaven

Years ago, the Deseret News published an editorial about greyhounds in Britain so thoroughly trained to chase a mechanical rabbit that they didn't give a real rabbit a second look when it bounded across their path.

"Stupid, eh?" the paper editorialized. "Sad too, this perverting of the natural instincts."We chase mechanical rabbits, too.

"We chase paychecks, and don't give a second look to the glint of the rising sun on a snow-topped peak.

"We chase our way through the appointments of a crowded desk calendar, and fail to take time to chat with the next-door neighbor or to drop in on a sick friend.

"We chase social pleasures on a glittering noisy treadmill - and ignore the privilege of a quiet hour telling bedtime stories to an innocent-eyed child.

"We chase prestige and wealth, and don't recognize the real opportunities for joy that cross our paths . . . .

"Race on, you poor, blind overcivilized hounds. You'll never catch your rabbit until you learn to recognize a genuine one.

"But, you'll have company in your race; the company of unnumbered men who'll never catch the joy they chase until they, too, learn to recognize a genuine one." (Deseret News editorial cited in October 1971 general conference address by Elder A. Theodore Tuttle.)

Many of us remember from our school days these lines by English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850): "The world is too much with us late and soon, Getting and spending we lay waste our powers."

Perhaps we, as students of literature, failed to grasp the meaning of Wordsworth's insightful words. Far too many among us, as adults, also fail to understand that the accumulation of worldly goods or involvement with earthly concerns occupies too much of our time, while the pursuit of that which is of eternal value takes up too little.

People in Jeremiah's day knew nothing of mechanical rabbits. But it is apparent that with short-sighted vision they readily accepted shoddy substitutions over that which was authentic and of value. Through His prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said to ancient Israel: "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jer. 2:13.)

Surely, none of us would choose to drink from a limited, and perhaps stagnant, supply of water that stands in a broken cistern when we have available to us the refreshing abundance of a flowing and pure fountain. But isn't that, in essence, what we do when we invest our time and efforts in chasing after material gains and goods rather than first pursuing eternal goals and blessings, when the things of man matter more to us than the blessings of the Lord?

True, we must occupy ourselves with some of the things of the world. For example, we must work for life's necessities. We ought to become involved in community and civic matters to help ensure we have safe, pleasant and nurturing environments in which to live. We need to develop social contacts and maintain friendships. We need the refreshment that occasional recreation brings to the mind, body and soul. But in all these pursuits we should be careful that we don't overextend our time or exhaust our energy to the point that we have none left for the goals and activities that will lift us beyond the mortal realm.

Through no control of their own, the greyhounds of Britain that the editorial writer mentioned could not see the distant horizon. Captive in a restrictive environment, they knew only the track's curves and artificial prize.

But what about us? Are we so set on acquiring the things of material value or the acclamations of the world that we are limiting our focus to a temporal - and, thereby, temporary - horizon? Or do we seek to rise above the things of this world and soar in the realm of the divine by setting our sights on an eternal - or everlasting - sphere? Do we recognize that which is real and of worth when it crosses our path?

One of the great lessons the Savior taught is " . . . a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Luke 12:15.) Sadly, this is a lesson greatly unlearned and unheeded. Let us not be as hounds chasing mechanical rabbits, pushing ourselves in relentless quests for mere possessions. Instead, let us seek the real prize, the treasures of heaven.

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