About time

A man with a measured, leisurely pace responded easily as another excused himself from a conversation because of a lack of time.

"I've got time," the man, an inmate in Utah's correctional system, replied, looking broadly at his surroundings. "Twenty years to life!"

Others around laughed with him, a group of basically good people who had spent their time making poor choices; now they were spending more time with fewer choices.

The wise use of time — the wise use of choices — is a vital issue. And as technology increases, our number of choices increases with it. One of the wonders of this age and day are the multiple options at our fingertips — things to do, places to look and ways to be entertained. Usually we have no more than to move our fingers to electronically access movies, games, music, books, magazines, hobbies — some good and some not, but enough to occupy a thousand people for a thousand lifetimes.

Unfortunately, this veritable flood of choices doesn't come with any recision of responsibility.

Those who lose the sense of appropritate perspective and choose to be mostly entertained — even transported — by the media day after day must one day wake up and look in the mirror and ask themselves tough questions. Questions such as: "What do I have to show for my time?" "Where did my life go?" And even, "Who did I turn out to be?"

"We were busy," we might say, "all the day long and into night." But does busyness equal accomplishment?

"We cannot call back time that is past, we cannot stop time that now is, and we cannot experience the future in our present state," said President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, in the October 2000 general conference. "Time is a gift, a treasure not to be put aside for the future but to be used wisely in the present."

The ringing telephone, the list of commercial e-mails and piled up DVDs are, in truth, often just more impediments between us and the more weighty duties. Yet who among us can say that he has not had 24 hours in each day?

If there is one lesson to be taught by a clock or calendar, it is that time, not money, is the true currency of life. Mortality is finite and all its experiences are held tightly in temporal traces — as with life itself, every life experience has a starting time and an ending time. The experiences we choose will be the occupants of this most precious, non-renewable resource.

"The pleasant future belongs to those who properly use today," said Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve, in the April 1975 general conference. "How unwise we are to waste our todays when they determine the significance of our tomorrows. We should wisely live a day at a time because that is all we have."

In this age, of all ages, we can little afford to be distracted. The principles of righteousness are being attacked from every quarter and the unclean things or evil gifts can pour into homes as through a fire hose, not only absorbing precious time, but also driving away virtue.

Choosing well requires a frequent sifting, a full focus upon priorities by a will power strong enough to know and choose what is right, flexible enough to change in an instant — not to a more interesting, not to a more titillating, not to a more appetizing but to a more important objective. If not, how easily our very life forces and resources can wither silently away.

It isn't easy.

Some philosophers are fond of saying that man does not really understand time, that man just knows how to measure it. Yet even children learn to comprehend the passage of time. This comprehension is distilled to perfection by age.

In our comprehending, may we also learn that as ruthless as time is as a master, time is generous, even opulent, as a servant. Think of what can be accomplished in worthy fields of endeavor by a constant effort over time.

This we do know: with the incessant flow of time comes an inexorable flow of choices. If we are to harness time to achieve our goals, we must be as single-minded as it is. Regardless of how many hard choices we have to make in order to do so.

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