'On wings of lightning'

Time is a precious commodity, one that some protect and use wisely, but others waste.

It is a sort of shape shifter: to the very young, it seems to drag on; to the old, it flies by. The young think that Christmas or the next birthday will never arrive; many older people can hardly believe how quickly the years have passed — it seems only a short while ago that their now grown-up children were babes in arms.

Members of older generations identify with Tevye's questions in the wedding song of "Fiddler on the Roof." Tevye is amazed that the little girl he carried has grown "to be a beauty" and "the little boy at play" has grown "to be so tall," and then wonders, "I don't remember growing older, When did they?...Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?"

He goes on, singing about how "swiftly flow the days,...swiftly fly the years, One season following another, Laden with happiness and tears" ("Sunrise, Sunset," words and music by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, from the movie, "Fiddler on the Roof," 1964).

In Church, we occasionally sing:

Time flies on wings of lightning; We cannot call it back; is quick in passing. 'Tis as a single day. ("Improve the Shining Moments," by Robert B. Baird, Hymns, no. 226).

How we spend our time determines, in large measure, the quality of our lives. Time, in reality, is more precious than money; it is irreplaceable. Funds wasted, spent or lost can be recovered, regained or restored. Time cannot.

In an address during the April 1974 general conference, President Spencer W. Kimball read the following by an anonymous author who wrote of the priceless worth of time:

"And in my dreams I came to a beautiful building, somehow like a bank, and yet not a bank because the brass marker said, 'Time for Sale.'

"I saw a man, breathless and pale, painfully pull himself up the stairs like a sick man. I heard him say: 'The doctor told me that I was five years too late in going to see him. I will buy those five years now — and then he can save my life.'

"Then came another man; also who said to the clerk: 'When it was too late, I discovered that God had given me great capacities and endowments, and I failed to develop them. Sell me ten years so that I can be the man I would have been.'

"Then came a younger man to say: 'The company has told me that starting next month I can have a big job if I am prepared to take it. But I am not prepared. Give me two years of time so that I will be prepared to take the job next month.'

"So they came, ill, hopeless, despondent, worried, unhappy — and they left smiling, each man with a look of unutterable pleasure on his face, for he had what he so desperately needed and wanted — time.

"Then I awakened, glad that I had what those men had not, and what they could never buy — time. Time to do so many things I wanted to do, that I must do. If that morning I whistled at my work, it was because a great happiness filled my heart. For I still had time, if I used it well" (Ensign, May 1974, pp. 87-88).

The Lord has commanded, "Thou shalt not idle away thy time" (Doctrine and Covenants 60:13).

Just recently, President Thomas S. Monson gave wise counsel on making the most of our time, of taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. At the BYU Women's Conference on May 2, he said:

"If you do something that turns out not quite as you had planned, you can almost always put it right, get over it, learn from it. But once you've missed out on something, it's gone....Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It's so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they're gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of 'what if' and 'if only.' Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, 'The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.'

"Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey and share our love with friends and family. One day, each of us will run out of tomorrows. Let us not put off what is most important."

Time, literally, is running out — for each of us. We have less remaining today than we had yesterday, and we have no idea how much of it we have left in our mortal sojourn. Let us make the most of our time.

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