Room, board at ‘school’

We spend a great deal of our lives acquiring "stuff."

Stuff. The word conjures up in the mind many things.It could be household goods, personal belongings, objects of all kinds, collectibles, art work, books, tapes, videos, things in general, – you name it, and just about anything and everything can fall in the category of "stuff."

It is a good catch-all word to describe the things that we spend so much of our time, effort and money on to acquire.

Of course, much of what we accumulate as we journey through life is worthwhile and even necessary. Certainly the acquiring of things to make our lives more enjoyable and pleasant – and often more efficient – is for our good.

But maybe from time to time we need to step back and look at ourselves to see that we're not getting caught up in seeking to accumulate so many things that we lose perspective of what is really important in our lives. We must make sure our hearts are not set upon the things of this world, and place so much time and effort on material things that we put our spiritual well-being in jeopardy. We need to make sure our earthly possessions are in their proper place.

"Our affections," said President Ezra Taft Benson at the April 1971 general conference, "are often too highly placed upon the paltry perishable objects. Material treasures of earth are merely to provide us, as it were, room and board while we are here at school. . . . We are here to learn the first lesson toward exaltation – obedience to the Lord's gospel plan."

Earthly possessions do provide us with the necessities and comforts of life while we are in this school we call mortality. But the day will come when each of us will graduate and move on to another sphere. What will be important to us then and what will we take with us?

Recently, a family had the task of disposing the earthly possessions of their father, who because of ill health was confined to a care center. He had given them permission to dispose of nearly everything he possessed, from the house in which he lived to the appliances and furniture inside, from his personal belongings to his yard and garden tools.

All the material things he and his wife, who had died two years previously, had spent a lifetime acquiring had little meaning for him.

What was most important to him now was his eternal perspective that death is not the end and through obedience to the principles of the gospel families can, indeed, be forever. The love of his family can transcend the gulf between this life and the next; the words of his granddaughter, as she clutches her arms around his neck – "Oh Grandpa, I love you" – can echo into the eternities.

It was that eternal perspective that brought him comfort in the late winter of his life, not the amount of "stuff" which he had acquired that his children had to dispose of.

Earthly possessions have no value to the person whose earth life has ended. In the end, all of our material things usually end up being disbursed among family members; sent to the Deseret Industries or to charity; or junked. At this point, the only possessions of value to the one who has moved on to immortality are those that are spiritual and eternal.

That ought to give us cause to ponder. Are our lives in conformity to the principles of the gospel? Are we living a Christlike life, and doing as President Howard W. Hunter asked of us to "treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness"? Are we doing as he asked of us to be "temple-worthy" members, and where possible, performing temple service?

On the other hand, are we spending our time and effort in accumulating more and more of this world's earthly possessions? If that is the case, perhaps we need a good dose of simplification and a return to that which is most important; perhaps we need to re-evaluate our priorities and cut back on what we seek to acquire and accumulate.

At the October 1986 general conference, President Benson, in admonishing members of the Church to study the Book of Mormon, said, "And more than anywhere else, we see in the Book of Mormon the dangers of materialism and setting our hearts on the things of the world."

When our hearts are set upon the things of this world, there undoubtedly is little room left in our hearts for eternal things.

Rather than desiring to accumulate a lot of "material stuff" in our lives, we ought to desire to live in such a way as to be worthy of eternal life. That is our only course of true happiness, both in this world and in the world to come.