Music & the Spoken Word: Paying attention

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This “Music & the Spoken Word” has previously recorded music with a new “Spoken Word.” This will be given Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022.

A few years ago, executives at a large theme park hired consultants to help them understand how to capture the attention of small children. The consultants spent a few hours in the park, observing the children to see what most interested them. What they learned surprised them: the children seemed to be most captivated not by the exciting rides, the costumed characters or the colorful displays but, instead, by “their parents’ cellphones, especially when the parents were using them.”

As one of the consultants reported, “Those kids clearly understood what held their parents’ attention — and they wanted it too.” Even small children got the message that “cellphones were enticing action centers of their world” — more interesting, apparently, than an amusement park. Worst of all, “When parents were using their phones, they were not paying complete attention to their children” (see “What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life,” by Kare Anderson, Harvard Business Review, June 5, 2012,

A story like this one might prompt us to pause and consider what captures our attention. Does the focus of our attention align with our values and goals? Some interesting or entertaining things leave us feeling empty. On the other hand, we often overlook that which is most meaningful and soul-satisfying — worthy of our closest attention. But we need not be captive to what is captivating. We can choose how we will direct our attention.

We often use the phrase “pay attention,” and it’s an appropriate metaphor. Like money, attention is a limited resource. There’s a cost involved in our choices, and we get what we pay for. So it’s worthwhile to pay some attention to what we pay attention to. Are we making decisions that bring us the greatest value — decisions based on our values? Are the people we love getting a healthy portion of our attention or just the leftovers? We value what we pay for — not just with money but with love and attention.

Life can be demanding and chaotic at times, with so much vying for our attention. Pausing to focus on the things — and the people — that matter most brings clarity to the mind and contentment to the heart. We can make it clear, by the way we pay attention, what is of worth to us.

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL radio 1160AM/102.7FM, KSL.comBYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), thetabernaclechoir.orgYouTube and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. MST on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at

See the Church News’ archive of ‘Spoken Word’ messages