In his general conference addresses, President Heber J. Grant repeatedly urged the Saints to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. He warned them of the danger of misplacing their priorities and being enticed away from things of greatest value. “We can hide the blessings of the Lord by clinging too firmly to the things of this world,” he said. “We can sacrifice eternal riches—dollars for copper cents, so to speak.
To illustrate the importance of recognizing and seeking things of eternal worth, President Grant often told of a faithful Latter-day Saint sister who thought that he carried an “awful looking” briefcase. She wished that someone would give him “a decent, respectable looking bag.” What she did not realize was that President Grant’s briefcase was worth a great deal of money and that it had been given to him by his business associates as a token of esteem. “She did not know its value,” President Grant explained. In contrast, the type of briefcase she preferred was of significantly inferior quality. President Grant likened the good sister’s “wrong estimate of things” to the manner in which the world fails to recognize the truths of the restored gospel. “They do not know the truth,” he said. “They do not realize the value of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
President Grant taught: “What is the gospel? It is the plan of life and salvation. It is that which is of more value than life itself. No wonder we are ready and willing to make sacrifices for the gospel, when we realize what it means if we live it.” This was a guiding principle in his life. Despite his many abilities and interests, he did not allow lesser concerns to obscure his view of the things that matter most…”
Yesterday I read this story from President Monson, Benjamin Landart who, in 1888, was 15 years old and an accomplished violinist. Living on a farm in northern Utah with his mother and seven brothers and sisters was sometimes a challenge to Benjamin, as he had less time than he would have liked to play his violin. Occasionally his mother would lock up the violin until he had his farm chores done, so great was the temptation for Benjamin to play it.
In late 1892 Benjamin was asked to travel to Salt Lake to audition for a place with the territorial orchestra. For him, this was a dream come true. After several weeks of practicing and prayers, he went to Salt Lake in March of 1893 for the much-anticipated audition. When he heard Benjamin play, the conductor, a Mr. Dean, said Benjamin was the most accomplished violinist he had heard west of Denver. Benjamin was told to report to Denver for rehearsals in the fall and learned that he would be earning enough to keep himself, with some left over to send home.
A week after Benjamin received this good news, however, his bishop called him into his office and asked if Benjamin couldn’t put off playing with the orchestra for a couple of years. The bishop told Benjamin that before he started earning money, there was something he owed the Lord. The bishop then asked Benjamin to accept a mission call.
Benjamin felt that giving up his chance to play in the territorial orchestra would be almost more than he could bear, but he also knew what his decision should be. He promised the bishop that if there were any way to raise the money for him to serve, he would accept the call.
When Benjamin told his mother about the call, she was overjoyed. She told him that his father had always wanted to serve a mission but had been killed before that opportunity had come to him. However, when they discussed the financing of the mission, her face clouded over. Benjamin told her he would not allow her to sell any more of their land. She studied his face for a moment and then said, “Ben, there is a way we can raise the money. This family [has] one thing that is of great enough value to send you on your mission. You will have to sell your violin.”
Six days later, on March 23, 1893, Benjamin wrote in his journal: “I awoke this morning and took my violin from its case. All day long I played the music I love. In the evening when the light grew dim and I could see to play no longer, I placed the instrument in its case. It will be enough. Tomorrow I leave [for my mission].”
Forty-five years later, on June 23, 1938, Benjamin wrote in his journal: “The greatest decision I ever made in my life was to give up something I dearly loved to the God I loved even more. He has never forgotten me for it.”2
The way to eternal life has been carefully laid out for us by our Savior’s example. We can gain eternal life by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
David O McKay spoke of his horse Dandy, wanted complete freedom and no restraints. President McKay said “Under the saddle he was as willing, responsive, and cooperative as a horse could be. …
“But Dandy resented restraint. … He would not run away, he just wanted to be free.
“… His curiosity and desire to explore the neighborhood led him and me into trouble. Once on the highway he was hit by an automobile. …
“Recovering from that, and still impelled with a feeling of wanderlust, he inspected the fence throughout the entire boundary…
“One day, however, somebody left the gate unwired. Detecting this, Dandy unlatched it and took another horse … with him, and together they … went to an old house used for storage. Dandy’s curiosity prompted him to push open the door. … There was a sack of grain. What a find! Yes, and what a tragedy. The grain was bait for rodents! In a few minutes Dandy and the other horse were in spasmodic pain, and shortly afterwards both were dead.”
President McKay continued: “How like Dandy are many of our youth! … They are impulsive, full of life, full of curiosity. … They, too, are restive under restraint, but if they are kept busy, guided carefully and rightly, they prove to be responsive and capable; but if left to wander unguided, they all too frequently violate principles of right which often lead to snares of evil, disaster, and even death.”
I believe that it is not only the young who balk at the idea of restraint. I know far to many adults who feel that as such, they have a right to do whatever they want regardless of the rules and should be free from consequence. They don’t seem to understand we all need boundaries so that we can feel secure. We can all benefit from the careful guidance that the gospel brings, no matter our age or experience.
President Grant said, “There are no people that make the sacrifices that we do, but for us it is not a sacrifice but a privilege—the privilege of obedience, the privilege of entering into a working partnership with our Father in Heaven and earning the choice blessings promised to those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel are indeed a privilege. I love the commandments and the direction the gospel brings to my life. It makes everything so much easier. It’s not easy to get up early on a Sunday morning to come to church, it’s not easy to prepare a talk and it is certainly not easy to stand up here in front of you all to give it. But the promise of eternal life makes my struggles worth it.
Straight is the path, and narrow is the way that leadeth to eternal life. President Grant also said “If we did in every deed love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, there would be no need of urging from time to time upon the people the necessity of keeping the commandments of the Lord. It would be a pleasure to them to serve God and keep His commandments. We are told that where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also, and if we loved the Lord with all our heart and mind and soul, serving Him would be the great object of our lives, and the treasure we would work to gain would be
My treasure is my husband and my children. I love them more than anything and I am grateful that we are sealed together as a family. That is what it is all about, my family and me living together with our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ, and being able to continue my family in the eternities. What greater reward is there?
When talking to a couple while on his mission, President Hinckley asked them “Can you conceive of eternal life without eternal love? Can either of you envision eternal happiness without the companionship of one another?”
I certainly can’t imagine living an eternal life without those I love. There is nothing worse in my mind then spending eternity away from my Matt, I need him. Living without him would truly be eternal death. I treasure my family and by being sealed in the temple and keeping the commandments of God I am storing up that treasure with the only person who can keep it safe. Only through the power of God will I ever be able to keep them for more than just a season. My family is forever, what greater reward is there?