The leadership of the church that I am a member of (Community of Christ) has asked this question multiple times over the last few years. It has become a recurring theme in the church. It first came into use in the concluding words of a divine revelation received in 2007:
“There are many issues that could easily consume the time and energy of the church. However, the challenge before a prophetic people is to discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.” –Doctrine and Covenants Section 163:11b
This question, what matters most, was then explored in President Veazey’s 2009 address to the church, entitled “A Defining Moment”. Near the start of his address, President Veazey states:
“What is this defining moment? In general, it can be framed by two questions: Will we allow certain circumstances and issues to divert us from our mission? Or will we clarify our mission priorities and focus on what matters most?”
About half way through his address President Veazey pointed out that what matters most to people varies from place to place. He used the example of people living in countries that have non-functional economic or political systems. He said:
“What matters most to them is how to free themselves and their neighbors from the devastating effects of poverty, disease, and human conflict.”
He then goes onto ask this question:
“The missional question for the church is, “How does the hope of God’s peaceful kingdom become more than a faint dream for them?” What will we do as a church whose mission is grounded in restoring people to wholeness in community?”
At the end of his address, President Veazey said this:
“So, after all that is said, what matters most? I hope it has become clear. The vision and mission of Jesus Christ matters most! What matters most is for us to become who God is calling us to become so the restoring ministry of Christ can be shared in every possible way in every possible place.”
This was confirmed in another divine revelation (received in 2010), which ended with these words:
“The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.” –Doctrine & Covenants Section 164:9f
Naturally, the church leadership has taken a cue from the above statements, and has challenged the church membership in general to ponder for themselves “what matters most?”
Lately, this question has been on my mind a great deal. While recognizing that the church has been given an answer to that question through divine revelation, I still feel that the question needs to be asked, not just by the church leadership, not just by church members, but by everyone, all the time.
It is, to put it simply, a brilliant question. It warrants a deliberate exploration; and lately, it has been on my mind a lot.
For the last several months, I have felt dissatisfied with some aspects of my life, as there are many things that seem to get in the way of what is truly important. From time to time, I’ve noticed that I’ve been asking myself “What matters most?”
You see, life just seems too short to be spending part of it mired in things that we don’t really find fulfillment in. The problem though, is that we often feel trapped in various routines. We might engage in things we don’t really want to spend our time doing, but we often don’t have a choice. Or, we think we don’t. Until we ask “what matters most?”
The answer to that question will of course vary from person to person. Yet if we all take the time to ponder it, we may find that some of the things we think we need to spend our time doing, are not really, truly, healthy for us.
During this past week, my community was beset by a major loss of electrical power. It is still ongoing, and there are many thousands of people that even today, do not have electricity, and therefore, heat, in their own homes. For far too many people, this has caused disruption with many things, including celebrating Christmas.
My own power went off Saturday evening at around 11:45, and came back Tuesday morning at 6:38. It got very cold, and my wife and I became swiftly aware that our society is extremely dependent on technology. That awareness was of course actually always there, but the awareness of it became much sharper as we wandered about, observing the damage (we had a massive ice storm) and listening to how people were coping.
For us, the power outage was not, comparatively speaking, very long (and for others, it may not be restored until this coming weekend), yet it seemed a long time. It definitely added a lot of stress, and frustration. And it was clear, intermingling with crowds of people taking shuttle buses between non-functional subway stations, that even after just the first day of no power, that people have a very low tolerance for having their lives disrupted.
Throughout this experience, I again found myself asking “what matters most?” Is it being able to watch my favorite TV show, or cooking my favorite meal? Or, are the things that matter most much more profound than our creature comforts? I again find myself wondering what truly matters? What is truly important? How much time are we wasting worrying about First World issues? How quick are we to ignore the cries and pleas of our brothers and sisters who deal with hardships on a daily basis, that we cannot even begin to imagine?
My wife and I are among the lucky individuals whose power came back yesterday; and now it is Christmas. And Christmas itself invites us to ask “what matters most?” What are the lessons that are buried within the Christmas story that we should be remembering all year long?
I tend to think that Christmas challenges us to assess who we are as individuals. To some degree, we do this at New Years; yet it is not quite the same. As we bring in the New Year, we strive to live more healthy lives, but it is during the Christmas season that we tend to be nicer to everyone we deal with, even complete strangers. How awesome it would be if we could keep doing that all year long.
Christmas can also be a trap. We tend to heap far too much on it in terms of our expectations. We become too obsessed with every aspect of it. We try to accommodate the demands of too many people, visiting friends and family near and far, day after day, until we are wiped out. Did we truly enjoy it all? Did we remember what it is truly all about? As we each experience Christmas in our own way, are we taking the time to ask “what matters most?”
One final thought. A few weeks ago I was chairing a priesthood meeting, and one of the things I covered was that we all have a tendency to take people for granted. I was very focused on this topic, and went so far as to tell the group that in my opinion, taking people for granted is a true form of sin.
I’ll reiterate that sentiment here. It is a sin to take people for granted. However, I think I’m beginning to see that there is more to it than that. It is a sin to take life for granted. Life is too short, too precious. Life is a gift from our divine creator. We cannot take it for granted. Instead, we must ask, on this Christmas Day, and everyday when life seems off course, to ask what matters most? What truly matters most?
And when we struggle with trying to answer that question, just remember these words:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” -James 1:5 (Inspired Version)