First Things First
Writer: Kelsey Petersen
Many Pathway students are busy with parental responsibilities, church callings, jobs, and now, at the start of a fresh semester, school work. With so much expected, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Although life may feel like a long list filled with more to-do's than there is time, prioritizing and putting the Lord first is the key to having a successful semester and a happy life.
The first and greatest commandment is to, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." (Matthew 22:37) While this sounds simple enough, demanding schedules play a sort of tug-of-war with good intentions. Visiting and home teaching gets put on the back burner, scripture study is squeezed in before collapsing into bed, and prayers are said hastily before rushing out the door. We love the Lord, but how do we love Him with all of our strength when we feel emotionally and physically spent?
President Ezra Taft Benson gives the solution. He says, "When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities."
Showing that love for Heavenly Father must be our first priority in order to be successful in other aspects of our lives. Opening up that communication with Him through earnest prayer and scripture study will aid us in our academic, professional, and family endeavors.
I was sitting in Sunday school as a teenager when my teacher got out a large jar, a bag of rice, and quite a few ping pong balls. She held up the bag of rice, "This represents all of our little obligations--homework, jobs, chores around the house, you know, all of those little things that add up." She dumped the rice into the jar. She then held up the ping pong balls, "These represent everything we need to do to have a good relationship with the Lord." Then, she placed the ping pong ball representing prayer on top of the rice and with that, the jar was full. There was no room for the balls representing scripture study, service, or temple attendance. "Looks pretty full; would you believe there's a way to fit everything in?" I was skeptical. There were too many things to put into just one jar. She dumped the rice back into the bag and then started putting the ping pong balls in the jar, listing them off as she went, "Prayer, scripture study, church callings, visiting and home teaching, temple attendance, and acts of service." She shook the bag of rice, "Now you'll see that when we have our priorities straight, and put the Lord first, we'll be able to fit everything else in." She poured the rice in the jar until the bag was empty; every grain fell perfectly into place.
Putting the Lord first also involves getting rid of the "clutter," or extra, frivolous, things that consume our time. Elder William R. Bradford addresses this in a conference address; he says, "Our lives can become cluttered by many things. Some are obvious, such as material things, the stuff we collect. Look around and you will see all the gadgets and toys and the nice and the fun things that cause us to squander and pay and to wander and play."
Distractions in the form of tablets, smartphones, and the ability to watch television shows a series at a time can take precedence in already busy schedules. Working hard by doing the Lord's will first and then meeting our other obligations allows us a sense of accomplishment. J. Richard Clarke mentioned in a session of general conference that while idleness, "gives room for doubts and fears," work, on the other hand, is "a good therapy for most problems. It is the antidote for worry. Work makes it possible for the average to approach genius."
As Elder Bradford states, "We give our lives to that which we give our time." So, as schedules continue to be demanding, we carry on with devotion to the Lord and a hard work ethic. If our life is His, then there is no way we will fail.
 Mark 22:37
 Ezra Taft Benson, "The Great Commandment-Love the Lord" Ensign, May 1988 , 62
 William R. Bradford, "Unclutter Your Life" Ensign May 1992
 J. Richard Clarke, "The Value of Work" Ensign May 1982