16 Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.
17 But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts.
(2 Nephi 28:16-17)
Our Heavenly Father wants us to prioritize wisely, to distinguish between good and evil and between important and unimportant things. On the first day of creation, He divided the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:4), and He wants us to do the same in our lives.
But we live in a noisy world, a world where some people “call evil good, and good evil” (2 Nephi 15:20, Isaiah 5:20), and a world full of distractions. In the passage above, Nephi condemns those who “turn aside the just for a thing of naught,” borrowing a phrase from Isaiah 29:21. I think that means to distract people from doing what is right by focusing their attention on things of little value. In order to accomplish this goal, these people may minimize the importance of truly important things and exaggerate the importance of whatever they are peddling.
As Elder Jack N. Gerard has pointed out, our modern world is saturated with those kinds of voices:
We live in a world of information overload, dominated by ever-increasing distractions that make it more and more difficult to sort through the commotion of this life and focus on things of eternal worth. Our daily lives are bombarded with attention-grabbing headlines, served up by rapidly changing technologies.
Unless we take the time to reflect, we may not realize the impact of this fast-paced environment on our daily lives and the choices we make. We may find our lives consumed with bursts of information packaged in memes, videos, and glaring headlines. Although interesting and entertaining, most of these have little to do with our eternal progress, and yet they shape the way we view our mortal experience (“Now Is the Time,” General Conference, October 2018).
Elder Gerard described a medical emergency in which he was told, “If there is anything in your life that you need to consider, now is the time.” “Almost instantaneously, ” he said, “my entire perspective changed. What seemed so important just moments earlier was now of little interest.” He encouraged us to proactively follow the advice of that doctor. Even though we may not be currently experiencing a medical emergency, we can still step back, examine our priorities, and make sure we are not trading things of value for things that really don’t matter.
I think the words in the passage above are intended to cause the same kind of soul-searching. If you don’t feel the urgency now, you will eventually. The moment of crisis will come. Better to be prepared by taking an inventory of your priorities before that time.
Today, I will take time to ponder and make sure I am focused on the things that matter most, so that I don’t waste time and energy on things that don’t really matter in the end.