Near the end of the first day of the Savior’s ministry on the American continent, He announced to the people that it would soon be time for Him to leave. “Behold, my time is at hand,” He said, explaining that He was returning to His Father before going to visit another group of people (3 Nephi 17:1, 4).
The term “at hand” means “close by” in either space or in time. When it refers to space, it can mean reachable, close enough to pick up. When it refers to time, it carries a similar sense of immediacy, describing an event that is about to happen.
Isaiah advised the Israelites that they should begin immediately to weep and mourn. “Howl ye,” he said, “for the day of the Lord is at hand” (Isaiah 13:6, 2 Nephi 23:6). They might not have perceived it yet, but their time to repent had passed. The consequences of their actions were upon them.
King Limhi inspired his people to action by declaring, “The time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies” (Mosiah 7:18).
Alma the Younger urged the people in three cities to repent quickly by warning them that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Alma 5:50, Alma 7:9, Alma 9:25). This same message was later delivered by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), by the Savior Himself (Matthew 4:17), and by His apostles (Matthew 10:7).
Shortly before the Savior’s birth, He reassured Nephi that all would be well, because “the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world” (3 Nephi 1:13-14).
So the phrase “at hand” has an important meaning and purpose: Something significant is about to happen. Be aware, and be prepared. It will be here before you know it. It’s practically here already.
After the Savior told the people on the American continent that His time was at hand, He stayed a little longer out of compassion toward them (3 Nephi 17:5-8). But perhaps they listened a little more intently and delighted in His presence a little more, knowing that their time with Him was nearing an end, at least for that day. When we know that things are about to change, we are motivated to take advantage of the time we have.
Thomas S. Monson once cautioned young parents:
If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.“Finding Joy in the Journey,” General Conference, October 2008
Today, I will strive to use my time wisely, to savor the events of the day. I will remember that future events are “at hand”—probably much closer than I think. I will strive to be fully aware and engaged in the activities of the day, knowing that they will not last forever.