I’ve been thinking this week about a stern message the Lord gave to Oliver Cowdery in an 1829 revelation. Oliver had sought the gift to translate and had been given permission to try. When he failed, the Lord instructed him to resume his role as scribe.
The problem, apparently, was that Oliver hadn’t realized the level of effort and focus required to do this work. “You have supposed that I would give it unto you,” said the Lord, “when you took no thought save it was to ask me” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7).
Regardless of the reason for the failure, it was time to move on:
It is not expedient that you should translate now.
Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now.Doctrine and Covenants 9:10-11
When Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was president of Brigham Young University, he pleaded with the students to learn from Oliver’s failure:
This is a university for which you have spent good money—yours and other people’s—to attend. It is not a young adult conference nor a missionary reunion nor a dating bureau nor an intramural athletic depot….
Don’t miss this opportunity. It won’t come again. It is here, we reach for it, and all too soon it will be gone….
Give it everything you have now, this semester, lest, like Oliver Cowdery, you realize too late that the opportunity of a lifetime has to be taken in the lifetime of the opportunity.“Virtus et Veritas,” BYU Devotional Address, 8 September 1981
The prophet Alma delivered a similar plea to the people of Ammonihah. “Now is the time to repent,” he cried, “for the day of salvation draweth nigh” (Alma 13:21). Seven years later, his missionary companion, Amulek, made the same plea to the Zoramites: “Now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31).
Elder Ian S. Adern reminded us, “On any given day we are all allocated, without cost, the same number of minutes and hours to use, and we soon learn, as the familiar hymn so carefully teaches, ‘Time flies on wings of lightning; we cannot call it back’ (“Improve the Shining Moments,” Hymns, no. 226). What time we have we must use wisely” (“A Time to Prepare,” General Conference, October 2011).
There is a complete chapter in Preach My Gospel, the manual for missionaries, about time management. Here are a few of the recommended practices from that chapter:
- Pray for and seek inspiration about how to spend your time.
- Set goals and make plans.
- Coordinate your work with other people.
- Schedule your time.
Today I will remember that time is precious and that many opportunities are time-bound. I will strive to use my time wisely and to take advantage of the opportunities I am given while they are still available to me.