The heavenly messenger who appeared to Joseph Smith as he went to procure wine for the sacrament taught him an important principle: We can completely miss the most important aspects of our experiences when we are focused on less-important details. Quoting Jesus Christ, the messenger said:
It mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.Doctrine and Covenants 27:2
Several Book of Mormon prophets used similar words to emphasize that they were focused on the most important things:
It mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.1 Nephi 6:3
Whether there shall be one time, or a second time, or a third time, that men shall come forth from the dead, it mattereth not; for God knoweth all these things; and it sufficeth me to know that this is the case—that there is a time appointed that all shall rise from the dead.Alma 40:5
Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God.Ether 15:34
Several other times in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord uses the same phrase to refocus missionaries on their core mission to preach the gospel. “It mattereth not” how they travel (Doctrine and Covenants 60:5, 61:22), whether they travel in groups or in pairs (Doctrine and Covenants 62:5), and even in some cases where they go (Doctrine and Covenants 80:3). When the saints in Kirtland collected money to benefit the saints in Missouri, the Lord said, “It mattereth not unto me whether it be much or little” (Doctrine and Covenants 63:40). It wasn’t about hitting a quota; it was about turning their hearts to their friends who were in need and doing what they could.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf warned us that an inordinate focus on low-value details can distract us from the things of highest importance.
Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives….
If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.“Of Things That Matter Most,” General Conference, October 2010
As I’ve pondered this principle today, I’ve had the following thoughts:
- If I allow my mind to wander during a meeting, then why am I there? Am I an active or a passive participant? If the meeting is worth attending, then it is worth my attention.
- Can I simplify my deliverables? In the interest of making a good impression, am I overcomplicating things instead of focusing on accomplishing the central objective?
- During family time, am I fully engaged?
- When I am tempted to reach for my phone, is it to accomplish a critical task or to placate a bored mind?
- Do I avoid doing something good because I’m not sure I can do it perfectly?
Today, I will focus on the most important aspects of my activities and let go of the aspects that are less important. I will choose not to allow lower-priority details to distract me from the things that matter most.