Conference Report
Time is of the Essence
Elder John Longden
Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles

John Longden, Conference Report, April 1966, p. 37-40

On September 23, 1909, I walked with my father, holding his hand, down a street called Edge Lane in Liverpool, England, into the office of the then British Mission and had the privilege of shaking the hand of President Charles W. Penrose just before we boarded ship to come to this great country of America.

Dedication of Oldham Chapel

In March of that same year, President Penrose dedicated a little corrugated, galvanized meetinghouse in Oldham, Lancashire, where I was born. Through the graciousness and kindness of President David O. McKay of the First Presidency, I had the privilege of returning to the land of my birth after fifty-six years to dedicate a beautiful structure in the town of Oldham. President McKay, we shall always be grateful to you for this assignment and the opportunity of holding conferences in London, in Leicester, and in Holland. It was a rich experience to associate with the members in Oldham. My, what a contrast from the little galvanized building in which I used to go to Sunday School and sacrament meeting and all the other services that were held at that time. Almost four hundred people assembled that Sunday night of February 27 with the Manchester Stake Mormon Choir, which they informed me they had permission to so be called by the First Presidency of the Church.

Fifty-six years ago! It seems like yesterday! How time flies!

Value of time

We have heard much about time during this conference thus far, and I should like to spend a few moments on this subject of time.

How many times have you heard the statement, "I haven't time"—yet all individuals are blessed with the same amount of this precious commodity.

"Guard well your spare moments," Ralph Waldo Emerson advised. "They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life."

Most of us waste an inexcusable amount of time. We go along using time thoughtlessly and failing to get out of it either enjoyment of life or the satisfaction of accomplishments.

Time passes quickly, we cannot save it, we cannot buy it. There is nothing we can do about it except to see as far as possible that it passes fruitfully.

Robert R. Updegraff once said, "To get all there is out of living, we must employ our time wisely, never being in too much of a hurry to stop and sip life, but never losing our sense of the enormous value of a minute."

Mere "busyness" is not necessarily evidence of the wise use of time. There should be time for mental and spiritual development as well as relaxation: time for worship and time to express our thankfulness for our ability to work, and think, and pray, and read, and help, and dream, and laugh, and plan, and learn.

"Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of," said Benjamin Franklin.

Modern conditions have and are creating more leisure, adding to our woes unless this precious time is used wisely.

I was interested in the word "leisure" because we hear so much about it, so referring to the dictionary, I found this description: "Spare time; unoccupied by work; as, leisure hours."

"The end of labor is to gain leisure." (Aristotle.)

Time well employed

"Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure; and, since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour." "Leisure is time for doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will obtain; but the lazy man, never." "A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things." (Franklin.)

"Leisure is a beautiful garment, but it will not do for constant wearing." (Anonymous.)

"Leisure is pain; takes off our chariot wheels; how heavily we drag the load of life. Blessed leisure is our curse." (Edward Young, Night Thoughts, 1742.)

"Leisure for men of business, and business for men of leisure, would cure many complaints." (Mrs. Thrale.)

Spare minutes are the gold-dust of time; the portions of life most fruitful in good or evil; the gaps through which temptations enter.

Yes, temptations.

"Time well employed is Satan's deadliest foe; it leaves no opening for the lurking fiend," said Wilcox.

I think of another of my mother's teachings: "An idle brain is the devil's workshop." (English proverb.) We know it is not when we are busy that we get into trouble.

Herndon said: "Satan selects his disciples when they are idle; Jesus selected his when they were busy at their work either mending their nets or casting them into the sea."

Then Hans Christian Andersen said, "Time is so fleeting that if we do not remember God in our youth, age may find us incapable of thinking about Him."

The Prophet Alma said: ". . . learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God" (Alma 37:35).

"Remember now thy Creator, in the days of thy youth"

I thrilled this morning with this beautiful Primary chorus and to hear their melodious, sweet, young voices singing these glorious hymns: "I am a child of God . . . Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, Help me find the way." Yes, in their youth they are learning these precious teachings.

The Apostle Paul gave excellent counsel—Ephesians 6:10:

". . . be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:10-11).

The time we spend learning of our Father in heaven will bring untold blessings to us all the days of our lives and enable us to avoid or overcome the temptations of Satan.

Some can see the greatness of the past, some can sense the potential of the future, but few are able to recognize the greatness of the present. Those of us who have the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a knowledge of the purpose of life and the reason for being here have an advantage over those who do not have this blessing.

Therefore, we need to place the true value upon this precious commodity time.

There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, 8,736 hours in a year. The average span of life at present is 70 years. In that many years there would be well in excess of 600,000 hours.

Let us not worry about the span of life (70 years) or the total accumulated hours in those years, but take each day as it comes, living every minute, every hour.

May I read something very appropriate on this thought titled "Today." I do not know the author's name.


Today is here. I will start with a smile, and resolve to be agreeable. I will not criticize. I refuse to waste my valuable time.

Today has one thing in which I know I am equal with others—Time. All of us draw the same salary in seconds, minutes, hours—24 Golden Hours each day.

Today I will not waste my time, because the minutes I wasted yesterday are as lost as a vanished thought.

Today I refuse to spend time worrying about what might happen. I am going to spend my time making things happen.

Today I am determined to study to improve myself, for tomorrow I may be wanted, and I must not be found lacking.

Today I am determined to do things I should do. I firmly resolve to stop doing the things I should not do.

Today I begin by doing and not wasting my time. In one week I will be miles beyond the person I am today.

Today I will not imagine what I would do if things were different. They are not different. I will make a success with what material I have.

Today I will stop saying, "If I had time," for I never will "find time" for anything—if I want time I must make it.

Today I will act toward other people as though this might be my last day on earth. I will not wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes.

Yes, we have time to be honest; time to be gentlemen and ladies; time to be polite; time to be virtuous, to be clean; time to study, to pray, to think; time to act wisely; time to be happy; time to worship, to develop self-control; time to have faith, to repent, to be baptized by immersion by one having the authority; and time to receive a witness of the Holy Ghost, that power which will guide us into further light and truth and knowledge, this great boon or favor from our Heavenly Father and his divine Son Jesus Christ. Then we are conforming with the formalities that permit us entrance into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. I bear this witness and testimony that we can take advantage of our time and accomplish great deeds in rendering service to our fellowmen, and I ask that this will be our lot, in the name of Jesus Christ, our divine Savior. Amen.