Martha and Mary were sisters who both received the Savior into their home. , Martha set to work serving them and attending to their needs. Mary, on the other hand, apparently sat down at the Savior’s feet and “heard his word”. After so long of this, Martha had had just about enough. She goes to Jesus and says, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” But Jesus answers her in wisdom. In today’s terms what he said to Martha might sound something like this, “Martha, you have so many things on your plate that you are worried about. But Mary has decided to do the one thing that is an absolute necessity and I can’t ask any more of her.”
Sister Beck, the general president of our Relief Society (women’s organization) has said, there are “essential things which must be done before nonessential things. These are simple, indispensable practices that almost seem mundane when we talk about them. However, they are marks of discipleship which have always been foundational for Relief Society sisters. No one can do these things for us—these are personal practices and habits that set us apart as strong and immovable for that which is correct.”
Her list of these essential things included:
1. Make and keep covenants with the Savior.
2. Are worthy and worship in God’s temples.
3. Study His doctrine in the scriptures and the words of prophets.
4. Qualify for, recognize, and follow the Holy Ghost.
5. Share and defend the gospel.
6. Participate in sincere personal and family prayer.
7. Have family home evening.
8. Live principles of self-reliance and provident living.
Furthermore, Sister Beck has also stated that Mormon women should be “selective about their own activities and involvement to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most” and that we should “choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.”
We all know what it feels like to have demands coming at us from several directions at once, to have more on our to do lists than we can possibly get done. It makes us feel frazzled and inadequate. We get burned out. And at the end of the day, although we may have actually accomplished much, did we really accomplish what was most important? How can we be sure to choose to do the needful thing which shall not be taken away from us?
Yesterday, my visiting teachers came over and as their lesson they chose the text from Sister Beck’s talk, “Mothers Who Know.” They gave me a journal to write down all the things that I’d like to get done in a day—all the demands that are placed on me, all the tasks I need to accomplish. Then, knowing that I may not be able to accomplish that all in my next 16 hours, I mark the things that are essential for me to accomplish that day. This list will always include my personal scripture study and prayer. What better way to exemplify Mary and to sit at the Savior’s feet for a few minutes each day and listen to his word? Then after that, the list may change. Right now, one of the essential things on my list is to talk to my teenager right when she gets home from school using that 20 minutes before anyone else gets home to connect personally with her. This is a crucial time for that and I can’t afford to get distracted by anything else. Another thing on my essential list is to take the time to really talk to my kids instead of just “disciplining” them when they do something wrong. It’s important to me to take those opportunities to teach from the scriptures and listen and really to talk to them about our expectations rather than just sending them to a time out. This means that if I’m washing dishes or folding laundry or on the computer when an incident happens, I need to immediately stop what I am doing and take the time to teach that child. That is essential. And folding the laundry or finishing the dishes or writing an email, while it may be pressing, is less important.
How will you become more like Mary? What will be on your essential and needful list of things to do? What are some of the less important things that you may have to let go for a while so you can do that which matters most?