Are we building up false temples in our lives? Are we worshiping at unholy altars? Are we letting the good crowd out the best? Do we make even token sacrifices to gilded calves? What are we allowing in our lives to take precedence over the gospel and the things of God? Do we wander on side-roads when we should be traveling on God’s heavenly highway, which takes us to the temple and eternal life?
The prophet Isaiah wrote of God’s highway, “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8).
This highway leads through the deserts: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3); it leads to the exalted heights: “And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.” (Isaiah 49:11). On God’s exalted roads, we are in the path to peace; we are on the temple road, a road for the clean and holy. Those who wander on strange roads find themselves on the way to false temples and worshiping false gods – maybe not always on purpose but nonetheless worshiping at false altars.
Our worshiping in false temples could range from shirking church responsibilities to spending too much time pursuing work or recreation (or even family) that other necessary activities are left undone. Our worship of false gods could range from obsessively following the latest trends or technologies or celebrities to dishonoring the Sabbath day to worshiping the self. All that is good is not exalting and too much of a good thing can at times be damning. I do not mean to imply that all our focus should be on the gospel and family – although those should be our primary foci – we can and should spend time doing other things, like working to support a family or developing our talents or even taking some time to relax and enjoy ourselves. The problem occurs when our devotion to these other activities because religious to the point of interference with what matters most.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke on this at a recent General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said,
“A childhood experience introduced me to the idea that some choices are good but others are better. I lived for two years on a farm. We rarely went to town. Our Christmas shopping was done in the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I spent hours poring over its pages. For the rural families of that day, catalog pages were like the shopping mall or the Internet of our time.
Something about some displays of merchandise in the catalog fixed itself in my mind. There were three degrees of quality: good, better, and best. For example, some men’s shoes were labeled good ($1.84), some better ($2.98), and some best ($3.45).
As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.
Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, ‘Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom’ (D&C; 88:118; emphasis added)” (Ensign, Nov. 2007).
Many things, people, and causes clamor for our attention. We can run around exhibiting a kind of attentional disorder trying to do everything (or conversely, doing far too little or focusing on far too narrow a thing) or we can wisely use and improve our time by choosing to spend the most effort on the best things. The kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus Christ come first, so does family (that is not contradictory to say that both God and family come first), everything else should fall somewhere on down the hierarchy of activities. Anything that takes away from the centrality of God and family (specifically family as God and Christ-centered) is a false god. We should work to purge this polytheism from our lives.