Thursday, March 27, 2014

Your Most Precious Object

In recent years I've enjoyed helping my father edit his semi-annual missive to his former missionaries in the California Arcadia Mission. This is his way to keep in touch with them after these many years since their service together. Many of these missionaries have raised families of their own by now, sent their own sons and daughters into the mission field, seen them married in the temples, and now those children have children of their own too. His has been a long legacy of faithful service to the Church, as he outlines in this latest edition of "Heartlines" - 

April 2014

              We were greatly blessed –

- to be able to raise our family in a comfortable, large and spacious home on the Avenues of Salt Lake City, not far from my work at the L.D.S. Hospital. The three-level home had multiple exits on the second story level, some more dangerous than others. It was important to us that our children knew where to go in case of an emergency. So, on one occasion we devoted a Family Home Evening to conducting a fire drill to teach this possibly life-saving lesson.

Besides the life-saving preparation there was another very important outcome to be realized. A searching test question was added asking each person to decide which object they would choose to preserve, above all others, if they had but one, not more than two, minutes to quickly take possession of it before the menacing flames would envelop them. The answer to that question would declare this chosen object to be their most-prized possession. It was then, and still is, a most perplexing question. I could imagine that my daughter might choose her violin; her mother, maybe a diamond ring, but it would, of course, vary with each person and the decision might change as values are altered by maturity. But in my case, my choice has been unchanged over most of my life, for reasons I will explain.

Les Goates family as Brent
prepared to leave on his first mission
In 1942, I was called to serve in the Texas Mission. I had just completed my sophomore year at the University of Utah. Economic times after the Great Depression of the 1930s were still difficult and employment had just begun to improve with the stimulation of World War II.

My father, Les Goates, was employed by the Deseret News as sports editor. It was difficult for him to financially meet the expenses necessary to send his first boy on a mission. When it came time to provide for my scriptures, he gave me his own Triple Combination which had his name, Lesley Goates, embossed on the cover.

All through my two-year mission I studied from this sacred book and found therein the truths of the gospel which gave me a testimony of its divine message. Therefore, every page was treasured, and most of them were marked up with my notes in the margins. This same Triple Combination was with me through the next 23 years as my gospel scholarship broadened. It had been an instrument through which true revelation flowed. Therefore, it was to me priceless.

During the years of 1964-67, I served as a member of the General Priesthood Home Teaching Committee, traveling to teach the program with General Authorities at weekly stake conferences. In the Fall of 1967, a new level of general leadership was announced and many of us serving on one of the four General Priesthood Committees were called to be among the first appointed Regional Representatives of the Twelve. We came to the closeout of our last Home Teaching Committee stake visits on the weekend of September 23-24, 1967. Because the Brethren were reluctant for me to be far from the hospital on weekends, most of my assignments had been to nearby Utah stakes. But on this last appointment I asked to be sent to the most distant stake assigned to a conference. It turned out to be the Taber Stake in Western Canada. I was to accompany then-Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve, who would preside at the conference.

We left on a Friday, spent that night at the Country Club Motel in Great Falls, Montana, then on Saturday we rented a car and drove about three hours to Taber. The assignment was one of the most satisfying and memorable experiences ever, and after completing our work at the Taber Stake we retraced our route and boarded a plane for home at Great Falls.

When our flight was underway, I brought out my scriptures to read. Seated next to me was Elder Monson, who noted the dilapidated condition of my Triple Combination. He turned to me and said, “Brent, your scriptures are falling apart and are hardly hanging together. If you will let me have the book for ten days I will recondition it and return it to you looking like new with a new binding and cover.” Elder Monson’s profession was in the printing and publishing field. He had previously been president of The Deseret Press, and still had connections there. So, reluctantly, I parted with the book.

Elder Monson was true to his promise. He returned to me a completely restored book neatly bound with a beautiful new leather cover, this time bearing my own name embossed in gold letters.

Almost every day in the subsequent 47 years, I have turned these pages seeking guidance and revelation for my life’s journey. This book has become my precious companion, and has endured a lifetime of scrutiny and research, accompanied by prayer. How can one put a price on a treasure like that? It is truly irreplaceable, and still is the most precious object which I would first of all preserve from the flames.

And now, what about you? What is your most precious object? If all else were to be destroyed, what would you choose first to save?

Always your friend,

          President L. Brent Goates

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