"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
February 13, 2013
Only One Thing is Needful
by Emily S. Jorgensen

A former “piano mom” of mine—the mother of several children who took piano lessons from me for a number of years—once told me of a life-changing experience she had.

She herself is very musically gifted and trained. Her parents were able to give her many opportunities to develop her talents, and she has used them to serve in the church and community many times.

Not surprisingly, her children are also very gifted in diverse ways. However, having several children in this day and age is quite expensive. It is the rare breadwinner that can support a large family on his own and give them all the opportunities they may like to have.

Many times this mother had to make difficult choices regarding their family priorities and opportunities for each child. One of her children desperately wanted to take violin lessons. This mother knew they could not afford this.

She agonized over this issue for quite a while. She wondered, what if this is THE THING for this child—what if this is his future, this is what he is meant to do? Am I depriving him of his greatest experiences and opportunities?

As she prayed about this, the Spirit told her, “Only one thing is needful.”

She knew immediately in her heart the needful thing was the gospel of Jesus Christ.

All well-meaning parents want the best for their children. They want the great things they had growing up, or the things they wish they had. They want them to learn an instrument, play a sport, win a scholarship, or bring home the trophy.

But all of these should be “done in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27).

I have come to a new understanding of the scripture, “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them.” (Jacob 2:19)

I used to think of this scripture as only having to do with money. But money is not the only treasure. In each of our families, there are experiences or accomplishments we treasure. Perhaps we value being on the winning team. Perhaps it is bringing home the best report card.

Nothing is wrong with these things, just as there is nothing wrong with having lots of money.

What matters is what comes first in our hearts.

Are we teaching our children to seek the kingdom of God first? Do we let them blow off Mutual night because they have too much homework? Do we let them sleep through early morning seminary because they are tired from the game last night? Are we late to Sacrament meeting because someone’s hair isn’t done?

As a teenager, I was obsessed with doing my best to get a scholarship to college. I worked hard, studied hard, took the most challenging classes. I used to be somewhat annoyed that my parents guilted me into going to Mutual even when I felt I had way too much homework to “waste” my time there. Especially since I felt I “needed” Mutual a lot less than some people—my family was active, I had a testimony, I knew all this stuff anyway, yadda yadda yadda.

Now, I look back and am grateful. Yes, I won a great scholarship. But the interactions I had with my fellow youth and leaders there molded me in ways I was totally unaware of until I grew older.

I recognize now that it was not the topic we learned about or the craft we made Wednesday nights that made going to Mutual important. It was the sacrifice of going when I didn’t want to go that made it important.

Because, there have been hundreds of times I haven’t wanted to go to Sacrament meeting, or presidency meeting, or whatever duty my current calling requires.

I go anyway.

Even though there is no one to make me go now.

I go because somewhere along the way, I grew to agree with my parents—the kingdom of God comes first. Even when it is boring. Or thankless. Or requires sacrifice.

As parents, let us correctly identify for our children the Only Needful Thing. Celebrate their talents; encourage their academic accomplishments,; let them dream their dreams. But first, help them seek the kingdom of God, and if it is His will, “all these shall be added unto [them]” (3 Nephi 13:33).


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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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