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Ancient Testaments: Like persnickety cars, we need frequent maintenance

Our family happens to have a very "special" car. We consider it a wonderful visual aid, perfectly representing mortal life. Like a weedy garden or a leaky boat, it's what you'd call "high maintenance."

Just one of its constant needs is front-end realignment. If we ignore that, we pay, for costly parts will wear out fast. Worse yet, the steering will get out of control. We could pay with our lives.

And then there are the roads where we live. Some are poorly paved, others not at all. This doesn't help the alignment problem. And it makes for a very dirty car.

Our special car and special roads add up to a special lesson: If we don't get ourselves realigned and recleaned often, we too get dirty and important things wear out. And, we risk life of the most important kind.

Recently, President Thomas S. Monson taught that we are in this world to "distinguish between what is important and what is not" (Ensign, November 2008). In the simplest of words, the living prophet gave us a key to mortal success. When a life is centered on the important things, it becomes whole. Only then can it be "holy."

But such a life is only possible, in our mortal vehicles on our mortal roads, by frequent maintenance. No wonder the gospel life schedules us for constant realignment and cleaning.

Early in the Restoration, all sorts of realignment and cleansing tools were put in reach of the Saints. One of these was the surprising commandment to build a holy place — the temple. It turns out that the more we learn about this place called a temple, the more we can "distinguish between what is important and what is not."

The Lord gave more major clues about important things when he designated an important place called "Zion," to be built up in holiness in due time. To learn from those clues, people didn't have to live there, then or now. But it turns out that the more we learn about this place called Zion, the more we can "distinguish between what is important and what is not."

Holiness and importance were not only taught by special places. To contemplate a sacred, designated place is one thing. It is quite another to learn from a sacred, designated time.

In August 1831, the Lord commanded his people to observe the Sabbath Day. In this case, the holiness isn't contained within tangible walls or boundaries you can see and touch. A place on the calendar or clock is invisible and immaterial. You have to be observant and interested — you have to care — if you are going to learn about holiness from a space of time. And the more we learn about this time called the Sabbath, the more we can "distinguish between what is important and what is not."

Jackson County, Mo., was a perfect setting for introducing the Lord's will concerning the Sabbath Day. Here the recently arrived Colesville Branch, and others who joined them, would struggle to make their new home holy.

To do that, they would need to stop, remember covenants and consider holy things. Each week, they would need to focus for a whole day on what is important, "and do none other thing."

They would need a heaven-sent, user-friendly pattern to "keep (themselves) unspotted from the world," to get realigned with what is important and un-aligned with what is not (Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-13).

Like that special visual aid parked in the driveway, we are high-maintenance beings. Traveling mortality's rough road, hitting chuck holes and mud holes all week long, we need frequent cleaning and alignment.

Wayne E. Brickey, who lives in Gallatin, Mo., is a retired Church Educational System teacher and curriculum writer and has been a tour guide to Holy Land and Mormon history sites. His novel "Before His Manger: The Long Wait for Christ's First Coming" is serialized in weekly segments Fridays on MormonTimes.com.