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January 2, 2014

New Year Resolutions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ryan Best @ 5:02 pm
Each New Year, many of us tend to reflect on the previous year and make resolutions for improvement in the coming year. This can be a beneficial exercise if what we resolve to do in the New Year is something worthwhile. With this in mind, I wish to make a few comments on the subject.
My comments today are primarily for me, but perhaps there may be some who might profit from what I have to say. I would like to approach my comments by telling you of two experiences I have had in my life, which have helped me to understand the points I wish to make.
            The first experience occurred as a young teenager. I wanted to be able to play a musical instrument. My mother tried to interest me in learning to play the organ, but after 6 months, I just wasn’t interested. Besides, as I took lessons I soon realized that learning to read music was too difficult for me. Somehow, I thought that I could learn to play an instrument without learning to read music. Being a little lazy and stubborn, I thought that I could somehow circumvent that process and take an easier path using my ability to memorize.
            As I entered junior high, I opted to take beginning trumpet. I thought that this would be a cool instrument to play. For some odd reason, I was mistakenly placed in a beginning violin class. When I protested, I was told they couldn’t change me at that time. I would have to take beginning violin for 7th grade, but they assured me that in 8th grade I could switch to trumpet.
            All during my time learning to play the violin, I became very good at faking it. The teacher did not know I was not learning to read music, as I was able to memorize the bowing and fingering for the simple songs we were learning. As long as I knew the tune in my head I could figure out how to play it by experimentation and memory.
            After 7th grade, I finally got into beginning trumpet class in the school band. My band teacher assumed that having had a year of violin that I already knew how to read music. I followed the same pattern in this class as I did in violin, but it was much easier to fake it with the trumpet. It only had three keys to push. Having been a bugler in boy scouts, I already knew how to buzz my lips to get the higher or lower notes, but had to learn to use the three keys as well.
            As I learned the simple songs we were learning, I would write in pencil on the sheet music 1,2, or 3, or any combination of those numbers above the music to tell me which keys to depress to get the proper notes. Again, I was taking an easier path to learn the trumpet, a path I thought would take me to where I wanted to go, without following the tried and true path, which included learning to read music.
            I was very adept at fooling the teacher into thinking I was learning the way a student should learn, but my method came back to bite me later.
In 9th grade, our school was to have an open house in which all of the parents were invited to see some of what their students were learning. Part of the program included performances by the language classes. Each language class, Spanish, French and German, were to have the students sing three songs in the language.
            I didn’t like to sing, so I followed the lead of two other students who got permission to accompany the class by playing their instruments instead. The teacher would play the piano, Dave would play the Saxophone, John would play the accordion and I would play the trumpet. It was the only way to get credit for class without actually singing.
            There was only one problem; Dave and John did not want me to practice with them. To this day I don’t know what the source of animosity between us was, but pride and stubbornness didn’t allow me to give up. I thought, I’ll show them, I’ll learn the songs on my own and when it came time to perform, I would walk onto the stage with my trumpet and there is nothing they could do to stop me. My teacher was unaware of the problem.
            As we got up on the outdoor stage in front of all of the people assembled, we began the first song. Suddenly, it was very apparent that something was not right. I sounded very flat and off from what the others were playing. I knew this by all of the pained expressions from the faces of those in the audience, especially my father’s grimace.
You see, the others knew how to read music and were able to play the music as it was written. Because I couldn’t read music and had not practiced with them, I learned the music perfectly, only in the wrong key. I had worked out the tunes on my own and had little 3×5 cards attached to my trumpet with the 1’s 2’s and 3’s written down in order to play the music. After the first song, I thought the next one would be better, it wasn’t, it was even worse. The discordant sounds from my trumpet were embarrassing and after a few bars, I pulled my little Bavarian hat down over my head to hide my face and backed off of the stage into the darkness behind the brick wall, where my trumpet case was.
I was never so embarrassed in all my life. I did not ever want to come back to school the next day. I had to find some way to save face for my blunder and came up with what I thought was a most ingenious excuse for my poor performance. I would blame the French class that preceded us on stage. I removed some of the valve springs from my trumpet, which assisted the keys up after depressing them, and put the trumpet back into the case.
As we assembled, after the performance, in our German class to receive credit I saw the pained expression of the teacher’s face, as if to say “why did you do this to me.” Others in the class were murmuring about by performance also.
With great bravado, I told everyone that I was a victim of some unknown French student, who sabotaged my trumpet, then added credence to my claim by unscrewing the valves to reveal that few of the valve springs were missing. I was pretty proud of myself, as the teacher, the other students and my father all seemed to buy my story. None of them knew I couldn’t read music. I was able to minimize the embarrassment of that event, but learned a valuable lesson.
I departed the path, which leads to being able to be proficient in music and pursued a path of my own making, one I thought would be easier and yet, would still get me to my goal.
The strange thing is, I probably put forth more time and effort into learning those songs my way, the wrong way, than did Dave or John, but my investment was based on a faulty premise. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you put into something, if you follow the wrong path, you will not arrive at the destination you wish for.
The next experience is from my time at BYU. I worked at BYU for 34 years and during the first 29 of those years I spent my lunch hours and time prior to the start of the workday, killing time by doing crossword puzzles or playing solitaire on the computer. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, if done in moderation, but killing time is another way of killing opportunity, opportunity for what that time could be used for.
About nine years ago, shortly after moving to Cedar Hills, I sat in the High Priest Group meeting and listened to a lesson on writing our personal and family histories. As I sat there, I felt the Spirit touch me and say, “Ron, you really need to do this.”
Immediately after that meeting, I went home and dug out an old shoebox full of cassette tapes, which I recorded shortly after my mission. I had recorded my mission experiences as well as my earliest recollections onto tapes, with the intent of using them in the future. As I sat there listening to myself talk about people and events I had no recollection of, I realized that we don’t always remember all of the events or people that were important to us at the time.
I began to write down notes and put my remembrances in chronological order. Over the next three years, I spent my lunch hours and time prior to the start of the workday in my office at BYU writing, editing and re-writing my personal history from birth to retirement. I had my history professionally bound into a hardbound book of more than 500 pages and made a copy for each of my children and one for myself.
Instead of killing time, doing crossword puzzles or playing computer solitaire, I used the same time and effort to produce something lasting and hopefully, of great worth to my children and posterity.
I have nothing to show for the 29 years of lost opportunity to use my time for something more valuable than computer games, but I have this personal history to show for the last few years. This will tell my children and posterity about me, the funny times, embarrassing times (including the embarrassing trumpet story), and most importantly, the spiritual times. It will reveal how I came to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how I gained my testimony and many other important events in which God had a hand in my life. This is much more important than my prowess at solitaire.
In 2Ne 9:51 we are told “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.” This fatness doesn’t add to our girth, but it does add to the size of our souls.
A few months ago, I sat up on the stand and looked out on the congregation waiting for Sacrament meeting to begin. As I did so, I felt a prompting that came in the form of a question, “Why do we spend so much time and effort in pursuing things of little or no worth and yet, do not spend the same time and effort in pursuing things of lasting and greater worth?” This question caused me to ponder for quite a while and was the impetus for this commentary. As I look over my life, I find that I have wasted far too much time and effort pursuing the things of lesser worth.
I have learned two valuable lessons from the two experiences I just related to you. First, It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you invest, if you are not on the right path, you won’t reach your goal, in this case, learning to be proficient in playing the trumpet.
Second, I also learned that killing time is killing opportunity. I have nothing to show for those 29 years of lunch hours spent playing solitaire, but I have much to show for the three years I didn’t.
We differ in many ways and circumstances, but we all have one thing in common, we all have the same 24 hours a day. It is my hope that we spend the time we have to become like those in Book of Mosiah, desiring to do good continually, and to follow Nephi’s admonition to spend our labor for that which is of greater worth and finally, to following Jacob’s counsel, “to be learned is good if we hearken unto the counsels of God.” We will have much more to show for our lives pursuing such a course than pursuing things of lesser worth.
By: Ron Forstner

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