Timing


Timing

The Lord’s Timing

In all the important decisions in our lives, what is most important is to do the right thing. Second, and only slightly behind the first, is to do the right thing at the right time.
My first point on the subject of timing is that the Lord has His own timetable. “My words are sure and shall not fail,” the Lord taught the early elders of this dispensation. “But,” He continued, “all things must come to pass in their time” (D&C 64:31–32).
The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith means trust—trust in God’s will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable. We should not try to impose our timetable on His. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said:
“The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes.” 1
Indeed, we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing.
In our service in the Lord’s Church we should remember that when is just as important as who, what, where, and how.
For a vivid illustration of the importance of timing, we can look to the earthly ministry of the Lord and His succeeding instructions to His Apostles. During His lifetime the Lord instructed the Twelve Apostles not to preach to the Gentiles but “rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6; see also Matt. 10:5Matt. 15:22–26). Then, at the appropriate time, this instruction was reversed in a great revelation to the Apostle Peter. Only then, at the precise time dictated by the Lord, was the gospel taken to the Gentiles (see Acts 10–11).
As this example shows, continuing revelation is the means by which the Lord administers His timing. We need that revelatory direction. For example, many of us or our descendants will doubtless participate in the fulfillment of prophecies about the building of the city of New Jerusalem (see D&C 84:2–4). But in this matter the timing is the Lord’s, not ours. We will not be approved or blessed in clearing the ground or pouring the footings for that great project until the Lord has said that it is time. In this, as in so many other things, the Lord will proceed in His own time and in His own way.
We prepare in the way the Lord has directed. We hold ourselves in readiness to act on the Lord’s timing. He will tell us when the time is right to take the next step. For now, we simply concentrate on our own assignments and on what we have been asked to do today. In this we are also mindful of the Lord’s assurance: “I will hasten my work in its time” (D&C 88:73).
People who do not accept continuing revelation sometimes get into trouble by doing things too soon or too late or too long. The practice of plural marriage is an example.
The importance of the Lord’s timing is also evident in His dietary laws. The Lord gave one dietary direction to ancient Israel. Much later, because of the “evils and designs” that exist in these “last days” (see D&C 89:4), He has given us a Word of Wisdom suited to the circumstances of our time, accompanied by the promised blessings we need in our time.
The Lord’s timing also applies to the important events of our personal lives. A great scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants declares that a particular spiritual experience will come to us “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). This principle applies to revelation 2 and to all of the most important events in our lives: birth, marriage, death, and even our moves from place to place.
It is not enough that we are going in the right direction. The timing must be right, and if the time is not right, our actions should be adjusted to the Lord’s timetable as revealed by His servants.
Several years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the construction of a large number of new temples, essentially doubling the number of operating temples of the Church from about 50 to about 100 in just a few years. Having additional temples has always been the direction to go, but until the prophet of the Lord signaled this as a major initiative, no one could have properly urged such a sudden and dramatic increase for the Church and its people. Only the Lord’s prophet could signal the Church to double its operating temples in just a few years.
In my October 2001 general conference talk, I gave another illustration—the importance of following the Lord’s timing with those we try to interest in hearing the gospel message. 3 Proclaiming the gospel is His work, not ours, and therefore it must be done on His timing, not ours. There are nations in the world today that must hear the gospel before the Lord will come again. We know this, but we cannot force it. We must wait upon the Lord’s timing. He will tell us, and He will open the doors or bring down the walls when the time is right. We should pray for the Lord’s help and directions so that we can be instruments in His hands to proclaim the gospel to nations and persons who are now ready—persons He would have us help today. The Lord loves all of His children, and He desires that all have the fulness of His truth and the abundance of His blessings. He knows when groups or individuals are ready, and He wants us to hear and heed His timetable for sharing His gospel with them.
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