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Understand the Importance of Perspective

The dictionary defines perspective as “the way in which objects appear to the eye” and “one’s point of view, the choice of a context for opinions, beliefs, and experiences” (en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Perspective, May 1, 2007). There is a human need to know that our perspective is valid and correct. The historian Will Durant wrote of the human need “to seize the value and perspective of passing things. . . . We want to know that the little things are little, and the big things big, before it is too late; we want to see things now as they will seem forever—‘in the light of eternity’” (The Story of Philosophy, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1927, p. 1).

The challenge then is to see things as they will seem forever—“as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24).  Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote of those without this perspective:

Living without God in the world brings a functional lack of consistent perspective. If there were no eternal truths, to what principles would mortals look for guidance? If not accountable to God, to whom are we ultimately accountable? Furthermore, if nothing is ever really wrong, then no one is ever really responsible. If there are no fixed boundaries, then there cannot be any excesses. Why should we be surprised, then, at so many disturbing outcomes, including the lack of community, when every man does that which is “right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25)  and seeks not the righteousness of the Lord but instead walks “in his own way”? (D&C 1:16) (Neal A. Maxwell, “Take Especial Care of Your Family,” Ensign, May 1994, 88).

Benjamin Franklin knew about the importance of perspective and choice. He wrote:

Those who believe there is one God who made all things and who governs the world by this providence will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who believe that mankind are all of a family and that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who believe in a future state in which all that is wrong here will be made right will make many choices different from those who do not. Those who subscribe to the morals of Jesus will make many choices different from those who do not (The Art of Virtue, 1986, 88–90).

Perspective is important because it impacts choice. Our perspective—how we look at things—makes a difference in the choices we make. Do we recognize our difference in perspective as we look at the world around us? Do we recognize the implications of our differences in outlook, the differences of our eternal perspective as we go about our daily lives?  Elder Neal A. Maxwell remarked on how our perspectives on life have an impact on how we make choices. He wrote:

We see the world and the people in it differently, because, as C. S. Lewis observed, it is by the light and illumination of the gospel that we see everything else. . . . The gospel is like the lens of a cosmic kaleidoscope that, instead of showing life, man, and the universe as senseless, unconnected fragments, shows us pattern, beauty, and purpose! It is this vision that can give us a special sense of proportion about the things in life that matter most. . . . This perspective can make so many differences in so many ways that, unintentionally, we may be unconscious of the implications of our difference in outlook (Neal A. Maxwell, “Talk of the Month,” New Era, May 1971, 28).

The purpose of this section is to articulate “another” perspective on wealth, this eternal perspective. This perspective is critical for us to understand and it has a major influence on how we make choices.

The Lord, through the prophet Joseph Smith, commanded, “Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds” (D&C 43:34).

The key then is to take this eternal perspective, to let the “solemnities of eternity” rest on our minds--to take a long-term view. That way we will know that the little things are truly little, and the big things are truly big.

In this website I take a different view, another perspective. I disagree with the belief that money buys happiness, that he or she who “dies with the most toys wins,” or that “the height of a man is best measured by when he is standing on his wallet.” The media continues to bombard us with the illusions that we have to spend money to be happy or that to be beautiful, sexy, thin, rich, etc. (or whatever it is that they are selling at the moment) is needed to be happy.

Most of us are unconscious of the effects of our perspectives on our everyday lives. When we have a proper perspective on life there is pattern, beauty, and purpose instead of senseless, unconnected fragments. And with that knowledge of the purpose of life, it is important that we “understand correct principles” so that we can make good choices.  On the subject of choices, President Spencer W. Kimball said:

We hope we can help our young men and young women to realize, even sooner than they do now, that they need to make certain decisions only once. . . We can push some things away from us once and have done with them! We can make a single decision about certain things that we will incorporate in our lives and then make them ours—without having to brood and re-decide a hundred times what it is we will do and what we will not do. “  My young brothers [and sisters], if you have not done so yet, decide to decide!” (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1976, 46; italics added)

The purpose of this series is to help us in our understanding of perspective as it relates to personal finance and then to help you “decide to decide” to be wise in the management of your personal finances. Because of our eternal perspective, we understand things differently, view events differently, and, hopefully, act differently in respect to our families, our friends, and our personal finances. This perspective will make a major difference in how we live our lives.


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