From children to adults, everyone has hobbies—activities they particularly enjoy doing. But sometimes the types of hobbies we pursue, the amount of time and money that is spent on them, and how helpful or relevant our hobbies are can influence our decisions about which hobbies to pursue. Often, our hobbies stem from our talents. In the scriptures, we are told that “every [one] is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11) and that these gifts, also known as our talents, are given to us “for the benefit of the children of God” (D&C 46:26). One interpretation of several of Christ’s parables (Matthew 5:15-16, Matthew 25:15-30) implies that we are to improve and share these talents with the world. It doesn’t matter what your talent is—kayaking, dancing, public speaking—we are given these talents so that others may see our good works and glorify God. No one talent (or hobby) is greater than any other. The what of our hobbies matters little when compared to the how and why we do them.
All Hobbies Are Created Equal
I happen to love video games and, although I’m no professional, I’m pretty good at them. Growing up, I was so enthralled by video games that at 6 years old I was seeking out friends based on which games they had. It was only a matter of time before my parents allowed me to have a game console of my own. In another video game story, this might be the part where I talk about how I became addicted, wasted my time alone in my room, and became an ultra-violent person, the way many stories report the results of gaming, but that is not my story. I was blessed to have parents who taught me how to use video games for the benefit of those around me, and I used video games to strengthen my relationship with my brothers. While I still played the occasional single-player game, I learned to seek out games we could all play and bond over together. I have no doubt in my mind that video games played a crucial role in the strength of the relationship I have with my brothers today.
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My example may seem a little unorthodox when talking about using hobbies to glorify God but that is exactly how I see it. Preach My Gospel states, “The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that all individuals are part of God’s family and that families can be united now and in eternity . . . They are the most important social unit in time and in eternity.” While not every hobby will bring blessings associated with the family, there is just as much honor in every other hobby when used correctly. It is the incorrect use of our hobbies that we must be wary of.
Avoiding Hobby Obsession
Every talent is equally amazing and needed, but each brings its own struggles as well, including the universal danger of obsession. For example, sports can be a great way to keep your body healthy, but they can potentially lead to issues of Sabbath Day observance; video games can lead to family bonding, but they can just as easily lead to slothfulness; cooking can bring people together in good ways, but sometimes it might lead to issues with the Word of Wisdom, etc. This is only natural, seeing as our hobbies are often activities we are passionate about and—understandably—want to put our whole hearts behind. But it sometimes seems that the more we involve ourselves in our hobbies, the more they demand of us.
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Each hobby and talent is unique to each individual, so I will return to the example from my own life. I can remember being so into a specific video game that I dedicated hours to playing it, sacrificing time away from relationships and my “to-do” lists in order to get extra time with my game. While I improved significantly in these games and enjoyed the time I spent playing them, I later realized with regret that I could have spent at least some of that time building family relationships or learning important life skills—things that matter most. The same is true with every other hobby or talent in existence. We just have to ask ourselves, “Is my hobby of (sports, music, photography, technology etc.) interfering with my ability to communicate with the Lord, build strong relationships with others, or experience the simple joys of life? If it is, perhaps it is time to follow the pattern set forth by President Russell M. Nelson and fast from that hobby. Then, with your new perspective, you can figure out with the Lord how to reintegrate it into your life.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I want to plead with you to keep balance in your lives. . . . You ought to have strength in your chosen . . . field of expertise. But I warn you against making that your only interest. . . . Beware of obsession.”
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Overcoming the Conundrum of Prioritizing
But thinking about hobbies with this restraint leaves us with a conundrum: How do we magnify our talents—in conjunction with our hobbies—while avoiding the negative consequences that inevitably arise from obsessing over them? President Dallin H. Oaks gave us a great guideline to when he said, “consider how we use our time in the choices we make . . . not everything . . . is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best.”
What is “good,” “better,” and “best” can only be determined on an individual basis. This concept forces us to rely on guidelines instead of hard rules. In Matthew 6:33 Christ gives us one such guideline: “Seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness . . .” President Dallin H. Oaks further clarified this guideline when he said, “[This teaching] means to assign first priority to God and to His work . . . [including] the birth, nurturing, teaching, and sealing of our Heavenly Father’s children. Everything else is lower in priority.”
Another guideline can be found in the promise of President James E. Faust that “it is much easier to those who have a righteous balance to yield ‘to the enticings of the Holy Spirit’ . . . Balance . . . is knowing the things that can be changed, putting them in proper perspective, and recognizing the things that will not change.”
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For me, following the counsel to prioritize things of the Spirit took the form of reducing the time I spent playing video games in order to increase the quality of my other obligations. This does not in any way mean that I cut them from my life, in fact, if I were to do so I would not be the happy, productive person I am today. We all need time doing the things we love to do in order to function properly, but the key for me was finding a way to integrate my talents and my obligations. As I mentioned earlier, I sought out games that my brothers and I could play together, even if that meant it was a game I didn’t necessarily enjoy. We have spent hours playing together creating memories we still talk about today. My brothers are my best friends and I want to spend eternity with them—a goal that has helped keep me on the path numerous times.
As we seek out the guidance of our parents—or other trusted individuals—and the Lord, we will be taught how to properly prioritize our lives so that our hobbies will no longer hold us back but will benefit everyone around us.