So I’m sitting in a two-hour stake priesthood meeting, looking around the chapel, and trying to calculate the opportunity cost of such a meeting.
It’s Sunday, 6pm, and there are probably 200 or 250 people in the room, which means there are likely 150 to 200 wives or girlfriends who are on their own tonight, many of them mothers who are tending the kids on their own YET AGAIN (my own wife included). And I’m thinking, who came up with the 2-hour block for these meetings? Is an hour not enough time to get through everything that’s more general than our weekly ward priesthood meetings, but more specific than our semi-annual general priesthood meetings? How come I’ve never heard a speaker get up and say “You know what? I prepared some remarks but they aren’t as important as time with our families. Let’s go home.”?
As a somewhat green marketer, I’m still learning the critical lesson that an audience’s time and attention can be bought, but it’s incredibly expensive. Audiences guard their time, and get annoyed when advertisers use it badly. Many of them even pay good money for a DVR that let’s them skip the commercials that advertisers paid good money for. And the better an ad’s placement is in a magazine or on a web page, the more likely it is to attract the reader’s attention, so the more expensive it is.
We don’t always think of time as being expensive when it comes to church functions and meetings. We get a call to give a talk, and we think of it as having 15 minutes “to fill.” But it’s not 15 minutes we’re filling; it’s 15 minutes multiplied by the number of attendees. Think of it this way: Geico would LOVE to grab 15 minutes of my attention. My wife and kid probably wouldn’t mind an extra 15 minutes of attention either. Do the priesthood meeting speakers want it? Would they still feel that their talks were worthwhile if they knew the real cost of that time?
Why do we forget the value of the time in our lives and in the lives of others? It’s a VERY finite resource; family time and Sabbath time are even more finite. I submit that for this particular priesthood meeting, the opportunity cost is a roomful of busy men having an evening at home eating dinner with their families. That’s a high bar for the speakers to clear, but it acknowledges the true costs of their 15-minute talks. That time might be more expensive than we realize.
Now let me present a counter-argument—because the priesthood meeting turned out to be great.
Perhaps I’m overvaluing that Sunday time. It’s very possible that one side-effect of our self-absorbed culture is that we place too much value on our own time. Historical anecdotes seem to support this view.
To someone who values his time as much as I do, the idea of full-time mission calls for married men makes absolutely no sense, and yet faithful saints accepted calls and left their families for extended periods. Is there anyone who would leave job and family for three months to go on a Zion’s Camp march, much less go on a much longer mission to England? And beyond overvaluing time, it’s possible that we tend to overvalue life itself nowadays. To a culture that values human life as much as ours does, the entire Old Testament is like “what??”
But I don’t think it’s a matter of overvaluing what little time we have on earth with our families. After all, time on earth is a very finite resource. It’s an infinite resource on the other side, and I’m sure I’ll gladly sit through all the two-hour meetings I’m asked to attend in an existence where time stretches on forever.
A more likely option is that Sunday evenings with my family are so precious because I’m selling my weeknights too cheaply. To the extent that our families deserve more of our time, maybe we should be reassessing the hours we give to the office instead of the hours we give to the Lord.