Lead Leg. Trail Leg.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Good morning brother and sisters, I am glad to be here today.  

For those of you who may not know, I have been called serve in the Utah Salt Lake City West Mission.  I report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

I would like to start my talk with a quote by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  He said, "To follow Christ is to become more like Him.  It is to learn from His character.  As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we do have the potential to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character.  The Savior invites us to learn His gospel by living His teachings.  To follow Him is to apply correct principles and then witness for ourselves the blessings that follow.  This process is very complex and very simple at the same time.  Ancient and modern prophets described it with three words: 'Keep the commandments' —nothing more, nothing less." 

In 1 Peter 2:21 we read, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps."

Most of you know that in high school I loved participating in soccer and track.  I had to work very hard in order to become successful.  Both sports have obstacles that you have to overcome in order to reach your goal.  In track I ran the 300-meter hurdles.  This is not an easy race to run as it is a demanding race that requires strength, speed, poise and strategizing.  You have to be able to keep yourself at a fast pace and to be ready to sprint at important parts of the race.  You also have to be able to step over not just one, but eight hurdles.  It is important to pay attention to what is coming ahead of you in this race, all the time having the faith, patience and confidence that you need to endure to the finish line.  

There are a few important dimensions to hurdling that are key.  Your flexibility and that you have mastered an important technique to go over the hurdle.  You have your 'lead leg' which extends in front of you and have your 'trail leg' which follows behind you bent at a 90-degree angle all while bending at the hips.

I would like to use hurdling as analogy in my talk today.

Let's say that each hurdle is an 'attribute of Christ' that we would like to develop, our 'lead leg' is Christ and we are the 'trail leg' following His example.  Through faith, patience and confidence we can develop these attributes of Christ.  It is all up to us how badly we want to become more like Christ.  We can choose to struggle and stumble over the hurdle or we can choose to go at it full force, with perfect formation, while Christ is our 'lead leg' and as we trail behind Him we can clear that hurdle and hit the ground running side-by-side to the next hurdle.  

Faith is my foundation to achieving every attribute of Christ.  Faith is my endurance to run the race.  When preparing to run a race I was always focused on having the endurance to make it to the finish line just like our goal here on Earth is to endure to the end.  

Faith without works is dead, just like hurdling without practice is worthless.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, " Faith is the first great governing principle which has power, dominion and authority over all things."

To have faith is to “hope for things which are not seen, which are true”.  Each day we act upon things we hope for, even before we see the end result.  Faith in God is more than a theoretical belief in Him.  To have faith in God is to trust Him, to have confidence in Him and to be willing to act on our belief in Him.

In a rural, quiet religious farm community, there was a drought and crops were dying.  In desperation, the local preacher announced that the whole community would assemble at the edge of one of the fields and pray for rain.  A large crowd gathered, and the preacher climbed on a bale of hay and surveyed the flock.  He said, "Brothers and sisters we have come here to pray for rain!"  "Amen!" said the crowd.  "Well," said the preacher, "do you have sufficient faith?" "Amen!" shouted the crowd.  "All right, all right" said the preacher, "but I have one question to ask you."  The crowd stood silent and puzzled.   "Brothers and sisters," said the preacher, "where are your umbrellas?"

President Thomas S. Monson said, 

"It was by faith, nothing wavering, that the Brother of Jared saw the finger of God tough the stones in response to his plea.

It was by faith, nothing wavering that Noah erected an ark in obedience to the command from God.

It was by faith, nothing wavering, that Abraham was willing to offer up his beloved Isaac as a sacrifice.

It was by faith, nothing wavering, that Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.

It was by faith, nothing wavering, that Joshua and his followers brought the Walls of Jericho tumbling down.

It was by faith, nothing wavering, that Joseph saw God our Eternal Father and His son, Jesus Christ.

There is a golden thread that runs through every account of faith from the beginning of the world to the present time.  Abraham, Noah, the Brother of Jared, the Prophet Joseph Smith and countless other wanted to be obedient to the will of God.  They had ears that could hear, eyes that could see and hearts that could know and feel."

They never doubted, they trusted.

Through personal prayers, through family prayer, by trusting in God with faith, nothing wavering, we can call down to our rescue His mighty power.  His call to us is as it has ever been, "Come Unto Me."

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf tells us, "Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed.  Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!"

I would like to share a story about myself.

I was the nearing the end of my Senior year of high school and my track career was coming to an end.  My focus was taking home the State title in the 300-meter hurdles for the third consecutive year.  I had trained myself all season for this one race; my hopes also included breaking the standing school record.  I had a rough start at the beginning of the season due to minor knee injuries, but by the time District came I had recovered and was where I needed to be.  Just a few weeks before the State track meet I really started to improve on my hurdling.  I was reaching my peak at the right time of the season.  My formation and flexibility were really coming along and I was building more endurance and speed in between my hurdles.  My time had dropped and I was just a shy of breaking the school record.  I went into State prepared.  I had waited patiently for this one race.  Prelims came and went and before I knew I was placing myself into those blocks of my finale race.  I remember shaking in my blocks and being more nervous than usual.  My mind was racing faster than my legs could run.  Trying to focus on the race in front of me, my nerves began to get the best of me, but like every race I believed that no matter the outcome of the race I would always have the 'faith to endure' to the finish line.

For those of you who have ever watched me run hurdles, you know that I run my race a little differently than most hurdlers.  I usually had everyone sitting on the edge of their seats, especially my coaches.  They tried to break my routine every year, but it worked for me and I stuck with it.  My coach would say, "Kourtni, you take it too easy!"  I was never the first one out of blocks; in fact I was probably the last one to leave my blocks.  I never was over the first hurdle before everyone else either.  Actually I was hardly ever was in the lead until the last straight away.  On the curve I slowly caught up to the runners in front of me and when I hit the straightaway I would give it everything had until I reached the finish line.

{Okay, getting backing to my race!}

I remember hearing the sound of the starting gun.  What makes this race different from all of my other races was I pushed harder out of blocks and had a quicker start.  I was one of the first runners to the first hurdle.  As the race is going, we start to approach the curve and I began to move up faster on the other runner in front of me.  My race was turning out to be better than I had planned.  I was making good time and I was stepping each hurdle smoothly until I got to the straightaway.  I am just about tied for the lead with another runner, so I start my usual burst of speed on the straightaway and as I approach the oncoming hurdle I began to over stride my steps and my formation was a complete mess. I remember hitting the hurdle and falling to ground. I still remember the feeling of rolling across the track into the lanes next to me and watched seven girls speed past me. It was the first and the only hurdle I had ever fallen over in my entire track career competitions.  As you would guess I was pretty upset with the outcome of my final race.  I thought about all those years of hard practice and patiently waiting to run this one race.  It was over before I knew it and all I had to show for it was some scrapes and bruises.  My emotions quickly over took me.  I was angry, I was embarrassed and I was disappointed.  Knowing that those feelings would have taken me nowhere, I did the only thing I knew I could do.  I picked myself up and endured to the finish line.  

In Hebrews 12:1 the apostle Paul writes, "...let us run with patience the race that is set before us..."

Each of us has been given the opportunity to run the race of life.  We are given two guidelines as we run the race — to run with patience and to look to Christ.  Running with patience suggests rhythm, pacing yourself and being able to endure.  Looking to Christ helps us understand that we are not sent to run the race alone.  He is given two names as our race partner — the author and the finisher.  The author suggests one with authority, who helps us align our course, someone who knows every step of the race and who can encourage us through the journey. The finisher suggests one who completes and perfects.  If we choose to let Him, He will assure that we run the race correctly and that we will be able to reach the finish line.  This name is one of comfort.  He promises the victory.  He will sustain us, even carry us if need be. He is the finisher.

There will be times, however, when we contemplate quitting the race because we cannot see the end in sight.  We may feel there are pro-s and con-s to giving up early, and we spend the majority of each day weighing each decision.  We forget to include our partner and try to find our own rhythm and pace, ending up exhausted and lacking the energy to continue.  When this happens we experience pain.  We cannot run the race alone.  He knows we cannot make it without Him.  We are told things that have happened, the things that are, and the things that will come.  He does not leave out any part of the course but he does offer relief in the form of the strength to endure.  He invites us to turn to our Father in Heaven with our needs as we continue the journey.  He asks us to pray. 

As I come to the conclusion of my talk I would like to share one attribute I wish to develop.  I have always struggled with this attribute and I am constantly working to develop it as characteristic of who I am.  That attribute and characteristic is confidence.  I think most of time we do not stop to think about confidence being an attribute of Christ. 

Confidence is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something with firm trust.  I know that believing in you or in others is confidence.  

In Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s talk 'Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence' he says, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.  For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.  If any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.  We are not of them who draw back unto perdition.”

Having confidence is an attribute of Christ and confidence is something all of us have, some lack more than others, but we see confidence all around us.  This is a characteristic I see in ancient prophets, and in modern day prophets. It was Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Joseph and many more who had the confidence to do the Lord's work no matter what the Adversary was trying to say.  I see and have confidence in President Thomas S. Monson and his apostles.  I see it many other church leaders too.  Looking back on my races, soccer games, schooling, work, preparing for a mission and preparing this talk I have come closer to developing confidence in myself.

I would like to close my talk with a scripture found in 1 Corinthians 9:24.  It reads, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one recieveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.”

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to each of you today, and more than that I am grateful to spend the next eighteen months serving the Lord and doing his work.  I am glad to have shared just a few attributes of Christ.  I know that as we all strive to become more like Christ we will be able to endure to the end.  I am very grateful for the gospel, to have had in my life and to be able to share it with others.  I know without a doubt that this is the true church and that Joseph Smith restored it on the Earth and that today we have a living prophet.  I have read and prayed about The Book of Mormon and I know that everything it teaches is true.  I am so thankful for my family and friends, and the great examples they have been to me.

I leave these things with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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