Even at the age of 71, I love to run the mile. As I do, I often imagine that I am following in the footsteps of my childhood hero—Roger Bannister (Roger Bannister, The First Four Minutes, 50th ed. ). Although my times have become progressively slower over the years, I especially enjoy sprinting as fast as I am able across the line marking the finish. I make sure to record my times in my journal. This type of physical exercise also inspires me to watch for daily spiritual markers that I face in trying to endure to end.
Looking toward the Eternal Mark—Jesus Christ
The March 9-15, 2020 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families manual invites individuals and families to focus their lives more completely on the Redeemer. Jesus Christ is the mark, “there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God (2 Nephi 31:21).
The Prophet Jacob warned the people of his times that they needed to beware of blindly “looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14). Elder Quentin L. Cook cautions that we face similar problems: “Today there is a tendency among some of us to ‘look beyond the mark’ rather than to maintain a testimony of gospel basics. We do this when we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths, engage in gospel extremism, seek heroic gestures at the expense of daily consecration, or elevate rule over doctrine. Avoiding these behaviors will help us avoid the theological blindness and stumbling that Jacob described” (“Looking beyond the Mark,” Ensign, Mar. 2003, 42).
One of the clearest explanations how we should focus on living essential gospel principles and doctrines was revealed to Joseph Smith in March 1830: “And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost. Behold, this is a great and the last commandment which I shall give unto you concerning this matter; for this shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:31-32).
As Elder Cook concludes: “One of the great challenges of this life is to accept Christ for who He is: the resurrected Savior of the world, our Redeemer, our Lord and Master, our Advocate with the Father. When He is the foundation for all that we do and are, we avoid the theological blindness that results from looking beyond the mark, and we reap the glorious blessings He has promised us. ‘Come unto me, ye blessed,’ He tells those who follow Him; ‘there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father’ (Enos 1:27)” (“Looking beyond the Mark,” 45).
Maintaining Focus on First Principles, Ordinances, and Doctrines
Over the years, I have discovered that I continually need to strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ, repent of my sins, gain a greater appreciation for renewing my baptismal covenants and blessings, and strive to endure to the end. President Russell M. Nelson is an outstanding exemplar of such faith for both younger and older members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At the April 2017 general conference, President Nelson shared that he had read and underlined more than 2200 listings in the Topical Guide about Jesus Christ. Listed below are a few of the key discoveries he realized from such a study:
“As we invest time in learning about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, we are drawn to participate in another key element to accessing His power: we choose to have faith in Him and follow Him.”
“Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee.”
“Faith in Jesus Christ propels us to do things we otherwise would not do. Faith that motivates us to action gives us more access to His power.”
“When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do” (“Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017).
President Nelson encouraged us to emulate the faith of the woman who suffered for 12 years with a debilitating medical condition, yet she stretched as far as she could in order to “be whole” (Mark 5:28).
To gain such spiritual healing, we need to learn the joy of repentance. In an October 2017 general conference talk Elder Stephen W. Owen, Young Men’s General President, taught: “We can try to change our behavior on our own, but only the Savior can remove our stains and lift our burdens, enabling us to pursue the path of obedience with confidence and strength. The joy of repentance is more than the joy of living a decent life. It’s the joy of forgiveness, of being clean again, and of drawing closer to God. Once you’ve experienced that joy, no lesser substitute will do” (“Repentance Is Always Positive,” Ensign, Nov. 2017).
A key for seeking such forgiveness and remission of sins is to renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament each week. If we do so with a sincere heart and real intent, we are promised that we “may always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (Moroni 4:3).
Focusing our spiritual vision on the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are essential steps that we need to study and ponder throughout our lives.
Re-petitioning Daily Consecration
My wife once asked me if I ever get tired of walking and running around the track. I told her that I don’t. Each lap I complete is a personal revelation of my physical abilities. As I run, I also pray that I will be able to serve the Lord to the best of my capabilities for that day. Although my running times grow slower and may someday even end, my faith is continually growing stronger as I age. My fervent hope is that I will not stray from striving to follow the invitation and example of Jesus Christ to “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).