Spectator Discipleship


I was impressed by these words; “A friend of mine recently wrote to me, confiding that he was having a difficult time keeping his testimony strong and vibrant. He asked for counsel.I wrote back to him and lovingly suggested a few specific things he could do that would align his life more closely with the teachings of the restored gospel. To my surprise, I heard back from him only a week later. The essence of his letter was this: “I tried what you suggested. It didn’t work. What else have you got?”Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint—this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.” (The Way of the Disciple, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf , Second Counselor in the First Presidency).

I was impressed by President Uchtdorf’s experience as it mirrors many such examples from my own life. Oft times, in an interview, an individual would speak of wanting to feel the spirit stronger in their life. As we talked it became apparent that there were many ways in which to make their life richer, more full of the spirit. Most of what I would say would not be new, rather, the same tried and true formulas presented throughout the ages presented via the scriptures or modern prophets. There is no secret formula to having a spiritually based life. The Lord doesn’t “hide” the formula from us. He has presented it to mankind throughout the ages.

“It is not enough merely to speak of Jesus Christ or proclaim that we are His disciples. It is not enough to surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, “spectator discipleship” is a preferred if not a primary way of worshipping.

Ours is not a secondhand religion. We cannot receive the blessings of the gospel merely by observing the good that others do. We need to get off the sidelines and practice what we preach.”

The above quote from President Uchtdorf is true. “Spectator discipleship” is the preferred way of worshipping for much of the world. Some people want a quick turnaround on their ‘investment’ of time. It reminds me of some of my high school friends who would watch me wrestle. Most had no ideal how much sacrifice and effort it took to keep in shape just to be able to last six minutes against another man. In the middle of the match they could be heard yelling, “Get up, get out!”. Easy to say it, another thing to do it. But becoming a champion wrestler is no different than becoming a champion saint. If we work hard, endure, and have patience, it will pay off in the end.


Voluntarily “Running With The Bulls” Can Be A Dangerous Game!


I am sure that most of you have heard of the event held annually in Spain called, “Running with the Bulls”. Every year, from July 7th to July 14th, in the city of Pamplona, a number of fighting bulls are herded down a half mile of narrow streets leading them to the bullring. Since 1591 daring individuals have run along side the bulls, getting close enough to get a “rush” from being along side them, but not close enough to get gored or injured. I have seen on television over the years a number of young men who came too close to the bulls that they were gored or tossed about like rag dolls. I’m sure they were embarrassed to have been captured on television under such circumstances. Voluntarily “running with the bulls” can be a dangerous game!

At our house I once witnessed a similar event I call “Running with the Garbage Cans.” A number of years ago I asked one of my sons, then in seventh grade, to bring a garbage can down the long steep driveway while going to catch the bus at the bottom of it. He seemed embarrassed to be seen by his fellow bus riders in taking out the garbage. I guess it was a duty that was beneath the dignity of a “cool” middle schooler! So as not to be seen doing such undignified work, he took off with books in one hand, pulling the wheeled garbage can with his other as fast as he could down the steep driveway. I watched from the top of the driveway as the garbage can began to wobble back and forth from the excessive speed. I could see that he was having trouble controlling it. Soon he lost control and the can tumbled over spilling it’s contents all over the driveway. The garbage went everywhere as the can started rolling down the hill. In a panic, he started throwing the garbage back into the can while spilling his books on the ground. It was comical to watch! Unfortunately, the bus arrived in the middle of his “running with the garbage can” and I saw him hurriedly toss the can aside with some of it’s contents still littered about, and jump on the bus as if nothing was happening. I’m sure he was embarrassed to have been seen, live, by some of his classmates. “Running with the garbage cans” can also be a dangerous game!

Weather you are “running with the bulls” of Spain, or “running with the garbage cans” of Maryland, your life’s actions can have unintended consequences as a result of your decisions. At times, like many young men, it may seem fun or exciting to “run with the bulls.” But, beware of the dangers! It could cost you your eternal life. Or like my son, you could find that the “supposed” small embarrassments of life can become major catastrophes if not handled with self control. The Lord gave us commandments so that we could have “boundaries.” These “boundaries” are there to protect us from “raging bulls” and the “rolling garbage” that dirty up our lives. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:

“It isn’t until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are that you can begin to take control of yourself. As you learn to control yourself, you will get control of your life. If you want to move the world, you first have to move yourself.”

Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) often quoted an unknown author: “The greatest battle of life is fought out within the silent chambers of the soul. A victory on the inside of a man’s heart is worth a hundred conquests on the battlefields of life. To be master of yourself is the best guarantee that you will be master of the situation. Know thyself. The crown of character is self-control.”

Your choices are the mirror of your self-control. They will lead you to your eternal destination if they are made with divine direction and control. Stay morally clean. Keep a clean mind and heart. Your thoughts will determine your actions. Control your thoughts. Don’t submit yourself to temptation. Aristotle said, “For where it is in our power to act it is also in our power not to act.”” ( “On the Wings of Eagles,” Ensign, Jul 2006, 10–15).

We should enjoy the great beauties of this life but be need to use wisdom and self-control and keep away from the enticing glamour of “running with the bulls.”

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A Woman Of God Who Is Thrilled To Be Who She Is!

In the year 2000, Sheri L. Dew said these powerful words:

“No woman is a more vibrant instrument in the hands of the Lord than a woman of God who is thrilled to be who she is…Standing tall begins with our own conversion, for when we taste the gospel’s “exceeding joy” we want to share it. The casseroles and quilts we have made to relieve suffering are splendid acts of kindness, but no service–I repeat, no service–compares with that of leading someone to Christ…When we live like disciples of Christ should live, when we aren’t just good but happy to be good, others will be drawn to us because we are “distinct and different–in happy ways,”…I have come to know for myself that this is Their work and Their glory and that we are the most blessed of all women to have such a vital part in it. May we lift our “voices as with the sound of a trump” (D&C 42:6). May we find joy as we stand tall and stand together. And may we “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power” (D&C 123:17), and then stand still to see the arm of God revealed as His work goes forward boldly and nobly…till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Stand Tall and Stand Together, Sheri L. Dew).

What a wonderful challenge Sheri Dew gave to all of us, both male and female. Sometimes as we traverse in this mortality, our burden can become heavy with grief, disappointment, and sorrow. Let us not discard joy along the way as it will lighten our load and bring solace to our souls.   Being joyful that we are followers of Jesus Christ is paramount in being ‘the light on the hill.'(Matt. 5:14)


whether we adjust

Whether We Adjust To The Weather Makes All The Difference


A few years ago on a winter drive across the country my wife and I had planned on stopping one night around ten o’clock in the evening. However, around six the weather started to turn bad and despite my ambition to continue driving, I made the decision to pull over in a small town in Iowa, population fifteen thousand, and seek shelter. As you can imagine, the quality of lodging matched the size of the town but we stopped anyway and settled in for the night.

The next morning I got up early to check the weather situation and the forecast for the day was favorable so off we went. The road was clear and we experienced little problems throughout the day as we traveled cross Iowa and several other states on our journey. The day was clear so we could see the beauty of the countryside. What we also saw were a tremendous amount of trucks and cars abandoned on the side of the highway. Some looked like they had lost control of their vehicles and had gone off the road and gotten stuck. Other abandoned cars looked as if they had been involved in accidents. Still others appeared to have been left on the shoulders of the highway apparently discarded by their owners out of fear. All had a “red ribbon” tied on some part of the car, signifying that they had been seen and tagged by the highway patrol. My wife and I remarked that we had never seen so many cars on the side of the road. I recall thinking how grateful I was that I had the wisdom of stopping early the evening before and took accommodations that were less than we had wanted.

Choosing to stop early the previous night was hard for me because I had mapped out in my mind how far along in the trip we needed to be in order to reach home.  But, for once, I did the right thing by not being too strident in my ways and having the wisdom to adjust according to the situation. I don’t know the situation behind each of the cars and trucks that ended up in the ditch the night before, but I can guess that they too had places to go and time limits that they had set. Sadly for them, as it turns out, stopping in Iowa would have gotten them to their destination sooner.

We have all heard of the handcart companies that traveled across the plains to the Great Salt Lake. A couple of them, the Willie and Martin companies had righteous desires to get to Salt Lake. However, against better judgement they left later in the season than they should have, and a tragedy ensued. Stranded on the plains, the snowy weather took the lives of hundreds. In retrospect, perhaps they should have been content with where they were at.

We all want to go places in life. We have dreams and aspirations, goals and righteous desires! All good things! But let us use patience and wisdom to accomplish those goals. Sometimes the fastest way to our destination is not how we originally planned it to be. Perhaps adjusting to the constantly changing weather in our lives is the wiser thing to do.

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