Monday, September 10, 2012

Elite athletic training and testimony

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not athletic. Never have been and never will be. I do try to watch my weight (I’ve lost 60 pounds between Christmas and the beginning of July, and am very near my “ideal” weight now) and I get cardio exercise six days week. But I am not athletic.

I do, however, appreciate the craft of those who are athletes, especially those who train significantly. And that’s why a lesson a young man in our ward taught in a youth talk a few months ago still rings in my ears.

This young man spoke about testimony. After definitions and a few quotations from For the Strength of Youth and True to the Faith, he said something that really made an impression on me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing):

I participate in an elite soccer league. I train as many as four hours a day to compete. Only by that regular and sustained regimen of training am I able to compete at the level I need to in that league.

We need to dedicate ourselves similarly to gaining a testimony.

That was it. But it is powerful stuff. I tried to think about when I devoted four or more hours a day to the development of my testimony. My mission was probably the only time I came close to that level of intense spiritual training.

Prior to my mission I attended seminary and church most of the time (though I did not graduate from seminary). I was on-again-off-again with scripture reading. By the time I got to BYU I was more serious about scripture study and took good advantage of my Book of Mormon class my freshman year, but still I was not training like my young friend was for soccer.

Since I lost so much weight this year, I weigh myself almost every day. And I still count calories to maintain my present weight. When I find that I’m gaining again, I know I need to make adjustments to my diet and exercise program. By keeping track, I've been able to maintain my new weight for two months and counting.

Spiritually I need to do the same thing. I’m decades away from that pre-mission boy who was not very serious about nurturing his testimony. Fortunately for me, my mission was a significant contributor to a strong testimony of the gospel, and the intervening decades of church service have allowed me to continue to build that testimony through study and experience. But I still need to weigh myself spiritually, to check my commitment to scripture study and prayer, and to continue to live my life in a way that supports my spiritual training program.


  1. Great thoughts here. I totally agree that we need to be willing to take more time to build testimony through scripture study and spiritual experience.

    The payoff is spiritual strength to deal gracefully with our challenges and trust in the Lord. That's huge in today's world.

  2. Thanks for the comment Michaela. Far be it from me to question whether someone else has put in the effort to know, but I know for myself when I really put in the effort, the spiritual witness comes. It's a lesson I hope my children will learn (and I will try to teach them); I had one son who said to me once, "Oh, I read the Book of Mormon once; I don't need to read it again." Not the right answer from my perspective. To his credit, I have another son who felt like he'd gotten no answer and had about given up, but encouragement from others besides me has helped him to keep working at matters of testimony.

  3. I really liked this post.

    And additional thought I had was that this young man has probably not spent 4 hours a day training for his entire life, nor will he spend 4 hours a day training for the rest of his life. There is a short period of time during which he will be an elite soccer player - probably 10-20 years at the most. Then he will retire and probably coach or do something else, and he won't be training 4 hours a day.

    I thought of this because of something Sister Beck mentioned in a Mormon Channel program about finding balance in our lives. She took a question from a woman who had served a mission and was now the mother of small children and felt badly that she couldn't study the way she had on her mission. Sister Beck pointed out that this sister might never be able to study the way she did on her mission, but that depth of studying on her mission prepared her for work in the trenches of motherhood.

    What I am trying to say is that when we can put in 4 hours a day of training (or whatever the equivalent would be for testimony-gaining) we should. And when we can't, we should at least try to do a few drills each day, or run a few laps. We shouldn't just say "I can't train for 4 hours today so I'm not going to do anything."

    I fall into that trap, because before I had kids, before I was married, I was a 4-hr-a-day trainer when it came to the gospel. After I had kids I found it difficult to spend any time at all in the scriptures, but I always tried to run a few laps or do a few drills (figuratively speaking, of course). I am at a time in my life now where I am able to do a little more again - maybe not as intense as 4 hours a day - maybe more like an hour a day. But with a new baby on the way, I am sure within the year I will be back to running a few laps and doing a few drills just to keep my testimony sharp, even if I can't spend the 4 hours a day that I want to.

    Does that even make sense?

    I just really liked this post. That's all. Sorry for writing a mini novel in the comments. :)

  4. Paul. I looked for an email on your site and don't see one. Contact me at bonnievision [at] gmail and I'll send you an invite for a new writer's group I'm starting - you can see if it would be something you'd be interested in joining.

  5. Good analogy - thanks for sharing.

    And Becca, thanks for your mini novel - that's a perspective we need to maintain...

  6. Becca, I think you're spot on. Elder Packer (before he was President Packer) spoke once about the value of a mission in a young man's spiritual development, and he spoke of young leaders in South America who may serve a mission, then go into a bishopric or stake presidency and have twenty or more years of service in church leadership without ever going to a Sunday School lesson again -- they need to use that effective intensive training time while they have it.

    For me, I need to realize that while there are seasons in my life, there are also things I want to maintain no matter what season I'm in, and finding the proper balance, while challenging, is important. (Said, knowing fully that ten years ago I did NOT have the balance right, although I was very, very busy in my church calling and with my very busy and chaotic family...)

    On the other hand, we do the best we can, don't we?