In his October 1985 talk, President Dallin H. Oaks reminded us that faithful members of the Church have a distinctive way of looking at life. He added that they view life in terms of eternity[i]. This is so because they feel closer to our Heavenly Father and are always guided by the Spirit. This way of viewing life results from spiritual growth achieved through hard work over a long time. I would like to demonstrate how this principle works with what I learned from a marathon training schedule. I will then show that the same principle works on developing spirituality.
In 2002 I decided to run marathons. Since that time, I have run over fifty marathons (42.2 km) and ultra-marathons (beyond 42.2 km). The longest was the Comrades Marathon (90km). Over time I learned that consistency in my training makes a difference.
Nine weeks prior to the race day, I follow the following weekly schedule: Monday a 10km run at the marathon pace (6 minutes per km). Tuesday is speed training, made up of an 8km in less than 40 minutes. Wednesday is hill work. I start with a 2km warm up, followed by running up and down a 500-meter hill. Thursday is an easy 10km run, much slower than the Monday 10km, finishing at 1 hour 10 minutes. Friday is another easy run or catching up on any training missed during the week. Saturday is a 2 to 3 hours of slow run, aimed at building endurance. Sunday is a rest day – an important element of training. I also remember to keep the Sabbath day holy, for if I obey with exactness, I am guaranteed of completing any marathon within an allocated time. I use the same schedule for both standard marathon and ultras.
These daily and weekly activities work together. If one of them is missed, my run will be affected. For example, the speed work helps me finish within the allocated time, but if I don’t do my long runs on Saturday, I would not have the needed endurance. The speed might be there, but I won’t get there. If hill training isn’t done, I won’t finish in time because I would walk hills instead of running.
The development of spirituality uses the same principles illustrated in my marathon running: the principle of consistency among the interacted activities. The Lord has an established pattern for spiritual development. I have had times in my life when I have felt much closer to Heavenly Father than at other times. When I have been closer to the Lord it is because I did certain things with consistency. As I study the lives of Jesus Christ and our Church leaders, I notice common elements in their daily practices that brought spiritual growth in them.
Purposeful Attendance at Sacrament Meeting: The Sacrament bring us closer to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It reminds us of who Christ is and our dependency on Him. It is no wonder that a lot of emphasis had been put on this subject by Church leaders recently.
Daily Scripture Study: Helps us to hear the voice of the Lord encouraging us to make righteous choices.
Daily Prayer: Teaches us to be humble as we kneel to thank and ask the Lord. This dependency becomes strong as our spirituality continues to grow.
Acts of Service: King Benjamin, a Book of Mormon prophet, taught, “… when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”.[ii] Every adult member of the Church has plenty of opportunities to provide service.
The Work of Ministering: Gives every member an opportunity to serve. Being a part of a family, presents us with real chances of learning how to serve. Development of spirituality aligns itself with the amount of knowledge one possesses.
Formalized Gospel Study: Assists us in learning in a structured way. For those who are between the ages 14 and 30, I would include participation in seminary and institute classes weekly. In those classes one hears testimonies of peers and is called to teach – which provides added strength.
President Dallin H. Oaks concurs with some elements identified above when he said, “We know the principal sources of spiritual food are: prayer, studying the scriptures, attending inspirational meetings, singing hymns, serving in our callings, fasting, partaking of sacrament and making other covenants.”[iii]
Like my marathon training schedule which is designed to help me complete a marathon, these interrelated spiritually-based activities help one to develop spirituality. To achieve the desired results, consistency is required. It takes time to develop spirituality. President Howard W. Hunter observed, “Developing spirituality and attuning ourselves to the highest influence of godliness is not an easy matter. It takes time and frequently involves a struggle. It will not happen by chance, but it is only accomplished through deliberate effort and by calling upon God and keeping His commandments.”[iv]
Developing spiritual should be a lifetime quest for all of us who striving to have to constant meaningful relationship with our Heavenly Father.
[i] Dallin H. Oaks; Spirituality, Ensign, October 1985
[ii] Mosiah 2:17
[iii] Dallin H. Oaks; Spiritual Nourishment, Ensign, December 1988, p. 7-13
[iv] Howard W. Hunter; Developing Spirituality, Ensign, April 1979