D&C 124 – Finish the race

Of all the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants, this section contains more names of individuals than any other.  While the message of this section focuses on building the temple in Nauvoo and the construction of the Nauvoo house, I took this opportunity to discuss with the youth the people the Lord is addressing in this section.

Because sections 127 and 128 deal so much with the temple and the work the Lord has instituted for those who have passed on, by focusing on the individuals who were invited to build the temple in Nauvoo and by examining their response to that call, we had some great discussion in class.  The practical application to the telling of these stories is that we all have control over how we will respond to the Lord’s call to do His work.  Will we murmur or will we produce?

It is also fitting that this topic come up towards the end of the school year.  As students become more and more restless, the message becomes clear: endure to the end.  I find it especially important to help the seniors focus on these last couple weeks of school to remember that they must still not only attend seminary, but do what they can to make the experience great for their peers.

There are 58 people mentioned in D&C 124.  I had every class member read about two or three of the people mentioned and give a brief report on what they learned about their person.  They shared a couple of events from their lives and whether or not the person endured to the end of their lives.  We had a great discussion on the importance of finishing our lives with faith in Christ.  How sad that some of the men mentioned in D&C 124 lived much of their lives dedicated to the cause, only to let personality differences with a leader or another member of the church affect their spirituality.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

Endurance is more than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance; it is not only acceptance of the things allotted to us, but to “act for ourselves” by magnifying what is allotted to us. (Alma 29:3,6.) (Ensign, May 1990, p.33)

We focused on the idea that we should live our life so as to not have regrets.  Of all the things to be wrong about, the gospel should not be one of them.  When it comes to our salvation, we should do all that we can to live worthy of the Holy Ghost and His guidance.  Everything depends on this.  To illustrate this idea, all we needed to do was to have the students share what they learned from the lives of these 58 people in the Doctrine and Covenants. An episode from the life of Robert Foster reads as follows:

In conversation with Abraham C. Hodge in 1845, he said, “I am the most miserable wretch that the sun shines upon. If I could recall eighteen months of my life I would be willing to sacrifice everything I have upon earth, my wife and child not excepted. I did love Joseph Smith more than any man that ever lived, if I had been present I would have stood between him and death.” To this Hodge then asked, “Why did you do as you have done? You were accessory to his murder.” Robert replied, “I know that, and I have not seen one moment’s peace since that time. I know that Mormonism is true, and the thought of meeting (Joseph and Hyrum) at the bar of God is more awful to me than anything else.”  [Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-51), 7:513.]

When you contrast this statement from Robert Foster with the lives of other men in this section like Heber C. Kimball, Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff, the youth really see that lifelong obedience to the Savior yields fruit.  By learning from these folks from the history of the church we can obtain greater faith and have courage to live upright and moral lives dedicated to the Savior.

I took the 58 short bios from the excellent work by Susan Easton Black entitled Who’s Who in the Doctine and Covenants.  All 58 individuals are in in this document in the order they appear in D&C 124: Section 124 All in one

The following poem teaches the idea so well I had to include it in this post:

The Race

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!
You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”

About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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