When I was a sophomore in high school, I was very small for my age. I was 5′2″ and weighed 105 pounds. When you’re 5′2″ and 105, not many coaches want you playing basketball, unless you have exceptional talent, which I didn’t. You also don’t make a very good linebacker for the football team.
I was sitting in the gym one day watching the basketball tryouts, when the wrestling coach walked by and said, “We need a few tough guys your size who can wrestle for us.”
I thought to myself, “Obviously I look pretty tough to the coach, so I’ll give this wrestling a try.” I told him I would do it.
My first problem was finding the wrestling room. After some searching, I found it was three stories under the basketball court in an unventilated, very dimly lit cubicle.
As I entered the room, I found the first thing you need to overcome in wrestling is the odor produced by 50 young men sweating in a room with no air circulation.
I found the coach. Instead of being polite and friendly as he had been the day before, he seemed grouchy and mean. He pointed to a kid across the room and said, “Wrestle him.”
I looked at the kid and thought to myself, “This will be a snap.” He was shorter than I was and looked as if he had missed a few meals. I turned to the coach to say he had made a mistake and surely there was someone else I could wrestle. As I did this, the kid grabbed me and for the next three hours gave me a wrestling lesson I’ll never forget. He rubbed my face in the mat and twisted me into positions I didn’t think possible. Finally, after three hours of mat work, I thought we were done. Not quite. Up to the halls we went, where the coach led us in wind sprints and jogging. Finally, four hours after practice began, we were finished. I sat on the bench in the locker room totally exhausted.
The coach called me into his office. He said, “How much do you weigh?”
I replied, “About 105.”
He said, “You’ll be wrestling 98 in three days.”
That was 7 percent of my body weight. “I’ll have to go without eating,” I protested.
He said, “I know.” So to my surprise, a wrestler not only had to work out for four hours, he couldn’t eat after the workout. I made weight at 98 pounds and put up with this difficult schedule for three weeks. Finally I had had enough.
I went home and told my dad that I was going to quit. I thought he would be elated after seeing how much I had suffered. Instead he said, “I never took you for a quitter. I always thought when you started something, you finished it.”
Well, if he was going to say that, I certainly would not quit now. I said, “I guess wrestling is not so bad after all.”
I stuck it out. For four long months I stuck it out. It was never easy. In fact, it was the most difficult thing I had ever done. It wasn’t glamorous. The basketball team got all the recognition. They got the nice locker room and all the new facilities, and the entire school showed up to their games. The school had to assign four members of the pep club to go to wrestling matches. No, it wasn’t glamorous. But much to my surprise, at the end of the difficult season, I had a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that I had never felt before. The most difficult thing I had done in my life turned out to be the most rewarding.
The Lord has never promised that obedience to his commandments would be easy or glamorous. What he has promised is a great feeling of satisfaction, a blessing of inner peace which comes only from adhering to the principles of the gospel.
Joseph Smith certainly was not given an easy responsibility. He and his family and members of the Church were persecuted unmercifully. It wasn’t glamorous. He was laughed at, beaten, tarred and feathered. In fact, he gave the ultimate sacrifice when he gave his life. This he did because the Lord commanded him to do it.
There was a prophet who chose for a time not to follow the Lord. Jonah was commanded by the Lord to go to Nineveh. He chose not to go, but instead boarded a ship to try to escape. The sea became very rough and the boat was about to capsize. Jonah knew what the problem was and requested he be thrown overboard. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. After three days and nights in the belly of the fish, Jonah was repentant, and the fish spat him upon the shore. Jonah went to Nineveh and convinced the people to repent. I’m sure he had great satisfaction in doing as the Lord commanded.
I certainly don’t want to compare myself to the great prophet Jonah. But I had an experience in my life where I was greatly rewarded for doing something that, although very difficult, was what the Lord wanted.
As a young man, I prepared to go on a mission. Every returned missionary I had heard said it was the best two years of his life. I interpreted this to mean that a mission was easy and glamorous. In a vain and arrogant manner, I figured the Lord would want someone of my ability and talent to open up China or Russia or India. At the very least, he would want me to serve in Japan or Europe.
I sent in my papers and eagerly awaited the moment when my call arrived in the mail. When it finally did, my mother and I opened the letter. In big words at the top of the page, it said, “You are hereby called to the Colorado Denver Mission.”
My heart sank. I thought, “How could this be? How could the Lord do this to me?” And to add insult to injury, they included a map of the mission. It included small towns in eastern Utah and parts of Wyoming.
I thought, “This is not exotic. This is embarrassing.”
I looked at my mom and said, “Mom, I’m not going to Colorado on my mission.”
She looked at me and said, “Let’s talk to your father when he gets home.”
When my father got home, I said to him, “Dad, I don’t want to go to Colorado.”
I thought he would say something like, “I never took you for a quitter. I thought when you started something, you would finish it.”
Instead, he said, “Son, I’ll support you in whatever you want to do. If you want to go to Colorado, I’m behind you. If you don’t want to go, I’m also behind you. But before you make that decision, I think you should fast and pray to see what the Lord wants you to do.”
We fasted and prayed until the next evening. When we finished the fast, we knelt and prayed. In the end the Lord gave me a witness that Colorado was where I was called and where I should serve. As we ended the fast, I said to my dad, “I guess Laramie won’t be so bad after all.”
He looked at me and said, “Yes, it will.”
I found that a mission was not easy. In fact, it was the most difficult thing I had ever done. Working and living 16 hours a day for the Lord wasn’t easy. I found a mission was not glamorous. People laughed and scoffed at us, dogs bit us, and doors slammed in our face. But as everyone who applies himself on a mission knows, it is the most rewarding experience of one’s life. The Lord blessed me beyond my ability to receive it, and I felt an inner peace and satisfaction I had never felt before.
The Lord promises us blessings of inner peace and happiness. And that is really all that truly matters. I testify that the only way to true happiness is through obedience to the Lord’s commandments no matter how hard it may seem.