Once upon a time there was an awesome missionary. His name was Ammon. Based on his righteous example, he taught the gospel – which invited the spirit – which in turn prompted the conversion of a Lamanite king named Lamoni. This Lamoni had previously been a pretty rotten guy. But, since repentance is awesome and the gospel is true – Lamoni became a totally good guy (the truth will set you free).
Lamoni’s father– who was the king of all the Lamanites – was also a pretty rotten guy (generational ignorance helps people be rotten sometimes) and when he met Lamoni and Ammon on the road one day, he asked Lamoni to go ahead and kill Ammon since he was (according to his belief) “one of the children of a liar”. Lamoni politely declined, and commenced in telling his personal tale of conversion at the hand of Ammon in an attempt to do away with the murderous thoughts that gripped his Lamanite king father.
This detailed explanation didn’t work. To Lamoni’s astonishment, his father was still angry with him, and “commanded” Lamoni to slay Ammon. He still wouldn’t – so Lamoni’s father then took matters into his own hands and started a sword fight with Ammon. Ammon channeled his inner Westley (a.k.a. Dread Pirate Roberts from the Princess Bride) and “withstood his blows, and also smote his (Lamoni’s father’s) arm that he could not use it”. This left king Lamoni’s father at the mercy of Ammon (I imagine him sitting/kneeling on the ground clutching his wounded arm/shoulder with a full realization that his mortal life is now completely in the hands of his opponent) – and he got a bit nervous.
In this spot, Lamoni’s father says to Ammon “If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half the kingdom”. So, in return for Ammon sparing his physical life, Lamoni’s father was willing to give up to half of his kingdom. That’s the high priced value of his physical life.
Ammon of course spared his life (and didn’t even collect on half of the kingdom), but required that Lamoni’s father let his son be and do as he pleased with his conversion and his religion. This perplexed Lamoni’s father enough that he later “insisted” that Aaron (one of Ammon’s missionary companions) administer unto him, and teach him the things that had caused Lamoni to change his ways. Aaron began to teach Lamoni’s father about everything (the creation, the fall, the atonement) which naturally filled the king with a burning desire to be born again, and to have his “wicked spirit rooted out of his breast… that he may be filled with joy.” Then, after hearing the good news of the gospel he exclaimed: “I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
In summary, he was only willing to give up half his kingdom to save his physical life, but was willing forsake all in order to gain his spiritual life.
So, in thinking about how I could relate this sentiment (giving up half the kingdom, vs. forsaking all my kingdom) to the real world and our everyday lives, I naturally thought of triathlon unitards. Yes, triathlon unitards – stay with me.
Last summer, I signed up for my first triathlon (I signed up on June 14, and the event was Aug. 8 – that’s a little less than 2 months to train). I was fairly naïve in my training regimen leading up to the event. I swam a bit, rode my bike a bit, and even mixed in a couple of runs on my way. After all, it was a short distance triathlon and I was confident in my ability to just make it. Please remember I used the word naïve in the previous sentence.
On race day I showed up a bit early and what I saw was a bit concerning – or even alarming. Most of the other participants were wearing skin tight suits. I later learned that these are triathlon suits (sometimes called tri suits or tri jerseys) – which are pretty much the equivalent of an adult onesie or a wrestling singlet. These are designed to be worn in all 3 disciplines (swim, bike, run) to avoid the time wasting activity of changing clothes during transitions. In other words – they are made specifically for triathletes to wear during a triathlon. I on the other hand, had brought a backpack full of shorts, shirts, jackets, extra socks, headphones, my phone case, etc.
I even thought to myself “these other people (like 90% of them) look pretty silly in their spandex unitards”. But not me, I look totally amazing in my gym shorts and my warm jacket.
Needless to say, my transition times were about what you’d expect from a first timer. I watched these veteran triathletes dash from the water and jump soaking wet onto their bikes and ride off in a matter of seconds while I calmly dried myself completely with a towel, put on a t-shirt, shorts, and a jacket, and managed to spend a good 5 minutes not moving at all. For reference, 5 minutes equates to about 8-10% of the winner’s overall time (and that was just my first transition).
After reviewing the results of my first triathlon (my finish time but most of all my transition times) and in evaluating my weaker areas, I metaphorically sat on the ground, clutching my wounded shoulder and said to myself: “I will do whatsoever is required to improve my triathlon times, even to half the kingdom”. And I did. I sacrificed ‘even to half the kingdom’ by increasing my training intensity, my training frequency, and my mental focus. Then, I had another race.
I improved my split times, and even placed in my age group. In addition, I have done 3 other races since the first, and been right on or near my goals for each race, yet for the purposes of this blog post, and the likened story of king Lamoni’s father – I still haven’t been able to move from giving up ‘half of the kingdom’ to ‘giving up all that I posses”. I was still holding something back.
In order for me to be like Lamoni’s father and fully give up all that I possess – I had to wear the unitard. There was just no way around it. I can’t hold anything back if I expect to enjoy the absolute joy of knowing that I gave it everything I had.
I thought in the beginning of my triathlon life that I felt like I gave it my all – and I was right, because the first race or two, I gave it all that I had. But, now that my training has improved and I know a lot more about the sport, I fully realize that my previous all is barely ‘even to half’ of my current all. This means I need to re-evaluate my commitment every time – just like we do each week when we take the sacrament. The more I improve, the more my all demands of me.
Maybe the unitards look silly, but they are designed to help save time and ultimately be a tool for improvement. And after all, isn’t the goal of a triathlon to finish with your absolute best time? Yes. So, in order to give up all that I possess, I need to give up whatever self-conscience barriers I have built up around donning the elastic triathlon unitard. I need to be ‘willing to take upon me the unitard’ in order to ‘always’ have it benefit me.
And since this blog is about principles of faith, and faith is a principle of action, and I don’t want to only be a sayer of the word (and not ‘a doer of the word’) – AND since I am desirous to become more than recreational weekend triathlete, AND because I am finally ready (just like Lamoni’s father) to give up all that I possess, I vowed to wear a stretchy triathlon unitard in my next race.
That race was May 7th – and that date is past tense. I totally wore a triathlon suit – the whole time. Let me write that again: I wore a spandex-like suit while biking and running through hundreds of spectators. And I loved it. Wait, what?
Upon crossing the finish line last week, I knew that my effort was ‘all’ that I had to give. I felt completely satisfied with it. Then, two days later, I realized that I wanted that feeling again, and started to realize that I wanted to ‘improve’ even more, and started to identify things that I had kept back. I had now only given ‘most’ of my kingdom, even though it had been all just a short time before. So, I made a new1 list of everything in my kingdom that I was willing to give up.
The more we improve, and the better we become, the more we realize we have to give up to take the next step in our progress. The small things that we hadn’t thought mattered before start to stick out and we try to get rid of them one by one. Slowly but surely we become something better – and maybe the best news of all, the Lord is patient with us as we recognize and attempt to become like him – and he helps us all along the way.
1 For some reason, I felt better about giving an example of my ‘new’ list in the notes instead of the body of the blog post – I just couldn’t bring myself to indicate that by shaving my arms and legs in order to become more aerodynamic I am taking the logical next step in my spiritual progression.