When I was a kid, I loved to play basketball with my buddies. As kids do, we idolized the best players of the day. For all of us, there wasn’t any doubt about who that was. The best player was a guy named Michael Jordan. Some of you may have heard of him? He is arguably the best player that has ever played. He won 6 NBA championships and was the Finals MVP each time. He won the league’s MVP award 5 times. He was the defensive player of the year. He won the scoring title 10 times. He led the league in steals 3 times. He was an all-star 14 times. He was an all-star MVP 3 times. He was the NBA rookie of the year. He won the NBA slam dunk contest, twice. He also has two olympic gold medals, and is in the Hall of Fame.
Sometimes we sit on the sidelines, and think that all of these amazing players like Michael Jordan either dropped from outer space, or just woke up one day and were awesome. But, even the greatest stars weren’t born with perfectly honed skills and abilities. It takes a lot of work, dedication, drive, will, effort, along with many limitations, pitfalls, and failures. Michael Jordan was no exception.
When Michael Jordan was a high school sophomore, he tried out for the varsity team. It was a long shot, as sophomore’s rarely made the varsity teams back then. But, that year, one did make the varsity squad. It just wasn’t him. It was his good friend, and 6’ 7 inch, Leroy Smith. That really burned him up. He doubled down, used the failure as a motivation, and went to work with training, practice, effort, and hard work. He played that year on the jayvee team and developed into a great player. He also eventually grew from s 5’10’ sophomore to a 6’6” man.
As these years went by, his hard work paid off and he continued to get better and better. As a senior in high school, he was named a McDonald’s All-American, and then went on to play in college at one of the best basketball schools in the country. North Carolina.
The rest is history. He became one of the best players to ever play the game. But, he started out just like so many of us. He was a small, ordinary, seemingly nothing special kid relegated to the obscurity of the jayvee squad. Doesn’t that sound like the story of our lives? It does at least for me.
The one thing that made him different, though, was that he didn’t accept mediocrity. He wanted to get better. He wanted to be better. And, through persistent practice, hard work, and a strong will, he was able to achieve the goals he set for himself. He was always capable of doing great things, he just needed to set his mind to it, and be patient. His time would come. He would transform into one of the greatest of all time.
Recently, like in the last couple of weeks, I was able to see another unbelievable transformation happen. Not in a basketball sense, but in a real world sense. I saw someone really close to me grow, and become something amazing right in front of my eyes. It was awesome.
My wife has always had an anxiety of speaking in front of people. Not too many of us actually do enjoy doing that, but her anxiety was a lot worse than the regular apprehension. I can’t tell you how many times she has said, “I would rather step out in front of a truck than speak in church”. If I were given the choice between giving a talk, or a Ford F250 to the face, I’d take the talk, but she’d take the truck. Seriously. Not even kidding.
A couple of years ago, she was called to be the Young Women’s president in our ward. That calling is another cool story for another day, but for my wife, that meant a lot of speaking, teaching, leading in front of people that, up until that point, was not something she ever felt remotely comfortable doing. It would be a challenge. But she has done an amazing job.
It hasn’t ever been easy for her. She has worked hard to be the best she can be, and has had a lot of amazing help from the women who serve along with her. She has always tried to be prepared and would spend a lot of time going over and over any lessons, or thoughts that she was to share. She would practice them, and make sure she was comfortable with the material long before she had to go present it in front of anyone.
Fast forward to today. Her anxiety is still there, but she has learned how to deal with it, and almost overcome it. And a couple of weeks ago, I saw her completely kill it during a sacrament meeting (if that isn’t an appropriate word to describe a talk in sacrament meeting, insert “did really well” instead).
She had been asked on Saturday to speak Sunday and share a few words about the girls camp experience that she had that week. She thought and stewed and worried about what to say for the rest of the day, and couldn’t really come up with anything specific to share. She started to get a little nervous on Sunday morning when she still wasn’t quite sure what she would say. Keep in mind, this was really out of the ordinary for her, and really what triggered her fears in the first place. In less than an hour, she would have to get up in front of a congregation of people and try and speak, not yet knowing what exactly she would say. The anxiety was to speak in a way that made sense, and not freeze up.
As her time came, and as she started to speak, I was completely dumbfounded. She was amazing. Absolutely amazing. She got up with confidence, a smile, and spoke for about 10-15 minutes off the cuff, and without notes. Not only was it amazing that she actually did that, but her message was perfect. It was simple and clear, concise, and flowed seamlessly from one thought to the other as if it were written by a professional. Her testimony was perfect for that moment. I was flabbergasted. Not that I didn’t have confidence in her, because I absolutely did, but I knew that she didn’t have anything prepared to say at all. It was all in the moment. She had grown into her calling, and her potential almost right in front of my eyes. It was amazing. Anyone that knows my wife, or her anxieties about speaking could attest to this small miracle that happened a couple of weeks ago.
All I could think of while I was listening to her, was that I was witnessing a live version of what we learn about in the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 100. This part is talking about missionaries knowing what to say, but I think it applied perfectly in that moment.
‘Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place;…Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say….that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.
And I will give unto him power to be mighty in testimony.”
The 84th section of the D&C teaches us the same thing..
“Therefore, let the morrow take thought for the things of itself. Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man… for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
-D&C 84:84-85, 88
My wife taught me that day that we need to go out on that limb, and take the first step and trust that all the words that we read in the scriptures are true! If we put in the work, practice, effort, and trust the Lord, He will deliver! He can make us into the MVP that he sees in all of us. He is the one that transforms us. All it takes is a willing heart on our end. When we try to do whatever we can to get better and be better, the Lord will bless us. Because He has promised us that He will! I know that this principle is true precisely because I saw it actually happen with my own eyes, in a small little sacrament meeting two weeks ago.