Suffice it to say, my life has changed dramatically since the last time I wrote an article. In the last few weeks, I moved out of home, I started school, I started 2 new jobs, and, oh yeah, I got engaged! Can’t forget that last thing! Ha!
In some ways, I look back to who I was right when I got home from my mission and imagine myself singing then, like Rapunzel, “When will my life begin?” That period of actively waiting is almost over – once I marry Meghan, it feels like the rest of my life will “truly” begin.
And what an odd time for my life to begin! When misfortune and difficulty seem to rage around the world, this seems like a weird time for the Lord to be telling me, “Now is the time to get moving.” How is movement possible when the ground beneath you is uncertain? Well, for starters, a foundation focused on Jesus Christ is a foundation that actually doesn’t move and leads in a consistent, correct direction. And also, there are countless examples of people having to move when movement seems difficult.
My study of the Book of Mormon has led me to the story of the leader of the Nephites, Lachoneus, and the band of Gadianton robbers in 3 Nephi 3–4. The leader of the robbers sends a letter to Lachoneus warning him that he will soon attack with his thousands of vicious followers. Pay attention to how Lachoneus responds:
“Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers, but he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them” (3 Nephi 3:12).
Rather than succumb to the intimidations of the enemy, Lachoneus turns to his own form of strength. In this experience, we find the principle of faith. Lachoneus doesn’t know what’s going to happen — for all he knows, the robbers outnumber him and will easily overrun his people. However, he chooses instead to turn to God.
But he doesn’t stop there. He comes up with a plan: he gathers all his people into the capital city with enough provisions to last them all 7 years. They patiently wait for the robbers to attack, and when they do, they battle relentlessly and consistently for years, eventually starving out and driving away all of the evil robbers. They end their victory with rejoicing and praising their God (3 Nephi 4:29-33)
Our day is full of evils trying to get us to throw in the towel and stop moving. Nothing cripples someone like fear. When difficulty leads us to fear, we are essentially stopped still in our progression. We’ve all felt that sense of hopelessness that fear gives us. It’s awful!
What, then, is the cure? Well, for Lachoneus and his people, it was prayer and immediate, faithful action. Perhaps it’s the same for us. Meghan and I have been praying often about our wedding in December. I’ll be honest, it’s a fearful thing trying to plan what’s supposed to be the greatest day of your life amidst a global pandemic, natural disasters, and political turmoil. But through our prayer and faithful action, we’ve found peace and miracles helping us along. Fear is horrible — thank goodness we have access to a perfect, loving, all-powerful being we call Father.
Something special happens when we choose to follow God and not succumb to fear. And when I say follow God, I don’t mean simply following His commandments. This is a day in which following God only as a secondary priority simply will not cut it: fear strikes and beats down those who do not place God as their primary focus. Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said, “If, in the end, you have not chosen Jesus Christ it will not matter what you have chosen.” Following God means we have to go the second mile.
Vaughn J. Featherstone, in 1990, shared this historical lesson about going the second mile:
“In ancient … times, soldiers could [force] teen-age boys in Roman provinces to carry their heavy backpacks for one mile, but no more. In a typical scene, we would see a soldier walk into a community. A teen-age boy sees him and starts to run and hide. The boy knows that if the soldier has seen him that he will be caught and whipped for running. The soldier does see the boy and motions for him to come and pick up the heavy backpack. Reluctantly, the boy shoulders the heavy load. The soldier motions toward the road leading out of town, and together they trudge toward the first mile marker.
“When the marker comes into sight, the soldier motions for the boy to put the pack down. The boy instead agrees to carry the pack another mile. The soldier reminds him that only one mile is required. However, the boy agrees to go ’the second mile.’ As they continue down the road, the soldier begins to talk with the boy. He asks him if he has seen the mighty ocean. The boy replies ‘No,’ so the soldier gives descriptive accounts of his adventures on the high seas. The soldier then relates stories about military campaigns in distant countries and describes snow covered mountains, which the lad has never seen.
“The vivid accounts stir the imagination of the young lad as he hears the tales of the seas and of distant lands. The second mile goes quickly, and the boy discovers the secret of ‘going the second mile.’ You go the first mile and you discharge a duty; you go the second mile and you make a friend. The great men and women in history have been those willing to go the second mile.”
When we find ourselves filled with fear, perhaps we should ask ourselves, “Am I following God closely enough?” Those who follow God still have fear, but are not overwhelmed. That second mile is the mile that trades fear for hope, anxiety for peace, sorrow for joy. Getting through the first mile is the challenge. But once we do, with the help of Jesus Christ, we start to see why things are the way that they are and what we can do to help it.
Adam Simpson is a man of many unique talents, from dancing to ultimate frisbee, from drumming to writing. He was born and raised in Layton, Utah, the middle child surrounded by two sisters. He served a mission in Sydney, Australia, and now attends school at BYU. His love for writing comes from a love of philosophy and a love for God.