To a normal guy - normal meaning someone about 6 feet tall, just under 200 pounds, and comfortably middle aged - these guys looked like giants, something, perhaps, that Jack would have expected to find at the top of the beanstalk.
But, while their size was large - 6-foot-6 and taller and a beefy 230-plus pounds - their age was small: 17, maybe 18, years old. And the foibles of youth could easily beset them.Their physical size and prowess made them mainstays of a powerful state championship basketball team.
Their on-court excellence came from long hours of hard work with focus on, and dedication to, their task. (And, to be honest, being born with genes that made them tall didn't hurt.)
But that physical presence, they were learning, was dwarfed by spiritual power.
And that spiritual power came a little more subtly - as they consistently did those things that put them in a position to receive it. Most of the good decisions were, in and of themselves, small. Few, if any, were monumental alone. But taken as a whole, they charted a course and defined a destiny. Properly made, those decisions helped bring these young men a spirituality that gave them maturity beyond their years.
It was on the bus ride home from a road game - about an hour in the back of a dark school bus - that these young men made some of those good choices and found themselves in the midst of a memorable and spiritual experience.
"We were riding on the bus and we started talking about . . . I don't even remember what we were talking about. But pretty soon there we were in the back of the bus talking about the cool things that have happened to us."
One young man talked about the guidance and direction that accompany a patriarchal blessing. Another told of the great lessons his grandfather taught about temple work. It may not have been as formal as a first-Sunday-of-the-month-fast-and-testimony meeting, but in their own appropriate way, these young men bore testimony to one another.
"The next thing you know, the guys were crying. We really felt the Spirit."
And while under the Spirit's influence, they learned some important practical lessons:
- Anytime is the right time to invite the Spirit into your life and partake of all it has to offer.
Jesus taught: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26.)
- You don't have to be in Church, or wait for Sunday, to have spiritual experiences.
Alma the Younger asked, rhetorically: "Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only? And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?" (Alma 32:10-11.)
- Even for a teen, it is cool to be spiritual.
Jesus taught: "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you." (John 6:27.)
- It's also cool to share your beliefs and values with others.
Alma taught: We should be willing "to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places. . . ." (Mosiah 18:9)
- The influence of the Spirit is stronger, more lasting - and accompanied by greater joy - than any earthly experience.
Alma taught: ". . .the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just - yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else. . . ." (Alma 31:5.)
The lessons will last a lifetime. So will the feelings.
Now, more than a year later - with the young men soon to leave for missions in the United States, Canada and Guatemala - they still talk about that night when they felt the Spirit on a school bus.
"It was better than the state championship bus ride."