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Ancient Testaments: A steady pace

Church history, like visiting a track meet, teaches us about the need for a steady pace.

On the faces of the distance runners, you see a special intensity before their event begins. They know a battle is coming. It will not be a battle so much for position on the track. It will be a struggle against human instinct — the craving to take it easy.

Midway through the race, a burning pain begins to fill the consciousness. It calls out from the legs, from the lungs and then from all over. With it comes a powerful urge to ease up, to stop lifting the knees so high, to let the arms flail and the head bob — to relax form and break stride.

Each runner has a private pace to keep, an inward race to win.

The Father of those who keep a steady pace is, himself, perfectly steady. From him we inherit this power. "His heart is firm as a stone. … Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear" (Job 41:24, 33).

The Only Begotten manifested the Father's steadiness in his own marathon. Jesus never broke stride for a moment. He kept perfect form under pressure. Up to the last unselfish moment, he fought the inward battle without wavering.

When we imitate our steady Father, he rejoices in us. Thus, at the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, the Lord declared: "I, the Lord … delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:5). He loves our endurance, not just at the end, but "unto" the end — that is, during the long approach to the finish line, around and around the track, through the whole course.

Some of the Saints in early days, as now, occasionally lost their focus. When they shrank and soured, the Lord found it necessary, like the coach along the side of the track, to call out reminders and even reproofs.

To sacrifice all and move to a new place was only the first lap. It was too easy, after that surge of effort, to care only about starting over, surviving, acquiring things, getting ahead. The life of faith could be set aside — the pace forgotten.

In Missouri, those who had so recently been called "Zion" grew strangely materialistic and quarrelsome. To them the Lord called out, "There are those among you who have sinned exceedingly; yea, even all of you have sinned; … beware from henceforth" (D&C 82:2).

When they got back on track, the Lord said to Joseph, "Your brethren in Zion begin to repent, and the angels rejoice over them" (D&C 90:34). The angels, too, are steady beings. It is wonderful to know that we can inspire joy in them. But intermittent surges of righteousness give them only intermittent surges of joy. Through a steady pace, we can cause steady rejoicing in heaven.

Years later, Brigham Young spoke of the steadier ones who had not wavered in the early days. Of them he said: "These men … have maintained their footing steadily. … They do not appear … as if they were likely to win the battle. But what is their true character? … They are filled with faith, their words are few, but they are full of integrity. … Visit them when you will, or under whatever circumstances, and you find them unalterably the same. … These are the ones who will win the race" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:89).

Wayne E. Brickey, who lives in Gallatin, Mo., is a retired Church Educational System teacher and curriculum writer and has been a tour guide to Holy Land and Mormon history sites. His novel "Before His Manger: The Long Wait for Christ's First Coming" is serialized in weekly segments Fridays on