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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Runners compete in the Deseret News marathon in Emigration Canyon on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

We all wait breathlessly to hear the first word out of our child’s mouth. Personally, I worked diligently to teach each of my children to say “da da” so when my husband came home from work he thought he was the king of the hill and he’d gladly care for the youngest and other children, so I had a bit of a break to cook, clean, do the wash or all those other relaxing things that mothers love to do.

But if you pay closer attention to the little lovelies, you will often find that either in word or deed their first inborn sense, if not their first or second word, is “mine.” Possessing, owning, consuming seems to be human nature and it’s on full display when children are little.

I love watching the reaction when one child comfortably snuggles on mom’s lap at church. As soon as another sibling notices, they seem drawn like a magnet to mom, demanding their rightful place in her arms. They couldn’t even care less if the parent tossed, shoved or discarded the current child as long as they gain the pinnacle — it’s all very proprietary.

Kids and toys … oh, boy! There might be a million toys around the house, or another million toys at preschool, yet suddenly a child will spread eagle over a certain toy, shielding it with their body, if another child even looks their way. Or when a child playing with some toys spots another child approaching they frantically begin swooping the playthings up in their arms, jamming them in their pockets or shoving them in a box, then plonks down between the approacher and the prize — ready to fight to the death. All of this is often to protect what is not — but what they have determined to be — theirs.

These acts, of course, are followed by our parents' obligatory, “Sweetheart, you need to share,” or, “You can share,” or, knife to the heart, “Jesus wants us to share” — which is painfully true. In fact, I can’t think of one instance where Jesus didn’t think of others, share, care or give the coat, or cloak, off his back to another person.

Why then, did Heavenly Father made it so hard—because he did! He, on purpose, made us mortal and free to choose — to follow him and become “saint(s) through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” (Mosiah 3:19) or to submit to earthly desires and passions and become a “natural man,” or a “natural woman,’ burdened by sinfulness (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). And since his intent wasn’t to make us miserable and sinful — because his stated intention is “man is that he might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25)— then what’s it all about?

It’s about becoming, progressing and preparing for a glorious destiny that is within the grasp of every person who ever dwells on Earth. It’s about learning to control ourselves — master our passions — so we qualify for greater glory ahead. And let’s be honest, you don’t learn self-mastery when the choices are easy. Easy is just that, E-A-S-Y, and we don’t gain much real value from easy … darn.

The apostle Paul explained why we need self-discipline, “In a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the (Olympic) games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we (disciples of Christ) do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that … I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV)

The footnote to 1 Corinthians 9:27 in "The NIV Study Bible, New International Version" notes that Paul uses running “and boxing to represent the Christian life. He does not aimlessly beat the air but he severely disciplines his own body in serving Christ, not to be disqualified for the prize. Paul realizes that he must with rigor serve the Lord and battle against sin.”

1 comment on this story

The Savior consistently taught that his disciples should put God first, sacrifice, be selfless, humble, modest, control emotions and actions, reject false worldly standards, keep the commandments, bear testimony, share their light and love others as Christ does. It’s a tall order, certainly carrying over into the next life; but with the Savior’s help, it can be done.

Obviously, as we see with proprietary children, and “it’s mine” adults, self-mastery takes great effort. But, oh … how sweet and glorious the reward, not just a portion but “all that (our) father hath” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:38) will be ours.