“You Can Do Hard Things” is one of our family mottos. This slogan encapsulates much of what I am passionate about as a mother, wife, daughter of God … and as a Mormon Woman.
I recently participated in a relay marathon in Corpus Christi Texas. I ran one leg of six, each approximately 4.5-miles — not a big deal but still a healthy run. I had trained well so I was going strong, yet on occasion my mind would rudely blurt out “ahh, this is too hard… you should walk… just a bit…just take a little break….” As this silent inner monologue continued, it became increasing irritating and discouraging SO I decided I would run faster every time I felt my mind or body going weak, to prove I was in charge. The old adage “mind over matter” never seemed more apropos. It was a great experience, even spiritual, mainly for what I was able to teach myself about self-discipline and mastery. Elder James E. Faust said “Self-mastery … is the ultimate test of our character.” Yes it was a test physically but more so mentally.
In addition to the lessons on self-mastery, I learned another valuable lesson. I gained a simple appreciation for what runners call the “runners high,” the moments of euphoria that come after enduring and succeeding in doing a very hard thing. Those feelings are great but not nearly as rewarding as choosing the right and persevering through tough trials, that is powerful, beautiful and compelling. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to DO is increased.”
Not long ago I was reading in the Book of Mormon (Alma 39) where Alma the elder was speaking to his sons, giving them some last fatherly counsel before his death. In his counsel to Corianton he says “cross yourself in all these things.” “Cross” to me also means self-mastery. When I read those words my eyes paused on the page as I digested and contemplated it’s application into all facets of my life and before long I found myself cascading through different scriptures familiarizing myself with what the scriptures had to teach me about self-mastery. Alma in this instance was referring to self-mastery in avoiding sexual sin; however, self-mastery is not exclusionary to sexual fidelity, it applies to everything we do.
Self-mastery is also temperance. In 2 Peter 1:6-10 it reads “And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness. And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off….if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” So, one of many things the scriptures have taught me is that self- mastery is temperance (self-restraint; abstinence) and patience (capacity, willingness to endure) and godliness (holiness). If I can do those things, it is promised I shall never fall. With the Lords help I will have the confidence to wax strong in all things. (See Mosiah 18:26)
Life is challenging at times (ok, all the time), that is part of the plan, that is why we are here, to push through the hard things and gain understanding and knowledge. There are unyielding and unlimited ideas and desires pulling at our strings, beckoning for our immediate attention — and do not forget the adversary’s convincing and determined desire to distract us from what is most important. How can I possibly have confidence to effectively teach my children the values of self-mastery if I myself have a cursory and casual understanding of the principle? As an example, how will I effectively teach my children the importance of preserving a healthy body if I repeatedly and easily yield to the temptation of that extra warm cookie or piece of cake?
Power beyond my own is what I seek to push back the world and conquer the hard things life incessantly presents as a mother and wife. Life just does not permit us to quit, so enduring needs some help, and self-discipline is the perfect medicine. Elder Hales of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles said “We learn to endure to the end by learning to finish our current responsibilities, and we simply continue doing it all of our lives. We cannot expect to learn endurance in our later years if we have developed the habit of quitting when things get difficult now.” As a parent, I can clearly see the need for my children to learn with exactness the value of self-discipline while they are young, and the need for that will certainly increase in days to come. Unfortunately life’s “hard things” will not always be as simple as resisting (self-mastery), seconds on dessert or sustaining a 4- mile run. Life will indubitably dish out some very difficult challenges and we will have to be able to master the little things in life so we will be able to handle the big, hard, things when then come because we know they will. That is the crux of this beautiful refining process called life.
Our family motto ” you can do hard things” could easily be reprinted in poster size and placed prominently in our home, especially as my children mature and distractions increase. In an increasingly godless and amoral society where anything goes and appetites are pacified instantaneously, where immediate indulgence is the norm, what better time to teach our children and ourselves the value of self-mastery and patience. Never yielding to the appetites of the body whether that be food, rest, apathy, the influence of others or an infinite number of other deterrents from truth.
President David O. McKay once said: “Spirituality is the consciousness of victory over self, and of communion with the Infinite. Spirituality impels one to conquer difficulties and acquire more and more strength. To feel one’s faculties unfolding and truth expanding the soul is one of life’s sublimest experiences.” Gospel Ideals (1953), 390.
I know like the sun shines high in the sky, that our loving Heavenly Father is ever mindful of how difficult our lives can feel at times. I know that He loves and supports us through our hard times, that if we are diligent with the small things the Lord will bless us with all we need to endure the big things of life. He is our supporter and through His Son, gave us our perfect example of how to do “hard things.”