While I was sitting in Church today, this story came to my mind and I want to share it. I wrote this a little over a year ago for a talk (sermon) I gave in church about spiritual momentum. It also has some good insights for momentum on a mountain bike, but the focus is on our growth as individuals. I refer to the word “repentance” several times. Repentance is simply a change of heart and a fresh way of looking at the world, our lives, and God. It’s a change in the right direction.
A few days ago during my mountain bike ride, I was going for a personal record down a nearby trail called Achtung Baby. I was sitting at 5th on the leaderboard and was hoping to shave off a couple of seconds to get down to third or fourth. There was a big tailwind and so I knew it would be a good day to go for it. I executed nearly every section of the trail close to the best of my ability and was feeling confident that I would be able to PR the trail. One thing that we talk about when it comes to descending technique is what we call “exit speed.” Exit speed refers to how much speed you carry out of a corner. The speed you take with you out of a turn is far more important than the speed you bring into it. A common mistake beginner riders make when trying to push themselves on the downhill is to go into a corner too fast, only to slam on their brakes and have to sprint out of the corner, having wasted both energy and speed. When you’re able to leave the corner with speed, you’re able to carry that speed into the next section of trail while conserving energy, and going faster.
Today I would like to talk a little bit about exit speed with regard to spiritual momentum. To me this has to do with the first two points from President Nelson’s most recent General Conference talk. 1. Get on the covenant path and stay there. 2. Discover the Joy of daily repentance. It has to do with getting on the covenant path and staying there, because exit speed on a trail is completely irrelevant unless you’re on the trail, like the covenant path. That is the first step to working on momentum, get on the path, and stay on it. If you crash you lose all your momentum and you have bigger problems to worry about than exit speed. Exit speed is like daily repentance, because you’re taking a transition period to build momentum. Typically people do their daily repentance at the end of the day as they’re preparing to go to sleep. This pattern is a way that helps people start the next day with spiritual momentum, like coming into a new section of trail with speed and power. I think everyone can relate to the difference between feeling good when you wake up in the morning, ready to tackle the day, contrasted with the sluggish mornings where it hurts to get out of bed and all you want to do is turn off the alarm and sleep another 4 hours. Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that if you’re having a hard time getting out of bed it means you didn’t repent sufficiently the night before, but I use the example to paint a picture of what spiritual momentum can be like in our lives when we are truly repenting daily. And if that were an indicator I’m sure it’s no wonder President Nelson jumps out of bed every morning absolutely pumped with what God has in store that day. President Nelson has incredible exit speed.
Perhaps sometimes we’re so focused on getting the current day done that we go into the corners between days with so much speed it weakens our entrances into new days. I believe that is one reason why President Nelson, like many others, has counseled us to repent daily. It allows us to slow down and think about what we’re doing well, and what God needs us to work on. When we do this, we are able to take the joy and momentum that comes from sincere repentance and exit the old day with capacity to enter the new one with speed and energy. In the Epistle of Paul to the Ephisians, Paul writes, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath..” I love this. Paul highlights something that I have found to be so important. Don’t go to bed angry. Going to bed with unresolved conflict either with others or with yourself is a sure way to go into a corner way too fast only to crash or barely stay up right while having to nearly stop, making it nearly impossible to carry any momentum into the new day. I remember this being so true on my mission. If I had any conflict with a companion during a day that wasn’t resolved before we went to sleep, there were problems. And there were problems until we had resolved the conflict. If we were able to resolve it before we went to sleep, then we were able to carry momentum into the new day with increased resolve to be better. The difference was just a small conversation, but the results had exponential influence.
It was also while I was on my mission that I discovered the Joy President Nelson refers to with daily repentance. Sometimes I would feel off beat all day, and when the day would come to a close and I was able to retire to a secluded place and pray to God, I would feel a weight come off my being with joy to replace whatever challenges were there previously. It was something that I genuinely began to look forward to each day. Each day it was a time of peace, a time when I knew that I was changing in a way that God wanted me to change. As you make a sincere effort to repent daily, you will spiritually get PR’s all the time.
So why don’t we have experiences like this every night? Why can’t we hardly wait to say our prayers so that we can feel the deep and lasting Joy that gives us the spiritual momentum we need? What stops us? For me, it’s usually a lack of effort, and sometimes it’s that I’m really tired. The reality is that repentance takes some time and energy, but it’s oh so worth it. I invite you to ponder what may sometimes keep you from feeling the Joy of daily repentance each day. Think about it, and write it down, and then make a plan for what you will do to continue to feel the real Joy that daily repentance brings. I promise you that as you do so, the joy you feel as you repent each day will increase. I also promise you that the frequency at which you feel that joy will increase and it will carry you into the next day.
Now I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what the end result was of my PR attempt earlier this week. What happened was that I lost all of my momentum when I flew over my handlebars and down a steep section of trail. But the good news is that I also flew over the end of the segment, and got the PR by one second! It made me think about going to Heaven, I wonder if anyone will “crash into heaven.” Perhaps we all do. None of us are going to have a perfect journey back to our Father in Heaven. No one except His perfect son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one who makes it possible for us to crash, and still go to heaven. Because the reality is that even when we are riding through life so well, with so much exit speed, we are still bound to take a spill every once in a while. Sometimes when we crash, we stay on the trail, and are able to get back up and continue forward without too much pain. Other times we fly all the way off the trail, and may require the assistance of another, and perhaps some time off the bike in order to get back on the path and continue back toward exaltation. The recovery process of an injury can oftentimes be a bit painful. As I was in the shower making sure my wounds were cleaned I experienced pain. But I was taking an important step in the healing process. Some repentance is like this. There is a little bit of pain involved, but the Joy and peace that follows are always worth it. Alma describes this beautifully when he explains the repentance process that he went through, “Yeah, I say unto you my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” The joy that follows the pain is ALWAYS worth it. Never let the pain keep you from experiencing the Joy.
I would like to touch on the third point that President Nelson suggested for gaining spiritual momentum: “Learn about God and how He works.” Near the end of this section of his talk President Nelson teaches what we need to do in order to Learn about God. “We need daily experiences worshiping the Lord and studying His gospel.” This is an area that I feel passionately about. Without the protection that is given from daily immersion in the word of God, we are left exposed to the fiery darts of the adversary. All it takes is one day of not putting on the whole armor of God, and we risk the downfall of our spiritual lives. It is absolutely crucial that we treat our daily study and worship the same way we treat eating, or sleeping. Just as we need food and water to survive physically, we equally need daily study of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to survive spiritually. Truly, “scripture power keeps me safe from sin, scripture power is the power to win, scripture power everyday I need, the power that I get each time I read.”
I would like to reiterate the promises given us by President Nelson if we follow the five steps he suggested to increase spiritual momentum in our lives. He said, “I promise you the ability to move forward on the covenant path with increased momentum, despite whatever obstacles you face. And I promise you greater strength to resist temptation, more peace of mind, freedom from fear, and greater unity in your families.”
I know that these things are true. It is always possible to get back on the path, and it is always worth it. Heavenly Father loves you, and is aware of you. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and powerful. The Joy we feel as we access the power of it in our daily lives is so important.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.