Return to Virtue

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "Staying on Course" in the book A Return to Virtue.)

As we repent and return to virtue, our Father in Heaven stands ready to bless us so abundantly. For those who stay on the path or those who repent and return, the promises are sure.

The blessings of obedience are illustrated in the story of a young man from Singapore, who e-mailed me after I had given a talk in which I had mentioned a marathon my husband and I had run. He wanted to know if I thought it was all right to run a marathon on a Sunday. He explained that he was an avid runner and an active member of the Church and that he was training for the Singapore Marathon, which was held on a Sunday. He said that he did not have a lot of money and he did not think he would ever be able to run a marathon anywhere else where a marathon might possibly be held on another day of the week. He felt this was his only opportunity to participate in a marathon experience. He said he thought this exception might be acceptable given his special circumstances. He wanted me to advise him as to what he should do. I responded with the following reply:

“Dear Brother Lai, I cannot make that decision for you. You will need to be prayerful and decide for yourself. But I have always turned to the scripture in 1 Samuel, chapter 2, verse 30 to help me with decisions. Perhaps it will also help you.”

I quoted the scripture and ended my letter. The scripture reads in part: “but now the Lord saith . . . for them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30). I never heard anything else from this good brother, and I wondered what his decision had been on the date of the Singapore Marathon.

Two years later, I was assigned to do some auxiliary training in the Asia area. One of the places where I would train was Singapore. I was curious to see this beautiful city. When I arrived at the Singapore airport, there waiting to greet me were the area presidency member assigned to accompany us and Brother Lai, the man who had written me about running on Sunday. I was thrilled to meet him. You can probably guess that the first question I asked him was, “Did you run the marathon?” He responded eagerly that he had! I smiled and said, “Congratulations!” But in my heart I was sad—it seemed like I hadn’t quite gotten my point across, and I regretted not being more direct in my reply. Then he added quietly, “But I did rather poorly. I ran it all alone on Saturday in the traffic.” And the scripture went through my mind once again, reminding me that he who honors God, God will honor. Stephen Lai had been faithful and obedient.

One year later, I received a phone call from Singapore. Brother Lai was coming to Salt Lake for business. He said he thought it was a true miracle because the timing of the trip was such that he would be able to attend general conference, take care of his business obligation, and the next Saturday participate in the St. George Marathon. He wanted to know if he could go with our family to conference and then to the marathon. He was so excited and kept talking about the miracle of it all.

The week after general conference we traveled to St. George, Utah, where we all participated in this marathon. When I crossed the finish line, Brother Lai was there to cheer me on. He was so happy, all I could see was a big smile. Later he told my husband that when he crossed the finish line, the words of the scripture I had sent him went through his mind, a warmth surged through his body, and he knew that he had done the right thing. He said, “Had I run the Singapore Marathon, it would have been a little thing. No one would have known. But I exercised my faith, and because I was obedient, I have been blessed beyond my dreams. I am here, I have been in the presence of a prophet of God, and I am worthy to be in his presence—no excuses or apologies.”

Stephen Lai honored God by keeping the Sabbath day holy. He did not rationalize by saying that commandment didn’t apply to him in his individual and unique circumstances. He did not assume he was the exception. We too can honor the Lord through our obedience to Him.

When you obey the commandments of the Lord, you will always be blessed. Stay on the path. If you have stepped off, for whatever reason, repent and return to Him, and all those blessings can still be yours. Sometimes the blessings are not immediate, but you are always blessed—always—when you are striving to live a virtuous life.

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