President's Pen 3-19-18 (Miracle Mile)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your effort to talk to everyone this week and every week.  What you have been called to do is not easy, and yet when you go in faith as a disciple of Christ, you have no need to fear.  Trust that the Lord has prepared those who want to change and come unto Christ!

In 1954 the unthinkable happened… On a May evening in Oxford, England, the once fabled myth of breaking the four minute mile barrier had finally happened.  Runners had set their sights on breaking the four minute mile barrier as early as 1886 and for decades had failed at doing so.  On May 6th, however, Roger Bannister, a young English student at Oxford University, came across the finish line in three minutes, fifty-nine and four-tenths of a second.  The unthinkable was now a reality.

In the day, breaking the four minute mile was considered an impossible goal for anyone to achieve.  As a British journalist wrote, “For years milers had been striving against the clock, but the elusive four minutes had always beaten them.  It had become as much a psychological barrier as a physical one. And like an unconquerable mountain, the closer it was approached, the more daunting it seemed.”

The coaches, trainers, and even athletes of the day had planned for the perfect moment to break the barrier.  It would need to be a day where there was no wind, a perfect temperature of 68 degrees, a hard and dry clay track, and a big frenzied crowd screaming the runners to push harder and faster.  On the day it actually happened, it was cold, the track was wet, and a small crowd had gathered at the track in Oxford. 

Once the barrier was broken, however, within forty-six days the four minute mile barrier was lowered again, this time by an Australian runner who did it in three minutes and fifty-eight seconds.  What unfolded next? Only a year later, three runners broke the four-minute barrier in a single race. Since that amazing day, more than a thousand runners have conquered a barrier that had once been considered impossible and out of reach. The current world record stands at three minutes, forty-three and thirteen-tens of second.  That’s screaming fast!!!

The amazing fact in this story is that Roger Bannister, the first to ever do it, wasn’t considered the best miler of the day.  He was a full-time medical student and didn’t use all the conventional training strategies as his peers.  He had participated in the 1952 Olympic Games and had not lived up to his or others expectations.  After the Olympics, he spent two months deciding whether to give up running and then came to a decision…  He decided that he would set a goal and make a plan to be the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. 

To reach his goal, he intensified his training, increased his interval work outs, and in May of 1953, he made an attempt on the British record at Oxford. On that day, he ran 4:03.6 and shattered the old record.  After the race, and nearly a full year before he would accomplish the goal,  he said, "This race made me realize that the four-minute mile was not out of reach.”  Other runners also had their sights set on breaking four minutes and a handful of athletes had dropped the time to 4:02.  They were getting ever so close, but it was still just out of reach.  It wasn’t until a cold day in May,  that the barrier that couldn’t be broken, was now not only possible, but accomplished.

What do we learn from this? There have been a number of academic papers written and books published over the years on this amazing feat.  There is admiration for how the record was broken given the lack of training, technological, and nutritional expertise they had at the time.  There are lessons of triumph, positive thinking, the will to succeed, and the human spirit to achieve the impossible.  I love, however, what one author summarized regarding the idea of “mindset”.  He wrote, “How is it that so many runners smashed the four-minute barrier after Bannister became the first to do it? “Was there a sudden growth spurt in human evolution? Was there a genetic engineering experiment that created a new race of super runners? No. What changed was the mental model. The runners of the past had been held back by a mindset that said they could not surpass the four-minute mile. When that limit was broken, the others saw that they could do something they had previously thought impossible.”

A mental model… “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Does our mindset, like these athletes of old, lead us to feel that we’ll get close, but never break through? Do we look for the perfect conditions, when all is right in the world, and say, “when that day comes, I’ll be able to get there?” If that is the belief we hold, we restrict ourselves of seeing progress on the wet and cold days where miracles may be waiting if we simply run the race. 

An additional thought… As our mindset reaches heavenward, and breaks new barriers, can it aid the progress of those we’ve come to bless and serve? Can the faith of one, your faith, lift the faith of another to heights they never thought possible?  Could the example of one, your example, allow another to change and become someone they never thought possible?  As you personally break barriers that seem out of reach, could it inspire others to do the same?  Imagine if your dedication, faith, effort, and your decision to make a goal and set a plan to do something truly amazing could have the same effect as the “Miracle Mile”. 

Elders & Sisters, each of you in your own way are running to break the four minute mile.  There may be things you feel that are impossible to accomplish and there may be days when you want to quit and hang it up.  What I love about this story of human triumph, is rather than feeling defeated, Bannister set a new goal and plan to break a barrier.  He modified his training, worked harder, patiently persisted, and then on a day that was the unlikeliest of days to succeed, his effort and determination paid off.  I have no doubt this is true for you and for all of God’s children.

The greatest “miracle mile”… The Savior broke the barrier that was truly impossible for any of us to overcome.  With His triumph, a new mindset for all of mankind was formed.  No longer is the barrier of death and sin unconquerable; the heavens are now again within our reach.  The power of the resurrection will bring us all forward to immortality and to stand before our Maker.  The blessing of repentance and the enabling power of the Savior’s grace will lift us to greater heights than we could ever imagine.  Because you believe in the Savior’s name and on His redeeming and saving power, your witness of these truths to the world can have the same barrier shattering effect in the lives of those you teach.  When you boldly testify in the name of Jesus Christ, and of His power to heal, forgive, comfort, bless, and make us whole, you inspire others to reach for what they once felt was impossible.  As His representatives, you help others understand, feel, and know that any barriers that hold them back can and will be broken as they come unto Him. I invite you to apply the Savior’s victory in your own life and trust that because He did it, it is now absolutely possible for you and for all of us to triumph.  I also invite you to always testify of the Savior’s infinite Atonement and love for each of us.  Never leave a lesson without sharing your witness of the Savior and how the unthinkable became a reality.  I testify in His name that all barriers have been broken, and that through His help, we will all finish the race with a record time.  Love ya!

President Hall