Because it is important that we know and understand the principles of the gospel, it should not surprise us that Heavenly Father frequently exemplifies them in the world around us. There is one principle so important that it is persistently taught in a variety of settings.
I call it the “Law of Resistance,” and I thought about it recently on an early bike ride while in Arizona. It was a beautiful day and a person can cover long distances relatively quickly on a bicycle — if they are willing to pedal.
However, biking and pedaling involve resistance. Pursuing your journey comes at a cost. When you pedal and do so consistently, you will find that it is taxing and takes effort. It takes your feet and leg muscles pushing against the pedals to make forward progress.
The same holds true with weightlifting. You pick a weight up in your hand and you lift and curl it to your shoulder. It may not be difficult at first but after a number of repetitions — because you encounter resistance — you begin to feel the "burn" in your arm.
So why does a person lift weights? Why does a person take bike rides? Why do some choose to attack steep hills?
It is because they seek greater physical strength and they recognize the personal benefits of strong legs and strong arms. After all, legs are the primary “vehicle” that accommodate human mobility, and strong arms and legs allow a person to lift and carry heavy loads. Humans benefit by increasing or maintaining good leg and arm strength, and this happens only when a person continues physical activity in the face of resistance.
A person can also observe the benefits, or lack of, when there is resistance in this thing we call the human experience. I have seen parents, and have at times been one, who feel compelled to give their children everything they desire without requiring anything of the child. Some parents spend their lives trying to protect their child from sorrow, from loss, from difficulty, from work, from sacrifice. They think they have done their child a favor when their child encounters no resistance in life.
Conversely, I have seen parents who set rules and boundaries, who expect their children to work, who set reasonable expectations and who allow natural consequences — for good or bad — to take effect in their child’s life.
From my observations, protected and entitled children spend a lot of time expecting others to do for them what they should otherwise be able to do for themselves. They sometimes complain, “It’s not fair,” when things get hard or don’t go the way they want them to go. Tragically, when one looks a little closer, those same individuals often have little self-esteem or an overweening sense of self and entitlement. As young adults or adults, they frequently do not know how to cope or how to surmount challenges. Having never faced and overcome resistance, they do not have the emotional or mental strength to bounce back from adversity; they are not capable of gritting their teeth and forging ahead.
Isn’t it ironic, however, that many humans seek spiritual strength and fortitude — they want to know God and his son, Jesus Christ, better, and to know Christ’s gospel is true; they want greater faith, and eternal life — but they are not too keen on getting on the bike and building spiritual muscle. They prefer to avoid resistance in their quest for salvation.
The reality is that just as we need resistance to build physical and emotional strength, we need resistance to build spiritual strength. Spiritual strength and growth take effort, work, patience and perseverance.
There are many things a person can do to increase spiritual muscle. It should come as no surprise that they often involve resistance, repetition and dedicated effort and that they are encouraged by prophets, apostles and leaders on a regular basis. We need to:
• Feast upon, not just read, the word of God on a daily basis. Our minds will be opened and we will gain insight and find great strength as we discipline ourselves to study the stories, teachings and doctrines of the gospel in the scriptures.
• Pray. True prayer is not kneeling and reeling off a quick, rote prayer. Prayer demands intense concentration, persistence and perseverance if we hope to commune with our Heavenly Father. We also cannot simply talk at God but we must listen and obey what he would have us do, and we must persist if we do not receive an immediate answer.
• Regularly attend church and partake of the sacrament. We need to “repetitively” renew our covenant “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” As we regularly attend and bring a humble spirit with us to church, we will be edified, uplifted and strengthened.
• Serve others. We can’t just know the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must do the gospel of Jesus Christ to be true disciples. We have to get on the bike, pedal furiously and observe where we can help others; then go and help.
Each one of us who seeks to become a disciple of Christ will face resistance in the world in which we live. We need to recognize resistance as an opportunity to build greater spiritual strength, and this is best accomplished as we spiritually exercise by engaging in scripture study, prayer, attending church and performing charitable acts of service.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part-time at BYU. Her views do not necessarily represent those of BYU.