On sunlit days during the noon hour, the streets of Salt Lake City abound with men and women who for a moment leave the confines of the tall office buildings and engage in that universal delight called window shopping. On occasion I, too, am a participant.
One Wednesday I paused before the elegant show window of a prestigious furniture store. That which caught and held my attention was not the beautifully designed sofa nor the comfortable appearing chair that stood at its side. Neither was it the beautiful chandelier positioned overhead. Rather, my eyes rested on a small sign that had been placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the window. Its message was brief: “FINISHERS WANTED.”
The store had need of those persons who possessed the talent and the skill to make ready for final sale the expensive furniture the firm manufactured and sold. “Finishers Wanted.” The words remained with me as I returned to the pressing activities of the day.
In life, as in business, there has always been a need for those persons who could be called finishers. Their ranks are few, their opportunities many, their contributions great.
From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter, or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come.
We are not left without guidance to make this momentous decision. The Holy Bible contains those accounts, even those lessons that, if carefully learned, will serve us well and be as a beacon light to guide our thoughts and influence our actions. As we read, we sympathize with those who falter. We honor those who finish.
The Apostle Paul likened life to a great race when he declared, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” (1 Cor. 9:24.) And before the words of Paul fell upon the ears of his listeners, the counsel of the son of David, king in Jerusalem, cautioned, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” (Eccl. 9:11.)
Could the son of David have been referring to his own father? Judged by any standards, the greatest king Israel ever had was David. Anointed by Samuel, he was honored by the Lord.
In the first flush of his incredible triumphs, David rode the crest of popularity. As he achieved fresh victories, in adoration the people exclaimed: “Behold, we are thy bone and flesh.” (2 Sam. 5:1.) Power he won, but peace he lost.
It happened late one afternoon when David was walking on the rooftop patio of the king’s house that he saw a woman bathing. “And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, … the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So “David sent messengers, and took her.” (2 Sam. 11:3–4.)
The gross sin of adultery was followed by yet another. Commanded David: “Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.” (2 Sam. 11:15.) Lust and power had triumphed.
David’s rebuke came from the Lord God of Israel: “Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife. …
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house.” (2 Sam. 12:9–10.)
David commenced well the race, then faltered and failed to finish his course.
Lest we lull ourselves into thinking that only the gross sins of life cause us to falter, consider the experience of the rich young man who came running to the Savior and asked the question: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus answered him: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
“He saith unto him, Which?”
To Jesus’ enumeration of the commandments, the young man replied, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, … and come and follow me.
“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:16–18, 20–22.)
He preferred the comforts of earth to the treasures of heaven. He would not purchase the things of eternity by abandoning those of time.
So it was with Judas Iscariot. He commenced his ministry as an Apostle of the Lord. He ended it a traitor. For thirty paltry pieces of silver, he sold his soul. At last, realizing the enormity of his sin, Judas, to his patrons and temptors, cried out: “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” (Matt. 27:4.) Remorse led to despair, despair to madness, and madness to suicide. He had succeeded in betraying the Christ. He had failed to finish the apostolic ministry to which he had been divinely called.
Lust for power, greed of gold, and disdain of one’s honor have ever appeared as faces of failure in the panorama of life. Captivated by their artificial attraction, many noble souls have stumbled and fallen, thus losing the crown of victory reserved for the finisher of life’s great race.
Let us turn from the lives of those who faltered and consider some who finished and won the prize.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was perfect and upright and one who feared God and eschewed evil. Pious in his conduct, prosperous in his fortune, Job was to face a test that would tempt any man. Shorn of his possessions, scorned by his friends, afflicted by his suffering, even tempted by his wife to blame God, Job was to declare from the depths of his noble soul: “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.” (Job 16:19.) “I know that my redeemer liveth.” (Job 19:25.) Job did not falter. Job became a finisher.
Following the earthly ministry of the Lord, there were many who, rather than deny their testimony of him, would forfeit their lives. Such was Paul the Apostle. The decision of his father to send him to Jerusalem opened the door to Paul’s destiny. He would pass through it and help shape a new world.
Gifted in his capacity to stir, move, and manage groups of men, Paul was a peerless example of one who nobly made the transition from sinner to saint. Though disappointment, heartache, and trial were to beset him, yet Paul, at the conclusion of his ministry, could say: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7.) Like Job, Paul was a finisher.
He admonished us to “lay aside … sin” and to “run with patience the race … , looking [for an example] unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb. 12:1–2.)
Though Jesus was tempted by the evil one, he resisted. Though he was hated, he loved. Though he was betrayed, he triumphed. Not in a cloud of glory or chariot of fire was Jesus to depart mortality, but with arms outstretched in agony upon the cruel cross. The magnitude of his mission is depicted in the simplicity of his words. To his Father he prayed, “The hour is come. … I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:1, 4.) “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46.) Mortality ended. Eternity began.
Times change and circumstances vary, but the true marks of a finisher remain. Note them well, for they are vital to our success.
The Mark of Vision. It has been said that the door of history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. We are constantly making small decisions. The outcome determines the success or failure of our lives. That is why it is worthwhile to look ahead, to set a course, and at least be partly ready when the moment of decision comes. True finishers have the capacity to visualize their objective.
The Mark of Effort. Vision without effort is daydreaming; effort without vision is drudgery; but vision, coupled with effort, will obtain the prize.
Needed is the capacity to make that second effort when life’s challenges lay us low.
Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honor, power, place and praise
Will always come to the one who stays. Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it, too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories after a while.
3. The Mark of Faith. Many years ago the psalmist wrote: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (Ps. 118:8–9.) Recognize that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.
4. The Mark of Virtue. “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.” (D&C 121:45.) This counsel from the Lord will provide staying power in the race we run.
5. The Mark of Courage. Have the courage—
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong,
To love, pure and chaste from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!*
And you will thus become a finisher.
6. The Mark of Prayer. When the burdens of life become heavy, when trials test one’s faith, when pain, sorrow, and despair cause the light of hope to flicker and burn low, communication with our Heavenly Father provides peace.
These, the marks of a true finisher, will be as a lamp to our feet in the journey through life. Ever beckoning us onward and lifting us upward is he who pleaded, “Come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22.)
Frequently God’s help comes silently—and though silently, occasionally with dramatic impact. Such was my experience some years ago when, as a mission president, I was afforded the privilege to guide the activities of precious missionaries whom He had called. Some had problems, others required motivation; but one came to me in utter despair. He had made the decision to leave the mission field when but at the halfway mark. His bags were packed, his return ticket purchased. He came to bid me farewell.
We talked; we listened; we prayed. There remained hidden the actual reason for his decision to quit. As we arose from our knees in the quiet of my office, the missionary began to weep almost uncontrollably. Flexing the muscle in his strong right arm, he blurted out, “This is my problem. All through school my muscle power qualified me for honors in football and track, but my mental power was neglected. President Monson, I’m ashamed of my school record. It reveals that ‘with effort’ I have the capacity to read at but the level of the fourth grade. I can’t even read the Book of Mormon. How then can I understand its contents and teach others its truths?”
The silence of the room was broken by my young nine-year-old son who, without knocking, opened the door and, with surprise, apologetically said, “Excuse me. I just wanted to put this book back on the shelf.” He handed me the book. Its title: A Child’s Story of the Book of Mormon, by Dr. Deta Petersen Neeley. I turned to the author’s preface and read that this book was written with a scientifically controlled vocabulary to the level of the fourth grade. A sincere prayer from an honest heart had been dramatically answered.
My missionary accepted the challenge to read the book. Half laughing, half crying, he declared: “It will be good to read something I can understand.” Clouds of despair were dispelled by the sunshine of hope. He completed an honorable mission. He became a finisher.
I am happy I walked by that furniture store and gazed at the small sign in the large shop window. Everyone can benefit from the true meaning of its words: “FINISHERS WANTED.”
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
In the race of life, our answer to the questions “Shall I falter, or shall I finish?” determines whether we will receive the blessings of joy that await us here in mortality and hereafter in eternity.
We are not left without guidance as we make life’s momentous decisions. The scriptures contain many lessons that serve as beacons to us.
To be finishers, we need to visualize the objective, work with effort toward the goal, apply sincere faith in the Lord, be virtuous, take courage when needed, and seek help from our Heavenly Father.
Relate your feelings about how a person can receive the highest blessings of God here in mortality as well as hereafter in eternity. Ask family members to share their feelings.
Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?