From the time I was a small boy in western Canada I have loved horses. Until I was about 15 years old, my father always made sure that my brothers and I had a horse. Over the years we owned several. Some were sleepy ponies. One or two were spirited and well-bred. From the time I was a young priest until about age 50 circumstances made it impossible for me to have a horse even though I still loved them. During the past few years I have owned a well-bred mare.
Although my schedule limits my contact with these horses, they have been a source of happiness to me; but more importantly, they have exposed me to some very valuable lessons that have helped me learn to honor my priesthood, both as an Aaronic Priesthood youth and as an adult. I should like to share some of them with you.
One day my father brought home a beautiful, spirited thoroughbred. She had been fully trained as a polo pony. She happened to be about half a hand too small to qualify for the buyer of the rest of the string, so my father bought her for us. This was one of the most exciting gifts I had ever had. Here was a prize any boy would be thrilled with. She could take off like a jack rabbit. She could stop on a dime, back up almost on a run, do anything any other horse could do, and do it better. She was a thoroughbred; yet, she lacked one thing. Almost every time I got on her, she ran away with me. Perhaps it was my fault, but she simply would not accept authority. She would take the bit in her teeth and take off, paying no attention to where I wanted to go. She was a rebel. All her training and talent were lost because she was headstrong and resented authority. We had named her Lady, but it was not long before we stopped calling her Lady and finally gave her away.
Clipper was a beautiful sorrel. He was half thoroughbred and a well-trained cow pony. When we turned him loose in the field after a hard day’s ride, he would kick up his heels and run and buck just like a frisky colt. One day I was trying to drive our cow home but to no avail; so I roped her, wrapping the rope around the horn of my saddle. Just as she came to the end of the rope, the cinch on my saddle broke, and both the saddle and I ended up on the ground under Clipper. He had been running hard and was excited, yet he stopped instantly and did not move a muscle until I was out of danger.
Now to Katie, the horse I acquired a few years ago. She has a very prestigious pedigree. Each of her parents was a champion. Katie is a beautiful chestnut. She is intelligent and holds her head high. Her first foal has won many ribbons in competition in harness and in the three-gaited class.
When we first got Katie she was in poor condition. She had been mistreated and not fed properly. But I felt that with proper care she would respond, and she did. She is the best bred and most handsome horse I have ever owned. She would be a real champion except for one thing—she has never learned proper discipline. Her early training was poor. She is fun to ride for a short while. She prances, holds her head high, lifts her feet, and looks wonderful; but the moment she is startled or comes upon an unknown object, she loses her head. One day she was startled by a dog. She reared up on her hind legs, causing her to fall over on her back and on me, injuring my leg. She then struggled to her feet and ran like a frightened deer. With all her beauty and intelligence, she is now out to pasture.
Suzzie was Katie’s foal. She is about six years old now. She is as beautiful as her mother. Suzzie received some training about three years ago. Since then her training has been used very seldom. She has almost retrogressed to the level of her performance prior to her first handling. Had she been worked with regularly, she would now be a delight to ride.
In no way do I equate the intelligence of a fine young man with that of a horse. However, I do think there is much wisdom in the saying “He has good common horse sense.” You priests in the Aaronic Priesthood are of a royal generation. You are sons of God with great power and unlimited potential. You have been in training for the past five or six years in preparation for the greatest honor and responsibility that comes to man, and that is the Melchizedek Priesthood—the power to act in the name of God and have your actions ratified in the heavens. In the process of your training, you have been taught by presiding officers, particularly your bishop who is president of your quorum. He has given you instruction with regard to the sacrament service and baptism and your responsibility for home teaching and now is giving you instruction in leadership in the Aaronic Priesthood MIA program. He has taught you how your appearance and cleanliness both externally and internally are so important if you are to be a proper example to others.
As you preside at the sacrament table, you are making it possible for members of the Church to renew their covenants with the Lord. This you do through the power of your priesthood. As you perform a baptism, you exercise the same priesthood John the Baptist held as he baptized the Savior in the River Jordan. And as you “visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (D&C 20:47), you are again exercising your priesthood as a home teacher.
If you have learned these lessons well, you will have found the fulfillment that can come only from service to your fellowmen, which, of course, is service to your God. These principles can help you overcome the power of Satan, which in one form is rebellion. You will find a harmony with those in authority, and you will in very deed become a true thoroughbred prepared to serve as a missionary, be married in the temple, and assume responsibilities of great leadership in the Church.
Along with your bishop I have great faith in each of you and know that as you fully honor your priesthood you will participate in the building of the kingdom of God on earth in your own significant way. I pray the Lord’s blessing on you as you continue your quest for excellence.