“You’re crazy,” my weight lifting buddies told me when they heard I would soon be leaving our sport for two years to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“You’ve been the Idaho state power-lifting champ in your class for the past four years, you’ve just won the Teenage National power-lifting title for the second time, and now Boise State wants to interview you for a position as their strength coach. You’re leaving all that behind to go out and preach? You’re crazy!” they said again, shaking their heads.
Crazy? I hoped not. I did worry a little about how much my competitors would progress while I was away, and I knew that I would lose some lifting ability, but I also knew that I had put a lot of time into training, and hoped that it all wouldn’t just disappear.
I found some comfort in Matthew 16:24–26, [Matt. 16:24–26] which taught me I should deny myself and follow the Savior, that it would profit me nothing if I gained the whole world but lost my own soul.
Besides, going on a mission was something I’d decided on a long time ago. Ever since I was little, the conversations around the dinner table involved comments like “When I go on my mission … ,” not “If I go on a mission …”
So off I went, to Seoul, Korea. I made the decision not to worry about weight lifting while I was gone—I would concentrate on serving the Lord. One thing lifting had taught me was that the loss of concentration can lead to failure. You lose your concentration, your goal disappears from your mind, and you never reach it. So I decided to put all the powers of concentration I’d learned in the gym to use in the mission field, and it worked!
It wasn’t easy, of course. Challenging people with the gospel was as hard as trying to lift a heavy weight. But when our investigators accepted our message, the feeling was far greater than winning a weight lifting competition ever was.
On my mission, I learned a lot about a different kind of lifting. The mission president encouraged us to try helping someone every day. That way, we would lift them, and lift ourselves. Service to others, service to the Lord—now that was true power lifting.
Once I got home, I took up weight lifting again, but with a considerably different attitude. I’d never looked on my weight lifting talent as a gift before. I hadn’t thought that training was a way of magnifying that talent. I began training with a new intensity. Also, I figured that as I continued to work hard, I would have more opportunities to meet people who didn’t have the gospel in their lives, and I could share it with them. And maybe my example could help someone.
It wasn’t easy to jump right back into lifting, but within seven months I won the National Collegiate Power Lifting Championship in the 198-pound weight class. The following year I won it again, and even managed to set two national records. It dawned on me that I hadn’t lost anything, but I’d gained a great deal. I’d learned about true happiness, determination, self-worth, and the belief in a divine purpose—and oh, yes—I’d learned what true power lifting really is.