Several years ago my daughter and her friend were high school basketball players and trying to balance sports, social life, and academics. They had chosen to leave their basketball team during “team bonding time” between school and their evening games to study for the next day’s exams. As I drove them to our house to study, they were anxious because some team members were giving them a hard time about leaving. My daughter’s friend in her anxiety texted her mom and described the discomfort she was feeling from her team’s social pressure. Her mom advised her to “go ahead and study, and move on and let the team’s pressure go. Take the high road.” What great advice.
What is the “high road” and why is it better? In this case, taking the high road meant trading the approval of teammates for a needed study session. Taking the high road implies a choice about how we spend our time and our emotional energy. Imagine that road above the noise of life, above the haze and fog; it’s a place that is peaceful and has great visibility. The high road lets us give and receive according to true laws of nature and life, and with greater visibility, we make wise decisions that give us peace.
Joseph of Egypt, Daniel, and Esther did not set out to be great--they were simply trying to survive. But as they struggled to survive, they made decisions with integrity, staying true to their trust in God’s love for them, their faith in the value of his commandments, and their vision of their individual worth in God’s eyes. The sum and continuing consequences of their choices made them great. How is it they were able to face such adversity with so much integrity? How did they find and stay on the “high road”?
Paul taught the saints at Corinth that as they incorporate the teachings of Jesus Christ into their lives, they will change—transform if you will: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). Elder Carl B. Cook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught, “The Savior is asking us only to lose our old self in order to find our new self. It is not a question of losing our identity but of finding our ‘true identity.’ Using a cowboy’s words, I would say that God asks us to give up a penny in order to receive a dollar.”
Becoming the person God wants us to be is a lifelong endeavor. We are shaped by our actions, decisions, and thoughts. “The final judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become,” taught Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Joseph, Daniel, and Esther had become true disciples of Jesus Christ: “new creatures” who desired to do their Heavenly Father’s will. Because of their devotion to Jesus, they lived by the commandments they knew. They relied on God for strength and protection and received it. Their faith was mighty, and their blessings great.
Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was a farmer and served as the US Secretary of Agriculture. He later served as prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Throughout his life, he witnessed people’s efforts to improve their circumstances. Benson observed, “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.”
That afternoon in Wasilla, my daughter and her friend studied, did well on their exams and played well in their basketball game that night with their team. My daughter has since graduated from college, married a wonderful man and is raising a sweet family. But more than that, she also is “becoming” a faithful disciple. Living on the “high road” takes some diligent effort and desire, but the results are well worth it!
Beth Wright and her husband Kerry have raised their four children in the Matanuska-Susitna valley, enjoy the great Alaskan outdoors and find great joy in being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.