Stretching our abilities

At a recital by more than a dozen young pianists, the audience was treated to some familiar melodies played in unfamiliar tempos and meters. Each pianist played two or three selections. Notes were struck, the pianists completed all their numbers, the audience applauded even if they were surprised by some of the music.

What the music teacher had done was to stretch the abilities of her students. She had given them material they were comfortable with, then she had selected other pieces by other composers that used the same combination of notes only in different sequence. The result - even after weeks of practice by her young charges - was that some students had a difficult time matching the notes to the suggested rhythms and tempos.What was supposed to be a lively ballad was played almost as a funeral dirge. Popular tunes from familiar Broadway shows were mangled as young fingers searched for the right combination of notes on the keyboard. Some of the pianists shook their heads even as they accepted the polite applause accorded them.

Was she trying to embarrass her students, their parents and their friends by giving them more difficult music to play? Of course not. She kept time with her foot as each performed his or her selected pieces. Her applause for each performer was loud and sincere. She was her students' most enthusiastic supporter. She knew that each pianist had rehearsed the material; and she had sat with them as they struggled from unfamiliarity to crude mastery of the songs. She knew each of her students' talents, their strengths, their weaknesses, and she knew the pianists needed to perform these works in a public setting so that they might gain confidence in their own abilities.

We may be like the student pianists, often struggling to master our assignments in the Church.

But the Master Teacher knows each of us and has watched us as we struggle sometimes with new callings in the gospel. He knows we learn by doing and by emulating Him. He knows we need to practice to improve our abilities and develop new talents to aid the kingdom of God.

"And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

"For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept . . . " (D&C 98:11-12.)

Athletes know that some of the most important work takes place just before the race - stretching. By preparing the muscles to perform, an athlete avoids injury or other complications. Stretching is essential to peak performance and provides a foundation that allows a runner to lengthen his or her stride.

Applying that same principle to the gospel, President Spencer W. Kimball said, "When I think of the concept of lengthening our stride,' I, of course, apply it to myself as well as urging it upon the Church. Thelengthening of our stride' suggests urgency instead of hesitancy, `now' instead of tomorrow; it suggests not only an acceleration, but efficiency. It suggests, too, that the whole body of the Church move forward in unison with a quickening pace and pulse, doing our duty with all our heart, instead of halfheartedly. It means therefore, stretching all our muscles and drawing on all our resources.

"We cannot improve on the doctrines or the basic organization of the Church . . . we can improve on ourselves. We are not suggesting that we move faster than we are able or than would be wise, but rather a mobilization of our potential in order to move the kingdom forward for the more rapid and deeper benefit of our fellowmen everywhere." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 174-5.)

In the parable of the talents, the Lord "gave to every man according to his several ability." To those who had magnified their talents after a season, he rewarded them with more, but to the slothful servant, he took from him and gave to the one with ten.

"For everyone that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." (Matt. 25:29.)

Like the young pianists, we need to have confidence in our Teacher and in our own abilities to perform, even when the music before us may be unfamiliar. By stretching our abilities and our talents we be more prepared to move forward the Kingdom of God on Earth.

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