Over the past two weeks, hundreds of millions have enjoyed the 2012 Olympic Games in London. We have been collectively inspired by the almost unimaginable moments of athleticism and competition displayed on the court, pool, mat, field and track. Every four years we watch the summer Olympics and recalibrate the limits of human athletic capacity as men and women swim faster, jump higher and run stronger than ever before.
As in past Olympics, these games have minted a new generation of athletes whose medal-winning moments will be celebrated for decades to come. We will long associate, say, the tiny island nation of Jamaica with their blazing sprinters. Pixie-sized gymnasts will remain forever young and lithe, at least in our memories and highlight reels. And in the coming weeks, legions of little boys and girls will likely flock to the nearest community swimming pool or track-and-field club with visions of becoming an Olympian themselves one day.
The Olympic athletes are worthy of our admiration. Each competitor — from the archer to the weight lifter — has claimed a spot among the elite of their respective sport following years of hard work and sacrifice. And as we celebrate their athletic feats, let us also recognize and seek to emulate the many among us whose Christ-like lives and actions truly define human capacity and even offer a glimpse of the divine.
Such Christians are rarely awarded lucrative endorsements or find themselves on prime-time television. They are, instead, that quiet neighbor, a ward member, a co-worker or a classmate. But their prayerful dedication to living the right way separates them from the masses. They too are worthy of our admiration.
They are those who serve.
They are women and men of all ages and backgrounds who have come to understand King Benjamin's fundamental teaching: "When you are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" (Mosiah 2:17).
In a world that often defines "good living" by the quality of service one receives, we can celebrate those who, paradoxically, realize the good life by forgetting themselves and serving others. They are bishops, faithful visiting teachers, missionaries and Scoutmasters. Their call to service is not defined or limited by a formal calling. They begin each day with a prayer on their lips and in their hearts to find someone in need of their special gifts or talents.
In the October 2009 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson spoke of the importance of searching for opportunities to serve and succor the troubled, sick and lonely. "My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness — be they family members, friends, acquaintances or strangers. We are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us."
They are those who are peacemakers.
The world is often defined by conflict. Globally, tragic headlines of war, mass shootings and ethnic violence are placed high above the newspaper fold. In our own communities we sometimes hear of squabbles between neighbors, family quarrels and discord between ward or branch members. Prized is the man or woman who adheres to the Psalmist's counsel to "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath" (Psalm 37:8). Blessed be that person who can resolve differences and make friends of enemies.
To make peace is to follow Christ, our ultimate Peacemaker.
"The great peacemaker, the restorer of unity, is the one who finds a way to help people see the truth they share," said President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, at the October 2008 general conference. "That truth they share is always greater and more important to them than their differences. You can help yourself and others to see that common ground if you ask for help from God and then act. He will answer your prayer to help restore peace, as He has mine.
"That same principle applies as we build unity with people who are from vastly different backgrounds. The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution."
They are those who teach.
Every Olympian who ascends the medal podium can surely point to a coach or mentor who taught them the lessons of success. A wise, trusted teacher is often the difference in competitions decided by hundredths of a second or a single basket or goal. So it is with that beloved friend, home teacher, priesthood leader or parent who nourishes another "by the good word of God" (Moroni 6:4).
The need for inspired teachers, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, is everlasting.
"Fathers, mothers, siblings, friends, missionaries, home and visiting teachers, priesthood and auxiliary leaders, classroom instructors — each is, in his or her own way, 'come from God' for our schooling and our salvation. In this Church it is virtually impossible to find anyone who is not a guide of one kind or another to his or her fellow members of the flock.
"Little wonder that Paul would say in his writings, 'God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers' " (1 Corinthians 12:28).
They are those who obey.
The glory of the Olympic Games reached its crescendo in recent days. But the bright lights of the event will soon fade, literally and figuratively. Even the most decorated athlete will one day be set aside to make room for a future competitor who will be bigger, stronger or faster. But celestial glory is eternal. It can be enjoyed by all who choose to obey the Lord's counsel and commandments.
"If we will try with faith and prayer and resolution, we can accomplish great good, especially for our own souls," wrote President Gordon B. Hinckley. "May we be willing and obedient, that we may eat the good of the land" (Ensign, June 1995).