On May 29, 1953, at 11:30 a.m., 33-year-old New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary and 39-year-old Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay stood atop the earth’s highest mountain — Mount Everest — which stands 29,029 feet above sea level.
After years of dreaming about it, months of preparation and seven weeks climbing, the two made history as they became the first confirmed climbers to complete the difficult ascent to the top. For Hilary and Norgay, making it to the summit meant they had accomplished what many expert mountaineers had only attempted — some even losing their lives due to altitude sickness, weather, wind and other dangers.
News broke of the exciting feat, and journalists from around the world kept asking the climbers which of the two men had been the first to summit Mount Everest. Recognizing no one could have made it to the peak alone, the two refused to report who reached the summit first. For years the climbers claimed they had made the ascent to the summit — and history — together.
On the 50th anniversary of the climb in an interview published in The Scotsman, Hillary explained that the climbers had never discussed who would be first up. “It really did not matter to me, as the entire expedition was very much a team affair,” Hillary was reported saying.
The Scotsman reported Tenzing as having called the climb the “great moment for which I had waited all my life.” He recognized there was “no more up.”
When Hillary explained why they did not focus on who reached the summit first, The Scotsman reported him as saying: “We had cooked up the story that we got there in unison — after all, there was no one there to dispute that. I felt it was no big deal, as I was just part of an overall team effort, and one of two, with Tenzing Norgay, to make it to the top. I did not see it as a deception or a distortion of history, and I still view it that way 50 years on” (“Hillary and Tenzing’s Everest summit agreement,” by Stephen McCinty, The Scotsman, Wednesday, May 29, 2013).
Hillary and Tenzing had studied their terrain, they had listened to their guides, they were prepared and they worked together. Their plan was not focused on the glory and fame of who finished first; they needed each other to make their goal.
Like the mountaineers, Heavenly Father has created a plan for His children to successfully summit even the hardest terrain and return to Him. His plan includes teamwork, and allows all who are willing to work together and follow Him the opportunity for eternal life.
“I am certain we left our Father with an overwhelming desire to return to Him, that we might gain the exaltation He planned for us and which we ourselves so much wanted,” said President Thomas S. Monson during the October 2014 general conference. “Although we are left to find and follow that path which will lead us back to our Father in Heaven, He did not send us here without direction and guidance. Rather, He has given us the tools we need, and He will assist us as we seek His help and strive to do all in our power to endure to the end and gain eternal life.”
Following spiritual guides, personal preparation and hard work are crucial to Heavenly Father’s plan. Most important is the Savior, who willingly atoned for every person without seeking the glory for Himself.
“There is no greater expression of love than the heroic Atonement performed by the Son of God,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the April 2004 general conference. “Were it not for the plan of our Heavenly Father, established before the world began, in a very real sense, all mankind — past, present, and future — would have been left without the hope of eternal progression.”
Just as Hillary and Tenzing experienced setbacks and difficulty along the path, every person will experience storms and hard times. There may be times when a person feels like he or she isn’t able to keep moving or took a wrong turn. Through relying on the Atonement of Christ, all are able to make it to the summit and return home safely.
As people follow the Savior’s example, they are able to help others along the way.
“May we ever watch over one another, assisting in times of need,” President Monson said in the closing session of the October 2012 general conference. “Let us not be critical and judgmental but let us be tolerant, ever emulating the Savior’s example of loving-kindness. In that vein, may we willingly serve one another. May we pray for the inspiration to know of the needs of those around us, and then may we go forward and provide assistance.”
As individuals help others reach the summit, they too are progressing.
The Savior taught: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
President Lorenzo Snow taught: “We have been sent into the world to do good to others; and in doing good to others we do good to ourselves. We should always keep this in view. … There is always opportunity to do good to one another” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 22: “Doing Good to Others”).