It sounds like Chandler and Bryce's birthdays went well. I went to church...that's how I celebrated. I did that...and planning. Yep. Planning is the best. But I wish them both the best and hope their birthdays were great!
Phedipides (I don't actually know how you spell his name, it's pronounced "feh-dip-eh-deez"--we just call him P-Diddy) was the runner for the original Marathon. From Marathon to Athens is actually 24 miles, not 26.2. Now the myth (as I've heard it) says he died at Athens after delivering the message. But that's just what I've always heard. Where we get the extra 2.2 miles is actually really weird. Some Olympics in England one year (in I believe the early 1900s), the Queen wanted the finish of the race to be in front of the castle (or wherever she was at) so she didn't have to move in order to see the end of the race. Now for some reason, they decided that instead of moving the starting line 2.2 miles up, they just extended the race 2.2 miles. So actually, a full Marathon is 24 miles. But they extended it for the Queen. Hank Smith talks a little bit about it in his talk "Running Down Your Dreams." It's a great talk, you should listen to it.
Now that race kind of reminds me of something Elder Keller (one of the assistants to the President) was telling Elder Gooch and I about last night. They're changing the standard of excellence starting tomorrow and they were telling us about them. They're very very high for the mission average, and that can be kind of discouraging and daunting for those who are doing their best to reach them. So we were kind of confused as to how we would pass this information down to the other missionaries and motivate them do reach for the standards of excellence. Elder Keller was mentioning that the standards of excellence aren't a quota. They're a tool to help us build our faith and raise our expectations. We were discussing about how to view the standards and he asked me if I did track. I told him yes. Then he asked "When do you stop running?" I told him "AFTER you cross the finish line." He said "Right, so the way the standards are going to work is, these are not the end goal. These are numbers that we can use to increase our faith to fulfill our purpose. Our goal is that we will eventually reach far beyond these numbers. Our goal is to find teach and baptize more than these numbers indicate. This is a baseline for how the work will develop." A lot of the time, I believe, when we set goals, we set them too low. We're afraid of not being able to reach them, so we don't set them very high. As a result, we don't even accomplish those goals. I believe we can do a lot more than we think we can. Especially when we involve God. So with the standards of excellence--those are high goals. In order to reach them, we have to be looking beyond the standards of excellence. In order to reach the standards of excellence, we have to know that we don't stop running until after we've crossed the finish line. That's the only way we're going to be able to succeed. In order to reach them, our faith has to be in something bigger than numbers. Our commitment has to be in something greater than tracting. Something better than teaching. Something more infinite than just coming to church. Maybe I'm not making sense, but it's awesome to be out here and part of this work. We listened to a talk recently by President Hinckly called "Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep." Listen to the way he sets goals. Think about his faith. Take a look. Set goals like President Hinckly does. ;)
I love this work. I love being a missionary. I love the gospel. I know it's true. I know the Savior lives. That He loves us. That He wants us to be happy. The Atonement is real. The Gospel is real. They blessings are real. The Priesthood is real. I know it for sure.