“Heroes,” New Era, June 1990, 4
Two or three years ago, while I was living in New Zealand, I received a magazine published for ministers. One of the main articles stated that today we live in a world where there is a “poverty of heroes.” The article stated that many people in high places were insincere, wicked, and even corrupt, and that the world was filled with people who could not be trusted or respected in any way. The article explained that young people living in this age are being cheated because of this unfortunate condition.
As I read, I kept thinking, “This is not true. The world is filled with heroes; it always has been and always will be!” Latter-day Saint youth are in a position to see heroes everywhere.
I remember as a young man how I looked up to our bishop. He didn’t speak English very well, but he was a marvelous leader and he loved us. He was an example of everything that was good and fine. He was my hero in my youth and still is.
I remember as a young missionary in New Zealand seeing men who stood way above the other people in that country because they had testimonies of the gospel and lived the way they should. One of them was a rugby player for the All Blacks (the equivalent of being an all-American football player in the U.S.). He had played rugby all over the world and told me that he always knelt down and prayed in the locker room before going out to play in any game. When I met him, his rugby career was over, but he was strong in the faith and a good, hard worker who could shear sheep with the best of the Maori men. He has always been one of my heroes.
I remember a marvelous sister who served for 25 years as the president of the New Zealand Mission Relief Society. In her home Elder Matthew Cowley, as a young missionary, translated the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price into the Maori language. As mission president he loved to go back to that home. To me she was one of the great women in the history of the Church. Her leadership lifted a whole nation of Latter-day Saints. To me she was a heroine in every way.
A few years ago when I was in Alaska, I met two elders. One had been converted about three years before in England and was now an excellent missionary.
The other elder was Jewish and had been converted only a year or two before. He said that one day, while he was at the beach in Santa Monica with some friends, he lay down to rest on a blanket. Another young fellow in the group—one whom he did not know well—came and sat by him. This stranger asked him if he would listen to an interesting story. The missionary then told me that for the first time in his life he heard about the Prophet Joseph Smith, the restoration of the gospel, and the Book of Mormon. He knew it was the truth and in a matter of three or four weeks he was ready to join the Church.
These two young missionaries in Alaska were heroes to me in a way. But the real hero was the boy on the beach in Santa Monica who had the courage to bear his testimony and tell that great story that changed the life of a fine young man.
I met a man in Florida who took 15 years to join the Church. But once he was in, he resolved to spend the rest of his life as a missionary. More than anything else, he liked to ask people questions about the gospel. He sold used cars, and one day an all-American football player asked him if he would sell him a small pickup truck. My friend said, “I’ll do that, but I want to ask you something far more important. What do you know about Moroni?”
“Moroni who?” the football player asked.
“I guess he doesn’t have a last name,” my friend said. He then persisted and taught the football player the gospel. Within a few weeks’ time the football player had joined the Church and has remained faithful ever since. My friend has brought close to one hundred people into the Church! To me he is a great hero and stands out as one of the best missionaries I have ever known.
I remember one time meeting a fine young married man who was not very large in stature. He was a professional jockey who had worked for some Latter-day Saint men who owned a large stable of fine racehorses. They taught him how to be a first-class jockey and chose him to ride a truly great horse that they owned. They also taught Johnny the gospel, and he joined the Church.
A year later, his bishop called him to go on a mission. Johnny said, “I can’t go. I’ve got to ride this special horse in the Kentucky Derby. I’m the only jockey who has ridden him.”
However, after some thought, Johnny went to his bosses and asked for their permission to go on a mission. They told him that they had a huge investment in him and couldn’t spare him to go on a mission because of the Derby and the other big races that were coming up. They were sure their horse would win the triple crown. However, neither of his Latter-day Saint bosses felt very good about their decision, so the next day they told him if he wanted to go on a mission, they wouldn’t stand in his way.
He went on his mission, and on the day of the Kentucky Derby, he went tracting in Canada while the horse he would have ridden won. It went on to win the triple crown. The other jockey earned over $200,000 while this fine young man taught the people of Canada the gospel. To me he is an outstanding hero.
Yes, there are heroes all about you. It is possible that your Laurel teacher or your priests quorum adviser or your Scoutmaster are heroes just as fine as any living on this earth. What about your seminary teacher, your bishop, your mother, or your father?
I think heroes are everywhere in our Church. They stand out in a world of sin and unrighteousness. May God bless us to recognize them and follow their fine examples. Even more than that, may he help us to become heroes to others as we serve him.