Sunday, May 18, 2014


Like many American youth my fascination with the balls used in sports activities was a big part of my right of passage.

I don't remember my personal period of playing roly-poly. For the uninitiated, roly-poly is played by two people sitting opposite one another on the floor with their legs stretched out in front in a V-shape, forming a diamond, and gently rolling a ball back and forth. The reason I am pretty sure this was my initial introduction to the wonder of sports related balls is that I do remember playing roly-poly with my not too much younger nieces and nephews.

I can remember there was a time pretty early in my life, when all ball throwing, hitting or kicking was relegated to the out of doors. To insure this rule would be followed, my mother made a permanent move of the ball box to the garage.

By the time we had moved to Long Beach, California my proficiency of throwing, hitting or kicking balls had advanced to the point where in elementary school, I was usually chosen among the first tier of participants. I know this practice has become non-politically correct, but we were just a bunch of kids having fun and the last person chosen was just as much a friend in the group as the first.

As the years passed it was noticeable that the number of my friends who had participated in ball related activities during the elementary years continued to dwindle until only a few of them were still hitting, throwing or kicking balls by the time we graduated from high school.

I will always contend that their diminished interest had more to do with discovering their talents were greater in other pursuits of life than it did in being chosen last during their elementary years. As far as my own athletic acumen, early on I discovered that if I kept to small ponds I could be a pretty big fish, but as soon as I ventured into large bodies of water I became aware of the existence of the really big fish.

I have come to believe that those who really excel at hitting, kicking and throwing balls have been gifted with a higher level of natural hand and eye coordination, DNA inherited heightened statures and muscular physiques and an above average ability to focus attention on detail, dedication and determination. These factors coupled with many hours spent in the gym or on the field brought them to the point where they were whales in the competitive oceans of the world.

I think we could do a like progressive profile on those who have excelled in the arts, the sciences, in business, in politics or whatever field in which the selection of the most capable and the most successful can be measured and we would find a similar winnowing taking place.

However, in the game of life, which is, when all is said and done, the only game which matters, every fish is in an individual pond, mysteriously mingling with all other fish, none of which are used to measure the advancement of each individual fish.

As in all things where Heavenly Father is involved, the judgment of our mortal probationary period can be totally perfect because of the individual standard by which each of us will be judged. The variables of our individual standards are infinite, but they surely include: the epoch when we sojourn in mortality, the place of our birth, the familial situations into which we are born, the amount of truth available, our progression in our First Estate, the educational opportunities which are available to us, the length of time we spend in mortality, the health and well being of our physical bodies, our individual levels of motivation and ability, etc., etc., etc.

As Neal A. Maxwell was fond of saying “one of the biggest deterrents to progression is the comparing of crosses.” After all, the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys of life’ may give us some comfort, as we measure our small lot against the plenty of our neighbors, but these excuses will seldom lead to an escalation of our stations in life.

Thankfully, our Heavenly Father, who brings great comfort to our lives, only expects us to progress in this life according to our particular circumstances. Our progress will always be measured by our individual daily movements as compared to where we were yesterday.

Shortly before leaving mortality Elder Maxwell taught, “None of us will leave life having accomplished all that we wanted to do.” And I quickly add, or all that can be done. When we depart from mortality, regardless of our individual ponds we will yet lack many a mile of inchworm steps before we begin to approach that perfection which the Savior encouraged us to strive for. Sizes of ponds and fish have no significance in the measuring sticks of the Lord.

Like playing roly-poly as a child, we begin this most important of all pursuits in life by trying to eliminate those things in our lives which would cause us continual damage and suffering.

We take our game outside and strive to eliminate doing or saying those things which would cause others misery and pain.

We learn through constant repetition, those skills which make the road of all the players around us more easily traveled.

We practice and practice at becoming good and honorable people.

We make feeble mortal attempts at acquiring the perfections, attributes and characteristics of Godliness.

In the ultimate game of life, our only challenge in the pond we have been given is just to become a bit better today than we were yesterday.


  1. A veces no es facil seguir adelante, y mejorando dentro de la pecera pero sé que el Señor nos ha dotado de talentos y ayuda divina para lograrlo. Me esforzaré cada día por ser mejor que ayer. Tengo mis convenios y mi familia que son los que me animan.

    Muchas Gracias Presidente Riley.

    Roberto Guzman

  2. muchas gracias por estos mensajes tan hermosos y tan valiosos en estos momentos difíciles de mi vida.


  3. Thank you for a wonderful thought. I remember your athletic prowess-I think you have downplayed your abilities and accomplishments. I myself suffer from the adage "the older I get the better I was" though I didn't have that much to start with in the first place. I hope life finds you encompassed about by the joy of the Lord and with family ties that warm your heart. God Bless You!

    Mike Kiley

  4. As one fish to another; thanks for you lat bubbles. I'm glad I'm not alone in the tank. I will think about you as I cast my Royal Coachman into the pond up in Silverton, CO this summer. I enjoy your "Thoughts" more than you will ever know.

    Paul Hansen

  5. Dear Bill and Kathleen.

    Once again you have hit a home run. Thanks for your continued wisdom. Love.

    Wayne Abbot


    Mercedes Castillo

  7. Hello Brother Riley:
    It's been a long time, but I am thankful to Sandie Johnson for forwarding your first Easter message. This is Gayle Randall. I was formerly Gayle Jordan from Lakepoint who attended Tooele High Seminary from 1969 to 1973. I love these messages, but I love even more the flood of memories that comes back to me when I think of our association together as student and teacher at the seminary. Back in November of 2011, my husband and I entered the MTC for our third mission, this one to Sierra Leone. On the row in front of us a couple introduced themselves as Elder and Sister Grover. I knew it had to be Ron or perhaps a brother ( I had not seen him for many years). When I asked him if he taught seminary at Tooele Seminary, Erica said, "Gayle, is that you?!" What a small world and what a fun experience to be in the MTC together. I would never have predicted that 40+ years ago! So glad to reconnect with men who made such an impact on my teenage testimony. Brings tears to my eyes to think of it!

    Gayle Jordan Randall

  8. Thank you, Bill, for more great thoughts! You always make me step back and little and examine exactly what I believe you're saying is what I, also, believe. I must agree with you again, and feel your quote from Neal A Maxwell and your "added" thought were "right on" -- we will indeed not accomplish all we wanted to do in this life before we depart from it, or all that we could have done -- but we must try to the very end to be able to say that we have at least tried!!!!!

    Love you! Carla

  9. And it seems that although we strive for improvement, and usually see it; we see our faults more clearly, realizing we have so much farther to go on that path of improvement.

    Jean Seavey