Like a 6-foot quarterback blinded by the view on the field, we must learn to throw by faith.
When I retired from football in 2000, I had not sat in the stands to watch a football game in my whole life. I had only played or watched on TV. A couple years later I went back to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park to watch a game, and I heard all the comments. You know: “Throw it there!” “What are you looking at?” “It’s obvious!” And I thought to myself, “It is obvious! What is he looking at? You’ve gotta be kidding me! Throw it now! Move! Turn! Jump! What are you doing?!” All my playing days I wondered why everyone was so sure that I should have played better. But watching from the stands, it became obvious to me that the view was very different on the field.
I’m only 6 feet tall. My football card says 6-foot-2, and in shoes I really am 6-2, but it was a dream to be 6-2 because “6-foot” and “quarterback” don’t go together well in the NFL because everybody else is 6-5, 6-6, 6-7. Many times I would drop back to pass, look for Jerry Rice, and see nothing but bodies in front of me. So I would start to run around to get visibility. And then, inevitably, I would be tackled and sacked for a loss. And the coach would say, “Steve, Jerry Rice was open. You were protected. Why didn’t you throw the ball?”
“Couldn’t see him.”
And then the great comment back: “You’d better start seeing him.”
It was really all about perspective, or lack of perspective, and how I had to learn to throw it blind. I wasn’t going to grow. I couldn’t put springs on my feet. There were no stilts, no high heels. The perspective was what it was. So I dealt with it by saying to myself, “I just saw Jerry Rice. I know where he’s going. I’m going to throw it anyway.”
I’ve learned a lot about being in the stands and being on the field. Quarterbacks are expected to handle the hopes and expectations from above—everyone calling out what to do—while working with the realities on the ground. And there are parallels for our experiences on the field of life. A key work for all of us is to gain greater perspective, even while being stuck on the field. Surely, we as Latter-day Saints are asked to be superior spiritual athletes. We enjoy the outpouring of eternal doctrine restored through Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, and we are asked to forge these doctrines into our souls here on a fallen earth. The perspective is beyond here and the possibilities beyond comprehension. Living here between the veils allows only limited visibility. We are all 6-foot quarterbacks, throwing physically blind but spiritually by faith. And we are asked to do it with stiff opposition.
When we talk about opposition, trust me: I get the idea. In football, I faced the most highly skilled athletes in the world, singularly focused and highly paid to do one thing: put me on my back, fast. I came to recognize that my greatest opposition provided the most growth as a player.
“It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11, emphasis added). Why isn’t it just some things? Perhaps it is that no part of us can extend to the celestial without being opposed. Opposition is a crucible that must be passed through not just once, but always. The effort for celestial living is a full-contact sport. It comforts me to know that opposition is a part of the eternal plan. I don’t welcome it, but I watch for it and use it to my eternal advantage.
But at 6-foot, I know I won’t have clear vision. There’s only one way to gain vision, and that’s with relentless, fierce, optimistic, childlike faith, invoking long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, and love unfeigned (see D&C 121:41–42). Forging these qualities into your soul is a difficult, lifelong quest. Be careful: maybe take them one at a time so as not to pull a hamstring.
The reward is clearer, higher, heavenly perspective—charity, the pure love of Christ—to see every soul as Christ sees them, to see yourself and others as eternal beings. You can gain this charity as an endowment from our Heavenly Father. Endowed charity, and the perspective it brings, is the quest of a lifetime, the most athletic endeavor of my life.
This essay is adapted from a speech given by Steve Young, former BYU and NFL quarterback, to the BYU President’s Leadership Council on Oct. 4, 2012.