By The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Jul 27, 2014

Becoming Men Such as These: Eric Liddell

Part of a speech given by Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the Boy Scouts of America national annual meeting on 23 May 2013.

LiddellBritish Olympian Eric Liddell embraced this duty to God throughout his life. The movie Chariots of Fire tells the story of his preparation for and competition in the 1924 Olympics. In the movie, Liddell, a devout Christian, learns that the race he is most likely to win—the 100-meter—will be held on Sunday. He boldly announces that he will not run on the Lord’s day, despite pressure from the British Olympic Committee and the Prince of Wales himself. Fellow runner Lord Andrew Lindsay, having already won a silver medal, graciously offers Liddell his place in a longer race—the 400-meter—to be held on Thursday. Liddell accepts the offer and runs the race of a lifetime, defeating the heavily favored opponents, and winning a gold medal.

Before the race, the Duke of Sutherland, who tried to convince Liddell to run on Sunday, discusses the turn of events with Lord Birkenhead, leader of the British team.

“A sticky moment,” says the Duke of Sutherland.

“Thank God for Lindsay; I thought the lad [Liddell] had us beaten,” Lord Birkenhead responds.

liddell“He did have us beaten, and thank God he did,” responds the Duke.

“I don’t quite follow you,” says Lord Birkenhead.

The Duke of Sutherland then clarifies his meaning:

“The ‘lad,’ as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself.”

 Care must be exercised that we never sever Scouting from itself, but rather that it stand firm and remain strong in its foundation. What is that foundation? It is found in the Scout Oath and Law. It is found in Scouting’s methods and aims. And it is found in the Scout charter and bylaws, which I quote:

“The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.”

The understanding of duty to God is fundamental to Scouting. It’s a foundation that maintains great strength, just as Eric Liddell’s devotion not to compete on Sunday strengthened him. His speed derived from his character and integrity. Make Eric Liddell run on Sunday, and you shear him—just like Samson—of his strength and his power. But let him stay true to his duty, and you will see his strength flourish.


Author:  Bishop Gary E. Stevenson | Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

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