When thirteen-year-old Spencer was called to be the president of his deacon’s quorum, he took the job seriously. A deacon is a member of the Mormon priesthood. Mormons have a different kind of priesthood than most churches because every worthy boy or man who is at least twelve-years-old can hold the priesthood. There are different levels and deacons are first. Boys are usually deacons when they are twelve and thirteen.
The boys meet in quorums, or groups, on Sundays and usually one weekday as well, based on the level of priesthood they hold. Each quorum has a president, two counselors (similar to vice-presidents) and a secretary. All these positions are held by the boys themselves. Adult leaders are assigned to teach and supervise the groups, but the boys lead themselves under the supervision of the adults.
Spencer understood that being the president meant he was to watch over all the other boys in his quorum and to make sure they were taken care of. While it might be easy and fun to look after your closest friends, a deacon quorum president is expected to become friends with all the boys in order to know what they most need.
In Spencer’s quorum was a boy named Dayton. Dayton has cerebral palsy. He can’t walk and can’t communicate except to blink for yes and not blink for no. A lot of teenagers would find it too hard to become friends with someone who could not communicate, but not Spencer. The two boys became good friends.
One day Spencer, who enjoys doing triathlons, had an idea. He always thought Dayton should get to do all the things other kids his age got to do, and so, he decided Dayton needed to race in a triathlon. He asked Dayton if he’d like to do that and Dayton blinked to show he would.
How do you do a triathlon when you can’t walk or even sit up alone? Well, you need a friend to help out. Spencer had some help in getting the supplies he needed to be the person who helped. First, they created a special bicycle with a cart attached. Spencer would ride the bike and Dayton would be right behind in the cart. That would take care of the bicycle portion of the triathlon. There was also a swimming portion so Spencer had to swim pulling an inflatable boat holding Dayton. When he did the running portion, he pushed Dayton’s wheelchair.
As you can imagine, this was very hard work. Triathlons are difficult when you race them alone, but to push and pull another person as you go makes it exceptionally hard. Spencer noticed he had to work so much harder and near the end, he felt he had nothing left with which to finish the race. But from somewhere deep inside himself, he found the energy and finished the race.
He didn’t win, of course, with the extra challenge of another person. He came in 82nd, although he did finish first in the relay. Or, we should say, they finished 82nd and 1st. Spencer considered this Dayton’s race and was puzzled to be called a hero. To him, Dayton was the hero.
Jesus taught us to take of those in need, to be loving friends to everyone, to serve. He served and had a special fondness for people with disabilities. The Bible tells us of a blind man who often sat on the side of the road, begging. When he heard Jesus was coming, he was determined to meet him and to ask for a gift of healing. He tried calling out to Jesus but other people told him to stop and to not bother Jesus. In their minds, the blind man wasn’t important enough to bother someone as special as Jesus.
However, Jesus heard the calls and asked for the man to be brought to him. The blind man was suddenly nervous, but the apostles encouraged him to go ahead and approach Jesus. He did and Jesus lovingly and respectfully asked how he could help the man. The man asked for his sight and Jesus praised him for his great faith. He told the man it was his faith that had healed him. Imagine the lesson learned when people realized this man, whom they all thought was unimportant, had faith so great as to bring about a miracle.
And imagine the lessons people learned when they watched Spencer give up any real chance of winning the triathlon and as they watched him struggle to help his friend be able to experience the thrill of a triathlon. Not only did Spencer help Dayton, the story of his great and Christlike gift is helping teenagers and even adults learn how to be more like Jesus.
Watch the video of Dayton’s legs.