The Epic Life- Summary

Many of these studies have begun when I feel myself caught between two competing ideas, each of which seems worthy, and each of which I suspect is correct in its own sphere. In this case I was caught between my desires to live a life that is grand and purposeful, and the sense that I should be content with the simpler things of life.
On the one hand I didn’t want to fall into complacency by never striving for something greater. On the other hand I didn’t want to fall into vanity by overlooking the good I already had. As is often the case I found a happy medium between two extremes. Because yes, it is possible to have inappropriate cravings and it is also possible to have inappropriate passivity, but there is also a quiet passion in between.
Here are a few of the main points I learned from this study. They highlight the common pitfalls that lay on either side of that middle path, and what we can expect to find by following that strait and narrow road instead.

The Good Life

First and foremost I learned that God expects us to live with passion. God expects us to be doers. He wants us to accomplish many good things in this life, to be an active and essential piece in His plan. After all, are we not all called to join the body of Christ? And is not the body of Christ a vehicle for doing? Does it not have a mission to reach out and save the entire world? And how is the body to accomplish this, if not by all of its parts surging to the cause?
God loves heroes. He is the inventor of heroes. God raised up Noah to build the ark, Moses to part the Red Sea, Jonah to reclaim the people of Nineveh, Esther to plead for her nation, Samson to fight the Philistines, David to topple a giant, Elijah to call down fire from heaven, Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and His own son to reclaim us from death and sin. And that same son, the greatest hero that the world has ever known, he attested that those “that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12).
If you are here in earth life then you are here for a reason. If you can feel God’s spirit move upon you then it is to move you into action. God has not lost His need for heroes, He has not lost His need for workers in the field, and He has not stopped offering His strength to those that will champion His cause. If you are willing to clean yourself and apply wholeheartedly for a position you will find that He still has a great mission in reserve for you. He has yet another epic tale for your voice to speak.
2 Timothy 1:7- For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Nephi 1:23- Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

The Counterfeits

Satan always has counterfeits for God’s virtues. Where God is love, Satan is lust. Where God is confidence, Satan is the thirst for control. Where God is joy, Satan is diversion. And certainly Satan has his counterfeits to distract us from the truly epic life as well. In my study and personal experience I have been able to identify at least two of these counterfeits.
The first is the fame of the world. God has given to us an incredible energy that is meant to be spent in our great calling. But if we do not have a great calling to pour our strength and devotion into, then that strength and devotion must go elsewhere, and in many cases it has gone to a shrine of gold and glory. We covet possessions and conveniences, titles and recognition, adoration and attention. We hope to stand as king of the hill for a moment, vainly assuming that if we even managed the feat we would be remembered for it.
Another of Satan’s distractions is in complacency. It is true that there is a place in the gospel for quiet repose, a greatness from doing the small and simple things, a building up of the kingdom just where one stands. But truly doing the small and simple things with any degree of consistency is itself a very challenging undertaking, one that the complacent will never succeed in. Never make the mistake of believing that contentment and humility are the same as complacency and passivity. God might very well invite you to focus your strength locally, but never so locally that it doesn’t escape your own orbit!
Mosiah 12:29- And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?
2 Nephi 28:21- And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

The Cost and Reward of Greatness

Having considered these counterfeits to the truly epic life, it is important to acknowledge that Satan possesses one great advantage. It is that the truly epic life always come at great cost. Frankly none of us fit the gate, in one way or another we are out of shape. Some of us are too proud and must be humbled. Some of us are too passive and must be pushed out of our comfort zone. Some of us are too wounded and must accept healing. Some of us are too guilty and must endure purifying. Perhaps the one constant is that each of us are blocked by the fear of whatever it is God is asking us to do. Fear alone is enough to kill any hero before they are born.
No wonder we are told that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat,” while on the other hand “narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
But no matter the ease of the first path, its destination is made perfectly clear: destruction. And no matter how difficult the second, its destination is also made unambiguous: life. There is no convenience worth dying for and there is no cost that life is not worth. It is not an easy way before us. In fact, without grace it is an impossible way, and even with grace it still is just plain hard. But if it were not hard, neither could be it truly great. Nothing of substance comes cheaply.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:28- For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
Luke 14:27- And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

The Epic Life- Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28, John 14:2

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.


Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will. For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.
Tied in with our desire for a life that is epic and meaningful is a desire for a life that is independent. We want to be an agent unto ourselves, not to be someone else’s pawn. And to be clear, freely electing to be a servant to my God is not at all the same as being some manually-controlled pawn. I can choose to be a servant and still retain my individuality.
And as we see in this verse, God’s intent is for us to have that independence. He wants us to freely choose many good works for ourselves. Our deepest spiritual joy does not come from sitting back and just idly thinking about God, it comes from receiving a charter and giving our all to to fulfill it!

In my Father’s house are many mansions
The world would try to convince us that being God’s servant is restrictive, destroys individuality, and turns us all into identical robots. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are many mansions in heaven, many different domains of good, many paths within His garden. The ways to champion God’s will are legion, and He intends for us to freely choose our own corner of the field to work in. Thus my great adventure of good works is very distinct and unique from your own, but both of them are still good. And when we find the good path that uniquely calls to us and give ourselves to it with all the power we have, then we find ourselves walking the truly epic life.

The Epic Life- The Cost

I started this study by considering our universal desire to live a great life, to lift ourselves from mediocrity and into a cause that truly matters. But yesterday I considered the young ruler, who was one choice away from living such a life, but wasn’t willing to bear the cost that it required. For as much as he wanted eternal life, he didn’t want it enough to clear that one, last hurdle.

Earlier I spoke of Moses being called to lead Israel out of captivity, but initially he shrunk from that calling as well. Fortunately he faced his insecurities and extended himself into the role that God was trying to give him. Imagine the incredible life he nearly turned away from!

Jonah, too, was reluctant to meet his great calling. He literally ran from his purpose and tried to sail away from the voice of God. He was given the great opportunity to save the souls of an entire city and tried to revoke the offer!

Esau had a wonderful birthright, yet he sold it all for a mess of pottage. He may have gained some worldly comfort, but he lost his legacy.

Even Jesus had his moment of pause when facing the great atonement. It was the act that he had been born to perform, but still he asked whether it was possible for this cup to be removed from him. Thankfully he paired that request with “not my will, but thine, be done.”

So yes, we dearly want to have our great and important story, we want to do something that is legendary and lasting. But we have to realize that true greatness is hidden behind great sacrifice.

This was true for me as well. I always wanted to have a great purpose, yet it was years before I was willing to face the hurdles of confession and addiction recovery that stood in my way. Any time I tried to raise myself to a life in partnership with God I saw those looming ahead and quickly ducked back out of view. At times I thought mediocrity was all I would ever lay claim to in this life. It felt like it would kill me to face any true healing.

And in a sense, it did. When I finally decided to stand up to my challenges and submit to God’s will I paid a great price. I felt my old self dying away and it was a genuinely terrifying and painful thing. I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

However…it was worth it. Before paying the price I wasn’t sure that anything would be worth such a cost. Now I know that the reward was deserving of any cost whatsoever.

The Epic Life- 2 Nephi 1:23, Ecclesiastes 3:20

Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.
All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.


Come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust
All are of the dust, and all turn to dust again
Yesterday I mentioned the desire to rise above mediocrity and live the epic life, a life of great purpose. And today’s first verse captures this notion perfectly. But notice how it is at odds with the second verse I shared, which avows the temporary nature of our mortal life.
These two verses highlight the disparity between our body and our spirit. Though we are from the dust, and destined to return to the dust at the conclusion of our lives, we hope to be able to lift ourselves from it, to emanate a spirit that is more eternal than the stuff that surrounds us.
And clearly this hope for a life that transcends the ordinary is not an evil desire. At the heart of it is the recognition that we are children of an immortal God. This desire for greatness is our own immortal soul testifying of itself, rejecting the more transient things, and calling for the eternities that are its birthright.

The Epic Life- Personal Example

I’m a romantic. I constantly daydream. I am always caught up in fantasies. I see old allegories and fairy tales being played out in everyday reality. I believe in old adages like “true love conquers all” and “good always triumphs over evil.” I write stories as my way of journaling.

And given the prevalence of story in my life, I’ve always wanted to live a great one. I know that I’m not unique in this. We romantics balk at the label of “puppy love,” and insist our teenage romance is the greatest love story since Romeo and Juliet. We view our petty squabble with our coworker as the heart-wrenching betrayal of Fernand Mondego. We view our purpose in life as world-shaking as Frodo leaving the Shire to destroy the one ring.

We magnify the emotions of each small moment to fill the entire heart. In a word, we exaggerate.

And, if you are like me, you also have another part of you that tries to shake the dreamer back to wakefulness. The part that says “you’re vain and unrealistic! Start living life as it actually is. A lot of it is just going to be plain and mundane and that’s okay.”

I’ve had some time to reflect on these two parts, and in the end I believe the truth lays at the intersection of these two voices.

On the one hand, it is self-deceitful to try and make every humdrum moment into something epic. It’s alright to admit that some days, even many days, are just “ordinary days.” Otherwise we can become obsessed in things that really don’t matter, get an emotional tunnel vision, and pursue mediocrity to the expense of actual greatness.

On the other hand, having accepted that the life the world has given us is not epic, we should pursue another life that truly is. There is no need to surrender our desire for a role in a story that is rich and full and really matters. Only by calling out the elements of our life that are lackluster can we start to replace them with elements that have genuine spark. And as I will explore in the rest of this study, that genuinely epic life is the one that God offers to us. All other narratives are a forgery.

The Epic Life- Question

There is something stifling about the idea of living an “average life.” Each of us wants to have a story that is significant, unique, and even epic in some way. Perhaps not every aspect of it has to be the most dramatic, but we want at least one area that is truly special.

We read stories of people that walked this epic path many times throughout the scriptures. Moses working miracles before Pharaoh, David slaying Goliath, the Israelites shouting down the walls of Jericho, Jonah swallowed by a whale, Daniel playing with lions, Samson with his incredible strength, Jacob serving fourteen years for the woman he loved, and Esther petitioning for her people.

All these examples would seem to suggest that the epic life is divinely approved. All these people came to their greatness while in the service of God. And that the epic life is such a common desire would further suggest that it comes to each of us from the same heavenly source. If this desire is baked into our very souls, if it is part of our birthright as children of God, then no wonder we crave it like food and water.

But at the same time, there are also many stories of men and women today who chase for greatness at the expense of their families. They try to accomplish something great in their career, or in their education, or even in their church, and all the while their family is left lonely at home.

I want to consider where this desire for the epic life comes from. How this desire is appropriately wielded, and how it is misused. I want to examine how one can properly go about finding their divine purpose and not be caught up by vanity along the way.

In the meantime, I would love to hear where your own journey for a life of significance has brought you. How did you come to know what your own purpose was? Or are you still looking for it? Have you been hurt by another’s negligence while they sought their own great story? What do you feel is the proper balance between reaching for more versus being content with what you already have?