The Secret of the Second Mile


And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

The following story, specific to parenthood, illustrates the above teaching from the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount. If parenthood doesn’t apply to you right now, be creative and apply the principle to whatever stretches you in your life.

Bedtime. You’ve worked aaaaalllllllll day long feeding the cute children, dressing them, reminding them about homework, chiding them for teasing each other, promising them all the treats in the pantry if they will just finish their dinner, and praying heaven will please, please, please help you be patient just a little while longer until bedtime…. Then, its bedtime! You walk down the stairs and (if you love hot chocolate milk as much as me) you fetch yourself a steaming cup, sit down and….

You hear a noise on the stairs…

“Mama…will you come tuck me in again?”

This happened tonight. I’m faced with a choice.

A: “Go back to bed! I already tucked you in! We already read scriptures, said a prayer together, read Harry Potter, got a drink of water, and had a tuck-in! What more could you want!?” (This is my time. I already put in my work. They should learn I’m done after bedtime!)

B: (take a deep breath. tell yourself: This is what you signed up for. This is the part he will remember. This is how you show him you love him….) “Go lay in your bed honey, I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

This isn’t really about parenting, about bedtime routines, about how it should or shouldn’t be done. I’m sure many people have opinions about this situation, depending on the day, I just might have a different opinion too! 😉 But put that aside for one moment and see the principle. This is about doing the extra step when you’d rather just have a break.

When Jesus taught this principle, to many listening it sounded like laying down to the imperial reign of the Romans since a Roman solider could compel a local to be a porter or a guide for the Roman measure of a mile- which happened to be 1000 paces. (source)  But let’s look past that for the moment as well.

The first mile is the minimum. It is the minimum to put our hours in, keep the children in order, complete our calling, follow basic commandments or hear someone out. It is a good thing to complete our first mile. I like how Jesus gives us something to ponder and to practice…and if we are teachable, we just might discover the secret of the Second Mile.

The second mile is where one finds the blessings of rejuvenation.

The second mile is where the heart softens.

The second mile is where one learns the Savior’s love.

As I laid next to my son and listened (my children like our tradition of telling me something happy, something sad and something they learned)– I felt my heart warm with appreciation for the opportunity to know his spirit. Because I took that moment to do more than was ‘required’ of me, I heard his needs, his joys, and his successes. For me the second mile tonight re-filled my heart with the joy of motherhood. Without my second mile tonight, I might be thinking how long today was, how long tomorrow might be and how ‘this is hard work!’

From the most recent General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott said:

We were taught in the premortal world that our purpose in coming here is to be tested, tried, and stretched.

I love that he includes the word stretched. If can’t touch your toes, you can’t just walk around each day expecting that someday you’ll reach those toes. To your daily walking, you must add stretching.

God knew this about us and about Earth life. Our spirits do alright when we do our first mile. But our God-given potential shines through when we push just a bit more and do the second mile.

Here is a scripture study s’more. Remember to write in your scripture journal! It can make all the difference to your study!

Screenshot 2015-01-01 at 11.13.42 PM Lara

S: (Prayer/Ask) Why does it seem that the Second Mile pays greater dividends to our souls than the first? What does this teach me about the nature of God?

M: (Study)

  • Consider these 3 prophets’ experiences with the Second Mile. Read the verses if you need a refresh, =)
  1. Abinadi (Mosiah 11:20-26, Mosiah 12:1-2) Calls Noah’s people to repentance. They seek to take his life. Two years later, he returns.
  2. Nephi, son of Helaman (Helaman 10:3-17) After years of missionary work and then the experience of naming the Chief Judge’s murderer, God gives him a great blessing. Notice verse 12 especially: “And behold, now it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes..”
  3. Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 12:2-4) After being cast out, Samuel almost returns home..
  • Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote: (If Thou Endure It Well, p117)
  • “Weariness also arises out of struggling to perform in a lackluster way because of lack of commitment. Trying to do the Lord’s work with a slothful heart brings its own special buildup of blockage in arteries and valves. There are no aerobics in apathy. Merely going through the motions of church membership without the renewing emotions of discipleship can be very fatiguing.”
  • read the lyrics to the primary song, Go the Second Mile. simple and true:

When there is a task to do, do it with a smile

Do more than you are asked to do and go the second mile.

In your work and in your play, try it for a while

You’ll find that you’ll be happy when you go the second mile.

O: (Ponder)

  • Why do you think the Second Mile can hold the potential to be more spiritual satisfying to you than the first?
  • Think of how athletes train their bodies- does this principle hold true for them? Why?
  • Imagine if Jesus had not said these words, instead saying something like “If someone asks you to walk a mile with them, it is understandable if you are too busy, too tired or too stressed.” Why does this feel so wrong?
  • On another occasion, the scriptures teach that “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27) How can we keep both of these commandments?

R: (Write) your thoughts, what you learned, impressions you received, and anything else in your scripture journal (include your thoughts on the study session question: Why does it seem that the Second Mile pays greater dividends than the first? What does this teach me about the nature of God?) Also consider writing down the following:

  • Returning to what you read from the prophets’ experiences, make a chart with three columns. In the first column, write the prophets names. In the middle, write “situation details”. For the third column, write “blessings/results.” Read through the verses to fill in your chart.


  • Now add your name to the end of the first column. Think of a situation that happens in your life where you sometimes find it hard to do the Second Mile. (Examples: listening patiently to family member, cleaning the whole kitchen (me!), consistently remembering peoples names, remaining patient during dinnertime, staying fully attentive at the Temple, bringing up a previously given invitation to a non-member friend to hear the missionaries, etc) Commit to the Second Mile next time this situation presents itself. (see challenge below) Fill your chart in when you fulfill this commitment.

E: (Prayer/Thank)- thank God for what you’ve learned and ask if there is anymore.

The Challenge: Commit to the Second Mile in the situation you pinpointed in the “write” section. Pray for the strength to follow the Savior’s admonition “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Follow through! And then record it in your scripture journal.

click here for more information on s’more scripture study method

S'mores (4071) - BSP Assignment #206005


  1. joebuckwalter

    One my many second miles seems to be staying consistent with my prayer and scripture study. Occasionally I renew my efforts and do great for a week or two but slowly my consistency fades and I have to start the process over again. I started reading the talk you referenced by Elder Scott and reviewing the four principles he teaches (prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and temple attendance) helped me to renew my resolve to do daily prayer and scripture study. Thank you!

    Because He respects your agency, Father in Heaven will never force you to pray to Him. But as you exercise that agency and include Him in every aspect of your daily life, your heart will begin to fill with peace, buoyant peace. That peace will focus an eternal light on your struggles. It will help you to manage those challenges from an eternal perspective.

    1. larabuckwalter (Post author)

      I feel the same way =) If our lives stayed the way we put them, things would be much easier. But entropy happens! I guess there is a reason God lets us start anew each week! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love hearing from you!

  2. Kristen Halling

    Listen to this song! I feel like it explains the second mile. We can do glorious things! However, it takes work and listening to the whisperings of the spirit to discover our part and purpose in this life.

    1. larabuckwalter (Post author)

      I love this song! He sings the message so beautifully! Thank you for sharing this link with me! And thanks Kristen for taking the time to comment! =)

  3. Alisha

    Lara this one really hits home. I don’t know if I have ever applied to “go the extra mile” to parenting. Thank you for bringing that to light and thanks for all the work you are putting into this blog. I really appreciate your insight despite the growing pains and stretching that your ideas may be causing me. :)

    1. larabuckwalter (Post author)

      As Kristen so aptly said in her comment, ” it takes work and listening to the whisperings of the spirit to discover our part and purpose in this life.” You are doing better than you realize =) Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Alisha!


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