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Always Abounding in Good Works

President Wheelwright, members of the President’s Council, Leaders in our student stakes, students, faculty, staff, and friends, Aloha.

I am humbled to have this opportunity to speak to you today. I pray that the spirit will influence me to speak the things Our Father in Heaven would have me say to you.

My main points are that always abounding in good works:
1. Leads to glorifying God
2. Leads to repentance and being unspotted from the world
3. Requires a heart filled with love for others, and
4. Requires selfless service which in effect will lead to the saving of our lives

First, always abounding in good works leads to glorifying God.

I want to begin with a scripture found in Ether 12:4. “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”

As I consider this scripture, I am reminded of the very intense situation with my family when I told them I had been baptized in this Church and that I was no longer a Catholic. I became a Latter-day Saint. I remember having a determination to show my family that the choice I made was because I had hope for a better world and my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ would be my anchor. 

I still remember vividly that day, I arrived in Guam having been away for college in Arizona for a year; I stepped off the Pan Am jumbo jet to find my family – they did not look happy to see me. In fact, I could tell they were angry that I had joined the Church. The look on my siblings faces was, “You are in big trouble.” “You are gonna get it when you get home.” Yes, I was concerned that my family would do something to me that they would later regret. As we reached home, I barely got out of the car and my father immediately started to question me. With my head hung low and with deep humility, I listened carefully and then I slowly raised my head and with courage, I told my family, “Just watch me.” Since then, we never did have any other discussion about my joining the Church. My commitment to the Lord to keep my covenants became even more real for me that hot, muggy night in Guam. When I said, “Just watch me” it meant that I would do everything I could possibly do to be “sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” It was important to me then as it is now to keep my part in “always abounding in good works.”

Another scripture which speaks to the Christ-like attributes of abounding in good works is found in Alma 7:24. “And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.”

One of the most humbling experiences that I have had as a member of this Church is to be called to teach seminary. This year we had an opportunity to study the life of the Savior. I learned so much as a teacher. When it comes to always abounding in good works, Jesus Christ is our exemplar. In Acts 10:38, we find Peter responding to Cornelius, the gentile, who we know eventually joins the Church. In their discussions about the gospel, Peter is testifying to Cornelius of the Savior Jesus Christ. Having said that God is no respector of persons, he says in verse 38, how Jesus “went about doing good.”

We read and study the good works of Christ, such as giving sight to the blind and feeding the thousands (Mark 8:22-25; Matthew 14:15-21).

In Luke 8:45-48, we see how the Savior also ministered to the individual it reads, “And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

“And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.

“And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.

“And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”

The Savior noticed and reached out to all. In Matthew 9:9-13, we find the Pharisees questioning one of His disciples why Christ would mingle with publicans and sinners.

“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

“And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

“But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

“But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus shows forth love through His works. In Matthew 4:19, we find the Savior inviting us to follow Him.

If carefully studied, these examples, books, and letters in the New Testament speak to the importance of abounding in good works. Yes, they speak to missionary work, they speak to work that should go on in the temple, they speak to works that should prevail in the Church, and they speak to works that should abound amongst our dealings with our fellowmen.

Second, always abounding in good works leads to repentance and being unspotted from the world.

In James 1:27 it reads, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

The phrase “unspotted from the world” made me reflect on an experience that I was not too proud of. I want to share an experience where my enthusiasm to abound in good works turned into more of a character building moment in my life.

In August 1983, I received my mission call to serve in the California Los Angeles Mission. I had gone through the temple and was preparing to report to the MTC in September. At the time, I had checked out of the dorms and was living with my brother and his family. He was a marine stationed at the Kaneohe Marine Base. I had made plans to come back to Laie and go through a couple temple sessions with my friends with the intent to return to Kaneohe that evening. Circumstances made it so I chose to stay the night in the dorms. I thought, “It’s too late to catch the bus. I’ll just spend the night. No one will notice.” My former roommate had a spare bed in her room and so I thought it would be alright. The next day, the dorm mom discovered I had slept in the dorms. She reported me to housing. I knew I was in trouble. I was told to go see Paul Freebairn, who was over housing at the time. Brother Freebairn did his job. He told me the policy and said that I violated the policy and would have to pay $65 for spending the night in the dorms.

There was no point to argue; I went and paid the $65. I thought to myself had I not been discovered, I would have gone on a mission to serve the Lord as a spotted vessel; definitely impure. I was so happy for the person that turned me in; I was so happy for Brother Freebairn being firm with me. That was the day that I learned the importance of integrity, honesty, and to be unspotted from the world. I went on my mission knowing that I made things right between me and my Father in Heaven. He knew that I could be trusted; that I would be a worthy vessel to help Him teach His children. Had I not gone through the process of making things right, I know for a fact that I would not have been as successful as I was.

Here’s the interesting twist to all of this, I am now Brother Freebairn’s immediate supervisor. He definitely taught me well. To always abound in good works also means to make things right before our Father in Heaven. My relationship with God and the Savior is too precious to me. I have to always make an effort to repent and make things right.

Eventually, I made my way back to BYU–Hawaii after serving a 19 month mission in L.A., a 14 month district mission in Guam, and a semester at BYU Provo. Like most return missionaries, you get thrown back into college life. I remember taking a religion class where there were more than 50 of us in a room. Mid-terms came and so, like you, we too had to take mid-term exams. Not too far into the exam, I noticed the teacher nodding his head, he then proceeded to pull people out from class. I wondered what was going on. We later learned from our teacher that the students were cheating on the mid-term. I thought to myself, “Are you serious?” Of all the classes to cheat in, it had to be this religion class. My teacher was so disappointed; you could tell in his facial expression. It was one of the saddest days in my college life. Here I thought, this is no ordinary school. This is the Lord’s University and people cheat! I thought to myself, they should be like my friend Leila. Leila was not your typical college student. She was from Tahiti and retired from working with CES. One day, she told me that she walked into her religion class; sat down to take the exam and after having read through it she realized that she did not know how to answer the questions on the exam. She wrote, “I don’t know how to answer these questions, but I live it.” She turned in her exam to the teacher and walked out of the class. She got an A for the exam.

My young friends, it is my intention to speak to you but not at you or to chastise you on cheating, it is my intention to encourage you to always abound in good works that you might be found unspotted from the world. To cheat on an assignment or to cheat the university by spending the night in the dorms is to be found spotted of the world. This much I can tell you, the Holy Ghost will always tell you if you are about to do something wrong. He will not lead you astray. If you choose not to heed his promptings, he will leave you and you are left on your own to deal with the consequence that you chose. It is a hard fact but it is true. If you want the Lord’s guidance in your life, if you want the Holy Ghost’s influence then take the step and repent. If you happen to know who is cheating, make your courage count and turn them in to the proper authority. I will be forever grateful for the anonymous person who turned me in for sleeping in the dorm room overnight against the rules. That person has helped me build character and be a person of integrity today. 

Third, to always abound in good works requires a heart filled with love for others.

The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:13, “By love serve one another.” King Benjamin said in Mosiah 2:17, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

In the October 1963 general conference, President David O. McKay said, “Man’s greatest happiness comes from losing himself for the good of others.”

For me, my greatest mentor happens to be my mom. She will be turning 80 years old this year. She is a woman of few words and one that knew how to train up children to work and be self-reliant. She raised all twelve of us children to live the Chamorro value of “fan afao maolek yan fan aayuda” translated it means to get along and help each other. She is the very reason why I learned to get along with people and why I am who I am. This Chamorro philosophy coupled with gospel teachings has benefited my life’s journey thus far. 

Growing up in Guam, I was your typical teenager. Let me elaborate. My father retired early from his government job as a gantry operator at Guam’s Commercial Port. He took on farming to help grow his large family of twelve children. To help subsidize the food at home, he would go fishing. One day, my father came home with a huge catch of reef fish which he caught using his one-man fishing net. At our home in Guam, we have an outside kitchen with a galley-size sink. The sink was a couple feet deep and proved to be very difficult to work from being that I am only five feet in height. I happened to be having a bad teenage attitude that day and the tall but deep sink plus the big catch didn’t help any. I was grumbling about all the fish I had to scale and clean up. At first I was just angry why I had to be the one to clean the fish. Where were the boys? Couldn’t they clean it? All my bellyaching didn’t render me aid. By this time, I had cleaned three fish and had another twenty to go. My mom and dad were just quiet and went about other things. Then it came into my mind, “I should be grateful.” My father caught enough fish to last a couple of meals. I knew then to set aside my selfishness and think of the blessing of the big catch and the mouths it will end up feeding. The instant I applied what the Apostle Paul said that by love serve one another; my burden was lifted and my work in scaling and cleaning the fish became light.

In other words, to always abound in good works requires a heart filled with love for others. 

On this campus are found many unsung heroes. Many go unnoticed for the work they do to help develop Christ-like attributes in thousands of student lives. One particular hero of mine is Irene Lesuma. Let me explain. In the 90s, Brother Meli Lesuma was called to be a bishop of the BYU–Hawaii 3rd Ward. That was before the stake and ward’s went through the re-naming process. Because of his responsibilities, Irene automatically assumed the role of a bishop’s wife. Just recently, she told me of this story of a student in her husband’s ward. This is her account of what took place.

“While my husband was Bishop of BYU–Hawaii 3rd ward, I would attend the sacrament meetings.

“One Sunday as I was driving home after the Sacrament meeting, I passed a member of his ward walking home. As I passed the student, I had a strong impression to turn the car around and go back and invite him home for lunch. I am usually good in ‘listening” to the spirit but on this particular day I was ‘talking back’ and trying to ‘justify’ why I should not turn the car around and invite the student home. Again, the spirit very strongly and very clearly said to me to turn the car around and go back and invite the student home for lunch.

“I did – the student gratefully accepted the invitation and we went home. I got lunch ready and he and my children and I sat at the dining table and ate and visited with each other. We talked about a lot of things and had a great time. During the conversation the spirit whispered to me that I should put some groceries together and give it to this young man. I tried to talk myself out of this – BUT again, the spirit told me that I needed to do this.

“I did – I went and filled up three shopping bags of grocery items: cans of this and cans of that, bread, vegetables, fruits, frozen food, etc. etc. I also packed up some left over lunch and dessert for him so he could have it for dinner.

“As we said our goodbyes I told the young man that I had some things for him to take home and I gave him the three grocery bags. I will never forget the look on his face. He looked at me and tears started to fill his eyes – his lips started to quiver – his face turned red and he put his head down. I thought I did something wrong and I started to apologize. He said, ‘mom (that was my name for many students in BYU–Hawaii 3rd ward) I was on my way home to eat my lunch which was going to be half a packet of saimin noodles (the other half was going to be for tomorrow) but you stopped and invited me to lunch. For the last few days I have been eating saimin noodles (half a packet each day) because I don’t have any money for food. I am waiting for my check which will come on Thursday.’

“I took him in my arms and hugged him because he could not stop crying. He said that he prayed that morning and asked Heavenly Father to please help him. He kept thanking me for giving him food. We took him home.

“I learned a great lesson that day – listen to the whispering of the spirit – It will direct you to do good. I also learned that the Lord takes care of our needs through someone else. This student has moved on but we have remained friends.”

I want to quote President Monson. In the October 2009 general conference he said, “Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out, ‘Is there no balm in Gilead?’”

That student that day received love from Heavenly Father through the works of Irene; there are many of you out there that do that so readily. I want you to know that your good works are noticed and recorded for your benefit. Thank you Irene and all of you who quietly serve the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. You are the very people that provide balm of Giliad here in Laie.

Like Irene, I, too, was once a Bishop’s wife. My story goes like this. My day started off in a typical way. I sent off my husband to work and children to school and then I set off to work. Right before 3 p.m., I felt a need to go home. I was not too sure why but I did. The instant I stepped into our front room at home the phone rang. I answered it only to discover a very distraught mother on the other end saying, “My son is going into emergency surgery at Wahiawa General Hospital. I am desperately trying to find someone who will go and be there when he comes out of surgery. Can you be there for my son?” How would you have responded? As a mother, my heart just melted. I told the mother that I would go. After getting her contact information, I hung up. Then, I called up a member of my husband’s ward to accompany me. She also happened to really like this guy. Oh Oh. Maybe I should have found someone else. Well it’s too late. We arrived there just in time to see the student come out of surgery. He was still heavily sedated but the doctors said that everything went well and that they would be contacting his parents to report on the surgery. My ward helper sneakily said to the heavily sedated patient, “Uh so what do you think about ...” and crazy enough the guy was playing along. I jokingly said to both of them, “This does not count. He is on too much medication.” “So Sorry.” We laughed. For the next couple days, we took care of the young man taking him home and nurturing him back to health. I treated him like he was my own child. His mom was relieved and I am glad for the Holy Ghost prompting me on that day to go home. 

Fourth, always abounding in good works requires selfless service which in effect will lead to the saving of our lives.

My last story comes from our missionary son, Elder Trevor Ram, who currently is serving in the India Bangalore Mission. I’ve changed the name of the investigator so as to protect his identity. I’ve replaced it with my husband’s name – Tulsi – instead. The story as told by Elder Ram:

“I have a great testimony of the Spirit’s power to bring peace to troubled hearts, even if the troubled one is me. Last night, we were teaching [Tulsi] and reviewing the baptismal interview questions with him. [Tulsi] is pretty much the man, so he came over to church on Sunday night in the pouring rain. Needless to say, he was drenched when he met us. Because he wanted to sit in the classroom without any fan or windows open, it became pretty stuffy and hot pretty quick in there. My stomach was upset and so that combined with the muggy atmosphere of the room made things pretty uncomfortable. Throughout the teaching, I was unable to follow much of what was going on because [Tulsi] speaks mostly in Tamil to Elder Raja which just added to the uncomfortable situation.

“Anyhow, the lesson went on and on and I just got more and more uncomfortable there. I was wondering when things were going to end but I could feel the Spirit withdrawing and that was not a good feeling, Silently, I prayed that I could just keep it together and get through the lesson.

“Just then, [Tulsi] asked a question. Elder Raja probably noticed my discomfort and translated the question so I could answer it. [Tulsi's] question was, approximately, if I make a mistake after three or four years of  baptism, will I be able to come to Church? I bore my testimony of the Atonement and the Savior's willingness to forgive. As I did, I felt the Spirit come over me. I knew what I was saying was true and it made me feel good. The discomfort of the moment was pushed out and only the truth of the gospel really mattered right then. [Tulsi] seemed satisfied with the answer and within a few short minutes, we closed up and were on our way.

“This week, my testimony is that the Savior's teaching is true: those who seek to find themselves will lose themselves, but those who lose themselves in His service will find themselves happy and comforted and filled with goodwill. I had forgotten a bit that the thrill of doing missionary work doesn't come from seeing all the cool things India has to offer but from being blessed as I forget myself and serve as selflessly as possible. I'm grateful Heavenly Father took the time to reteach me that lesson again this week. He is unspeakably wonderful.”

As parents, Tulsi and I are pleased to see the spiritual growth of our missionary son and I might add Hermana Ram, our missionary daughter too. We support them in their labors and appreciate the work they do for the Lord.

President Monson in a general conference talk which he gave in October 2009 said the following, “The Savior taught His disciples, ‘For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.’ I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for  themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.”

My brothers and sisters, may we be found always abounding in good works to glorify God, that we may be found unspotted from the world, that our hearts be filled with love for others, and that our selfless acts will strengthen us and help us endure to the end.

My family continues to “watch me.” A few of my siblings get the weekly emails from our missionary children. Many of their hearts are touched by the experiences and testimonies our missionary children share. I’ve given a Book of Mormon to a younger sister and testified of its truthfulness. Mind you, this is after she asked for a copy. It’s been three years since my father passed away, we have since done his temple work and the Spirit has borne witness to us that he has accepted the gospel. I hope my “good works” will in a steady way soften their hearts and make them have a desire to hear and accept the gospel. In the gospel, it is all about our families.

This is my testimony.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.