Brothers and sisters, Aloha. I am thrilled to be with you here in this devotional today, and I am excited to share my testimony of the gospel with you. Over the years, my testimony has grown through the many different gospel activities and practices I have participated in. One activity that has helped my testimony to grow has been service in the church, which is what I would like to focus on in this devotional today. I believe that we can find great joy and add strength to our testimonies through faithfully serving in church callings.
Today, I would like to share with you some of the blessings that come through our service in the church. Specifically, our church service brings us joy, builds friendships, blesses us with knowledge, fills us with gratitude, and helps us understand revelation and inspiration.
To begin, I would like to tell you a story that demonstrates how our church service can bring joy. This story is about one of my most favorite callings that I have ever had—primary chorister. When I was in primary as a little boy, I loved singing time. I thought the singing thermometer was the best part of singing time. The singing thermometer was made out of paper and it measured how well the primary children were singing. As we sang, the primary chorister would move the thermometer up when we sang the primary songs with more energy and enthusiasm. Our goal was always to make the thermometer hit the top, which meant we were doing our best singing. When I was little, I always wanted to be the primary chorister and move the thermometer.
When I attended BYU in Provo, I had a music teacher, Brother Brough, who served as the primary chorister in his ward. Until that point in my life, all of the primary choristers had been sisters. I had not heard of a brother serving as a primary chorister, so this gave me hope that I could one day serve as the primary chorister.
Brother Brough told stories about some of the fun activities he did to help the children sing their best. One thing he did was to wear an old necktie to church. When the children sang well, he would take out his scissors and cut off the bottom of his necktie. Of course, the children loved this and wanted to see him cut more off his necktie. So, the children sang better and better and Brother Brough’s necktie got shorter and shorter. Brother Brough’s stories only increased my desire to serve as the primary chorister.
Well, right after my family moved here to Hawaii six years ago, my dream came true and I was called to serve as the primary chorister in the Hauula 4th ward. I served for two wonderful years. During that time, we learned 18 new songs for two primary sacrament meeting presentations. We learned sign language for some of the songs. We sang the song “My Mother Dear” on Mother’s Day. And we sang “When Joseph Went to Bethlehem” at Christmas time.
One of the purposes of singing in primary is to teach the gospel. Consequently, one of my goals was to have the primary children memorize all the Articles of Faith by singing them. We practiced them over and over in primary. My wonderful wife made a tree that we pinned on the wall. Each time a child could sing one of the articles of faith by his or herself, he or she could put a flower on the tree. Our goal was to fill the tree with flowers.
Through serving as the primary chorister, I was filled with joy. I was able to share my love for music and the gospel with the primary children. In return, the children filled me spiritually with their simple but unwavering faith. Primary was a spiritual feast. I loved serving as the primary chorister.
Of course, primary chorister is only one of the callings that I have loved. In fact, I have loved all of the church callings I have had. Every calling stretches me in a different way, and each calling brings unique blessings, and gives me joy.
Finding a Friend through Church Service
Another blessing we can find through our church service is friendship.
In April of 1997, President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a talk titled “Young Men and Converts.” In his talk, President Hinckley listed three things that every convert needs. He said:
With the ever-increasing number of converts, we must make an increasingly substantial effort to assist them as they find their way. Every one of them needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God” (Moroni 6:4). It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things.
A friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God.” While President Hinckley was addressing the issue of convert retention, I believe that we are all converts and thus we all need a friend, a responsibility, and gospel nurturing.
My experience has been that we can fulfill all three of these needs through serving in the church. In other words, church service results in friendships and gospel nurturing. Here is one example.
A while ago, I was called to be a primary teacher for three-year-old Owen, who was an autistic boy in our ward. Owen’s autism made it difficult for him to talk, he had trouble sitting still in a chair, and his attention would constantly shift from one activity to another. Consequently, when he tried to attend the Sunbeam class in primary, he would frequently distract the other children from the teacher’s lesson. This made it difficult for the Sunbeam teacher who was trying to teach a class with eight other three-year-old children.
I had been a teacher in the nursery during the previous year when Owen was attending nursery. During that year, I got to know Owen. So, I was called to be his special teacher when he was in Sunbeams.
On Sundays, Owen and I developed our own routine for primary time. We would participate in primary opening exercises with all the children. After opening exercises, Owen and I would go to a large classroom with a chalkboard and a piano. Owen would draw letters on the chalkboard while I drew pictures of Nephi and the brass plates. We would sing the primary song Nephi’s Courage while playing the piano together. We would watch a video about Lehi and his family sailing to the Promised Land. We would move back and forth through these activities until Owen’s attention was spent. Then, we would visit the nursery class while all the children were playing with the toys. We would finish our Sunday by going back to the main primary room where the children were participating in sing time.
Through all of our activities together, I learned a lot about Owen. He had many difficulties related to his autism. But I discovered that he was an unusually gifted reader at three years old. He would read words that I wrote on the chalkboard (like happy, Book of Mormon, Nephi), and he would write words. I also learned that he was a very loving and affectionate child. Despite his struggle to communicate his needs through speaking, he loved to give hugs and would frequently flash a shy smile. Most of all, I learned that Owen was a child of God, and while Owen faces unique challenges while on earth, a loving Heavenly Father blessed Owen with special gifts and talents. He also blessed Owen with a loving mother who cares for Owen and who desires nothing more than for Owen to be safe, happy, and filled with a testimony of the gospel.
I loved Sundays with Owen. Because of my calling in the church, I made a three-year-old friend who taught me every week about a loving Father in Heaven who watches over His children here on earth.
Deeper Understanding of the Church
While we can make friends and receive gospel nurturing through our church service, there are still other blessings that come from serving in church callings. One of those blessings is knowledge. We can learn much through our church service.
One bit of knowledge that I have been blessed with through my church service is a better understanding of how the church operates. My current calling as the stake clerk in the Laie Hawaii Married Student Stake has particularly blessed me in this way.
I have served with two stake presidents, President Meha and President Grace. Both of them have made it a top priority to study the church handbooks and align all stake practices with the policies and procedures given in the church handbooks.
Some of the handbook study occurs during stake leadership meetings. If you ever wondered what the stake presidency does during these meetings, here is a bit of insight for you! Training from the church handbooks is always the second thing on the agenda in every meeting. (The first item on every agenda is the spiritual thought, which comes after the opening hymn and prayer.) Sometimes we spend twenty minutes studying the handbook during a meeting, which can be about one-fifth of the total meeting time. This training ensures that we are following church procedures and policies in the Laie Hawaii Married Student Stake.
For me, the result has been a much richer and deeper understanding of how the church operates. What a blessing! Through my current calling as a stake clerk, studying the handbook has given me an appreciation of the divinely inspired organization of the church. The Lord’s church truly is, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “a house of order” (D&C 88:119).
My experience is not unique. As we serve in any calling in the church, we learn more about the church. We not only learn about the organization of the church and how it is administered, but we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a recent convert in my ward. Shortly after her baptism, she was called to be a primary teacher. One Sunday after church, I asked her if she liked being a primary teacher. She responded that she loved it because she was constantly learning new things about the gospel through teaching the children. Her enthusiasm and love for her calling filled my heart with gratitude for her selfless service.
Faithful Service Brings Gratitude
This brings me to my next topic regarding church callings, gratitude. I believe that serving in church callings fills us with gratitude for the service of others.
I am grateful for members who accept and faithfully serve in church callings. I am grateful because service in a church calling requires sacrifice, and that sacrifice blesses my life both directly and indirectly.
For example, one church member who has blessed my life directly is my bishop. On many occasions, my family and I have had the privilege of sitting in interviews with him. He bears his testimony to my family. He asks my children about their testimonies of the gospel. He counsels my children to choose the right, make good choices, and obey their parents. And he thanks my wife and me for our service. Our bishop enriches our lives and fills us with the spirit. I am deeply grateful for his service.
Another group of people that I have gained an appreciation for is the army of clerks working to keep records in the church. In the Doctrine and Covenants section 128 verse 8, it explains the importance of records. It says, “whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven; for out of the books shall your dead be judged.” Our dead shall be judged from the records we keep! Wow, accurate records are important. Before being called as a stake clerk, I did not realize how much work it takes to keep accurate records in the church. Our clerks have an enormous task. And most of their work happens behind the scenes; it goes unnoticed. So, the next time you see your ward clerk in the hallway, tell him thank you for his service.
Our church is a church of service. As we serve, we learn the lesson taught by King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:17. King Benjamin taught that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” He goes on to exclaim in verse 19, “O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!”
Callings Extended by Inspiration
Another aspect of callings that I would like to discuss is inspiration and revelation. As we serve in church callings, we come to better understand the inspiration and revelation that comes through the Spirit.
Callings are extended by inspiration. The Lord knows what each of us needs to learn. And He inspires church leaders to call us to positions that will help us to develop the attributes we need to ultimately return to Him.
Callings do not come from men; they come from God. This principle is clearly stated in the fifth Article of Faith. It says, “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” The first part of this article of faith says, “A man must be called of God, by prophecy.” Prophecy means inspiration or revelation, and The Guide to the Scriptures clarifies that prophecy comes “through revelation from the Holy Ghost.” So, we are called through inspiration from the Holy Ghost.
The church handbook also directs that callings are to be extended based on inspiration. Handbook 2 section 19.1.1 states: “A person must be called of God to serve in the Church (see Articles of Faith 1:5). Leaders seek the guidance of the Spirit in determining whom to call.”
I testify that callings in the church are extended through inspiration. I have experienced this inspiration myself and I have seen this inspiration working in church leaders with whom I have served.
One such instance occurred while my family was living in New Zealand. We were living in the Lincoln Ward of the Henderson Stake, which is in west Auckland. A little over a year after we moved into the ward, our bishop extended a call to my wife to be the Young Women’s President. At the time, we were a busy family. I was a full-time graduate student, working a part-time job, and had a busy calling in the ward. My wife was also working part-time. And we had two young children. Young Women’s President carries a lot of responsibility and requires time commitments. When the call came, my wife felt a bit overwhelmed and wondered how she would be able to magnify this calling. Yet, she trusted in the inspiration that the bishop had received and accepted the calling.
Well, there is no way she could have seen at the beginning all of the blessings that resulted from her service. She immediately formed a special bond of love with the young women. She was able to open their hearts and teach them about the gospel. As the young women learned from her, their testimonies grew stronger and deeper. After moving to Hawaii and returning to New Zealand to visit, we have been thrilled to see these young women serving diligently in church callings, going on missions, and furthering their education. That group of young women has become like a lighthouse of faith shining through the darkness. And they hold a special place in my wife’s heart.
And there were other blessings that came from my wife’s service. I’ll just mention one other. Becky and the two sisters whom she called as counselors became great friends. They did not know each other very well before they were called (and I believe that my wife received inspiration to call these two sisters). The three of them bonded and became a strong, unified presidency. And they are still two of the people that my wife looks forward to seeing the most every time we visit New Zealand.
Our Children Are Blessed
In summary, our service in the church results in many blessings. Specifically, it results in greater joy, increased friendships, expanded knowledge, a heart full of gratitude, and recognition of inspiration.
To conclude, I would like to share one more blessing that comes through our church service. When we serve faithfully in the church, our children are blessed. Here is one specific example of how church service has blessed my children.
While we were living in New Zealand and before my wife’s call to be the Young Women’s President, my wife was asked to help make a video for Young Women’s New Beginnings. The purpose of the video was to introduce the new young women to each of the young women’s values. After interviewing several adults and young women in the ward about the young women’s values, my wife still needed to interview one more person in order to complete the video. She turned to my daughter, who was three-and-a-half years old, and asked her if she could explain the value “good works.” Well, the resulting video has become a legend in our family. To me, this video exemplifies the joy that we find through living the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you too can feel that joy as you watch.
Brothers and sisters, I know that faithful service in the Lord’s kingdom brings bountiful blessings. May we all be faithful in our service is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.