Brothers and Sisters, Aloha.
To this day, I DO NOT like nine-passenger planes, because one - it’s worse than a scary Disneyland ride and two – because they ask for your weight when you make your reservations, and they strategically seat you on the plane...according to your weight. Not great for your ego. But I was willing to do ANYTHING so I could marry this woman, who gave me such a soaring introduction, one of which I may not be worthy of. Thank you.
Brothers and Sisters, I am grateful for this time that I have to share my thoughts and testimony with you. BYU–Hawaii is special to me. It is a place that I owe a lot of my current successes to. Whether you are studying online or face to face, the glory of God IS intelligence, and you are engaged in His great work by furthering your education and by nurturing your spiritual capacity.
One of our family’s all-time favorite movies is “The Other Side of Heaven.” It is the story of Idaho native John Groberg, or better known as Kolipoki, who, at age 20, was sent on a mission to Tonga. Groberg encountered a lot of obstacles on his mission. Learning the Tongan language, combating mosquitos, and treating the rat-bitten soles of his feet, were just a few of those challenges. At one time, he was stranded on a hurricane-devastated island for nine weeks, during which time some died from starvation and exposure. After serving for three years…he returned home from his mission, got married, and was later called back to Tonga to serve as mission president. Groberg’s first son was born in Tonga with a kidney defect. The problem was so severe that Sister Groberg took the baby back to Utah for treatment. She returned to Tonga after he had recovered, and they didn’t see their son again for over a year. He was cared for by his grandparents.
When President Spencer W. Kimball called John Groberg to serve as a full-time General Authority, stunned, the only question the newly called Elder Groberg could think to ask was, “Does this mean we will have to leave Idaho Falls?” President Kimball hugged him and said tenderly, “I know exactly how you feel. It is good to love your hometown and your roots, but yes, this will mean moving anytime, anywhere in the whole world, for the rest of your life.” (May 1976, Ensign)
What would YOU be willing to do for the Lord? Think of your most prized possession…could you sell it? Your family and home that you love--could you leave it? The greatly desired career you worked YEARS for--could you postpone it? Your leisure time to enjoy hobbies--could you sacrifice it? Anyone who has made gospel covenants has made the promise to do the Lord’s will--anytime and anywhere.
In my early computer career, while living in Utah with my wife and three young sons, the events of September 11 left me without a job for ten months. After almost a year of fasting, praying, and job searching, I received a phone call. A job was available for me. However, it would require us to move to a place I wasn’t quite ready for. My wife is going to kill me, but well--the job was on Molokai. I had nightmares of that nine-passenger plane again, the slow-paced life, everyone asleep by 8 pm, no movie theaters, no McDonalds, no cable, and no ESPN, not to mention taking a HUGE pay cut. But, the more we prayed about the decision, the answer was VERY clear. Moloka’i was where the Lord needed us to be. It was during our life there that my children developed tender bonds with their grandparents. They experienced the beauties of a simple life, raising animals, hunting, diving, and utilizing their surroundings for daily living.
It was also during this time that I was called to serve as a high councilman for the Kahului stake, which required me to fly to Maui three Sundays a month to fulfill my assignment with the Kahului Second Ward. This was hard for me. I left on the first flight out on Sunday morning and returned on the last flight home. My wife was left to wrestle three rambunctious boys in church and the entire Sunday until I returned home. But I grew so much in this calling. I was rather young, and this was my first true involvement in church leadership and administration, and this served as a great training ground for when I would be called to serve as a Bishop years later, here in La’ie.
One of the greatest experiences of this calling was bringing my wife along one Sunday. We flew into Kahului and took the long windy road to the Hana chapel for my speaking assignment. I remember the tiny, hallowed building nestled in lush green land – it was breathtaking. I remember standing up at that pulpit. My heart was touched, and I was humbled as I looked out into the congregation of no more than 40 saints with their warm smiles, there to worship together. Immediately following the services, one of the families invited us to their backyard for lunch. It was the best lunch ever! Tuna sandwiches, mountain apples, fish, and poi. The Hana saints strengthened my testimony that day. They were few in numbers, but their Spirit was powerful! Although it was not easy to be away from my family each Sunday to fulfill my calling, I quickly learned that when we serve ANYTIME, ANYWHERE, God not only builds up His kingdom, but He builds up His servants.
A few years later, I was offered a job opportunity in Fruitland, Idaho. I had no idea where Fruitland was, but again, after much prayer and fasting…we were directed to move. I remember pulling out my Patriarchal blessing one evening. One particular line struck me so hard that I actually wished I HADN’T seen it. It said, “Your family will live in many places for the gospel.” I quickly put that thing away, so my wife wouldn’t see it – she didn’t do too well with moves. She got too attached to people and places. Well, I saw this job as a great opportunity for me, so our family made the move to the cold land of the potatoes – Idaho.
I will say this was NOT an easy move. But doing the Lord’s will usually isn’t. In fact, I remember after settling in and unpacking a few boxes one night, I took my wife for a drive around the town. She was quiet and withdrawn. I tried to console her by saying, “if you really don’t like it here, we don’t have to stay.” As I looked over at her, she stared out the window, trying to hide the tears that streamed down her face. She said, “if this is where we are supposed to be, then I will like it.” We thrived in Fruitland. We loved the tight-knit farming community. We served in our ward. Our children made great friends, and we grew as a family.
It was also here in Fruitland, Idaho, that I was approached by a family friend to make the career change over to healthcare. I had absolutely no experience, but with the Lord’s help and with the mentoring of this family friend, I learned the profession. I must mention that this family friend was our stake president at the time and is currently the area presidency in New Zealand, and we love him and his amazing family so very much. This career change was monumental for my family, and it would not have been possible if we weren’t willing to follow the promptings to move--anytime, anywhere.
This past year has been a unique one, especially for our missionaries. As I communicated with mission presidents, missionaries, and their parents on a daily basis, I was humbled by these young people and their faith in their Heavenly Father and their desire to serve wherever they were reassigned to and in whatever capacity was required. Some of them entered the mission field without having the opportunity to enter the temple to receive their endowments. Others experienced feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and uneasiness about the new methods of missionary work that they were about to embark on. They were entering their missions in the midst of a global pandemic; can you imagine how scary that must have been for them? But they went anyway. Their valiant spirits are a strength to me.
The scriptures are filled with examples of those who answered the call to follow the Lord. As my wife mentioned, I am a fan of Amulek. He is my guy! Before Amulek met the angel and Alma, he had apparently given little attention to the things of God. He was a well-to-do, well-known citizen of Ammonihah. In fact, in Alma 10:6, Amulek says, “Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart…” -Alma 10:6 As we continue in Chapter 10, we find that While journeying to visit a family member, Amulek met an angel who told him to go home and feed a prophet of the Lord. Amulek obeyed the voice of the angel and returned toward his house. He met up with Alma and took him to his home. Amulek was promised and believed that he would be blessed for his obedience
Despite his desire to change his ways and follow God, Amulek was rejected by his former friends, his father, and his family; he was scorned, imprisoned, spat upon, stripped naked, and given no food or water for many days. (Alma 14:1-22). These experiences are not what we generally consider as “blessings” right?
However, when Alma went out again to teach among the people of Ammonihah, he had a second witness at his side—Amulek, one of their own. And that was a game-changer. Amulek was able to use his God-given talents and engage in the great work of Salvation. (April 2016 General Conference, Dieter Uchtdorf, Learn From Alma and Amulek)
Sometimes it isn’t the huge tasks that are difficult for us to do. It’s the little seemingly unimportant assignments that we sometimes neglect, thinking that it’ll never matter. When living on Molokai, one of my sons was a Deacon and his scout troop participated in the yearly canned good drive. He didn’t want to go, saying, “no one ever leaves their canned goods on their doorstep. We drive around for hours to collect maybe three bags.” We told him, “okay, well, enjoy the drive” and encouraged him to support his scout troop and leaders. They had some success that day and collected several bags of canned goods.
They pulled up to one particular house and there was an old, Hawaiian woman sitting on the front porch. My son quickly scanned her front door, searching for a grocery bag. The woman called out, “hui…what you looking for boy?” My son said, “oh it’s okay aunty, we are collecting canned goods for the needy. It’s okay, thank you.” She then said, “oh come inside boy, let me see what I can give you.” He uncomfortably followed her and stood watching as she opened one cupboard at a time. He noticed that her cupboards were empty. She finally found a half-filled gallon of soyu. She said, “here, you can have this.” My son graciously thanked her and said, “it’s okay aunty…you keep that for you, we’re good. Have a nice day.” He then went back out to the truck. His leader asked, “nothing?” My son said, “nothing…she didn’t have that much in her cupboards, so she was going to give me her soyu.” His leader turned the engine off and went to the back of the truck and grabbed two large bags of canned goods, and handed them to my son, “Here. Go and take this to her. This is why we do this.” What an incredible teaching moment for my son! I am forever grateful for that boy scout leader that day, who was fulfilling his calling as a scout leader…and for finding an opportunity to teach a simple lesson that spoke VOLUMES! He was willing to do the little things—anytime, anywhere.
As my wife mentioned, I served my mission in the Guatemala City South mission. Like many of you who have served missions, these were 24 months of refinement for me. It wasn’t easy, and as I look back at the experiences I had there in Central America, I really don’t know how I survived. I learned to shoot iguanas with a slingshot and ate them for dinner. I drank water from a well with frogs in it. My companion and I were held at gunpoint in the jungle by some guerillas – not the monkey gorillas but the guerillas holding guns. They hit both my companion and me with their guns and spoke in very swift Spanish the four words that I could understand, which were “we…will..kill…you.” Miraculously, they left us lying there and took off.
Despite these experiences that would make ANY missionary want to throw in the towel, I was a personal witness of miraculous conversions, like thousands of missionaries that serve around the world today. I remember one evening, my companion and I felt impressed to proselyte in a particular area. After walking for a few miles in the dark, we saw a light a little far off. We started to pursue that light. As we got closer, we realized it was a little home across from a river, and we could hear singing coming from that home. So we felt inspired to cross the river and visit this home. We figured the water would be knee-high, so we decided to toss our scriptures and bags over to the other side of the river just to keep it from getting wet. We made our way into the river and very quickly discovered that it was a LOT deeper than we thought. The water came to our necks, and we realized that this was NOT such a great idea. We started to turn back but realized that our scriptures were already on the other side, so there WAS no turning back. We basically swam to the other side and quickly got out of the water. But as we looked down to wring the water out of our clothing, we saw rats clinging to our shirts and our slacks. It was the worst sight EVER!!! We started to kick and scream, and then we dropped to the ground and rolled around, hoping to get these creatures off. Finally, after throwing a complete tantrum, we were rat-free.
Now you can understand why I dislike rats so much. By this time, our commotion had caused everyone in this little home to come running out to meet their visitors. Although completely shaken up and traumatized, we sat, soaking wet, and met with this family--a family who had been prepared for us. As we entered their home, their father shared with us that they had been hungry for several days and that they sang to forget their troubles. “YOU are an answer to our prayers,” he said. We ended up teaching and baptizing EVERYONE in that home, which was about 16 individuals (grandparents, parents, uncle, aunty, and children). The Lord is able to fulfill His purposes when we are ready to be instruments anytime and anywhere.
The Savior declared, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. You see, the LOVE for our Savior should be the inspiration FOR our obedience.
Elder Dieter Uchtdorf, in his October 2009 General Conference message titled “The Love God”, said, “God does not need us to love him. But oh, how we need to love God. For what we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become.” -Dieter Uchtdorf
We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and DEMONSTRATE that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s.
This is my son, Enoch. This kid loves football, and he told me as a little boy that someday he was going to play college ball. He earned a full-ride scholarship and was living his dream. After a very successful freshman season, he came home for Christmas and said, “Dad… it’s time to hang up the jersey. I had my chance at playing ball and can’t miss my chance at serving a mission.” His scholarship was not promised upon his return, but he was willing to leave anyway. As he cleaned out his football locker, he sobbed and said, “I may not ever get to play again, but I need to show my Heavenly Father that I am grateful for everything that He has done for me.” He is currently serving in the Zambia, Lusaka mission and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. He is learning and growing in so many ways as he dedicates his time and wholehearted effort to the Lord. He loves the people of South Africa and is humbled to be able to share the Lord’s message of love and hope.
The chorus to one of my favorite hymns declares, “We are ALL enlisted till the conflict is o’er, Happy, are we! Happy are we! Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store; We shall win and wear it by and by.”
I testify to you that when we are willing to put aside our own desires, to serve the Lord anytime, anywhere, and to keep an eye single to His work, we will feel an outpouring of blessings in our homes and we will feel enveloped in His love.
In the name of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.