Those were some wonderful “go and do”1 days. Like Nephi, I was trying my best to follow the Lord, make good choices, honor my priesthood, and live an obedient life. Yes, our day is much different than this young boy-prophet. But we, as covenant keepers, are still very much the same. We are grabbing hold of the iron rod and finding our way back to the Lord. This is our life’s mission.
As was mentioned, Lanett and I recently served in the Samoa Apia Mission where I also served a young full-time mission nearly 40 years ago. I grew up on the island of American Samoa, so when I submitted my mission papers as a young elder, I was hoping and praying that the Lord would take me to a new place of adventure outside of our little dot on the map. Imagine my disappointment when I opened my call and read, “you are hereby called to serve in the Samoa Apia Mission.” Being a young, somewhat self-centered dreamer, I signed the acceptance letter and added a little note that said: “I accept my call to serve in Samoa, but I feel very strongly that I should be serving somewhere outside of Samoa!” Well, the Lord knew what I needed more than I did. Months later, I arrived in Upolu, just an island away that felt completely foreign to me.
The language was far more elite than the Samoan I was accustomed to. I slept on rocks that had to be laid flat every night before putting my mat and mosquito net on top. The food was simple. I walked almost five hours to get to my area, and the ferry rides turned my insides out! If there was ever a time that I needed to lean on the Lord for help, THIS WAS IT!
So, I began to “Trust in the Lord with all my heart; and lean not unto my own understanding.”2 As I acknowledged Him, He directed my path to see this sacred place and its people through the Savior’s eyes. I grew to love this little island and bringing souls unto Christ, mine included. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is that YES, it’s important to “go where you want me to go, dear Lord.” But it’s far more important to “be what He wants me to be!”3 This was my test. It wasn’t about where I served. It was about how I served. This mission wasn’t about ME. It was never about ME! It was always about my Savior.
Then, just six months into my mission, I was blessed with a miracle. I received a call from my mission president, President Te’o. “Elder Ho Ching, the Lord is assigning you to a new area. This will be the farthest transfer you’ve ever had. You’re going to America to serve in the New Mexico, Albuquerque Mission!” There were too many local missionaries in Samoa, and the church was transferring some of us out. I was in utter shock! I had almost forgotten what I had prayed and wished for from the beginning. But it wasn’t until I aligned my will with the Lord’s will that the prayer of my heart was answered.
President Nelson has proclaimed that “Now is the time to align our goals with God’s goals.”4 Like any loving parent, Heavenly Father is there to encourage us and walk with us every step of the way. Sometimes the results bring us what our hearts desire. Other times, they bring something entirely different. Always, they give us an experience that polishes us. In our mission, Sister Ho Ching and I had a familiar saying, “If you do what is right, you will find what is right!” This is a simple promise for all of God’s children who practice patience with a willing heart.
A young man learned this saving principle early on in our mission. Elder Simon was from Papua New Guinea. He had been serving for about six months when we arrived in Samoa. He had a gentle spirit and a smile that would melt anyone’s heart. A convert himself, he was anxious to bless others with the same peace he found in the Lord’s true gospel. Unfortunately, the challenge of learning the language was making it hard for him to accomplish this goal. Discouraged, he told me during our first interview,
“President, I’ve been praying, and I received a prompting that I need to go back to my homeland and teach the gospel to my own people, in my own language.”
After listening to Elder Simon share his feelings, I kindly instructed him to return to his apartment and pray again. This time, humbly asking the Lord to help soften his heart toward the people and culture of Samoa. A few days later, I checked in on him. Elder Simon again shared that he received revelation telling him he needed to go home and be a missionary there.
I replied, “It’s strange, Elder, as your Mission President, I haven’t received that same revelation! I invite you to return to your village and give it more time. Try to love outward rather than inward. See those you teach through the Savior’s eyes, and the language will surely come.”
A week later, Elder Simon texted me while I was in American Samoa on assignment. I quickly called him back.
“President, I think the Lord wants me to go home and serve my own people.”
Immediately, these words came out of my mouth: “Elder Simon, Simon says: STAY IN SAMOA!”
From that moment on, this incredible elder turned his will to the Lord’s. He made peace with the Lord’s path for him. The language started to come “line upon line”1 and he eventually became known in the mission as the mayor of Sili, the village where he served the longest. That Christmas, he was called to speak at our Zone Conference Devotional. Elder Simon walked up to that pulpit and gave a Samoan sermon that moved everyone to tears. His example taught us that “with God all things are possible.”2
When Elder Simon left Samoa more than a year later, he returned honorably to his home. Not at the time when he first had requested, but when the Lord knew he was ready! Perhaps the sweetest ending to this story is that Elder Simon’s experience prepared him to be the leader that the Lord needed him to be in gospel-growing Papua. When he finally decided to “go and do”1 willingly, he developed skills that were desperately needed in his homeland. Like the younger version of myself, Elder Simon learned to trust in the Lord and be what He needed Him to be. We received a tender message from him soon after his return home.
“I love and miss you, President and Sister Ho Ching. I received my new church calling. I became the first counselor in the Mount. Hagen Branch. My missionary work is not done yet. Still, I’m trying my best to find some souls and build the Lord’s Kingdom. God bless you all!”
Aligning our will with God’s will is certainly not a game of “Simon Says,” but it is a choice we can make to help us reach our divine potential as His sons and daughters. There is so much opportunity in the world today. In fact, our heads can spin from all the possibilities! The adversary loves when we get distracted in our search for happiness and forget our ultimate goal of eternal happiness. Yes, it is important to shoot for the stars but remember that the stars we shoot for should be celestial ones. If you are finding it difficult to set attainable goals, may I suggest that you simplify things by including the Lord in your daily steps of achievement? Alma’s counsel to his son Helaman is perfect for our day. “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”1 It is wise to keep things simple!
What are those small and simple things that keep us on the right track? They are not difficult. We only make them difficult. They are daily prayer, scripture pondering, keeping commandments, Sunday worship, and lending a helping hand to those in need. How many minutes a day do these “small and simple things” take to do? Not many. And as you do them, you will likely forget about your worries, like Elder Simon did, and clearly see “great things come to pass.” The famous American actor, Will Rogers, once said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”5 Now is the time to get up and start moving. Take the Savior’s hand, and He will lead you forward.
Years ago, I saw a bumper sticker on a car. I was so intrigued with this sticker that I took a picture. It had in large print, the letters, “A.S.A.P.” That seems to be the story of our lives today, doesn’t it? Everything is expected: As Soon As Possible!
We are in such a hurry to make things happen; get results, earn a dollar, buy our dream home, or even build a family! Sometimes we are so obsessed with quick results, that we forget to enjoy the journey we are on. As I drove closer to this car to get a better look at the sticker, I realized that I had missed the fine print. The ASAP didn’t stand for "as soon as possible.
It stood for “Always Say A Prayer.” How wise! When we take the time to plead, “Heavenly Father, I need you right now. I’m thankful to know you’re there. I trust you even though sometimes it’s hard.” Perhaps if we "Always Say A Prayer," "As Soon As Possible," we will be able to go where He wants us to go and be what He wants us to be3 in ways we cannot possibly imagine. The rewards may not be castles here on earth, but they will certainly be “mansions of my Father” in heaven.
I testify that when we “go and do” willingly, the journey of enduring to the end becomes one of enjoying to the end! May we have the courage to align our goals with God’s goals, grabbing hold of the iron rod that will lead us back into His presence. I pray humbly in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
- Joseph Smith, "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ," 1830. Salt Lake City, Ut, The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, 2013. pgs. 109, 6, 300.
- Hendrickson Publishers, The Holy Bible: King James Version. Peabody, Ma, Hendrickson Publishers, 2014, pgs. 813, (1221).
- Mary Brown, “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Churchofjesuschrist.org, Hymn #270 (1835).
- Russel M. Nelson, “Time to Align Our Goals with God’s Goals,” Deseret News, 9 April 2005.
- Will Rogers, "Thoughts on the Business of Life," ForbesQuotes, 2015.