Aloha brothers and sisters! We are so happy to be here in Laie and are grateful to have this chance to speak to you.
Some 13-years ago, when Elder Holland interviewed us—then President Eyring officially called us to serve our first mission—the timing was tough. Although I had already planned to retire after working for about 30 years, my husband was at the peak of his career, our house didn’t sell, and we ventured off to Georgia with our youngest son to serve for 3-years. When we returned, a promised job was no longer available for Steve, so I re-entered the workforce and our paychecks were never the same. We felt like we’d shown faith and sacrificed to do God’s will and wondered why it was not “ideal” on the other side of serving and giving our all. By the way, a wonderful, meaningful job eventually did come for him—one that may have helped lead us here.
In October of last year, we were asked to serve in Laie, again, before we hit retirement age. We were excited for this “grand adventure,” as Elder Gifford Nielsen called it when he extended the call—but, again, we’d be without income and a paying job. But we knew it would be well worth it!
Turns out, there were reasons for both calls…and God knew it! We had much to accomplish and many life lessons to learn, which we acknowledge. And, as we look back and live in the now, we are very grateful for these life-changing, growing experiences.
We found that there were missionaries we needed to love and help… People we needed to meet. It caused us to show faith, have hope, work hard, gather scattered Israel, better empathize with others, and realize that God knows what’s best. He was aware of us and our feelings, He knew our needs and helped us perfectly by preparing the way and carefully leading us along—spiritually and temporally…even during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit only about 6-weeks after we arrived in Laie.
As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best?” We must trust in God’s purposes and timing and learn the lessons we were meant to learn.
We also have assurance that in Heavenly Father’s own way and time, He will bless us and resolve all our concerns, our injustices and disappointments. After all, He loves us perfectly. Elder Brook P. Hales says it’s up to us to do our part by seeking divine guidance through earnest prayer, honoring our covenants, and trying to be more like our Savior. When we do that—we’re entitled to a constant stream of divine guidance through the influence and inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Sister Kristen Oaks married President Dallin H. Oaks when she was almost 53 years old—a couple of years after his wife died. In a 2018 Church News article, she said she rejoiced during her single years…and suffered through them too, while she was discovering what Heavenly Father wanted for her. She believes Heavenly Father was blessing her with adequate time and experience to build a solid and sure testimony. She says she’s learned from happy and sad experience that the key is being anxiously engaged in good works…She said—don’t just wait around for your life situation to change.
And I would add another key—choosing to be patient. Elder Maxwell also says we need to be willing ” to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance.” We have to be willing to fulfill the Lord’s plans and timetable for us…while trying not to get too frustrated or disappointed. Easier said than done sometimes.
President Oaks says continuing revelation is the way the Lord administers His timing. Remember how President Hinckley doubled the number of operating temples from about 50 to 100—in just a few years’ time? Only the Lord’s prophet could get that done, based on revelation from heaven.
And what about all the adjustments that have come about in the last couple of years in the Church under President Nelson? Ministering, Elders Quorum, and Relief Society changes, 2-hour church…Come, Follow Me…Children & Youth, and a new proclamation…
And years ago, President Nelson wanted mobile devices in the missionaries’ hands …until, in January of this year, that finally happened for sisters and elders all over the world. Just in time, too-- that was the month before COVID19 hit. And the many ways missionaries have been able to use technology ever since and spread the gospel has been simply amazing! So much has miraculously been done, because of revelation.
Heavenly Father also knows when the temples can be actually be built in Russia and Shanghai and Dubai—and we need to trust Him and His timing. We cannot force it.
Sometimes our prayers about something we really want aren’t answered the way we want. Sometimes the Lord even says no to a worthy request or something that would bring us happiness. Whether it’s overcoming illness, keeping the Coronavirus away, keeping a loved one alive, loneliness, having a wayward family member come back into activity, or coping with a disability—we want a “yes.”
We had 7 sisters come to us from the Micronesia Guam Mission in late March. (you can see them in the lower left photo) They were serving their missions…then, when Coronavirus hit, they were told to pack up quickly, get to the airport and leave. They “thought” they were headed home to their Pacific islands…but, it turns out their borders were closed, so they landed in Hawaii, then came to us to self-isolate for 2-weeks…and stay in Laie.
They were resuming their missions in a place they weren’t even assigned. Because of the virus, we also had to get several of our international sisters to the airport to go home—many of them, long before the end of their missions. And we lost 130+ seniors from the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and BYU-Hawaii because they were over age 60 and were told to go home to safeguard their health. I will never forget that day we met with them to tell them the news. It was heart-wrenching for them to have to leave suddenly—for ALL of us. Some had even sold all they owned before their missions and had nothing to go home to. Really difficult…to leave, then wait. We hope to see them back here sooner than later.
For months—no one came. And many of our sisters still can’t get home to the islands—some have served months longer than their mission term.
Then, finally—at the end of July this year—we had dozens of young sister missionaries start to arrive almost weekly to join us in Laie, nearly quadrupling our numbers (these photos show just a few!). Many were originally assigned here—but many more had served in foreign lands and were sent home, only to be reassigned again, and even again. What a blessing they have been here, thanks to COVID! We need them to help the members and do all the missionary work connected with our Visitors’ Center Virtual Tours and in our Teaching Center…and more. So, trust in the Lord and His timing…even when it’s not what we planned.
No one really begs for adversity. Sometimes it comes when we transgress and make bad choices. But sometimes it comes when the Lord sees that we can be refined and polished as a result of being tested. After all, that’s the reason we’re here on earth…
I love the scriptures in Proverbs Chapter 3: Verses 5 and 6—“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
That’s the scripture Elder King shared with our daughter several years back. She had a knack for business and organization…and we thought she’d be a fantastic business major. She took the beginning Accounting class in college and did not like it at all. So, her dad asked her, “What do you have a passion for?” She said it was music-dance-theatre…but worried there was no future for her in it. Well, she tried out for that specialized BFA program, got accepted, then sang and toured with BYU-Provo’s Young Ambassadors performing group. Singing and dancing on New York City’s Broadway was not her ultimate destiny. But she graduated in that field and has found great joy teaching piano and voice lessons to many young people. A different path—but she trusted…and it worked out for her in a wonderful way.
Elder Richard G. Scott says to get you from where you are to where God wants you— requires a lot of stretching.
My amazing mother has had dementia-Alzheimers for over 10 years now. My dad’s lovingly taken care of her and attended to her every need at home until the last four years, when she needed to go to a memory care facility. He feeds her every meal because her capacity is so diminished. But she’s been a bright, multi-talented woman all her life…and a wonderful mother. I want to tell you a little about her…
She was an incredible pianist and taught for just $2 a lesson…just so children who couldn’t really afford it could learn to play.
Mom was an awesome seamstress! She’d stay up late making something special for homecoming or other dances. By the time my sister Alicia came along 8 years later—our folks had some money to buy her clothes. But Mom sewed all of mine…through most of college. And she did a great job!
She drove us great distances to music lessons so we could develop our talents—and even joined me playing violin in the orchestra at a Catholic girls’ convent, which my violin teacher conducted.
Mom was such a good homemaker…she was a great cook…and so clean, you could lick her floors and think they tasted good!
As an adult, she was a substitute teacher, a volunteer, and she took voice lessons. She was a renowned choir director in our California stake for decades…and put on more beautiful programs than you can count—both religious and secular. And, after they retired and moved to Utah from California …Mom played the violin in a local symphony orchestra.
She would do anything to help anyone, always serving. And she and my dad served a senior couple mission to Ireland—even though she was a bit nervous. But she was faithful and found she could do that, too…and her sweet personality won many Irish hearts. I love her dearly…and that’s the way I always think of her in my mind. Gentle and fun…never overbearing. Always kind.
Even though Mom still looks much the same…her memory is gone…along with her recognition of most of her family members. She doesn’t speak and can’t really do anything for herself. It is so very sad—yet we are thrilled she is still with us…and she’s still wonderful, beautiful Renée. I often wonder—why her? And, sometimes, I think--why us? Or why me?
But maybe, instead, we should ask the question Elder Maxwell asked when he was diagnosed with leukemia: “Why not me?” And ask…What am I to do? What am I to learn? What am I to change? Whom am I to help?
In time, we all realize that “there are beautiful sunrises even after devastating sunsets.” Heavenly Father continues to pour down blessings, even when we’re in the midst of our trials. And we, too, have seen that in our family.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”
There are so many great examples of those in the scriptures who patiently endured. I immediately think of Joseph in the Old Testament, Rebekah & Isaac, Nephi, Alma & the Sons of Mosiah, the Anti Nephi-Lehies, Mary, the apostle Paul, Mormon & Moroni, the prophet Joseph Smith, and so many more who trusted the Lord and His timing during the most difficult circumstances. And, of course, our Savior Jesus Christ.
We always talk to our missionaries about their purpose…which is the Doctrine of Christ. The purpose of a missionary is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. That’s why they serve missions. Their purpose…is the Lord’s purpose.
The way is never easy. If it was, we wouldn’t learn anything! But there is always divine intervention. And when we trust in the Lord, He can direct our paths for good and help us accomplish that purpose through the Holy Ghost.
Our path has taken us here to Laie, Hawaii. We know we’re supposed to be here—and, maybe when our time here is complete, we’ll better understand the reasons why. But we know by now that we trust our Heavenly Father. He has never led us astray before, as we’ve tried to follow His timetable and path for us, and we hope that you will trust Him enough to do the same…even through the difficult times.
I know God lives and is involved in the details of our lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son who atoned for us…that Joseph Smith restored this Gospel and ushered in the last dispensation, and that President Russell M. Nelson is a living prophet today and continues to receive revelation for us. I also know that the Book of Mormon is true—it is life-changing and life-saving. The Gospel is true. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.