Recruiting: Building the Lord's Kingdom

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Brandyn AkanaDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

May 24, 2007
Brandyn Akana
Assistant Professor in Exercise & Sports Science Department
Assistant Men's Basketball Coach

One of my main responsibilities as the Assistant Men's Basketball Coach here at BYU-Hawaii is to recruit players who can contribute to the overall success of our basketball program. In doing so, I often visit prospective athletes and their families in their homes to share with them about our university and our religious beliefs.

In my office at this moment there are about 200 videos and DVD's of student athletes who wish to attend BYU-Hawaii. Would you imagine, of all of these prospects, may be only five or six have the kinds of skills and athletic abilities to truly contribute. The skills and athletic abilities we need in players vary from season to season.

The church is constantly recruiting individuals from many nations to help build the Lord's kingdom here on the earth.

A high profile coach once said to me, "To recruit successfully requires two things:

1. You need a networking system! People who can give you information on potential players or referrals.

2. You need to follow through on those referrals! Make contact often, be caring, let them know what you as a coach is looking for and how they will fit into your program.

In 1993 as a young missionary leaving from Moloka'i, a tiny island located east of Oahu. I often wondered how can I find those who would be willing to join the church and contribute to the building of the Lord's kingdom here on the earth.

One of the answers to my question came from a quotation that my Mission President quoted from Spencer W. Kimball; "go out and teach the gospel, when necessary use words."

Another came while reading the Prophet Alma's testimony to his son Helaman: "counsel with the Lord in all thy doings" (Alma 37:37).

Another answer came while reading through the last verse of Alma's stirring testimony to his sons, "…And now my sons look to God and live" (Alma 37:47).

Sounds pretty simple does it not?
1. Be a righteous example
2. Spend a lot of time on your knees in prayer
3. Look to the master for guidance

The Lord is in need of recruiters to help build his kingdom here on the earth. At the waters of Mormon, Alma points out the requirements of those who are willing to be recruiters of the Lord (Mosiah 18:8-11).

v. 8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;
v. 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
v. 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
v. 11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts."

The following are some examples of what President Spencer W. Kimball meant when he said, "Go out and teach the gospel, when necessary use words."

I am from a family of 10 children. My mom is a product of Laie. Her name is Masinaoina Malufau, she attended this University which was then called Church College of Hawaii and danced at the Polynesian Cultural Center. My mom and dad met in 1966. They were only acquaintants at first. My mom mentioned to him on occasion about her goals and plans for the future.

As a young Samoan girl she decided while still a child in primary that she would serve a full-time mission for the church and when she returned from her mission she would only settle for a Temple Marriage and throughout the years learned, understood, and lived the standards that are required of a candidate for a Celestial Marriage.

Brothers and sisters, my dad fell in love with the gospel before he even took the lessons. He did take her to the House of the Lord in 1968; in which they were sealed for time and all eternity. Although, she didn't get an opportunity to go on a full-time mission for the church, she raised eight boys who were sent all over the world to build the Lord's kingdom. The first served in Nagoya, Japan. The second opened the mission in Palau; on the island of Yap. The third served in Quebec, Canada. The fourth served in Vina Del Mar, Chile. I served in Cleveland, Ohio. The sixth served in Roseville, California. The seventh served in Joao Pesoa, Brazil. And the last served in Hiroshima, Japan.

One evening at the dinner table, after my older brother Jarinn returned from his mission in Chile, South America, my mom with tears in her eyes said to my dad "honey, if I did go on a mission, I would have never touched the lives of as many people as our boys have." My mom was building her little army of stripling warriors.

Brothers and sisters, I truly believe the Lord had his eyes on my dad from a very young age. My mother was given the special task of recruiting my dad to assist in the building of the Lord's kingdom.

A month ago, a personal friend of mine from the People's Republic of China sent me an email regarding his only daughter. Mr. Wang Fei, the former head coach of the Chinese Men's National Basketball Team, and I spend a great deal of time in China together training and instructing young Chinese athletes. Coach Wang Fei currently coaches a professional team in the Chinese Basketball Association and hopes to represent his country as the Head Coach for the Men's National Basketball Team in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. I met Coach Wang Fei several years ago when he brought his National Team to train in Dallas, Texas. Through my conduct he learned at the onset of our relationship that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You see, Coach Wang Fei is not a member of the church and prior to our meeting had no previous knowledge of our religious beliefs. Coach Wang Fei once asked me why I didn't smoke or drink as it is customary for his coaching staff to smoke and drink during meals. At that time a brief discussion of the word of wisdom ensued and interestingly enough, he now shelters me from inappropriate offers by other individuals and immediately steps in to introduce me to others as a "mormon" and explains to them our beliefs in the word of wisdom. He also out of the utmost respect for me and my beliefs no longer personally smokes and drinks.

For the purpose of this presentation, I would now like to share parts of Coach Wang Fei's email to me with you:

"My daughter graduates from high school this spring. My wife and I are looking at different universities in Europe and America for her to attend. Many of these universities are very well-known and interested in her attending. Being that she is my only child, I really want the best situation for her. I know BYU-Hawaii is a special university in a special place. I respect BYU-Hawaii, the people, your religion, and university rules and guidelines. BYU-Hawaii is a great environment for students from all over the world who wish to learn and be educated. My wife and I want her to be surrounded by good people. I feel that BYU-Hawaii will be the perfect fit for my daughter."

Isn't it interesting brothers and sisters, that through our conduct a person like Wang Fei, who has never stepped foot onto our campus and knows very little about the gospel, has a desire to send his only daughter to be apart of our special university?

Brothers and sisters, "go out and teach the gospel, when necessary use words."

The third example that I would like to share with all of you about teaching the gospel involves the conversion of my lovely wife, Joselyn. I met Joselyn in the summer of 1997. She had just graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and was beginning to make plans for the future.

When I met her, she was, as missionaries like to call it, "Golden." I say "Golden" because during our first encounter one of the first things she said to me was, "When are you going to take me to church?" Can you imagine, what was going through my mind at that very moment? Let's just say missionary work doesn't always come that easy. Little did I know that Joselyn was at a point in her life where she was searching for direction and guidance. Thus, after a few more encounters and the same question, I felt obliged to comply with her request and take her to church.

I invited Joselyn to attend the University of Hawaii Branch with me one Sunday morning. We sat in Sunday school while Joselyn anxiously awaited the lesson. And could you believe that the first lesson she heard was "Why not to date non-members?" Fortunately for me, she gave it another chance. That following Sunday we tried the family ward at the Makiki Tabernacle instead, and it was there that she found what she was looking for. Joselyn was later baptized in May of 1998 and one year later we were sealed for Time and All eternity. Till this day Joselyn is a constant reminder to me about the importance of teaching the gospel by example.

The next example. One of the joys of being a Bishop here at BYU-Hawaii, is the opportunity of getting to know students from all over the world and listen to their individual experiences. Because of this opportunity, I have come to appreciate each student's example and faithfulness in the gospel.

Brother Sung Hoon Lee from Seoul, South Korea, serves as the Elders Quorum President in the BYU-Hawaii 17th Ward. He is one of these students that I have grown to admire particularly because of his conversion to the gospel and example to the ward. One afternoon, Brother Lee was sitting on a bench reading when he noticed two missionaries walking in his direction. He continued to read to avoid any unwanted attention from these missionaries. As he read, several thoughts crossed his mind, "What are these strange and weird young men doing?" "Don't turn, don't turn, keep walking, keep walking." Needless to say, the missionaries did in fact approach Brother Lee and shortly thereafter, he was baptized at the age of 26. Although his parents never supported his decision to be baptized, a year and three months later, he decided to serve a full time mission for the church. At the age of 27 his parents had other things in mind for him, such as, finding a job and getting married. However, Brother Lee's desire to serve a mission led him to the Korea Pusan Mission. Throughout his mission Brother Lee's parents chose not to support him. In fact, he remembers calling his mother on Mother's Day and being told "no longer to call her mom." But, Brother Lee did not lose faith. While on his mission Brother Lee constantly sent missionaries to his parents' home and through his persistence, faith, and prayers, Brother Lee was given special permission to return home from his mission to baptize his father. Till today, his mother remains a non-member but is much more receptive to the church and its beliefs.

Here in the back of me is the Axis Deer or as it is called in Japan "Shika." Shika is truly an example of one of the noblest animals found in the forests of Hawai'i. Not a native of Hawai'i, but given to Lot Kapuaiwa, Kamehameha the Fifth, by the Emperor of Japan in the 1800's as a token of goodwill.

A tiny herd was released here on Oahu in Moanalua, the area where Tripler General Hospital now stands. A larger portion of the herd was placed on the island of Moloka'i. To this day large herds of these animals populate the West and East ends of the island. These majestic animals can now be found on Mau'i and Lana'i as well. As children my brothers and sisters and I were raised on Moloka'i venison.

These magnificent animals not only retain its spots throughout its life, but are blessed with very unique senses. Their ability to hear is incomparable. These animals can hear the snapping of the tiniest twig; a warning of danger. Its sight is enormously keen. They are capable of detecting the slightest movement in the forest. Its sense of smell is acute enough to frustrate any hunter. If the wind is right, it can smell the threat of danger and its direction from a mile away. With all of these acute senses, the deer has a weakness which usually spells its doom. These animals never look upwards. If the hunter is perched on a tree or a high ledge the deer never knows the hunter is there.

In the 37th Chapter of Alma as referred to earlier, Alma warns his sons of the importance of following the words of the Lord. In reminding them of how the Liahona led them through the wilderness, he declared; "and now my sons, see that you take care, see that ye look to God and live" (Alma 37:47).

Brothers and sisters, may we all look up to God in all that we do and be recruiters for him, as we help to build his kingdom here on the earth.

My prayer is that we may do this as we seek for the elect, who will hear the voice of the Lord and harden not their hearts.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.