Preparing for Life's Callings

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Dennis KimDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

October 26, 2006
Dennis Kim
Millilani Stake President

President Orgill, Brother Neal, distinguished faculty and staff, and students of one of the best small colleges in the United States, Aloha!

It is with great pleasure that I stand before you and share testimony to the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how the Lord prepares each one of us for our life's mission. Throughout my life, little events happened which I used to think as coincidental occurrences. However as I grew older, I began to see that there seemed to be a plan and system to all this. I began to see everything from an eternal perspective and that the Lord wanted to use me as an instrument in His hands. But I was a material person living in a material world, so I was oblivious to the training I was receiving through the Holy Ghost. In the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, it reads: "And I give unto you who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves...That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you." As I realized what was happening, I knew that I had to change my attitude, and when that happened, my life and the life of my family was changed forever. So I want to share some experiences with you that may help you find your mission in life much earlier than I did. This way, you will become a greater instrument in building the Kingdom of God on this earth.

I am a third generation LDS Korean. My grandfather, Chai Han Kim, came to Hawaii about a hundred years ago. At the age of 40, he married Susie Wela, a Hawaiian girl of 16 from Kalopa on the Big Island. In 1927, he had a spiritual experience that caused him and his wife to look for and join the Mormon Church. My grandfather faithfully attended church every week even though he couldn't speak Hawaiian, the language spoken in church, and English, which later replaced Hawaiian. He had 14 children and now over 200 descendents most of whom are still active. They have served in every position in the church, including High Counselors, Branch Presidents, Bishops, Patriarchs, Stake Presidents, and as Mission President. Through the faithfulness of this one man who didn't hold any position in the church other than the Melchizedek Priesthood and who couldn't understand the language, the Lord has worked a mini-miracle. I learned the value of faith and enduring to the end.

Like Nephi, I also was born of goodly parents. After World War II, my dad and mom started their family of five boys and one girl. He worked in the Quartermaster Laundry at Schofield Barracks. We were short on funds, but long on love. I never saw my dad argue with my mom but he supported her in every way possible. We went to a lot of activities most of which were free: the beaches, church activities, Santa Claus parades, Armed Forces Day open houses, etc. They taught us to get an education and a good career. Neither of them had much education because of the war, so my dad went to night school to learn to become a mechanic and my mom started substitute teaching. They taught us the value of hard work. To supplement their income, our whole family would clean the Wahiawa Chapel on Saturdays. I started working in the pineapple fields at the age of 14 for $1.10/hr. They started many traditions, which have been passed down to us such as our monthly Kim Family Home Evening for the extended Ferry Kim Family. From my parents, I learned the value of love unfeigned, hard work, thrift, and traditions.

When I was a young man serving my mission in the Southern Far East Mission, I was assigned to the Taiwan Zone. For over a year, I was the Branch President of the Hualien Branch on the East Coast of Taiwan. One day while riding through the rice paddies, I saw an old red brick traditional Chinese farmhouse set among some tall bamboo groves and with the mountains in the background. I said to myself, I've been here before. I thought and thought until it dawned on me that I had actually seen the exact same scenery in a dream when I was in elementary school. I didn't remember that dream, until I was actually seeing it first hand. I felt a tingling feeling within me and I knew that this was where the Lord wanted me to serve my mission. I learned the value of personal revelation.

My whole life was changed because of my mission. I changed careers because I learned how to help a family that was struggling financially. It made me feel so good to see them become as little children and break the chains of debt, that I wanted to do that for the rest of my career. So I changed my major in college and got an MBA degree rather than a law degree.

You may not know this, but I was married three times. I met my wife on my mission. As Branch President, I knew every member, active and inactive, very well. Sister Kim was a beautiful member of our branch who was not the least interested in men. She was an orphan who overcame her sorrows in life by joining the church and serving with all her might, mind, and strength. She tested into an elite middle school, and then attended Hualien Teachers College on a scholarship. She graduated as valedictorian of her school. She then became an elementary school teacher. When I met her, she had a goal to get a scholarship to attend the National Teachers University in Taipei. So after I returned to Hawaii, I dated around, but she stuck out in my mind. I corresponded with her and later proposed by tape. The next summer, I returned to Taiwan and married the three times she described earlier. Our 36 years of marriage has been blessed with six children and nine grandchildren with two more on the way. She has always supported me in my callings and endeavors. She always says that I treat her like a 10-cow wife, but she treats me like a 10-bull husband. Our marriage is a lot of fun. We had all sorts of experiences, good, bad, exhilarating, tragic, encouraging, depressing; you name it we experienced it. But I learned that love in a marriage is and should be unconditional. I learned the value of spiritual companionship, forgiveness, mutual support, family home evenings, and family togetherness.

When I was called to be a Mission President, I was serving as the Senior Logistics Manager at the US Property and Fiscal Office in the National Guard. This means that I was responsible for every dollar that came from the Federal Government for the Hawaii Army National Guard. I had five Lieutenant Colonels serving under me. I went in to General Correa, a devout Catholic, and said that my church had called me to be a mission president. He said, "That's good." So I said, "That means that I either have to retire or resign." Now that caught his attention. I continued, "This is just like the Pope calling you and your wife to go to Africa and help build the Catholic Church there." General Correa turned to me and said, "Kim, if the Pope called me to go to Africa, I would take this star off my uniform, put it on the desk, salute the Hawaii National Guard, and follow the Pope. So you go with my blessing. But we had plans for you." I knew what he was saying, so I said, "Well, I'd rather be the General of Helaman's Stripling Warriors rather than the four thousand soldiers of the National Guard." He responded, "Huh?" Then I proceeded to tell him a little about the church. I learned that the Lord opens ways for us to serve him if we remain faithful. I also learned that there are many good people who are not of our faith, who will help us because of the light of Christ that is in their hearts.

Sister Kim told you about the earthquake. It was a 7.6 quake. Many people lived in tents for weeks or months, including some of our missionaries. Most of my responses were automatic because I was involved with Hurricane Iniki that hit Kauai. I was the Senior Medical Administrator at the time in the Guard, and was in the Diamond Head Crater Civil Defense Command Center when the first communications came out of Kauai. In the ensuing days, I worked with other relief organizations and military units to quickly take relief to the people of Kauai. From this experience, I knew exactly what to do when the earthquake hit Taiwan. I learned that experiences in other fields can be transferred to church callings.

About a week after the earthquake, I received a call from the vice-president of the Tsu Chi Buddhist Benevolent Society in Central Taiwan in the morning. He said, "President Kim, we are an organization of older people who have money and good will. We are in the process of building temporary housing for the victims of the earthquake. But we lack the muscles to pour cement and build the foundations for those homes. We know that you have young missionaries here. Can you help us?"

I said, "How many young men do you need?"

"About forty."

"When do you need them?"

"The cement trucks start arriving at 2:00 this afternoon."

I concluded, "I will try and give you the help you need."

I called my Assistants and had them call four zones of missionaries to bike to Chunghsing and help the Buddhists build their temporary housing. Some of them biked over two hours, but by 2:00 they were all working side by side with their Buddhist brothers. Some of our missionaries came from families in the construction business, so they were even of greater help. For two weeks they worked together and built a great relationship. Later, the Vice-President confided in me, "We actually had asked some other churches to help, but they declined saying that they needed to take care of their own members. Your church truly is a church where love has no bounds." This story was even printed in the Tzuchi Foundations' magazine, so we got great coverage from that. I learned that selfless service brings greater rewards most of which are unexpected.

President Hinckley challenged the missions to double their baptisms. In 1999, we baptized 501 converts, which was almost double the number in 1998. In December we brought up the subject to our missionaries in our Christmas Mission Conference. The missionaries quoted 1 Nep3:7, "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them, that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them." We set a goal of one thousand baptisms in the year 2000. I turned in that goal to the Asia Area Presidency. I was told that I needed to be "realistic." So I told them that they could turn in 750 to Church Headquarters and we would still shoot for the thousand. From January 1 - December 31, everyone worked hard contacting, teaching, fellowshipping, resolving concerns, and baptizing converts. At 10:30pm on the 31st of December we got the final count from the office Elders: we had just witnessed a miracle. We had baptized a total of 1,024 converts in the year 2000. Everyone was crying, and as the Elders call each apartment, there were more tears shed. I called Elder Cook in Hong Kong and gave him the report. There was silence, then a tearful, "Congratulations. You are truly the flagship of Asia." I learned the power of vision, being strictly obedient, and setting high goals.

The Lord has been and is continuing to prepare you for your life's calling. As you can see from my life's experiences, I have learned many lessons of life. I have committed the rest of my life to help others understand the grand plan the Lord has for each of us. So, I have a few suggestions that might help you better prepare for it:

1. Develop good work ethics. This applies to both your physical and intellectual pursuits. Always do the best you can. Never do the minimum just to get by. Learn from institutions like BYU-Hawaii. Learn from your ancestors by knowing your family history. You'll find great treasures of faith promoting stories.

2. Develop your spirituality. Learn to listen to the promptings of the spirit, and then do what the spirit directs. Read your patriarchal blessing. Ponder it. Look for the messages just for you. If you are not yet fully converted, the Moroni 10:4 has the right suggestion.

3. Develop a habit of selfless service. Accept callings, and then serve with your heart, might, mind and strength. Don't aspire to positions, but prepare yourself for it by being worthy and able to fulfill it's responsibilities. If you come from another country, you will be most effective in building Zion back home rather than staying here. The Lord wants you to build his kingdom in your homeland. You may feel that this is a sacrifice, but you will be storing up treasures in heaven.

4. Develop the pattern of eternal progression. If you are a returned missionary, you should always make sure the last two years of your life were the best two years of your life (not your two years on a mission). We should always be progressing. Don't fall into the trap of reverting to your pre-mission state of life. If you haven't served a mission, consider going. Missions will change your life.

The Chinese have a saying, "Yu Jr, jing cheng." Loosely translated, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Brothers and Sisters: If you will learn and implement these few suggestions, your life will be a happy life, a life full of the love of God, a life of service to others, a life of spiritual accomplishment. May the Lord bless you all that you may find your calling in life and through you bless the lives of all those whose lives you touch.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.