Anxiously Engaged in a Good Cause ...Following the Savior's Example
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii
June 17, 2008
Cassandra Fa'amuli and William "Kaj" Kellgreen
BYUHSA Executive Vice President
Brothers and Sisters Aloha!
I am very grateful and honored to have this opportunity to speak to you today. I am also very thankful for the love and support of my friends and family that are here. I am grateful for their encouragement and the positive influences that I have especially felt while preparing for today's devotional. I want to express, also, my love and appreciation for this university, and for the leaders that are blessed to guide and direct for this sacred institution. From a very young age I knew that I wanted to attend this university. I never, however, saw myself standing here speaking at a devotional. I am truly blessed and humbled and I pray that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to your heart of the truthfulness of what will be shared with you today.
The Lord has told us that "men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness." And He added these significant words "For the power is in them..." (D&C 58:27-28) This quotation refers to all women and men. Each of us has the power to do good. We have the power to do significant acts of service on our own if we will become anxiously engaged. We are given the free agency to choose what causes we will engage ourselves in.
Over a year ago Kaj approached me with an opportunity to engage in a good cause. No this has nothing to do with eternal marriage or engagement, as some students have thought this past week as they noticed the devotional flyers and caught the first two words "Anxiously engaged." I was on my way to an afternoon history class and he called earlier to see if we could ask me something in person. Prior to this meeting we had only known each other through a few encounters and a few occasional family home evenings. So I met with him a few minutes before the class started. When I arrived he said to me, "I have been thinking about running for BYUHSA President but I need someone to run with." I was taken back by surprise. I remember asking "Well have you thought of anyone else?" He told me that his original partner was unable to do it and that I was another option. My first thoughts were "you've got to be kidding me" followed by "well, maybe I should pray about it." I asked him for some time to think it over. He replied "oh yes, absolutely...but can you think it over in 30 minutes because the deadline is in 30 minutes." I was everything but anxious. I obviously said yes and signed my life away to a year contract with BYUHSA. But it has been a decision that I absolutely do not regret and have been ever so grateful for.
I remember the thoughts and feeling I had as I signed and initialed the various forms of the application. Am I even qualified for this position? How can I possibly do this? Thoughts of doubt and fear danced around in my head. So often when we are faced with opportunities to expand our horizons and become more than what we are, Satan attempts to put thoughts of doubt in our minds. We sometimes limit ourselves thinking "well that's not for me" or "I am not that type of person." I am afraid that sometimes we tend to wander around the wastelands of self-doubt. We doubt our ability to influence others for the good. We are blinded from divine potential and become instilled with a fear of failure.
The story of the two thousand stripling warriors as recorded in Alma rings clear in my mind as I think about those brave sons who did not doubt their mother's teachings and exhibited a solid faith in the Lord. President Thomas S. Monson said, "Of course, we will face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God's approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully, but also as a determination to live decently. A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh. Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well." Heavenly Father does not place doubt and fear in us. We must look to Him with faith just as Helaman's two thousand stripling warriors did having no doubts in their hearts and armed with unwavering faith in God.
Because wickedness never was happiness I like to think that people generally want to do good. We are usually happier when we are doing good. Each bad choice we make only builds a wall between us and God. And as we turn our focus from our self doubt to selfless service, we gain a fresher perspective on our own lives. The Lord has said that "whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life...shall find it." (Matthew 16:25). In the midst of service there is a promise that we will find ourselves! I truly enjoy Spencer W. Kimball's remarks when he said "Not only do we 'find' ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others - indeed, it is easier to 'find' ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!" As we begin to find ourselves the Lord blesses us with talents and gifts.
Each of us is blessed with talents and abilities that should be used for the benefit of others through service. Over this past year as I have served in BYUHSA I have witnessed the growth and development of many individuals who have volunteered. There are several volunteers that have excelled beyond expectation and developed leadership skills and qualities. I have also been amazed with the amount of talent that is present at this University. I am constantly astonished with the richness and the variety of talent that this relatively small campus possesses. It extends further to the community in which we live in. We are surrounded by families of entertainers, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and so much more. Also, what better place can we receive our education than in this community where the majority has values that are centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This place is most definitely a special place. It is a constant reminder of the divinity of each of us. How fascinating it is to know that we are made in the image of our Heavenly Father and have the potential to be like him. And we are blessed to learn and grow here, in such a special place. May we never forget our worth and importance and be grateful for what we have.
The Lord gave us the right pattern when he said, "Do unto others as you would that men should do unto you." (Matt 7:12) We can look to the Savior's life as a perfect example. He has experienced all that we can possibly understand and much more. It is through His life that we can learn how to serve. It was on the road to Jericho that He healed a blind man who rejoiced in saying "for once I was blind but now I see." The Savior was constantly teaching, testifying, and saving others. Through his Atoning sacrifice we are able to flee the grave. The more we come to understand the life of the Savior, the better able we will be to understand the importance of sacrifice and selflessness in our lives. Let us follow in the footsteps of our Savior. May we never fall into Satan's false ideas of demeaning ourselves or belittling ourselves.
Believe in God's power and He will help us believe in ourselves. And when we replace doubt with faith and selfishness with service, His power will unfold the blessings that we most stand in need of and we will witness many miracles. Our eyes will be opened and we will echo the words of the blind man saying "once I was blind but now I see."
Elder Ronald T. Halverson said, "As one complies with the will of our Father in Heaven, there will come spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth and a reassurance through the Holy Spirit of truth. That reassurance and joy can grow to a perfect knowledge. The Savior said, 'If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things-that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal' (D&C 42:61)."
We heard earlier that "as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward." The Lord also gives us additional assurance: "But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the worlds to come." (D&C 59:23). What better reward than to live eternally with our Father in Heaven and to experience peace. And I testify that if each of us engage in a good cause and reach out to help one another, we will find our true selves and greatly bless the world in which we live.
That is the prophecy of this school as envisioned by David O McKay over 50 years ago when he said: "The world needs men who cannot be bought or sold men who will scorn to violate truth - genuine gold. That is what this school is going to produce. More than that, they will be leaders. Not leaders only in this island but everywhere. All the world is hungering for them, and, best of all, the world is recognizing them. Mark my word that from this school... will go forth men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally."
While attending this university, we hear this vision very often. We are familiar with this message, we know it. So much so that we often forget its significance as we grow busy with our everyday demands. While I have been here, I've had the opportunity and privilege also to work at the Polynesian Cultural Center for the promotional team. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to travel with them to other countries on several trips. Just this past April we traveled to Japan for a 10-day trip. It was a tiring trip that required a lot of effort from the team members. With two main shows every night, our bodies suffered from jet lag and not having sufficient rest. We prayed morning and evening together for the strength to carry on through the days and for the Spirit's guidance. Each night that we performed, we noticed that they crowd was staying around. They wouldn't leave. They felt something that was peaceful and good. They could not recognize what it was, but they felt something special. Every night, my heart was touched as I witnessed the poser of the Holy Ghost., It may have just been dancing that they saw, but it was the pricking of their hearts that invited them to stay. Little did I realize how our influence could be felt, even in a country so far away from ours. What little things we do can greatly affect those around us and I pray that we engage in good causes and be worthy of the Spirit. If we do so, there is no reason why our influence won't be felt for the good, or for the better. Let us remind one another of our divine roles and potential. I testify that these things are true. If we look out for one another, and encourage progression and improvement, we will become that genuine gold - we can be that vision. And I know these things to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Brothers and Sisters, Aloha. I'm grateful to be here this morning. It's a privilege to be able to address you at this devotional. I have thought a lot about what I could possibly share with you this morning that would be of benefit. I have thought of experiences I have had as I prepared to come to school here at BYUH, experiences I have had as a student, and also experiences during my time with the Student Service Association. Of the different thoughts and ideas that came to mind, I have decided to share two principles that have come to be very important to me in my life. These two principles are: following the righteous desires of our hearts and to be anxiously engaged in a good cause.
How many times have we felt a desire to do something, but failed to act on it because of fear, embarrassment, or idleness? Many times in our lives we are inspired to do something, but that inspiration quickly fades as we talk ourselves out of it, or we merely don't get around to it. Sometimes in life, all it takes for great things to happen is to simply follow the righteous desires of our hearts.
One of my favorite scriptures is found in the section heading of Doctrine & Covenants section 17. During this time Joseph Smith, along with Oliver Cowdery was engaged in translating the Book of Mormon and they came across the passage where they learned there would be 3 special witnesses designated to the BOM. In the section heading we read: "Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were moved upon by an inspired desire to be the three special witnesses. The Prophet inquired of the Lord, and this revelation was given in answer..." We learn from this revelation that the Lord approved of their desire and these men soon after became the Three Special Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. I find it interesting how the Lord did not command them to become the three witnesses, but instead He allowed them to follow the righteous desires of their hearts and initiate the process. As they followed through with their hearts' desires, the Lord blessed them and they became an integral part of the history of the Book of Mormon.
Another example of someone who accomplished great things, simply by following the desires of his heart was King Mosiah. Before King Mosiah was appointed king by his father, Benjamin, there was a group of people that left Zarahemla in search of the land of Lehi-Nephi, or the land of their forefathers. Soon after Mosiah was appointed King, we read in Mosiah 7:1 that "...he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi...for his people had heard nothing from them from the time they left the land of Zarahemla..." We then read how King Mosiah assembled a team of sixteen men, led by Ammon, to go and find out what happened to these people.
As we read on in the Book of Mosiah, we learn that at the same time as King Mosiah was sending forth this search group, the very people they were looking for were enslaved by the Lamanites and had been praying for help to be delivered. We read in Mosiah 21:13-14 about the condition of these people at this time: "And they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the yoke of bondage, submitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies. And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions." Ammon and his group of men helped these people escape from bondage and return safely to Zarahemla where they were all converted to the Church.
By simply following his desire to know what became of his brethren, King Mosiah enabled these people to be led out of captivity and be brought to the light of the Gospel. Through the experience of King Mosiah and the three witnesses, we can see how following simple promptings led an entire civilization out of bondage and fulfilled Book of Mormon prophecy.
It is interesting to note that in both of these cases, these brethren were not commanded to perform these works. They simply followed through with the righteous desires of their hearts. The Lord tells us in Doctrine & Covenants 58: "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward."
The Lord clearly states that He will not tell us everything that we must do. Instead, He tells us that we should be "anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things" on our own free will.
So what kind of things are we referring to when we say a "good cause?" Is the Lord only referring to grand events such as rescuing a civilization from bondage or fulfilling ancient prophecy? There are countless ways in which we can be involved in a "good cause." It could be joining a club here on campus, getting involved in BYUHSA, developing and sharing your talents, giving service, devotional attendance, or simply attending activities with a goal to build new friendships and relationships. Many of these desires come into our hearts and minds at various times in our lives whether we are in class, spending time with friends, studying scriptures or sitting in a devotional like this one. The Savior's advice for us is to get involved.
This is a crucial time of our lives, and there are many important decisions to be made. The rapidly changing world around us, along with the immense pressure to make smart decisions in life, can make the uncertainties that lie ahead almost unbearable. Under such circumstances, it is easy to become "self-absorbed." Many of us come to school with certain dreams and expectations, and we often envision ourselves upon graduation as having fulfilled all our aspirations and being fully prepared to move on to the next stage of our lives. Some may expect to be happily married with a family, have the perfect job lined up, and have a set career path already mapped out as they graduate. When such expectations are not met, or things do not turn out exactly the way we anticipated them to be, it is easy to get discouraged. As many of us are beginning to learn, in life, few things are certain. Under such a realization, many of us become over-focused on ourselves and our perceived problems.
While serving as a missionary, I often thought of how simple life would be once I returned home from my mission. Missionary work can be difficult because much of the success missionaries experience comes as a result of the decisions others have to make for themselves, and as hard as missionaries try, they cannot make those important decisions for those they teach. I often thought, "When I get home things will be easy because the only person I need to worry about is myself, and I can make my own decisions." But as I have been off my mission for a while and as I'm on my own, I'm learning that life isn't as easy as I thought it would be. I'm learning now just how easy it is to become so focused on myself and my worries, that I lose focus of the bigger picture, and miss opportunities the Lord has placed in my path.
Brothers and Sisters, be cautious before you pass up a good opportunity because you tell yourself you are too busy, you don't belong, or you are already preoccupied with too many other things. By no means am I suggesting that we overload ourselves, but I am suggesting that we take a look at our lives and figure out what our priorities are.
By looking at the life of the Savior, we obtain the perfect example of what type of activities we should be "anxiously engaged" in. Through Luke's account, we receive insight as to what the Savior spent His time doing as He prepared for His life's mission.
In Luke 2:52 we read: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."
Although the scriptures are silent as to the specific circumstances of the Lord's life, they clearly tell us the principles by which He lived in order to prepared for His eventual mission. He improved Himself individually, He improved His relationships with His fellow man, and He improved His relationship with God. I believe that we would be wise to follow His example and adopt a similar set of principles to help us decide what we will spend our time doing.
In order to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" we should constantly ask ourselves if what we are doing is helping us to improve individually, improve in our relationships with others, or to draw closer to our Father in Heaven. As we strive to involve our selves in good activities and causes, and as we set our priorities in life, the Lord will bless our efforts and help us to move forward.
I often think of an experience I had while playing football in high school. I began playing American football when I was eight years old. All the way up until I graduated from high school when I was 18, I don't recall my father ever missing one of my games. I can especially remember during high school when he would sit in the bleachers and every time I would do anything remotely good, he would shout out as loud as he could, "Good job Kaj!" If I ran the ball, even if I didn't go anywhere, he would yell, "Good run Kaj!" Or, if I made a tackle, he'd shout, "Good tackle Kaj!" It seemed as if he had figured out just the perfect time to yell so that everyone in the stadium could hear him, including me and all the other players on the field. If there was a big play and the crowd was cheering loud, he would wait until the uproar began to die down and then during a moment of silence, yell his usually shout of encouragement. Often times as we came into a huddle on the field, my teammates would have smiles on their faces because everyone knew exactly whose Dad was shouting from the stands.
I remember one particular game when my Dad was in the stands cheering as usual. The coach called me off of the field to come to the sideline. As I sat there getting a drink, I heard a shout come from the stands, "Good tackle Kaj!" A little bit confused, I turned around and I looked for my dad in the stands, and I tried to get his attention to show him that I wasn't n the game, but I was on the sidelines. When I finally got his attention, he looked a bit surprised to see that I was sitting on the sideline, but then with a calm, assured look on his face, he gave me a thumbs up signal and then turned back to the game. After the game, I asked him what had happened and he he simply told me that he wanted everyone to know what a good player I was.
Although just a simple story from my life, I believe this experience demonstrates well how our Father in Heaven feels about us. He loves us and plays an active role in our lives. He encourages us every step along the way and blesses us for our efforts, even when we think our successes are minimal. As we keep His commandments and seek to do what is right, He will help us recognize the inspired desires that are placed within our hearts and he will give strength and encouragement to follow them through. As we follow through with the righteous desires of our hearts and are "anxiously engaged in a good cause," He will bless our lives and prepare the way before us in ways that we thought unimaginable.
My experience here at BYU-Hawaii has been all-the-better because of my involvement in the Student Service Association, or BYUHSA. It has provided me with richer and fuller experiences, and has provided me with learning opportunities that I would not have experienced had I not got involved. Serving as the BYUHSA President was something that I never anticipated or imagined myself being able to do, but it all started with a small desire to get involved somewhere.
During my time in BYUHSA, I have seen that same small desire grow in others. There have been numerous students who, led by that simple desire to do good, have gotten involved and accomplished great things. All of the activities and services that we have provided over this last year could not have happened without these student volunteers who sacrificed their time and personal interests to help out.
I remember one particular student who was a freshman from Singapore. He first started out in BYUHSA organizing shuttles for service projects and putting together notes for meetings. He soon moved on to organizing and conducting meetings. He later told me that he was naturally shy speaking in front of other people, and that this was his first time ever running a meeting by himself. You can imagine my surprise when a few weeks later I saw him in the Aloha Center with a megaphone wearing a full-body costume of a drop of blood, and advertising the campus blood-drive. He is currently serving a full-time mission, and I am sure that many of these pre-mission experiences no doubt have helped him and blessed the lives of others.
There have been numerous students who have helped out and blessed their lives and the lives of those around them. My life has been blessed as I have had the opportunity to work alongside these students. I have also been blessed by having had the opportunities to be a part of this BYUHSA team, and to work alongside each of the VPs that are here with us today. I have learned important lessons from each one of them, and I will be forever grateful for their examples and for their service.
I want to close in sharing my testimony with you that I know the Atonement is real, and that I am grateful to have the Gospel in my life. This has been a great year to serve, and I have enjoyed my time here at BYU-Hawaii. I have a strong testimony that Jesus Christ lives, and this is His Church, and that President Monson is a true prophet, and as we follow his counsel our lives will be blessed. I share that testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.