Remember, remember, my son

 

Finau Hafoka DevotionalDevotional Talk Given at  
Brigham Young University-Hawaii 

August 17, 2010
Finau Hafoka  
President 
Laie Hawaii North Stake

 

My dear brothers and sisters, Aloha! My wife and I are honored to be here with you and especially to share our love and testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. President Wheelwright, thank you for the invitation. This assignment gives me great and happy memories of this very special place, and I’m forever grateful for BYU-Hawaii.

Several months ago I spoke at a funeral in one of our wards and told them that my talk would be the same talk I gave two months prior at a different funeral and the reasons were:

(1) I would teach the same principles and
(2) they would probably forget what I said.

My topic today is not new but a reminder of what we learned and should remember.

Several years ago I had prayed for specific help but the answer didn’t come. So one day, I decided to go to the temple to seek the Lord’s help. I cried my heart out to our Heavenly Father for help. I remember complaining as I asked, “Why hast thou turned away from me when I need thy help? After all, I’m a Bishop, I paid a full tithing, I’m worthy, and I’m here at Thy holy temple. And Thou hast promised that if we ask, it shall be given.

I got my answer. It was more than an answer. It was a spiritual experience. To my mind came the still, small voice. It seemed to say, “What are you talking about? When have I forsaken you? Was I not there when you received your testimony? Was I not there when you made the best decision in your life to marry your wife? What about when your son was critically ill? What about when your daughter had her surgery. I was there and I carried you.” Then I remembered the many, many times in my life when I had received the Lord’s help and felt of His great love for me. I felt so bad. So I asked for forgiveness. Then I realized that it was I who had not always remembered the Lord; it was me. I was the problem. I do not always remember our Heavenly Father.

What do you think is the most important word in the dictionary? President Spencer W. Kimball answered when he said, “that perhaps the most important word is remember and that our greatest need is to remember” (“Circles of Exaltation,” address to religious educators, Brigham Young University, June 28, 1968, 8). Sometimes we become so busy with our daily activities that we don’t always remember the Lord. So how can we “always remember him”? We can think of him often and of what he would have us do. We can pray, read the scriptures, and keep the commandments. We can remember our blessings and thank our Father in Heaven for his goodness to us.

I am convinced that the problems we face today and the reason that we make bad choices is because we forget who we are. We are children of our Heavenly Father. We accepted His plan for our happiness and eternal progression, or we would not have been given the privilege of coming to earth in the first place.

The problem is that too often we forget who we really are and make bad choices because we just don’t remember.

There are dozens of references where prophets counsel the people to “remember” or “bring to their remembrance” the covenants they had made. Alma encouraged his son, “Remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth” (Alma 37:35). Helaman reminded us, “Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Helaman 5:12).

Helaman knew how important it is to remember. He urged his sons Nephi and Lehi to remember to keep the commandments of God. He asked them to remember the great men they were named after. He asked them to remember the words of the prophets. Most of all, he asked them to remember that Jesus Christ would come to redeem the world.

Nephi and Lehi did remember the teachings of their father. They were valiant men who kept the commandments of God all their lives. We come to sacrament meeting every Sunday to take the sacrament. It is a time to remember our baptismal covenants. When someone blesses the sacrament, we hear him say, “Always remember  him and keep his commandments” (Moroni 4:3).

I often think of the reasons why some members become inactive. I have come to the conclusion that one reason is that people “forget.” I don’t mean forget in the sense that something slips our mind, but in the sense that somehow, we lose the intensity of our contact with the Spirit. If we could only maintain that intensity, perhaps we would always choose the right.

Let us all remember our covenants. Let us recall our spiritual experiences. Let us remember and share with others the testimony we have received through the Holy Ghost. Brothers and sisters, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is the Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.

When temptations came, I remembered to get on my knees and pray. When I was discouraged and felt alone, I remembered that families can be forever. And no matter what crisis came, I remembered. I knew my Father in Heaven was near, and I knew he loved me. But more important than anything else, I remembered who I was and why I was on earth. It kept me trying when I wanted to give up, and it helped me remember things like giving, learning, scriptures, and love.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect example of one who understood His divine heritage. The scriptures tell us that in His youth He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). The more His understanding grew, the better prepared He was to fulfill His role as the Savior of the world.

We will not be called upon to suffer as Jesus Christ did. But to help us overcome our trials, Heavenly Father has given us tools that can increase our understanding of our divine heritage. From the scriptures, we learn how others have recognized their roles as sons and daughters of God and have acted accordingly. From living prophets, we learn of our divine nature and potential.
Through the priesthood, we can receive inspired blessings that remind us of our relationship to Heavenly Father. In the temple, we are instructed as we participate in sacred ordinances. Through prayer, we can obtain the help we need when we forget who we are.

And when I truly remember these things by receiving that witness once more, I am renewed. I gain new strength and new insight, and my testimony increases. I fully realize once more that I am working with the Lord in building His kingdom here on earth.

When we become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we enter the waters of baptism and make certain covenants with the Lord. Some of them are: to take upon us the name of the Lord, to always remember him, and to keep his commandments. And if we do these things, the Lord promises that we may always have His Spirit with us.

Thus, when we partake of the sacrament, we remember the past and contemplate the present as we recommit ourselves to following Christ’s example in the future. It is comforting to know that we are not alone; we can receive help and strength from our Father in Heaven. Ammon recognized this fact when he said, “I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in His strength I can do all things” (Alma 26:12). As we add to our spiritual power through partaking of the sacrament and remembering Christ, we will find it easier to control our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The definitions of remember include “to bring to mind or think of again,” “to keep in mind for attention or consideration,” and “to retain in the memory.” Remembering Christ, then, involves thinking of His teachings and His atonement for our sins. Concentrating on Christ and His atonement leads us to evaluate how well we are keeping our covenants with him and making the effort to bring our lives into harmony with His teachings. This, in turn, draws us closer to the Lord as we enjoy the companionship of the Spirit.

Remembering the Lord also means getting to know Him. We can come to know Him by reading the scriptures, “feasting upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20). Another way we can come to know Him is by following His example. As our actions become more Christlike, we begin to understand His great love for us—and we begin to learn to love as He loves. Mormon taught that “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:47).

Let me suggest three things that you should remember.

 

  1. Remember to build your foundation on Jesus Christ.

In the scriptures, we learned of our Savior when He said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end…. The Redeemer of the world” (D&C 19:1). He also said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him…shall never thirst...but shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).  In John 6:35, Jesus said,  “I am the bread of life, he that cometh unto me shall never hunger and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.”

My brothers and sisters, wouldn’t we want such blessings? Wouldn’t we want such assurance? In the world of uncertainty and shifting values, we must have this sure foundation. We must build our foundation on Jesus Christ. He is the only way to true happiness, and there is no other way, so hold on to your faith and your testimony.

Five years ago, I took two of my sons back to Tonga for a visit. While there, we decided to fly to the island of Vavau to visit my brother. On the way back to the main island, we decided to take the boat for “sight-seeing.” It took us 16 long hours to get back, for we had to drop off and pick up people along the way, especially from Haapai group. As we got to Nomuka Island, two men couldn’t wait for the small boat to pick them up. There was no dock or harbor, so they jumped off our boat and swam ashore. An old and wise man turned to me and said, “This is what I call tuku e vaka kae fai e kakau,” a Tongan proverb that says - according to Brother Hafoka’s version - “Forget the boat…swim.” So I wondered, “Why would someone leave the safety of the boat to swim? The boat was perfectly fine; there was no fire onboard or anything. Though they could swim faster than the little boat, the little boat was still safer. So why would we leave the safety of the boat and swim?” Why would we try to find our own way and struggle, and suffer, and may not make it when the Savior said, “I am the way...”?

Our Primary children remind us when they sing “Keep the commandments; keep the commandments! In this there is safety; in this there is peace. He will send blessings; He will send blessings. Words of a prophet: keep the commandments. In this there is safety and peace” (LDS Children’s Songbook, 146).

 Four things we can do to build our foundations on the Savior:
 

1. Press forward. Nephi explains: “Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20). 
 

2. Hold fast to the iron rod. Nephi also said the iron rod is “the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away” (1 Nephi 15:24). 
 

3. Partake of the fruit of the tree. To partake of the fruit means to feel the love of God in your life. You can pray to feel that love, and you can repent, allowing the Atonement to bless your life.

4. Disregard those who make fun of you for doing what’s right. In Lehi’s dream, those who paid attention to the mocking people in the great and spacious building fell away. That building represents the pride and beliefs of the world. Because that building had no foundation, “it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great” (1 Nephi 11:36). The pride of the world is temporary; doing what’s right will bless you forever.

Doing these four things will help you build on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that when Satan’s “hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down…” (Helaman 5:12). Remember, we must build our foundation on Jesus Christ. He is the only way to true happiness and there is no other way.

2. Remember that the Lord is bound when you do what He says:
One of the most popular and attractive philosophies of men today is to live life your own way, do your own thing, be yourself, and don’t let others tell you what to do. Does it sound familiar? Yet the Lord told us, “I am the way…no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). He also said, “Follow me,” “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). As you can see, the world teaches the opposite of what our Savior, Jesus Christ, taught us. We have two choices: we can either follow the Lord and do what He says and have peace, light, strength, and knowledge, or we can follow someone else, or find any other way, and do it alone—without His support, without His power, without His protection. So ask yourself, which way is better?

A story was told of troubled teenagers who visited a high security prison. They learned first-hand from the inmates. One of the inmates told them, “I’m 45 years old now, and I know I’ll never get to see the streets again. We’re all dying to get out and you guys are pounding on the doors, saying, ‘Let us in.’” A convicted kidnapper told the boys, “I’ve been in here for 16 years and you guys can’t sit still for a couple of hours. If you’re going to be criminals, you better get used to someone telling you what to do all the time.”

It is interesting to observe that whether we are in prison or out, there is always someone telling us what to do. The difference lies in who is telling us and what they want us to do. Therein lies the difference between happiness and unhappiness, eternal life with God or some lesser glory. The different is in obedience to the right voice and in following the council of our Heavenly Father.
I know it does not happen here at BYU-Hawaii, but I often hear people say they don’t want to be told what to do. Young people particularly often rebel against conforming to the rules and regulations. I have had some of them come to me and say that they are tired of being told to do this and to do that.

They say they want to decide for themselves what they want to do. My response is that they are free to do exactly what they choose to do, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others, but there are consequences which follow all our actions, and they must be prepared to face those consequences. We are told, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).

A good example of this is found in a story I have heard before. A young boy was playing baseball with his friends when his mother’s voice came loud and clear, calling, “Charlie, Charlie!” He instantly threw down his bat, picked up his jacket and cap, and started for home.  

“Don’t go yet; finish the game!” cried the other players.

“I must go right this minute. I told my mother I would come when she called,” was Charlie’s response.

“Pretend you didn’t hear,” said the boys.

“But I did hear,” said Charlie.

“She won’t know you did.”

“But I know it, and I’ve got to go.”

One of the boys finally said, “Oh, let him go. You can’t change his mind. He’s tied to his mother’s apron string. He’s such a baby that he runs the minute she calls.”

As he ran off, Charlie called back, “I don’t call it babyish to keep one’s word to his mother. I call it manly, and the boy who doesn’t keep his word to her mother will never keep it to anyone else.” Years later Charlie became a successful businessman and president of a large corporation. His associates always said “His word is his bond,” and during a press interview on one occasion he was asked how he acquired such a reputation. His response: “I never broke my word; I did exactly as I was told”

When the angel asked Adam why he was doing sacrifice, he said, “I know not save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5:6). He basically said, I don’t know why but I just do what I was told. Do you remember Helaman’s 2000 stripling warriors? Their success was based on this same principle. “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them” (Alma 57:21). They did “perform every word of command with exactness.” The key to their success was to obey every word and command. Yes, if we are going to draw upon the powers of heaven, intention is not enough. We must obey every word of command with exactness.

3. Remember to stay in the straight and narrow path.

At the age of 17, my family and I went on a nine-hour road trip from Auckland down to Wellington in New Zealand to see and hear the Prophet, President Kimball, in a regional conference. We had to leave in the evening in order to get there the next morning for the conference. We packed everyone in our old 1968 Holden station wagon and off we went. The excitement filled the air as we sang primary and church songs along the way. One by one, everyone started to fall asleep, and even the driver had a hard time. I could not sleep because I was so excited to see the prophet of the Lord for the first time, for I had only been a member of the church for couple of months. I had to drive the last hour of the trip because my uncle was just too tired to continue, but before we made the change, he taught me a very important lesson that I still use in my life even today. He said, “Stay between these two lines - the white line on the side of the road and the yellow on in the middle. If you do, we will get there safely.” Because I followed his advice, we got there safely and enjoyed the conference. Staying within those lines kept us from going into the ditches on one side and helped us avoid a head-on collision on the other. To wander over either line could have been very dangerous. I did not fully understand the consequences of such a mistake, but I trusted my uncle and followed his advice. As I look back now, I’m so thankful that I followed his words.
My experience of driving on that road is like life itself. If we stay within the lines that the Lord has marked, which He called the straight and narrow path, he will protect us, and we will arrive safely at our destination, even exaltation.

The Savior taught this principle when he said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Even though the teachings of the Savior are plain and direct, we are still at risk of getting sidetracked. Some people choose to follow the teachings of the Lord and of his living prophet only when convenient but reject them when sacrifice or deeper commitment is required. Some fail to follow because His divine teachings do not agree with their own.

We get sidetracked by submitting to temptations that divert us from the path of safety. Satan knows our weaknesses. He puts attractive traps on our paths at those moments when we are most vulnerable. His intent is to lead us from the way that returns us to our Heavenly Father. Sin may result from activities that begin innocently or that are perfectly legitimate in moderation, but in excess they can lead us away from the straight and narrow path and into destruction. Playing video games and surfing the net is fine but when we spend hours playing and skipping classes, work or church meetings, it becomes a problem.

The scriptures are full of warnings against worldliness and pride because they, too, can lead us off course. The Lord explained to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Behold there are many called but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much on the things of this world” (D&C 121:34-35).  

May we remember to build our foundation on Jesus Christ. May we remember that the promised blessings are ours when we do what He says. May we remember to stay in the straight and narrow path.  May we remember that this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we remember that we are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. May we remember is my hope and prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Photo by Monique Saenz.