If not I, who? If not now, when?

Angelina Hsu

Devotional Talk Given at  
Brigham Young University-Hawaii 

August 3, 2010
Angelina Hsu

Aloha, brothers and sisters!

I would like to thank you for coming this morning. If I had seen the flyer saying I would be speaking today, I might not have come myself!

When I told one of our former missionaries, Mark Ackerman, that I would be speaking at the Devotional he looked at me with surprise and said: You? At that Devotional? (pointing to the CAC). And he wasn't the only one surprised that I had been asked to speak.

I have thought and prayed and studied a lot on what I should say to you today that will inspire you and me to do better.

I know I'm here also representing my husband who passed away suddenly 8 months ago, just 4 ½ short months after returning from our three year-mission, where he was the president of Taiwan Kaohsiung Mission.

I was born in Taiwan and my family moved to Brazil when I was 7 years old. At 13 my family joined the Catholic Church and that was the first time I heard of Jesus Christ. The missionaries came to our home when I was 17 and after two months my younger sister and I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At that time I did not KNOW if the church was true, but I BELIEVED it was. I felt that it was the best church I knew of, and my testimony grew by living one principle at a time.

Today I would like to share with you what helped to shape my life since joining the church. I would like to title it: IF NOT I, WHO? IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

I first saw this quote in my sister's house over 35 years ago and it made a great impression on me. I would like to mention three parts under this title. Part one,

1. What-e'er thou art, act well thy part

When I joined the church in 1969, President David O. McKay was the president of the church. I read about his experience when he was a missionary in Scotland in 1898. He and his companion were walking by a building that caught their attention because it had an arch over the front door and an inscription chiseled in the arch. President McKay recalled and I quote:

"I said to my companion: That's unusual! I am going to see what the inscription is. When I approached near enough, this message came to me, not only in stone, but as if it came from One in whose service we were engaged. "Whate'ver Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part". God help us to follow that motto. It is just another expression of Christ's words: If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 113).

This has had a great impact on me as a young woman and a young convert trying to do what was right and learning to be a good member. Since that day I have tried to live by this: to do my best in whatever thing I was doing, whether sweeping the floor, or teaching a lesson or doing my Visiting Teaching. Not only that but I also feel we should do not only our best, but we should leave it better that we found it!

Is your apartment cleaner because you lived in it? Is the relationship between your roommates better because you are there? Is your ward better or stronger because you serve faithfully in your calling? Are you doing an hour's work for an hour's pay?

How can we do this? Whatever our role is, we must seek it through righteous living and personal revelation. We must have our personal Liahona and not lean on the arm of the flesh nor the philosophies of men.

In Proverbs 3:5-7 it says:

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil.

We can do more than it's expected of us.
If not I, who? If not now, when?

Our vision should be where we are obedient, where we put in our best effort, and where we are guided by the spirit. And the rewards will be more than we can imagine! You will never regret you gave more than it was asked of you.

Aside from this, President McKay has touched my life in other ways. He was the one who dedicated the land of my forefathers, China, for the preaching of the gospel in 1921, and he was also the one who gave the prophetic message about BYU-Hawaii.

2. Give Service at the earliest inconvenience

Being a member of the church taught me about service. I saw that everyone served in the church. The members in Brazil were a wonderful example of service and Christlike love. I might not be here today but for those Brazilian members who fellowshipped me and loved me when I was a new convert.

One of the best services we can provide is temple service. We can go as patrons or serve as ordinance workers.

President Hinckley said:

"Attend the temple, you will be blessed for so doing. Every man or woman who goes into the house of the Lord leaves there a better man or woman than he or she was when he or she entered the house of the Lord" (Inspirational Thoughts, March Ensign 2006).

The Laie Hawaii temple will be reopened soon. We can provide wonderful service there. My husband and I and our daughter used to work in the Saturday morning shift which started at 4:20 a.m. My husband was the shift coordinator and worked there till we left on our mission. He loved the temple and didn't mind rarely having a Saturday off.

2nd Corinthians 9:6-7

6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver".

Give service at the earliest inconvenience. Give it cheerfully. When my husband was a graduate student at Cornell University we saw this plaque in Statler Hall which said:

"Life is service- the one who progresses is the one who gives his fellow men a little more- a little better service"

If not I who?
If not now, when?

We can never tell what consequences there might be from our unselfish service. From the services we render without expecting anything back.

My husband and I lived in Hong Kong for ten years with our children. The Hong Kong mission president and his wife, the Lowes, were close friends. Sister Lowe told the story about one of the missionary sisters. We also knew this sister as she had come to our home before, but I can't quite remember her name. In Hong Kong the missionaries usually teach the investigators at church because the apartments are small and the buildings have guards that keep people out who don't live there.

This sister missionary and her companion were teaching a young woman whose mother refused to give her permission to be baptized. They had never met her mother. One day they were getting off a crowded bus and saw a woman struggling to carry a heavy bag (we called them amah bags-old ladies use them often and they are red and white in color, water proof and light-I love these bags! In Hong Kong I never left home without one of them!)

The sisters offered to help this older woman carry her bag home and then said good-bye. The next day the investigator called them full of excitement and told them that her mother had given her permission to be baptized! She said her mother was impressed by the missionary sisters as they had helped her carry her bag! The missionaries did not know it was her mother. You must know that Hong Kong has over seven million people and is very crowded and the odds of meeting someone you know by accident are very low. That one act of service produced results that could not be foreseen.

You may never know the influence you have had on others or the consequences of your service. Serving others always make us happier than serving ourselves. We are all busy and it's never really convenient to take time to help someone else, but we must not let opportunities pass us by where we could have helped someone. We need to give service at the earliest inconvenience.
I have been the recipient of countless acts of service. It seems more so since my husband passed away. Our home teacher, brother Lauvaki, came by almost every day. He answered my questions, counseled me, and gave me whatever support I needed at the time. He was always calm, thoughtful and kind. Sister Connie Lo was the gatekeeper-asking people to come back later when I would be more prepared to see them, always ready to help without wanting any recognition. We had so much food brought to our house I asked my daughter to tell the Relief Society compassionate service leader to let the sisters who signed up for meals know that we didn't need any more food. She told my daughter that the sign up list had not been passed around yet! I can never repay the kindness received from so many people, but I can do to others what was done to me. So many others helped me and I cannot name them all. Liam and Veronica, students from New Zealand and Taiwan, came by once a month and still come to give me a spiritual message. Many students and our former missionaries come by to help me with the yard work and whatever I need help with.

I must mention Elder and Sister Dummar. Aside from my children, they were also a lifeline to me. They are senior missionaries serving at Polynesian Cultural Center and live in our downstairs apartment. After the death of my husband, there were many nights when I could not sleep. Whenever I walked down the steps to the bottom of the house, Elder Dummar would be there waiting to see if I needed anything. He would hear my footsteps and come out to check. We took walks around Laie at 2 or 3 a.m. and Elder Dummar and I would talk about my husband Bill, about the gospel and we would laugh or I would cry. My daughter Jessica told me: Mom, you've got to stop walking at night with Elder Dummar, people will start to talk! But they helped me so much during those early awful days after my husband's sudden death.

I bear you my testimony that Heavenly Father is always there for us and He will send angels to comfort us and help us in our hour of need-angels in the form of home teachers, Bishop, friends, etc. Will you be someone's angel?

We need to be in tune to listen to the spirit and be guided to someone who might need our help. When I was a Relief Society president I would take time to think of the sisters and once I was prompted to call a particular new sister who had not come to church that past Sunday. After she answered the phone she told me that she had decided that if she did not hear from a branch member that day, she would leave the church. I was grateful I listened to the spirit that day.

3. Proclaim the gospel

Having the gospel has changed my life. I should say trying to live the gospel principles after joining the church has changed my life. I will always be grateful to the elders who came to our house and taught my sister and me. Without the gospel my life would be completely different. Knowing the plan of salvation gave me purpose, gave me directions I could follow in order to avoid the pitfalls that cause so much unhappiness in the world. The members in Jundiai, Sao Paulo, Brazil welcomed my sister and me with open arms and treated us as VIPs. Even the most humble members, who lived in shacks with hard dirt floor, would invite us for some sweets. They helped my testimony grow. They cared about me and loved me. They called us to serve in different capacities and trusted us. I might not be standing here today without the help of those early Brazilian members. I would not be here without Irmao Ribeiro, Irmao Nei Tobias Garcia or Irma Amelia.

Because my husband and I were converts, we loved missionary work and made an effort to fellowship new members and investigators. During our 32 years of marriage we moved 19 times and lived in 8 states and 3 countries. On Saturdays I would often cook my fail-proof dish of curry chicken and rice and set the table. On Sundays we would invite visitors, investigators or members to our home for lunch. The people we met enriched our lives as well as the lives of our children. And in the process we were able to fellowship and strengthen each other.

On December 15, 2005 we were interviewed by President Boyd K. Packer. His secretary had called us a few days before to set up the appointment. President Packer was that year's keynote speaker at the BYU-Hawaii December graduation. During the interview Elder Packer told us we would be called as mission president and companion and that we would be reporting to the Missionary Training Center at the end of June 2006, but did not say which mission we would be serving in. He said the apostles would pray about our names and we would be notified later. On January 16th, President Thomas S. Monson phoned us and called us to serve in a Mandarin speaking mission. We had thought we would be serving in Hong Kong where my husband was from and where he had served his mission. I had previously served in the Taiwan Taipei Mission. I asked my husband if President Monson knew the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin. He said, of course he does! President Monson gave us these counsels. He said:

  1. Whom the Lord calls, he qualifies. We felt so inadequate to do the job required, but he told us the Lord would qualify us.
  2. The Lord would shape our backs for the burdens to be placed upon. We would be able to bear the burdens that were about to be placed in our backs.
  3. When you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to the Lord's help.

We wouldn't be on our own or only depend on ourselves. We were entitled to ask and receive the Lord's help because we were on his errand.

Well, on Feb 24 we received the official call letter and we were called to the Taiwan Kaohsiung Mission! We were ecstatic! I felt it was my treat! My husband and I both spoke Mandarin, though I cannot read or write much.

Now, some might wonder, why would THEY be called? I can honestly tell you that we are no better than anyone else. We were not more prepared. We were not more righteous. We were just willing to do what was asked of us and to serve the Lord. And we loved missionary work.

I would like to quote Elder Neal A. Maxwell, he said:

"God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!" (Its Service, Not Status, that counts, Ensign July 1975)

This is true of all our church callings. We know that when we do the Lord's work faithfully, he will guide and help us. We must trust Him. If we are dependable, He will increase our capability.
I often say that the reason my husband was called as mission president was because he did his Home Teaching faithfully. We don't aspire for a calling, but we can prepare. Prepare by serving faithfully in whatever calling we have.

We know it's difficult. Our challenges started as soon as the interview with President Packer was over. We had parked our car in the parking lot next to the administration center. It was 1:30 p.m., not long after the graduation exercises. We were gone only about 30 minutes and found out someone had backed into our car leaving a big dent in the trunk. They left no note. Their white paint was still in the car. I started to laugh. I told my husband: I know trials are going to come because of our call, but this soon? I felt sorry for the person who did it, because they did not act honestly.

Other challenging and sad things also happened. One of the main ones was when doing more extensive medical exams for my husband in preparation for our mission, they found out that he had major blockage of his three main coronary arteries. He had had no symptoms and even his EKG was normal; the year before we had even done the Great Aloha Run.

The cardiologist recommended we have the bypass surgery done in the mainland. This was March 27th and we were supposed to report to the MTC June 24th. Do you know the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child?" Well, it takes angels to send a mission president off. Our angels were Kent and Connie Watson. President Watson was a volunteer here at BYU-Hawaii. He had served as Taiwan Taichung mission president and is now the 1st counselor in the Asia Area presidency. He helped us to get in touch with his friend, a cardiologist, and nine days later my husband had 6 open heart bypass surgery done at LDS hospital. We stayed at the Watson's home in Salt Lake City, drove their car and ate their food. They stayed in Laie and took care of our dog and house and ate at Turtle Bay.

My husband had other complications due to the surgery. His vocal cords were damaged due to the prolonged time of the surgery when he had the tube down his throat. He had surgery to correct that because he could only whisper. As you know you can't be a preacher or a teacher without a voice!

His other serious complications developed 3 weeks after his surgery, when the unknown blood clots in his leg went to his lungs. When he fainted in the doctor's office and they called an internal response in the hospital intercom (or a code), I thought we were losing him. We were so lucky the doctor's office was in the hospital, so they could wheel him right into the coronary ICU and give him IV meds. He also developed a stress ulcer which caused him to bleed internally. But we reported to the MTC on time on June 24th. My husband still could only speak in a whisper, so I was the spokeswoman. I didn't mind that!

All these trials only increased our resolve to do our best to serve the Lord. My husband used to say the mission call saved his life and that he was living on borrowed time, so he worked tirelessly.
Let me share some of the experiences we had in Taiwan. Have you ever been the answer to someone's prayer? Well, my husband and I were the answer to someone's dream! We had given talks in the sacrament meeting at Qishan, a beautiful small country town famous for its banana, rice and flower fields. They make the best banana cake and chocolate cream puffs! In the mission, the only time we had to relax was when we were eating. So we looked forward to that a lot! After the sacrament meeting President Hsu asked the assistants if there were any less-active members we could visit. One assistant, Elder Garner, had served there before and said there was a young family who had been married in the temple, but who had not come to church for many years. We didn't have their phone number, so we drove and finally found their house in the outskirts of town. We knocked on the door and the father opened the door and was very surprised to see us. He asked us to wait for a while and closed the door. They had two young children and there were toys in the yard. After a while they invited us in. We sat down on the couch the wife started to cry. We didn't know why. We apologized for dropping in without letting them know first. She told us that the night before she had a dream that the missionaries would come to visit them. When she told her husband about the dream, he said there was no way, since they hadn't gone to church for so long and if the missionaries called to ask if they could come, they would say it was not convenient (bu fang bian in Chinese). The sister said that in the dream she asked the missionaries why they had not called first, knowing that if they did, she would tell them not to come. So seeing us there was the fulfillment of her dream. They had been offended badly by branch members. President Hsu assured her of the love Heavenly Father had for them and encouraged them to come back to church and not let someone else prevent them from receiving the blessings of keeping the covenants they had made. After continuing fellowshipping they came back to church. Whenever we could, we would stop and see them. It was not easy and it's still not easy for them as the people who offended them are still not being welcoming.

Another experience we had in Taiwan was our introduction to the mystery fruit.
Heng Chun is in the southern part of Taiwan. The branch is very small and the 20 or so sisters there are the backbone of the branch as they only had a handful of faithful brothers. I was always inspired when we went there and I felt at home whenever we would attend the branch, which was under the responsibility of the Taiwan Kaohsiung Mission. While visiting there one day we went to a restaurant which was owned by a member, Sister Huang. It was known for great seafood and its specialty, the puffer fish skin. After our meal, Sister Huang brought a small plate with cut up lemon wedges and another with small red fruits, the size of a coffee bean.

She asked us to first try the lemon, which we did and it was very sour! Next she asked us to take the small red fruit, known as 'mystery fruit or shen mi guo' and eat the meat around the seed and let it coat our tongues for a minute or two. The meat was sweet, though there was little of it. After that she asked us to try another wedge of lemon. Having had the experience of the sourness we were reluctant to do so, but we did. Miraculously, the lemon tasted sweet! It was unbelievable! We ate slice after slice of the lemon as if they were sweet oranges! We never knew something like that could happen!

Why am I sharing this? It reminded me of the gospel. So many people feel their lives are bitter and they feel sour. Yet when they receive the gospel and follow Christ's teachings and join the church, their lives become sweet and tasty. Now, it's the same old life, but their outlook is different and their knowledge of the purpose of life is different, so they feel different. They are happier and can have a better life. The gospel is the 'mystery fruit' in their lives, but a mystery no longer. How does it work? I don't quite know, but just as the mystery or miracle fruit, it does work!

Here in the United States, they call the fruit "Miracle Fruit" and you can buy the plant in Hawaii. So many people are not aware of or do not know that Heavenly Father loves them and there is a true plan of happiness-it's our duty and responsibility to show and teach them. The gospel of Jesus Christ should not be a mystery to them.

When we lived in Hong Kong I took pictures of Jesus from a calendar by the artist Greg Olsen and had them framed in Shenzhen, China, just a 45 minute train ride across the border from Kowloon Tong, where we lived. When I went back to pick up the framed pictures, the lady owner asked me as she pointed to picture of Jesus: Who is this man? I was surprised and taken back by the question but quickly answered; He's Jesus Christ, the son of God. She said: Oh.

Who is this man? There are countless millions who do not know. We all need to be missionaries in deed and in words. If someone accused us of being Christians, would there be enough to convict us? If someone accused us of being Mormons, would there be enough to convict us?

A couple of weeks ago I was in Hong Kong and Europe, courtesy of good friends. I'm constantly aware of my responsibility to share the gospel. Our good friends have not been active for over 18 years. Their youngest daughter, who's 18 now, did not know much about the church and was never baptized. After spending time with her as I stayed in her parents' home, I asked her if she'd be willing to learn more about Jesus and the purpose of our life here and bore her my testimony that it would be one of the most important things in her life. She said yes! I made sure the best missionaries would teach her and I heard from her that she is very happy and the members told me she wants to be baptized. I told her parents the last day I was there what I had done! I do not think they'll be mad at me, though I didn't wait around to find out. 

I went with my friend to a group tour of Europe and shared a room with a nice young woman during that 10 day trip. She found out I was a Mormon as I would say my prayers and not drink alcohol. In my final days I asked her if she would like to know more about Jesus Christ and his plan for us. She told me she believed there was a magic moment in everyone's life when they felt the need for that, but it was not her time. When I told of my experience to one of our former missionaries, he said, did you slap her and tell her that that was her magical moment? I did not, but it always feels personal when someone refuses to hear the gospel.

On the flight home, an 8 hour flight, a man sat next to me. I started to think how I could be friends with him and share the gospel. I said Hello, no response. He wouldn't even look at me! When I saw him struggling to see in the dark in order to complete the customs form, I reached over and turned his reading light on for him. He grunted and motioned for me to turn it off with jerky motions, not looking too happy. When the flight attendant came by offering drinks, he sat up straight and when the flight attendant directed the question at him, he grunted and pointed to the orange juice. The whole time he never acknowledged my presence, even though he was reaching over me as I was seated in the aisle and he in the window. Then it dawned dawned me! He was deaf and mute! And he didn't want to be bothered! They turned the lights off, being an overnight flight.

Well, I sat back relieved, and told myself I didn't have to rack my brain for 8 hours on how to approach him to share the gospel. Maybe it was an excuse, but I didn't feel too guilty about that and relaxed all the way home!

Brother and sisters, thank you for your being here today; for being where you are supposed to be on a Tuesday morning at 11am. I know if we do our best whenever we are, whatever we are doing, we'll be blessed and happy. Whate'ver thou art, act well thy part. I know giving service at the earliest inconvenience will make our lives richer as well as the lives of those we serve. I know we need to share the gospel and live the gospel. It's our duty, our responsibility. If not I, who? If not now, when?

In D&C 64:33-34 it says:

33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.

I bear you my testimony that the Lord will never give us more than we can bear. I bear you my testimony that I know he lives and loves us and will always be with us if we trust him and follow him. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.