United in Kindness…
I have long admired the willingness and dedication of the Sons of Mosiah to leave the comforts and safety of their home and society to teach a people esteemed as their enemies a message of love, peace, kindness, and most importantly, salvation.
When I departed for the mission field in 1983 to teach the descendants of Lehi in the land of Paraguay I did feel perhaps that I was like unto a son of Mosiah, but there I rarely found enemies, only a people longing to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and ready to make and keep the covenants of their ancient fathers. Up to that time in my life, and for many years after, serving the Guarani in South America, that missionary service, was the most joyful part of my life. Only the joys of gospel living in family life could calm my desire to return to that fertile field of the Lord’s vineyard. I eventually found that the Lord has vineyards in the central valley of California as well.
Five years ago when our stake president presented the new map of my ward as he was informing my wife and I that I would serve as bishop, I felt in a way as if I were once again headed into unknown lands. Even though people living in our ward’s boundaries were certainly not as described in Alma 17:14, “a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people,” I did feel at times that a few were ready to scatter the sheep as if “they delighted in the destruction of their brethren; and for this cause they stood to scatter the flocks….” (Alma 17:35). I say that with dramatic jest, but in the theater, as in writing, there are always roots of truth in the making of good comedy or tragedy, and the same can be said of my overdramatized comparison. Yes, I have at times felt that there were a few more concerned with creating chaos and discontent among the flock than lovingly gathering them near for peace, guidance and safety, and to partake of living waters.
Occasionally one of our sheep or little lambs would wander away or be driven from the flock. So many good brothers and sisters would with kindness and godly dedication go out and leave the ninety and nine, their family and home responsibilities, and seek out those wandering ones. When they returned, oh what joy we all felt to be gathered again, once again whole. What inconsolable sorrow we also felt when they would not come home to us. But as they say, “hope springs eternal,” and this is where our minds rest in the twilight hours and through the dark night that follows.
I am no Ammon, but in truth I have always stood ready to raise the sword in the protection of saints, God’s people. Nevertheless, age and love has taught me to be more desirous to raise instead the olive branch of peace and loving persuasion, if the Lord, and enemies, would allow. That is the deepest desire of my heart, to bring gathering in peace and kind love.
From my earliest days serving you I have urged kindness, and do so still and always. I love you. Remember who you are and know that I will always love and sustain you. May we gather again soon, and with hope in Christ, that eternal hope, may we all stand together, ever faithful, united in kindness and love. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.