I remember being struck by President Gordon B Hinckley’s remarks at the October 2003 General Conference. He said: “Within your sphere of responsibility you have as serious an obligation as do I within my sphere of responsibility. Each of us should be determined to build the kingdom of God on the earth and to further the work of righteousness.”
While at first it seemed strange to think that each of us had as serious an obligation as the President of the Church, on reflection I realized that this was true. We all need to play our part in building the kingdom.
My first Bishop was John Dale. He had a saying or two for every occasion and was generous in dispensing them. Two of them that are appropriate here were:
‘The Church is made up of Saints, Ain’ts and Complaints – which are you?’ and ‘There are two types of people in the Church – the pillars and the caterpillars. The pillars hold everything up while the caterpillars just crawl in and out’.
John was certainly both a Saint and a Pillar. He was a man who dedicated his life to building the kingdom and left a great legacy through those he taught and trained.
President Spencer W. Kimball taught us the nature of kingdom builders:
The Savior could have taken highly trained minds from the temple porches for the chief builders of his kingdom, but he went to the seashore to get humble fishermen. He wanted men who . . . were trusting and sincere and willing to serve. [TSWK, p. 65]
Does that describe us? Are we trusting and sincere? Are we willing to serve? I have been privileged to know a great number of men and women who are trusting and sincere and willing to serve. One of these was my father-in-law, David Deacon who spent a lifetime serving as Branch President, Bishop, Counselor in Stake Presidency and Stake President. Even a major stroke did not prevent him from serving as a temple worker with his wife Elsie (another Saint and Pillar) and he passed away in the Preston Temple while preparing to officiate at an endowment session.
One of his favourite songs was the stirring ‘Stout-hearted men’ from the operetta New Moon by Oscar Hammerstein:
‘You who have dreams, if you act they will come true.
To turn your dreams to a fact, it’s up to you.
If you have the soul and the spirit,
Never fear it, you’ll see it thru,
Hearts can inspire, other hearts with their fire,
For the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way.
Give me some men who are stout-hearted men,
Who will fight, for the right they adore,
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men,
And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.
Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder,
They grow as they go to the fore.
Then there’s nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan,
When stout-hearted men can stick together man to man.’
There’s nothing in the world can halt or mar God’s plan for the building of the kingdom, especially when He can call upon stout-hearted people like John Dale and David and Elsie Deacon.
I have known, and still know many other great examples of kingdom builders. To be a kingdom builder we don’t have to have exceptional gifts or abilities. He just asks that we be humble, trusting, sincere, and willing to serve. Then He can guide us to do important work in His kingdom. He is depending on us.
In all ages God has delighted to use weak things. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of five things that God uses:
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
There are five things mentioned here that God uses:
- Foolish things
- Weak things
- Base things
- Things which are despised
- Things which are not
Why does he use these things? – ‘That no flesh should glory in his presence’. In other words – so that we can never say ‘We did it on our own’. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says: The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh (D&C 1:19)
From its earliest days, the Lord’s Church has been built up by ordinary people who magnified their callings in humility and devotion. It does not matter to what office we are called to serve, only that we act “in all diligence” (D&C 107:99).
President Monson has often quoted the phrase: “Do your duty, that is best; leave unto the Lord the rest.” In the words of modern revelation: “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” (D&C 64:33).
In the gospel of John we read that at the tomb of Lazarus Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Take ye away the stone!’ Before the act of raising Lazarus could be performed, the disciples had their part to do. Christ could have removed the stone with a word. It would have been very easy for him to have commanded it to roll away; and it would have obeyed his voice, as the dead Lazarus did when he called him back to life. But the Lord wanted the disciples to be a part of the raising of Lazarus so He asked them to do what they could do; what was within their capabilities. The disciples had not only to take away the stone; but after Christ had raised Lazarus they had to ‘loose him, and let him go.’ So Christ did His work of raising Lazarus from the dead and then the disciples did what they could by releasing Lazarus from his burial bindings.
If we are trusting, sincere and willing to serve the Lord can use us to accomplish His great purposes.
Saints, Ain’ts or Complaints – which are we?