Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In every day as we are asked to do it

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday morning session from the April 1975 Conference.
One of the most striking talks for me during this session was given by the man pictured above. He was a newly called General Authority. He describes how he had gotten a call from President Romney, asking if he and his wife would serve as mission presidents in London. Without too much hesitation, he accepted the call:
I will tell you this, something I learned long ago: It is a question of free agency…I was financially able, I was morally able, and I knew the law of consecration and what it meant; and I appreciated the opportunity.
But a few weeks later, he relates, another call from church headquarters came. This time it was President Kimball.
“Brother Hales, do you mind if we change your mission?” 
I had thought I was going to the London England Mission. But I figured someone else would have that call, and I said, “I will be glad to go to whatever place you send me.” 
He said, “Do you mind if we change it to Salt Lake City?” 
And I said, “No, that will be fine, President.” 
“Do you mind if it is little bit longer than three years?” 
“However long you want it, President.” 
“We would like a lifetime of service.”
It hit me as I read this, the magnitude of that request. All this man's plans for his career, his family, his retirement—everything in that moment had to be revised. And he talks about how he felt:
The past 20 years swept before me. I felt like the man who had fallen off a precipice…The call was clear. I had to let go of everything that I had known and what I had been striving for in my life to become an Assistant to the Twelve… 
With that, the prophet talked to my wife. We held each other in our arms and said nothing, and we knew that we had and that we would dedicate and consecrate our lives to that mission, whatever it might be.
He talks about how he was gaining now a new appreciation of the Law of Consecration:
I have learned from Joseph Fielding Smith, and have talked to young people, about the law of consecration. It is not one particular event; it is a lifetime, day by day, in which we all strive to do our best that we might live honorable lives, that we might live the best we can in the service of others… 
I will say this: It is not in death or in one event that we give our lives, but in every day as we are asked to do it.
I guess this story isn't so different from any of the dozens of others over the years. I've heard various apostles give their first addresses in Conference. They usually sound overwhelmed, surprised, and full of humility. I often think about what must have been going through their heads as they received their calls. But this story struck me harder, and it's because of the name I saw as I scrolled back up the page to see who was giving this talk.

It was Elder Robert D. Hales! OUR Elder Hales. This Elder Hales:
And I just felt suddenly and with great emotion that HE DID IT! He didn't just talk about consecration. He didn't just say how he hoped he could serve with honor. HE DID IT! He has been doing it for the last forty-two years, longer than I've been alive. EVERY SINGLE DAY since that day he got the call and his whole life changed…he has been giving his life to the Lord. Just as he talked about doing, way back in 1975 when it was all fresh and scary and new to him.

And that young man pictured at the top of this post, the one I didn't even recognize, the one who talked about how his wife had to remind him to go Home Teaching and he wasn't super excited about it (that story's in the talk), the one who was a successful businessman with hopes and plans for the future, the one who had a seventeen-year-old son who said to him incredulously, “Dad, do you think, really, you will ever be like [the other General Authorities]?”—

THAT man became THIS man. Our Elder Hales, who speaks with a quiet and trembling voice, and has an oxygen hose to help him breathe. Who so clearly belongs in the Council of the Twelve, and gives eloquent, powerful talks about service and choices and the Holy Ghost. I've read lots of talks in this General Conference Odyssey by men I later heard for myself: President Benson, Elder Ashton, President Packer, and many others. I suppose all of these men had their first talks, their first calls, their first days on the job. They grew in their callings; they became different men as they served. But I felt like here, reading Elder Hales' first talk and realizing who he'd become, I was seeing this happen, sweeping before my eyes all at once. 

And Elder Hales reveals, right in his talk, HOW it happens. It's the Law of Consecration in action. It's giving our lives, "in every day as we are asked to do it."

You can see just by looking at the two pictures how many years and how many experiences Elder Hales has offered up to God. And when his son asks "Dad, do you think, really, you will ever be like them?"—I want to tell that newly-called Elder Hales, "You WILL! You ARE one of them! You've ALWAYS been one of them, to me!"

I don't know how it feels to be called to give your whole life to be an Apostle. But I do know how it feels to PROMISE to be willing to give all that God asks. And I just hope—each time I have to catch my breath, and re-think what I thought my future was, and head off tremblingly into a path I wouldn't have chosen for myself—I hope I can do it like Elder Hales. Giving my life willingly, every day as I am asked to do it.


Other posts in this series:

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