The longer I live and serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the more overwhelmed I feel as I see the commitment that some people have to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some time ago, I presided over a regional conference in La Paz, Bolivia, high in the Andes Mountains. Members came to the conference from small towns and villages scattered throughout the area of La Paz and the Altiplano.
Before the leadership training session, I stood in front of the stake center and greeted the brethren as they gathered. One older brother told me through an interpreter that he lived a long way from La Paz. I noticed that his shirt was a different color from about the middle of his chest down. The upper portion of his shirt was white, while the lower portion was a brownish-red color.
I learned that he and three other Melchizedek Priesthood holders had taken more than eight hours to travel to these meetings. They had walked most of the way and had to ford two rivers, where the brownish-red water came up to their chests. When they came to the main road to La Paz, they stopped a truck to ask for a ride. The four men stood in the back of the truck for the last two hours to the stake center.
I could hardly believe that anyone would have such commitment, faith, and courage. When I expressed my deep concern for this dear brother, he said, “Brother Ballard, you are an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would walk as long as required, ford as many streams as required, to come and hear from you what the Lord wants me to do as a priesthood leader in the Church.”
This response brought tears to my eyes. We embraced one another in the special brotherhood of the priesthood of God. I also learned that he and his companions had not had anything to eat. Nor did they have a place to stay that night. Through the goodness of the Saints of La Paz, they were taken care of during the conference weekend.
These brethren are not alone in their commitment to serve. I am reminded of a sister in Peru who has been called by her bishop to be a “special proxy” at the Lima Peru Temple. Her day begins at 3:00 A.M., and she begins her trek to the temple at 4:00 A.M. She has to take three different buses to get there. The cost of the bus takes more than one-third of her small monthly income. During a bus strike in Lima, she still came. Once she arrived in the back of a truck headed in the direction of the temple. What marvelous devotion to service!
In 1987, the presidency of the Lima temple received notice that a large group of members were coming by bus from Guayaquil, Ecuador. They had made great sacrifices in order to come, many having sold their belongings.
Warm-hearted members of the Lima stakes prepared to receive the Ecuadoreans in their homes. The visitors were planning to stay three days to receive their endowment, be sealed as families, and do temple work for their deceased ancestors. They were to arrive Tuesday and return home Friday.
But Tuesday night, word came that the group had been stopped at the Peruvian border because their bus did not have the correct papers to enter Peru. They were doing everything possible to be able to continue on to Lima.
They did not arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. And there was no further word from them. The workers at the Lima temple assumed that the group had been obligated to turn back and return home.
On Friday at 2:00 A.M., the security guard at the temple received word that the bus from Ecuador had arrived in Lima and that they needed someone to guide them to the temple. The guard called the temple president, Glen V. Holley, who dressed quickly and hurried to the temple. He sent someone to guide the visitors to the temple, and had the outdoor temple lights turned on. When the bus from Ecuador drove into the temple parking area, the temple—with its beautiful white marble and its statue of the Angel Moroni—was all aglow.
President Holley entered the bus and saw that “adults and children alike were crying. One brother sobbed, ‘We’ve arrived! We’ve arrived!’
“Tears were running down my cheeks, too,” said President Holley. “I stammered a welcome and invited them to the auxiliary building to clean up and shower, since they had been on the bus five days. I sent for ordinance workers to come to the temple immediately. By 5:00 A.M., unscheduled temple sessions were in progress. Everyone was happy. Before the end of the day, everyone was endowed, sealed, and had done some work for their ancestors.”
That evening, they departed—tired, but happy. They still had a two-and-a-half day return trip.
Recently, an Indian family from Bolivia arrived at the Lima temple. They were very poor and had made considerable sacrifice to come. The father was a district president. The mother wore the typical native felt hat and colorful native clothing. They brought their five little boys—the oldest was twelve—to be sealed to them. The boys had been well prepared to come to the temple and were aware of its significance. The older boys explained to me that they were preparing for the day they could go on a mission for the Church.
After a very spiritual temple sealing ceremony, the father gathered his family around him in front of the mirrors of the sealing room and made this profound statement, “I’m one of the richest men in the world. Look at my treasures!” Indeed, he is wealthy in the things that really count!
We all have challenges in life. The challenges of those who live in relative prosperity are different from those who live in more humble circumstances. But we can all be committed, and this commitment must lead to action. Whether we find ourselves walking eight hours and fording streams in Sunday clothes to attend a priesthood meeting, or making sacrifices in order to attend the temple, the Lord sees and blesses those who act on their devotion to him.
In James 2:14–26, we learn that in order to prove our faith, we must act on it.
“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
“And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:15–17).
When the time comes for you to sacrifice for that which you believe, will you have the faith to make that sacrifice? Have you made the commitment to do anything the Lord asks? Are you disciplined enough to fulfill that commitment, even at a time that may not be convenient or pleasant? I would encourage each of you to promise the Lord, now, that you will do as he or his messengers ask. The sacrifice may be great; the sacrifice may be small. But may you all have the strength and integrity to act on your faith, so that you may one day appear before the Lord blameless, knowing that you did everything in your power to serve him.