Using Agency Wisely


Donald L. Hallstrom

Moral agency, the ability to choose for oneself, is fundamental to our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness. As the Lord told Adam, “It is given unto [thy children] to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves” (Moses 6:56).

Correctly used, moral agency enables us to overcome obstacles, develop the characteristics of godliness, and qualify for eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). Jacob stated, “Remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” (2 Ne. 10:23).

It seems so simple. So why do we not make right decisions every time? One reason is that the consequences of our actions are not always immediate, which is especially trying in a world where we have been conditioned to expect quick results. President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) stated: “If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency. … There would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood.” 1

Like all of us, Toshio Kawada of the Obihiro Ward, Sapporo Japan Stake, has had to make crucial choices when faced with life’s difficulties. He joined the Church in 1972, and he and his wife, Miyuki, were sealed in the Laie Hawaii Temple in 1978. They have two sons. Brother Kawada served as president of the Obihiro Branch, president of the Kushiro Japan District, and counselor in the Japan Sapporo Mission presidency for many years.

More than 20 years ago, when his family was still very young, Brother Kawada was working for his father as a dairy farmer. Tragically, one day the large barn where they kept their milk cows and all their equipment burned down. Financially devastated, his father went to the farmers’ union for a loan but was turned down. Subsequently, his father and older brother filed for bankruptcy. Although not legally responsible, Brother Kawada felt obligated to help pay back all the debts.

As Brother Kawada was pondering a solution to his problem, he decided to plant carrots. He had grown potatoes, but he did not know how to grow carrots. He planted the seeds and prayed earnestly for his carrots to grow.

All this time, Brother Kawada faithfully served in the Church, kept the Sabbath day holy, and paid his tithing. When he and his family dressed in their best clothes and went to their Sunday meetings, many neighbors scoffed at them. It was difficult to lose one day a week in their fields, especially at harvesttime. It was not always easy for them to pay their tithing, but they offered it to the Lord obediently and cheerfully.

Fall came and Brother Kawada’s carrots turned out to be unusually sweet and large, with an exceptionally rich color. He had an abundant harvest and went to the farmers’ union for help, but they refused to sell his carrots through their distribution system. He fasted and prayed and felt inspired to try to find a produce distributor in Tokyo—something that is very difficult to do without introductions or connections.

Brother Kawada was blessed to find a large distributor in Tokyo. Since then he has been very successful and has repaid all his father’s debts. He currently has a large agricultural operation with many employees, and he is teaching young farmers how to effectively organize their businesses.

Even in exceptionally trying circumstances, Brother Kawada chose to be true to the promises he made in his baptismal, priesthood, and temple covenants. Although it would have been easy to rationalize working on the Sabbath, not serving in the Church, and not paying tithing until his problems were resolved, he was resolute in following the directive to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” He then found that, indeed, “all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

I respect Toshio Kawada not simply because he overcame hard times and became a successful farmer. Far more impressive is that he made courageous choices during a difficult period, knowing they would not necessarily bring an immediate reward—or any temporal reward at all. His example of righteously using agency and steadfastly holding to everlasting principles is worthy of emulation.

Sabbath Observance

President Spencer W. Kimball

“Sometimes Sabbath observance is characterized as a matter of sacrifice and self-denial, but it is not so. … The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts. … To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected.” President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), “The Sabbath—a Delight,” Tambuli, July 1978, 4; Ensign, Jan. 1978, 4.

[photo] Photograph by David Stoker

Toshio Kawada’s Testimony

When we got married, my wife and I made a decision to keep the Sabbath day holy even though we were farmers. I remember a 1978 First Presidency Message by President Spencer W. Kimball. He talked of how he rejoiced when he saw machinery sitting idle in the fields on Sunday. He spoke of how keeping the Sabbath day holy was an expression of Latter-day Saints’ faith. (See “The Sabbath—a Delight,” Tambuli, July 1978, 1; Ensign, Jan. 1978, 2.)

At the time, we shared machinery with other farmers. When you are working with others, it’s difficult to say you won’t work on the Sabbath. So we got out of combined farming and stopped raising potatoes.

On Callings

I was also the branch president. If I didn’t go to church on Sunday, I couldn’t fulfill my responsibilities. There were times I’d get up at 3:00 in the morning, milk the cows, feed the animals, and then go to church, do interviews, and get home at 5:00 in the evening. Then I would milk the cows again. By the time I finished everything it would be 10:00. I still remember those days when I’d sigh, “Finished at last.”

On Sacrifices to Keep the Sabbath

Sometimes we worked until midnight on Saturday to keep from breaking the Sabbath. We went to church the next day, often without much sleep. Once we came home from church, and a cow had gotten caught in the pasture fence and died. There were times when we had millions of yen worth of damage to our cut hay because it had lain in the rain on the Sabbath. We knew accidents didn’t happen because it was Sunday. If you worry about that kind of thing, you would never be able to keep the Sabbath. Accidents can happen anytime.

On Faith and Endurance

When the barn burned and we lost our cattle, some said, “I can’t believe you were able to get through it.” We said we couldn’t do it any other way than how we did. We just worried about keeping the Sabbath and getting over the pain. We believed that God was watching over us and blessing us.

On Growing Carrots

We planted carrots with great success. Finally we were getting some kind of order in our lives. With carrots, it didn’t matter if it rained or we took every Sunday off. We could make our own decisions. We could serve more easily in any calling we were called to.

In our business, we use a lot of part-time help. When we are really busy, our employees suggest that we work Sundays. I tell them that we just don’t work on Sundays. When our workers know that, they work hard and rarely take days off. On Sundays the younger workers spend the day with their children, and the older workers visit with their grandchildren.

On Gratitude to the Lord

Obeying God’s commandments has been important to us. We stood firmly by our decision to keep the Sabbath day holy and wouldn’t bend. As we did all that we could do, our children learned that there is a God and He blesses us. Our children really do hear and remember.

When our oldest son was serving in the Japan Fukuoka Mission, the mission president often introduced him by saying, “Elder Kawada’s father stopped growing potatoes so he could keep the Sabbath day holy. Elder Kawada was raised in a family like that.”

We feel happy when we see our children. They come to church. They have served missions and married in the temple. We are grateful to our Heavenly Father, who knows us and has blessed us.

[photos] Photography by Tokio Onogi

Show References

    Note

  1.   1.

    The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 77.