I learned to swim in the swift currents of Utah’s beautiful Provo River. The “old swimming hole” was in a deep portion of the river, dangerous with its depth of 16 feet, its current, which moved swiftly against a large rock, and the sucking action of the whirlpools below the rock. It was not a place for an inexperienced swimmer.
One warm summer afternoon when I was about 12, I took a large, inflated inner tube from a tractor tire, slung it over my shoulder, and walked barefoot up the railroad track which followed the course of the river. I entered the water about a mile above the swimming hole and enjoyed a leisurely float down the river. The river held no fear for me, for I knew its secrets.
That day the Greek-speaking people in Utah held a reunion at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon, as they did every year. Native food, games, and dances were the order of the day. But some left the party to try swimming in the river. When they arrived at the swimming hole, it was deserted, for afternoon shadows were beginning to envelop it.
I was about to enter the swiftest portion of the river, just at the head of the swimming hole, when I heard frantic cries, “Save her! Save her!” A young lady swimmer, accustomed to the still waters of a gymnasium swimming pool, had fallen from the rock into the treacherous whirlpools. None of the party could swim to save her. I saw the top of her head disappearing under the water for the third time, there to descend to a watery grave. I stretched forth my hand, grasped her hair, and lifted her over the side of the tube and into my arms. At the pool’s lower end, the water was slower as I paddled the tube, with my precious cargo, to her waiting relatives and friends.
They threw their arms around her and kissed her, crying, “Thank God! Thank God you are safe!” Then they hugged and kissed me. I was embarrassed and quickly returned to the tube and continued my float down to the Vivian Park bridge. The water was frigid, but I was not cold, for I was filled with a warm feeling. I realized that I had participated in the saving of a life. Heavenly Father had heard the cries, “Save her! Save her,” and permitted me, a deacon, to float by at precisely the time I was needed. That day I learned that the sweetest feeling in mortality is to realize that God, our Heavenly Father, knows each one of us and generously permits us to see and to share His divine power to save.
Soon many of you will be ready to serve missions. It’s wonderful that you are willing and prepared to serve wherever the Spirit of the Lord directs. This alone is a modern miracle, considering the times in which we live. As missionaries, you also can share in this sweet feeling of realizing that Heavenly Father knows each of His children. He will permit you to help rescue those who are spiritually drowning, to see and to share in His divine power to save.
Missionary work is hard work. Missionary service is demanding and requires long hours of study and preparation so that the missionary himself might match the divine message he proclaims. It is a labor of love but also of sacrifice and devotion to duty.
An anxious mother of a prospective missionary once asked me what I would recommend her son learn before his mission. I am certain she anticipated a profound response. However, I said, “Teach your son how to cook, but more particularly, teach him how to get along with others. He will be happier and more productive if he learns these two vital skills.”
As you prepare for your missions you learn your duties as Latter-day Saint youth and then perform those duties with determination and love, knowing you are on the Lord’s errand.
Sometimes the lessons will come quietly. A while back I was visiting a sacrament meeting at a care facility in Salt Lake City. The priests at the sacrament table were sitting quietly when the opening hymn was announced. A patient near the front of the large room had difficulty opening his hymnbook. Without so much as a question, one of the young men slipped to his side and, gently turning the pages to the correct hymn, placed the disabled man’s finger at the beginning of the first verse. They exchanged an understanding smile, and the priest returned to his seat. This modest gesture impressed me. After the meeting, I congratulated him and said, “You are going to be an effective missionary.”
Some missionaries are gifted with the power of expression, while others have a superior knowledge of the gospel. Some, however, are late bloomers who day by day become more proficient and successful.
Entering the mission field can sometimes be an overpowering and frightening experience. President Harold B. Lee counseled, “Remember, whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”
Frequently I think of the profound lesson to be learned from 1 Samuel in the Holy Bible. You will recall that the Prophet Samuel was directed by the Lord to go to Bethlehem, even to Jesse, with the revelation that a king would be found among the sons of Jesse. Samuel did as the Lord had commanded him. Each of Jesse’s sons was introduced—seven of them. Though they were fair and qualified in appearance, Samuel was told by the Lord that none was to be chosen. “And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him. … And he sent, and brought him in. … And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he” (1 Sam. 16:11–12).
The lesson for us to learn is found in 1 Samuel 16:7: “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” [1 Sam. 16:7]
All of us united as one can qualify for the guiding influence of our Heavenly Father as we pursue our respective callings. We are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We, like those of olden times, have answered His call. We are on His errand. We shall succeed in the solemn charge given by Mormon to declare the Lord’s word among His people. He wrote: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Ne. 5:13).
May we ever remember the truth, “Who honors God, God honors.” We will then be prepared when we are needed by the Lord to help Him save His children.