The antidote of selfishness is service, a reaching out to those about us-those in the home and those beyond the walls of the home. A child who grows in a home where there is a selfish, grasping father is likely to develop those tendencies in his own life. On the other hand, a child who sees his father and mother forego comforts for themselves as they reach out to those in distress, will likely follow the same pattern when he or she grows to maturity.
A child who sees his father active in the Church, serving God through service to his fellowman, will likely act in that same spirit when he or she grows up. A child who sees his mother assisting those in distress, succoring the poor, and going to the rescue of those in trouble will likely exemplify that same spirit as he or she grows in years.1
I learned to serve outside the home by watching my father. He fulfilled church callings, served in the temple, and was always the first one to volunteer when someone was needed to assist with a church welfare project. However, his public behavior rarely matched the behavior manifested within the walls of our home. As children, we perceived the inconsistency between how he treated others outside the home and how he treated us. I often wondered how a person who appeared to be so caring toward others could be so unavailable to us.
In addition, by watching others, I discovered that service could be given out of love for God and not for the honors of men or for some other lesser motive. I discovered that too many times in life, we attempt to gain the recognition of others and gratify our own ambitions but struggle to obtain God's approval.
In an abusive home, there are family secrets that are simply not shared with others, which include experiences with physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Divulging these secrets to outsiders may result in severe punishment. Hence, outside the home, victims are expected to behave as if nothing is wrong. In my case, I not only tried to act as if nothing was wrong, I strived to excel in all that I did, especially in sports, in an attempt to make others believe that our family was normal. I had learned that one could pretend to be a certain way in public but behave differently in private.
As a teenager, I carefully observed coaches, teachers, and priesthood leaders in order to develop a sense of my own identity. Because of his own struggles, my father was usually emotionally or physically unavailable. He struggled to be a father and didn't seem to enjoy spending time with us. We learned at an early age not to share personal matters and problems with him because our sharing inevitably resulted in his becoming angry and taking it out on our mother. He simply didn't have the emotional resources to assist us in facing the challenges of our youth.
As a result, I found myself looking to other men for guidance in becoming a good husband and father. Fortunately, I was blessed with a caring youth leader who seemed to take an interest in me. Or, perhaps, I took an active interest in him because of the lack of positive adult male attention I received in the home.
He served as my scoutmaster, coach, and priesthood mentor. He supported me throughout my scouting experience and ensured that I obtained the Eagle Scout rank advancement. He coached our little league baseball teams, and, when he wasn't coaching, he made a special effort to attend my games.
While I was in junior high and high school, he continued attending my sporting events. When he spotted me at church, he would compliment me on my performance and check to see how I was doing in school and other areas of my life. When I turned seventeen, he helped me find my first job as a construction worker-a job that provided useful skills for when I married and had my own family.
From my youth, I also looked up to the leaders of the Church. I tried to use them as role models but had no idea what it would be like to spend time with one. I had never met a General Authority in person before 1979. During my mission in Korea, I had the opportunity to spend time with then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley.
The relationship I had with my father made me think that Elder Hinckley would be a stern authoritarian. I didn't know my paternal grandfather because he died many years before I was born. I have few memories of spending time with my maternal grandfather, who died when I was seven. I simply didn't know what it was like to have a grandfather. My first impression of meeting Elder Hinckley, however, was that spending time with him must be what it would be like to have a loving grandfather.
On September 10, 1979, a mission conference was held for all of the missionaries serving in the Seoul-West Mission. Following remarks by our mission president, Sister Hinckley spoke on the importance of doing the Lord's work and how he will assist us if we put him first. She reminded us of the need to be humble and to trust him fully. She said that if we are in tune with the Lord's will, we can and will hear him speak to us, time and time again, through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. She emphasized that fasting and earnest prayers are the keys to our spiritual strength and that we can't possibly fail with so many millions of Church members praying for our success. She closed her remarks by expressing her sincere love for each one of us. When she concluded, there wasn't a dry eye among the two hundred young missionaries.
Following Sister Hinckley, Elder Hinckley spoke. He asked the missionaries what we could sacrifice for the Lord. He said that how much the Lord has done for us is a truly staggering thought. Furthermore, he said that if the Church is to prosper, we need to do the following:
1. Work to strengthen our spirituality and have a "do it" attitude
2. Be honest in the Lord's business, and always give back to the Lord what is his
3. Serve faithfully and look for the good virtues-the very best qualities-in others and then seek to emulate those qualities. When we look for the negative in others we tend to develop similar traits.
Elder Hinckley told us he served with a missionary companion who was a joy to be with. He was friendly, happy, and hard working, which made all the difference in their missionary labors. This wonderful companion went home and decided to marry someone who didn't share his same values. He made other choices that eventually caused him to fall away from the Church and die an unhappy man. Elder Hinckley went on to emphasize the importance of marrying the right woman-someone who desires to faithfully serve the Lord, who is spiritually strong, and who has strong moral values. He said our wives can be a source of great strength-especially during challenging times-and as partners, the two of us should strive always to work as a team by helping each other, strengthening each other, and building each other up. By working together, we would accomplish so much more.
Our mission conference with Elder and Sister Hinckley was spiritually motivating. I took copious notes and committed myself to live what they taught. It was a blessing to hear from an apostle of the Lord and his sweet companion.
Immediately following the conference, we returned to the mission home where we had lunch with Elder and Sister Hinckley. I remember how nervous I was to be at the same table. My nervousness quickly subsided as Elder Hinckley visited with the mission home staff. He told stories and jokes that were delightful, and, before leaving that afternoon, he expressed his love to our small group of missionaries.
I was surprised by this expression of love. I wasn't accustomed to such expressions. I yearned for the two of them to stay a little longer, and I felt sadness when they left.
During my mission, I was also blessed to spend almost a year serving closely with a wonderful mission president in the mission home. His example and priesthood mentoring helped me gain greater insight into becoming a worthy husband and father.
Later in life, other good men became my role models and mentors. I was grateful for their support and willingness to assist someone who desperately needed their guidance. I also appreciated their examples and inspired counsel and didn't always wait for them to come to me, but often sought them out for support.
While serving as bishop, I was blessed to have the eight previous bishops still living within our ward boundaries. As I reached out to them for guidance from time to time, each one of them offered priesthood mentoring in his unique way. Each helped strengthen my testimony and desire to serve others as they had served.
For several years, a loving stake president provided much needed support. When I was set apart as a high councilor, he blessed me that I "would be healed from [my] sickness." At the time he didn't know about my struggle with severe anxiety and depression, but the Lord did. He also blessed me "with all of the secret and righteous desires of my heart." Again, my stake president didn't know at the time that my greatest desire was to overcome the effects of my past, but the Lord knew. When he ordained me to the office of bishop, my stake president promised that my service as bishop would bless my professional life and that my professional life would bless my church service. Obedience to God, support from others, and-most importantly-the Savior's Atonement enabled these priesthood blessings to be fulfilled. I'm now striving to do all within my power to assist others who struggle in similar ways.
Children and youth growing up in troubled families are blessed through the nurturing relationships of caring adults. As they actively seek out and receive support, they become more emotionally resilient. They become aware of what a healthy relationship with an adult is like. The emotional void inside of them is filled with feelings of hope and love. As a result, they can obtain the support they need to begin the process of emotional healing, which in turn allows them to understand the nature of a loving Heavenly Father, learn to put their trust in him, and grow spiritually.