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Inochi no Michi
The confessions haven’t been abundant but they have been consistent. “Key Chain? Umm…nice??..” , seems to have been the most common response to one of the small Christmas gifts to our missionaries. “An extra bag of Skittles or a candy bar would have been, “NIICE!”. A Key Chain??? Perhaps a little bit of explanation will help reconcile ambivalence and imbue the gift with a small measure of value.
Your new key chain (hope you haven’t disposed of it already), has three elements that may stimulate a sense of value. The first element is our mission: The Japan Nagoya Mission. The second element is HOIZA and the third is a symbol that may look like the letter B, it may look like the number 13. It is both. Let’s talk about each of the symbols in turn.
The Japan Nagoya Mission: This is the place. It is here that we found Christ. We found him in the extremity of our service—cold nights and early mornings, summer days hot enough to evaporate body fluids clear to our core and still we rode on in hopes of finding just one person that would listen to the greatest message in the world. That message is simple. A man who once was dead lives again and brings the promise of life after death to all the human family. Despite rejection we opened our mouths again. The challenge of a foreign tongue did not dissuade us—we tried, failed and tried again. In all of that, our afflictions, we were sustained by the Holy Ghost and the great sign of its presence—a pervading sense that our Heavenly Father loves us and His Son is well pleased. Just like missionaries in the scriptures we face affliction and find “incomprehensible joy” (Alma 28:8). Just like those who found Christ at the waters of Mormon have a fondness for the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30), we who found Christ here, in our extremity, say with them, “the streets of Nagoya, the cherry blossoms of Nagoya, the people of Nagoya, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer…” Use your new key chain in that spirit. Each time you feel it in your pocket, remember the sweetness of the waters of Nagoya and how you came to know your Redeemer more intimately here. Throughout your life when you get an apartment key at school your new car key, a key to the church—use this key chain so that each time you insert a key the memory of the sweetness of the Love of God will flood over you. The Japan Nagoya Mission. This is the place!
HOIZA: A battle cry unique to the Japan Nagoya Mission. A reminder that YOU are the Hope of Israel, YOU are a member of Zion’s Army. “Hope Of Israel Zion’s Army”, proclaims the hymn by Joseph L. Townsend and William Clayson (Hymns E259, J159). It is a reminder of our purpose as missionaries; to bring others to Christ by helping to cultivate faith in Him and His atonement. It reminds us that ours is the errand of angels and that by our ministering men and women in Japan began to exercise faith in Christ (Moroni 7:25). Some of those we help to repent, receive baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and we encourage them to endure to the end. We continue to be the Hope of Israel and Zion’s Army even after we leave this place. We are the Hope of Israel to friends and family, future spouse and children. In all future callings and church service we are the Hope of Israel and faithful members of Zion’s Army. Wherever any one of us serves let us do so with “power” and with “testimony”, “rising up and coming forth…clear as the moon, fair as the sun, and TERRIBLE as an army with banners” (D&C 5:14). As a new bishop or Relief Society President when you insert your key to the church for the very first time—remember that—remember your charge to serve with power and testimony and terrible as an army with banners. Let your key chain bring that to your remembrance. HOIZA!
B-13: Japan is a country rich in tradition of family honor. Let the letter B on your key chain represent your commitment to honor all of your ancestors. Though the letter B was chosen because it represents my surname Baird, the ancestors this symbol represents are not all named Baird. Whether it be Orton or Watkins, Ito or Wakamatsu, it is all the same. Even if your surname does not begin with the letter B, let that symbol represent them. They sacrificed much—everything, in fact, so that you could enjoy this time in earth’s history. We have greater opportunities for learning and education, opportunities for rewarding jobs and careers, opportunities to serve other people and most importantly we have the opportunity to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored in its fullness. We have the ordinances of salvation. We have the scriptures and prophets. We have it all and we owe it to those who went before us, those who paved the way, those who sacrificed so that we could have and create a better world. We owe them. We pay our debt by honoring their name—never engaging in any behavior that would bring dishonor or stain to their name.
I invite you to embrace the B. It is not intended to supplant your own good name of Wilkinson or Roney or Sambongi. Let the B represent them too. In addition, Sister Baird and I invite you to make a little place in your heart that you stamp with the name of Baird. You are ours—given to us out of the world by assignment of prophets. Each time Sister Baird and I have been instructed in our role of Mission President and Wife, by a member of the twelve, they underscore that our relationship with you, the missionaries assigned to the Japan Nagoya Mission in 2010-2013 are our responsibility until the day we die. Ours is not a three year assignment, it continues at least as long as we draw breath in this tabernacle of clay. In 3 Nephi 19:29, Christ prays for those of the Nephites that were with him in these words, “Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world…”. In that same way, Sister Baird and I pray for you who have been given to us out of the world. My own feelings of paternal love toward my Mission President, Harrison Ted Price, do not in any way diminish my love for my mortal father or other ancestors. My love toward Sister Price is deep and enduring. These two shaped my life. They were in deed, to me, father and mother and there is a part of my heart that is stamped with the name of Price. I strive to honor that name and their lives too. Embrace the B.
13: There are at least three meanings to the 13 symbol on your key chain: One is the 13th Article of Faith, the second is 13 Christlike attributes and the third is 13 steps to help us cleanse our lives on a regular basis and to cultivate in place of the sins we sweep away, attributes of Jesus Christ.
Of the 13 Articles of Faith, the 13th reads like a Creed, a commitment a life-style. It speaks of pursuing virtues, it delineates some of them. The connection between the 13th Article of Faith and the Christlike attribute of Charity is boldly proclaimed. Studying the connections between the 13th Article of Faith and other Christlike attributes will be a rewarding quest.
The scriptures are rich with the teachings of Christ and they proclaim His attributes. Famously, these attributes are summarized in at least three key places; Preach My Gospel chapter 6, 2 Peter 1, and Doctrine and Covenants section 4. Preach My Gospel lists 9 attributes, 2 Peter 1 also lists 9 attributes. Though there is significant overlap, the lists are not exactly the same. Doctrine and Covenants section 4 lists 12 attributes and captures all of the attributes on the other two lists with the exception of one, obedience. Obedience, clearly an important attribute of the Savior, does not appear in D&C 4. If we take the attributes listed in D&C 4 and add to it the attribute of obedience, we have a total of 13 attributes and a complete list of all those listed in all three places. The list includes, Faith, Hope, Charity and Love, Virtue, Knowledge, Patience, Humility, Diligence, Obedience, Eye Single to the Glory of God, Temperance, Godliness and Brotherly Kindness. 13 Christlike Virtues!
Peter promises that by these things we make our calling and election sure—he promises that we will never fall if we cultivate these attributes so that they abound in us. So important is the promise that Peter commits that he will not be negligent to put us always in remembrance of these things (2 Peter 1:12). He underscores his intent in verse 13, “as long as I am in this tabernacle..” he intends to put us in remembrance. He goes even further in verse 15, even “after my decease”, Peter makes it clear, he will endeavor to put these things in our remembrance. I am moved by Peter’s words and his commitment. When I read them and ponder my hopes for you, it is that you would have a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. That your calling and election to that place would be made sure, is my hope. The paraphrased charge of modern prophets rings in my ears… “President Baird, you are responsible for these missionaries, for their growth, progress and salvation until the day you die… and beyond”. In Peter’s words I find a hopeful path—a path that will bring you home to our Father, a path that will help me fulfill my responsibilities to you. As you use that key chain, now, you can think of those 13 attributes that will lead you back home. As you cultivate these 13 things in your own life you have the promise of virtue and glory. And when you and I are separated, this small gift, the one you might have traded for Skittles or a candy bar, can continue to stir you to remembrance of these 13 virtues. When you unlock your car door to go on your first date after your mission you will feel the key chain in your hand and be stirred to remembrance of virtues. When you unlock the doors of your business each morning you will be stirred to remembrance of Christ and His attributes. Some days, you will stop and just look at the key chain before you go through the door and you will smile as the spirit rushes over you and testifies and stirs and reminds. And even after my demise as you put your keys into the ignition of your car to come to the funeral, you will be stirred up to remembrance. Each time you are stirred to remembrance you may want to review the 13 steps of daily personal devotional and companionship study that will help you to grow together with an eternal companion as you work to stir yourselves and your children to remembrance of these things by which we become partakers of a divine nature.
Finally the symbol is also a 1 and a 3. The 1 reminds you that you are an individual with talents unique to you. It reminds you that God intended you to use your unique gifts as part of the orchestra of humanity—each person working in harmony with those around her or him to create the beautiful music that is the song of redeeming love. The 1 reminds you that as an individual you are responsible for your own choices. You are responsible for your own salvation. But the 3 reminds you that in the expression of your talents and gifts and in all your individual responsibilities, you are connected in very personal, intimate ways with each member of the Godhead. God the Eternal Father is the literal Father of your spirit. His DNA, His attributes are in you. You have in you the potential to become like Him (Acts 17:27-28; Romans 8:16-17). He loves you and cheers for you and yearns for your success and will do all within His considerable power to help—being limited only by your agency. You are born a son or a daughter of Jesus Christ because of His atoning sacrifice. King Benjamin teaches us that we become the offspring of Christ (Mosiah 5:7) as we embrace Him as our Savior and Redeemer. Finally, the Holy Ghost is your personal guide. You have been given the gift of the companionship of a member of the Godhead—the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will warn you against threat and danger, physically, temporally, spiritually. In quiet and subtle ways the Holy Ghost will suggest a path for you. Importantly the Holy Ghost will testify to you of truth—especially of the Father and the Son and your connection to them (3 Nephi 11:36). Any one of these three could be considered the most powerful being of the universe. All three stand ready to aid you in the expression of your talents, gifts and responsibilities. You are one, but you are not alone. Remember that when you use the keys on your key chain to unlock the door to a darkened home—empty because your family is away on a fun outing which work or church responsibilities prevented you from enjoying. Remember, when you open that door with keys on this key chain that you are not alone. They will be with you, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They love you and so do President and Sister Baird.
May we be called to and claim Virtue and Glory through Remembrance is my prayer.