I was attending stake conference in October 1984 when the stake president stopped me and asked me if I would visit with him after the meeting. I had recently been ordained an elder and was faithful in my calling as a counsellor in the branch presidency. What could he want with me? I wondered.
Later that day I headed to the stake president’s office, where I was invited in. He politely yet quickly came to the point. “Why aren’t you planning on serving a mission?” he asked.
It was a difficult question. My parents were not members and were very poor. But more than that, they had always dreamed of having one of their children receive a university education, and I was the only one of their four boys to graduate from high school. I had worked hard to get good grades, and if I could work a year and save enough money to finance my university expenses, I would be able to make this dream come true.
Hedging, I replied, “My parents won’t let me go.”
“But if they were to allow you to go, would you be willing to serve?” he asked me.
“No.” I had to be honest with him.
“Why not?” he gently probed.
“Because my education is important to me. But I promise that I will serve a mission once I complete my university degree.”
“If I understand you correctly, Khumbulani, what you are saying is ‘university first and mission later.’”
Quietly I replied, “Yes, President.”
There was a minute of silence. Then he reached for his scriptures. “I want you to listen carefully to what the Saviour teaches us: ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matt. 6:33). What a simple blessing with a promise from the Saviour himself.” I had read that scripture many times, but that day it penetrated my heart. I felt as if I were hearing it for the first time.
My stake president looked me squarely in the eye. “Khumbulani, I challenge you to put this scripture promise to the test by serving your mission now. I know Heavenly Father will bless you if you seek his kingdom first. And at this time He wants you to serve a mission.”
We stood and shook hands, and I promised him I would think deeply about what he said. As I walked down the hall, his voice followed me. “Khumbulani, Heavenly Father would like to hear from you!”
When I reached home, I went to my bedroom and offered a prayer. I asked for strength and courage to do what I felt was now required of me. Immediately I had a strong feeling I should go and discuss my desire to serve a mission with my parents. So I rose from my knees and went to the living room, where I found my parents.
“Mom, Dad, I have decided not to attend the university but to serve a mission for my church. I would like your permission to do so.” My parents were shocked. I went on to explain what a mission was and what it would mean to me to go. After a long discussion, my father surprised me by saying, “My son, I trust your judgment. I will let you go if you promise to return and attend the university afterward.” I gave him my promise.
Four months later I received my mission call to the England London South Mission.
It has now been more than 10 years since my stake president promised me that if I would seek first the kingdom of God, other things would work out for the best. And indeed they have. After my mission I earned my master’s degree in education. I now know that if we put our trust in the promises given us in the scriptures and seek to do all we can to serve faithfully, resultant blessings will flow into our lives.
Khumbulani Mdletshe now serves as an Area Seventy in the Africa Southeast Area.