My Talk Assignment - Finding Peace by Forgiving others

Postdated Notes after the draft below was prepared for a talk that was assigned to me a week before 11 Aug 2019 to give to KL branch. Due to visits by General Authorities and other local authorities, the talk could be given only a month later on 8 Sep 2019.

I started the talk only roughly following the guideline of the introduction I had written below and used the scriptures I had prepared that relate to the topic. I was the 2nd and last speaker so I had more time to fill than the 10-12 minutes allocated to me as it was 35mins past the hour when I stood at the pulpit to look at the clock. The first speaker, 'Khei', was a female single adult newer to the church baptized on 26 Mar 2016 when I was the Branch Mission Leader. She was given the title Finding Peace through Jesus Christ. She did well and she finished her talk within the 10-12mins.

My introduction followed what was written earlier below and brought President Kimball's book to be a show and tell object.
I had planned to show the other book that impressed me very much also when I first joined the Church in 1979 which was Le Grand Richard's book, 'A Marvelous Work and a Wonder', who was an Apostle during the time of President Kimball. However, I informed the congregation that I had lost the book some years ago, probably loaned to someone else, so I brought another book out which was a Harry Potter's book to 'break the ice' that brought laughter from the listeners.

Now I know why I wanted to mention Le Grand Richards as he was a very powerful and convincing speaker, whose profession previously was a lawyer. His book was read by many missionaries, including myself, to give us ammunition in case any Christian pastor from another Church would negate our teachings or seek to challenge our doctrines in which I had already become well versed. Over the years, my knowledge of the Gospel had gone beyond what Le Grand Richard's book shared which was 1979 when I first read it. I could defend our teachings against any other religion should anyone choose to contend with me but I would usually avoid them as I know it would be a waste of time. In our modern-day, I could give them a reference to this journal that I wrote only many years later when I was helping another member to understand something that he wasn't clear about. 

Another reason why I would mention the name of Le Grand Richards was that this Apostle was known to stray from his prepared notes, even during the time when he would speak at General Conference time of the Church where they had teleprompters for speakers to read their prepared talk. Le Grand Richards would often time in the middle of his talk suddenly stray to talk impromptu, not following his pre-written text with the reason that he was following the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. This would drive the team of translators of different languages crazy. They thought they had his speech on their screens, that they could translate as he spoke following the teleprompter text to assist them in their live translation to others attending the conference or viewing live in other locations connected by satellite. However, it didn't turn out that way.  Now I'm not an Apostle but I knew I would stray from my notes too when inspired by the Holy Ghost!

So what happened was I did follow the introduction and read the important scriptures highting those from the Bible in Matthew was from the East as the Jews in Israel are geographically in the Middle East. What I quoted from Mosiah, which is from the Book of Mormon of the history of the Ancient Americas, is from what we call the Western continent. I expressed it in this way to highlight that the teachings were basically the same in the eastern or western part of the world.

Then I started straying from my prepared talk as I knew it wasn't enough to cover the extended time I had. I started emphasizing that there were two parts to the forgiveness principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Firstly the Savior truly suffered or paid for Man's sins through the act of Atonement, where he bled from every pore showing a great pain and suffering he had to go through. So, therefore, we can find peace to know that we can receive forgiveness due to the sacrifice of the Savior for all of us. However, as read in the scriptures, we are also to forgive others for what they have done wrong to us.

This was when the Holy Ghost took over what I should say and I informed the congregation that I would be telling them in terms of some short stories of my life where I found that it takes a certain kind of spirit, mindset or even a Consciousness to know how to forgive another of their wrongdoings or sins against us. I made the comment that it seems easier for us to repent to ask for forgiveness from a God whom we know loves us. It seemed really harder for us to forgive another who has sinned against us which the law of God requires of us in order for us to receive forgiveness of our own sins.

I started the story of remembering I had come to Church late one Sunday for sacrament meeting and our District President Tolman was speaking. I sat outside at the couch near the door to be able to listen to the emphasis he was sharing to say the words, "I am sorry" often to his wife. It was funny as he kept repeating those words "I am sorry" emphasizing to the congregation that he would always say it to his own wife very often and encouraged the married man in the congregation to do likewise.

So with his story in my mind, I shared an experience one day when I was driving our oldest son, with me wife, to his friends home for a party where he had a map on a piece of paper drawn by his parents. Our youngest son was with us too, following a decision we made that after dropping the oldest, the three of us would go for dinner together on that Saturday evening. I was driving and it was an unfamiliar area for us and I couldn't follow the map either. I was making wrong turns and was covering the same area several times but still couldn't find the home. It had gotten dark too.

My wife eventually took the map and guided me to eventually find the home with a few more rounds. Now I realized why I couldn't find it as I was following a road that was straight but the map had the straight road with a kink in the middle that was not exactly straight like in the map that caused me to be disorientated. After dropping our son, I logically explained to my wife that the map was drawn wrongly or inaccurately but my wife insisted it was correct. So the exchange of words as to who was right and wrong carried on in the journey toward the eating place we had planned.

I described vividly to the congregation in my talk that our youngest son sitting behind in the middle, close to us, had felt the tension in the air but was acting very cool as if there was no argument going on between us. He was doing his best to change the topic of our heated discussion. My mind was very aware of this. Finally, when we reached the destination for dinner and I parked the car, I told the congregation that I immediately went to the other side of the car to open the door for my wife. I then held her hand firmly as she came out, to cross the street together, with my son holding my other hand. I simply told her "Let's have a good dinner" and leave the argument behind us!  My comment to the congregation was that we can immediately stop an ongoing disagreement that was going nowhere by just making a decision that we will move forward and forget whatever difference we were arguing about as it was not really important. This is a habit or a quick decision of the mind to move forward and not dwell to bring peace back immediately and we did have an enjoyable evening on that Saturday night!

Then I was impressed to share my next story which was also about my wife and I. The inspiration must be to touch upon the relationship between husbands and wives. This has become quite a challenge in our modern world today when marriages are taking a toll with a high rate of divorces. (Post talk inspiration: I found this link to a talk by Le Grand Richards that I have filed in my confidential consciousness/memory system online but had forgotten about it until writing this journal.)

So I related the story of a miraculous experience my wife and I had when President Hinckley came to visit Singapore in January 2000 shared in this link to another journal post of mine.
I related the story that at that time of the visit, my wife and I were having some differences and click the link given to know what happened and it's significance.


This photo above is shared here as part of my 'postdated notes' about my talk after it was delivered. As I was leaving the sacrament hall, she came up to me to share what happened to her when she heard me talk about the gush of wind or something occurrence that came to me during President Hinckley's visit to Singapore. (click the previous link for details) She simply told me the hair on her arm stood up. As I talked to her more and her 2 daughters, I discovered her husband had also passed away some years ago due to cancer

I continued my storytelling, learned from my wife, who became a recognized storyteller while in Singapore during her 7 years fight against cancer since she was diagnosed in 2005. She won a top prize in a storytelling contest in Singapore. I continued my stories to share my personal experiences with my wife about her last days at the hospital of the miracle experiencing a ray of sunshine coming down upon us at the hospital corridor as we expressed love for each other recorded in this link.

As I found that I had more time to continue speaking when looking at the clock, I was impressed to share some stories outside of a husband/wife relationship to mention the following true stories in brief, with lessons that I was tested to have a forgiving heart towards third parties who may have done something that would hurt me emotionally and even financially. They have become great lessons of my life's experiences to remind me of the truthfulness of the title of my talk assignment.

The first was the only emotional experience that troubled me in all my years of service given voluntarily to our Church, where a humble prayer to my Heavenly Father calmed me down totally. A new convert to the Church suddenly took a position against my leadership in the Church by spreading rumors to members in my branch of false things I had done to him. He was new but most of the members were not. They knew me well since I served as a missionary in 1980 to later marry and start a family of my own living in the same KL branch.(Video story)  A few came forward to inform me what was happening and assured me that they knew what he had said was not true.

It was the first time to face such a personal attack from a member of the Church so I was emotionally affected as I was always kind to him and helped him as a new member in many ways. I knew I had to pray to my Heavenly Father and my prayer was very quickly answered after I thumbed open the scriptures to find a verse from our Book of Mormon shared at the bottom of this journal as I added it as a postdated note to remind me of the exact scripture revealed to me. You can scroll down to the bottom or click this link to bring you to the bottom of this journal instantly.

Well, one can be hurt emotionally but it was also my lot to have been hurt even financially by a trusted person misappropriating my funds. I only mentioned this one experience of mine briefly but not about another who subtly misused the trust that my millionaire friend had in me by borrowing a large sum of money from him with no firm security that he could provide, except that he was my good and trusted friend. When it was time to repay, and my millionaire friend was kind and patient not to assert any pressure, but the one in debt wouldn't even communicate with me or my friend!

In these situations, I think Heavenly Father must be testing me to see how I would respond to these acts of selfishness which even criminal in nature. I expressed to the congregation that it was indeed a real challenge for me not to think evil of the guilty party or avoid feelings to seek revenge. I had to make sure bad thoughts would never fill my mind towards those who acted to hurt me for whatever reason.

I silently thank them for making my life more difficult so that I could develop greater resilience and even creativity towards overcoming all kinds of adversity in my life. It did make my life tougher but the Lord knew I was a capable person to handle any situation. I have always believed that 'when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.' I felt the fear of financial failure or humiliation was the temptation that the guilty parties received from no one else but the same devil who would tempt every man to do anything evil instead of good.

Time was running out when I just shared a few stories mentioned above in brief but not my after talk commentaries in this journal which I am concluding. I closed by talking about Le Grand Richards that I was aware in a talk by President Kimball from memory that as he had a habit of talking beyond the time limit, President Kimball would use his walking stick to touch his legs as a reminder to end soon. I looked back at the Branch President as I mentioned this so that he would be aware that I was finishing which I did with a closing testimony of the Savior and his Church today.

As an after note, I regretted not to share the hilarious part of the story of Le Grand Richards and President Kimballs. When Le Grand Richards was asked by the prophet why didn't he follow his already written talk, he replied that he was inspired by the Holy Ghost. The prophet then reminded Le Grand Richards that he should ask for the inspiration of the Holy Ghost at the time when he was writing his talk!

How could I do all that I've done shared above or achieved much in the temporal world of life though I know I'm not a perfect person in any way? I know the answer because I wrote a detailed account of my life for the past 40 years since I was accepted the Lord Jesus Christ by being baptized on 29 July 1979. The account starts here.


To be continued...


Post-dated Event:
Past midnight on 30 Sep 2019

I type a note "to be continued..." above whenever I cannot finish a journal post especially when my life gets busy, as it always usually is, to be continued later. At this time of my life, my heart and mind are fully preoccupied with many ongoing spiritual experiences and pre-occupation with completing my first book to be published as well as a major transformation project I started in Kuala Lumpur.

Suddenly I found the perfect ending in an unexpected email from our Church Area Seventy, Elder Lai from Singapore with a transcript that contains an account of her experience at the time of the visit of President Hinckley to Singapore. I had shared it in my talk mentioned above and found in the transcript below:



Stephen C. K. Lai

AttachmentsSep 29, 2019, 6:26 PM (7 hours ago)
to meFeiSueHanShuanErnRay
Dear Sun Fu, Fei, Sue, Han, Shuan, Ern and Ray,

Attached herewith is a transcript of your mom being interviewed by Brother Mel Thatcher back in November 2001.  Brother Thatcher was the first Church and family history consultant sent from Church Headquarters to SG to help the Singapore members to trace their roots around 1978.  Geok Lee and I worked for Brother Thatcher on a very short job contract in November 1979. I worked for him for a month before leaving for BYUH toward the end of December while Geok Lee worked till end December.  We were collecting data at the various Chinese clans as to how many genealogical records did they have (such as the number of books, dates from when to when, etc).  As you know, your mom did not come from a rich family.  And she was very hardworking to ensure that she would not be a financial burden to her family.  At the time, Roy was already at BYUH.

How did I obtain the transcript?  About 3 months ago, someone from the Church History Department wrote to me to inquire something from me.  I then asked if he knew Brother Thatcher.  He said yes, and I was given his contact information.  I then corresponded with Brother Thatcher, and told him about the Church 50th anniversary in SG.  He then mentioned about having an interview with Geok Lee which is now being archived in the Church History Library.  He asked me to write in to get a copy of the transcript as it may have something related to the Singapore Church history.  It took me a while before they released the transcript to me.

I hope each of you will appreciate Geok Lee more than ever before.  I also hope that her resoluteness in obeying God’s commandments, come what may, will be rooted deep inside you.  And it will motivate you to remain faithful on the Lord’s covenant path.  God bless you all.

Regards,
Stephen



EDITED TRANSCRIPT: (Errors to continue to corrected by blog owner. Original unedited transcript is found here.)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Background                                                                           Page 1
Life growing up and education
Introduction to the LDS Church Baptism, 1977

The Church                                                                           Page 4
Callings in the Church
Meeting her husband
Marriage in the Bukit Timah chapel, 1982
Sealing in the Salt Lake Temple, 1983
Living in the Clementi Branch

Family                                                                                    Page 7
Living with her in-laws after her husband’s car accident
Trying to share the gospel with her in-laws
Her father’s death
Furthering her education

The Church Continued                                                        Page 10

Leading the choir when Gordon B. Hinckley came to Singapore
Special experience with Gordon B. Hinckley
Her mother’s death
Closing remarks

CHURCH ARCHIVES / FAMILY AND CHURCH HISTORY DEPARTMENT
THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
THE JAMES MOYLE ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM

INTERVIEWEE: Thong Geok Lee Chong
INTERVIEWER: Melvin P. Thatcher
LOCATION: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
DATE: 2 November 2001

T: I’m in Kuala Lumpur. My name is Mel Thatcher, and I’m representing the Family and
Church History Department. I’m now going to interview Sister Chong Thong Geok Lee Nepang. Sister Geok Lee, could you share with us something about your personal background, your family, growing up, how you came to join the Church, why you joined the Church, who is your husband, how did you meet him, who are your children, what callings have you had in the Church, and what experiences are noteworthy to you? So please go ahead.

L: Okay. Thank you Brother Thatcher. My Mandarin name is Chong Thong Lee. Chong is
my father’s surname. I was born in Singapore in the year 1962, 4th of April. The place where I was born is now rebuilt into private housing area near Stevens Road in Singapore behind the country club. I cannot remember the country club name, but it is near Stevens Road. Their old name was called Kampong _______ which means a beautiful kampong, or beautiful village—in a wooden house that my mother managed to build together with a few other women from that kampong. In those days, you can just cordon off a piece of land even though it was illegal. But they were poor, so what they could do was just cordon off a piece of land, and they hired some carpenters to build a wooden shed.

Four families lived in the wooden long house that was divided into four sections. I was there only for less than three years when my father bought a housing development, bought—what do you call that?—apartment or flat. We call it flat in Singapore, and it’s in Queenstown, Commonwealth Drive, block 95, and the unit number is 778. That unit still stands and is still there. My mom had passed away last year, and she was the last person living there, but now the place is vacant.

Anyway, I basically grew up in that flat, and it was situated on the ground floor. So even though it was a housing development board—in short HDV—I lived there like a girl who lived in a kampong. I would play in the grass. I would climb trees. I would run around and play—sand play we call catching. Catching is like tag in America. It was a lot of fun

Chong page 3

having a lot of neighbors. There were 100 units in that single block. So I had a lot of friends who were around my age.

The language we used in those days conversing each other was Hainanese from the Hainanesefamily. If not Hainanese, we would talk to each other in Hokkien, which is the very common dialect being used in Singapore.

I remember there was this big tree near the playground, and under that big tree they put two swings. They build two swings on metal frame, and those are very sturdy swings. They stood there until, I think, three or four years ago when they finally knocked down that structure. So I used to go home and swing on that swing of my childhood under that big tree. I think I was very close to nature, and I still love nature. I grew up as an ordinary girl.

I think I was unique in the sense that my mother looked like my grandmother. Because I was the last of seven children, by the time my mother gave birth to me, she was forty- seven years old. So she could very well be my grandmother. I remember when I went to school, if my mom had to come and pick me up or to meet my teachers, my friends would say, “Why did your grandmother come instead of your mother?” [laughs] Yes.

From my background, my parents didn’t have a lot, but I was not poor in the sense that all the suffering were by that time alleviated because my brothers were all working. Between myself and my brother Roy Tong, there was seven years’ gap. So by the time I went to school, a lot of them are already working. So even though I didn’t have a lot of things like luxury, but I was never hungry. I always have clothes. We only buy one piece of new clothes a year, which is during Chinese New Year. One pair of new shoes, and that’s about it. I went to school in [Farrer Park?] Primary School. Today the building is still there, but the name of the school has changed to, I think, Nanyang Primary School. It’s still along Farrer Road.

I picked up Mandarin and English in school, in the Singapore education system, but my daily conversation with my parents were in Highlandese. I had a very good English teacher, [Mrs. Rachu?]. She taught English quite effectively, and I was able to pick up that language quite well. With good results, I was able to end up in a pretty good secondary school. In Singapore, the education system is very competitive. Is very result exam oriented; if you make your grade, you get to choose what good school you want to be in. And I manage to go to _______, which is Chinese Middle School.

Now the building is there, but it’s being used as ministry of education kind of thing. I don’t know whether now they demolish it or it’s still there. It’s along Margaret Drive in Queenstown. I spent four years there. After six years of Farrer Primary School, I spent four years in _______, and then from there I went to Hwa Chong Junior College. Now on the third year of my secondary school, which means I was in sect three—we call it sect three—I was fifteen years old.

Chong page 4

I think my parents had a lot of concern for me, which I didn’t realize they were having. My dad felt that I was quite a rebellious girl. A lot of time I think my way, but I always view myself as a good girl because I never did anything that was disastrous. I always had high value. I believe in honesty. I work hard in school. I was school prefect. I was active in the drama club. I loved to do Chinese dance. I loved to sing. I could play the recorder pretty well. So, basically, I enjoyed music.

In the year 1977, when I was fifteen, I think my father called up my brother Roy Tong, who was at that time a missionary—he was on the last few months of his mission. When Roy joined the Church as a young teenager, he had long hair, and he played the guitar. To my father, he had a bleak future. But after he joined the Church, there was some very positive changes that happened to him. After he finished his army, he served a mission.

Towards the end of the mission, my father called him and asked him to bring me to church. This I didn’t know. It was revealed to me only like in the year 1992. You know, I was thirty years old, and my father told me what actually transpired. So he told me that he asked my brother to bring me to church, and I had my discussions with the first two sister missionaries, Sister Joyce Quick and Sister Cynthia Fum. They taught me the discussions, and I was challenged to be baptized.

Even before I was baptized, I was very actively singing in the choir. I think my mentor, Sister Doreen [Poh Choo Hong] Lim and Jon [Sunhock] Lim, they helped me have better understanding of music. We had even classes for music theory for free. We had to fork out our own money for exams. I passed a couple of exams and had certificates for music theory through Jon and Doreen.

Anyway, I thought I was not going to get baptized because I was not a good enough person, but the missionaries told me you don’t have to be perfect to be baptized. They gave me the form to ask me to have permission from my father. I went home. I was surprised that my father signed the form without any objection. [laughter] Yes. So anyway, I got baptized into the Church on the 6th of August 1977. It was a Saturday. On the day of my baptism, it was drizzling, but the Spirit was strong when I was baptized. When I came out of the water of the baptism, I really felt good. My brother Roy Tong baptized me.

Being the first Saturday of the month, they usually have the confirmation on the next Sunday. That was the practice in those years. So I had my gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday morning. I remember my brother gave me a special blessing. He said that the Holy Ghost will help me study well for my coming major exams, which was going to be in 1978—the GCE [General Certificate of Education] O level exam, the British kind of exam.

Anyway, after I was baptized, I became quite active. Actually, I have remained active all these years. I never quit going to church. One thing that helped me a lot in my English was I joined the seminary. We had home study program where we just meet once a week for two hours on Saturday. I remember the first few weeks was such a struggle for me

Chong page 5

because every paragraph I had about twenty new words I had to look up in my dictionary. We had those booklets that we had to study on top of the scriptures that we had to study. So it was a struggle, but I managed.

I was very fortunate to have Brother Dale Cox as our seminary teacher at one time. He was able to write in Chinese even though he didn’t really speak Mandarin; he spoke Cantonese. He served a mission in Hong Kong. So after he finished his mission, he came to Singapore to join his parents, President [Soren F.] and Sister [Fern M.] Cox, I think— if I’m not wrong. Yes. So he was teaching us, and he would write comments in the booklets in Chinese, which was really encouraging for me.

I continued to be active, and I continued to serve in the Church. My first calling was junior Sunday School chorister. They had junior Sunday School in those days for Primary children on Sunday. I was very diligent because a lot of the songs that the children sang were completely new to me. We had the pianist Brother _______. He was a very diligent man. He used to practice piano at church, and I would arrange for him to meet me at church so that he could teach me how to sing those songs and lead the song in the junior Sunday School. [laughs] That was when I really took off on music. I really enjoyed choir; I enjoyed teaching the children the songs.

By then, I should be like seventeen. I joined the Church when I was fifteen. I was seventeen, and then I was eighteen. I finished my junior college at the age of eighteen, and I came out to work hoping to save enough money to go overseas to do my architecture degree. I always wanted to be an architect. But, unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get into the National University of Singapore in the school of architecture. They put me into social science, and without proper counsel, I gave up that opportunity. It was either a blessing in disguise or whatever. We couldn’t tell today because, if I had gone to university then, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten married when I was only twenty years old. I would be still in the university.

But anyway, the couple of years that I worked, I worked as draftsman in two different companies. The first one was a Swiss company, Luwa Engineering. The office was in a prestigious Shaw Centre in Scotts Road, at the juncture between Scotts Road and Orchard Road, next to the Lido Cima. I remember working there for a few months. I was able to see the building of the current Marriott hotel—formerly it was called the Thames. It was quite interesting to see how they built the thing up, you know. There was the crowning part of the building structure was the roof. It looked like a Mandarin or Chinese pagoda. So it was something interesting here. That environment was not entirely good because the few colleagues that I have, they were not using clean language. It was my first time being exposed to an environment where there was a lot of foul language, and I couldn’t take it. I was looking for another place to go.

At that time, my branch president was [Brother Tong E. Boy?]. He was working for another engineering company in Jurong. He helped me get a job because, at that time, they needed a full-time adjustment in his office. So I managed to get a job and start

Chong page 6

working there and remained there for over a year. From nineteen I worked to twenty. [laughs]

Yes, I have to backtrack a little bit to the year maybe when I was eighteen years old. I met a young man at a district conference in the month of either April or May in the year 1980. His name is Chong Sung Fu. That was the first time we met, but I just thought he had been awfully familiar face, and I asked him where he’s from. He told me that he was from Kuala Lumpur and he had been living in Australia for the past three years and studying in Deakin University in Melbourne. But I thought that I couldn’t have met him then.

That was the first time we met, and we never really further our friendship or acquaintance until two years later in the month of June 1982. Out of the blue, he gave me a phone call. He told me that he had finished his mission, and he was going to visit somebody’s house. It was Jon Lim’s house. Jon Lim had just finished building his famous house, which is quite the talk of town among the Church members. He wanted to see that house. I think it was just an excuse; he wanted to take me out. But he told me he didn’t know how to get there. I spent about forty-five minutes on the phone trying to explain to him how to get there, and finally, I gave up. I said, “Okay. If you really don’t know how to get there, this Saturday I’m free. I’ll take you there.” That began our courtship.

We like each other, I think, very much. [laughs] In a couple of months, in August 6th of that year, we were engaged. We were planning to be married in the year after, which was supposedly 1983. We were planning to be married when I am twenty-one. So I was at that time twenty years old. There was a twist of event in October of that year, 1982. On the 22nd, Sung Fu’s mother passed away. So in Chinese custom, if there’s a death in the family, you would have to have something good, like a wedding, within 100 days. If you do not have that wedding within 100 days, you have to wait three years. So both his family and my family felt that we should be married within the 100 days. Otherwise, we have to wait three years.

So three years is a long time when we are 250 miles apart. So we had decided to follow what my parents and his side of the family said, that we would be married. So officially we were registered on the 22nd of December, but we had our wedding on the 15th of January in Singapore at the Bukit Timah chapel. For us, we considered the 22nd of December as our wedding anniversary because one year later we were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on the 22nd of December 1983. We were registered in 1982, December 22nd, and we went to the temple a year later. It took us a year because they had those regulations that if you don’t go to the temple within like three weeks or three months—I can’t remember—you just have to wait one year. So we did that.

I think for the part that I got married so young, I think I was very in love. Today I think back about what I have done. I think I was really in love beyond reason; I just left my job, left my family, left my friends, left everything behind in Singapore and came to Kuala Lumpur. I was in for loneliness. It was very difficult at least six months to a year to

Chong page 7

adjust because, first of all, you’re got to adjust to married life. Second of all, I had no friends except for the friends that I had in the Church in Kuala Lumpur. Before I left, I was also taking institute because I had graduated from seminary. When we came here, there was some kind of combination of seminary and institute being taught by the missionary couple.

The Church in Kuala Lumpur, at that time, was very small. We had a branch of, like, maybe fifty members. You know the attendance is about thirty to forty, and the majority was expatriates. I remember that before I left for Kuala Lumpur, the Singapore Branch, which I belonged to, was divided into Singapore and Clementi Branch. So I was in the Clementi Branch. Being divided, each person had to take multiple callings. At that time, I was the first counselor in the Primary and I had to teach nursery and sometimes, if the teacher didn’t show up, I had to also teach other classes combined. So it was quite a challenging calling.

I enjoyed working with Sister [Lee Sol?]; she was very patient, and she was able to teach me a lot of things. Then when I came to KL [Kuala Lumpur], it was like the first time that I attended Relief Society because, when you are serving in the Primary, you just don’t have a chance to attend Relief Society. So my Relief Society experience are basically from KL, Kuala Lumpur. I had served in several callings as counselor in the Primary: as the president in the Primary, as counselor in the Relief Society, teacher in the Relief Society, and also as the president in the Relief Society. I was also at one time the Young Women president. My current calling is first counselor in the Relief Society.

So I have lived here in Kuala Lumpur from 1983 until today. That is like more than eighteen years. I see Kuala Lumpur grow as a city, and I think I’m quite blessed because a lot of positive changes have been made to Kuala Lumpur, even though in comparison to Singapore, it’s lagging behind. Yet it is not—what do you call it?—it is not outdated. Things are still progressing. I think I have respect for Dr. Mahathir [bin] Mohamad, who is the prime minister of Malaysia, for his leadership and his visionary leadership, actually. He has great vision for the country. It’s just that I feel he needs a lot of people who share his vision. Hopefully the next prime minister will be able to continue in that light.

I am also grateful for the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, because he saw the need of the lower income group, and he provided housing, which I grew up in—the HDV flat. You know, it was more hygienic than living in a kampong where you have the light soil system. He made sure that children all went to school where they were educated. I felt he had done a great job for Singapore, and Mahathir had done a great job for Malaysia. I have benefited from both countries.

My first child was born in the year 1984. She was born in the month of June on the 14th. Do I need to mention her name? I should. Her name is Chong Fei Min, and she is now seventeen years old. She is very active in church. She is the musical part of me, the

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extension of me. She plays the piano so wonderfully well, but she don’t feel that she has that talent even though she is really talented on the piano.

Then my second child was born 1985, October 4th. Her name is Chong Su Min. Su has beautiful voice. She sings very well, she plays the piano, and she’s a gymnast. She loves her gymnastics. Su is quite different from Fei, but they are both as lovable. Su is now sixteen years old, and she kind of walked in my footsteps in the sense that she can draw. [laughs] I didn’t know I could draw until recently.

Anyway, my third child came a bit later because, when I had my first two children, I lived with my father-in-law. My first child was born when I was living in Petaling Jaya in a house that we rented from Sung Fu’s sister. I couldn’t cope very well because I was never really taught the domestic skill. I was good in my study, but domestic skill is something that was lacking.

In the year 1984, the month of March—I can’t remember the exact date, but it was during Chinese New Year—my husband had a near fatal car accident. At that time, he was just called as the branch president of the Kuala Lumpur Branch. He was on his way down from Kuala Lumpur to pick me up from Singapore where I spent the Chinese New Year. Because he had work, he had to go back to KL. He was heading back to Singapore to pick me up, and on his way there, he had a car accident. His Honda Accord crashed into an oil tanker. He was fortunate that the tanker was empty, and there was no major explosion; he was miraculously spared death.

I think that accident kind of was a turning point in my life. I remember I used to complain about my husband being away from home too much because he was the branch president. Then when he met with a car accident, I realized how fragile life is, how dependant on God we are, that I had no right to feel that Sung Fu should belong to me, and that he should not serve God with all his heart. So it helped me be more patient when I had to wait for him—that he had to be gone a lot.

Yes, because of his accident, my father-in-law felt that we should move in to live with him so that he could take care of Sung Fu. His second wife, a very nice lady—I would just refer her as my mother-in-law from now on—she took care of Sung Fu. She made Chinese herbal soup and chicken soup that was supposedly able to strengthen the body after a major accident. She took care of him, and she also took care of me at that time when I was expecting because I was expecting with my second child. Fe was only ten months old when the accident happened.

We lived there, and I learned domestic skills from my mother-in-law. I learned how to cook, how to run a home, to shop and stock up food, and to plan menus. How to—lots of things to learn from her. It was a good four and a half years I lived with them. Of course, it was not a bed full of roses. There was some friction, but we were able to handle it. I think the most important thing I learned was that I had to practice what my religion taught me, that I have to be a good example of what the Church teaches, that I would not leave the place giving my mother-in-law the impression that Christians are not good

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people. It was very important. I have high respect for my mother-in-law. She is a wonderful woman. She knows how to be a wife, and a very traditional one. I learned from her a great deal.

I also remember that I have to read the scriptures a lot because, being at home and having the intellect that I have, I think I was constantly yearning for knowledge. So I would set goals for myself every year that I need to accomplish something: reading the scriptures, attending institute, and serving whole heartedly in my callings were those things that kept me intellectually active, other than being physically active, with the rearing of my two daughters.

In the year 1989, I felt we were ready to move out and live on our own. It was like I had been so dependent on my mother-in-law that if I never go out and live, I would never know whether I could make it. [laughs] We left my father-in-law’s house and moved out to Ampang Jaya. My father-in-law’s house is in [Tuas?], Kuala Lumpur, and we lived in Ampang Jaya for eight years. There in the year 1990, October the 19th, I had my next child, who is the third. And he’s my first boy. His name is Woon Han. It was such a joy to have him after five years, and not having a baby, I was all ready for another child, yes. Then two years later, I was expecting my fourth child Chong Woon Schwan, who would be born in November on the 8th.

I have to backtrack a little to the month of May. My father actually passed away in the month of May. I was very sad. I will backtrack a little bit more to the month of February. I made a special trip back to Singapore feeling the urgency to see my parents. It was during that trip, after the Chinese New Year, that I had a heart-to-heart talk with my father. It was during that time that he told me about sending me to church because of my rebellion as a teenager. I was very sad that he kept telling me that he was going to die. I just felt that he was going to live longer than he thought he was going to live, but he kept telling me he was going to die. I was quite upset. I said, “Not you. You’re not going to die. You’re going to live longer.” So I was able to express my love for him. That evening, when I left waving good-bye to him at the kitchen door, it was the last I saw him. [crying]

The kitchen was a special place because, when I was young, my dad worked in the coffee house. He would come home because he had late shift, and he would come home late at night. He would always fix noodles for me in the kitchen. I loved to eat the noodles that he cooked, and sometimes we had leftover rice. He would cook fried rice for me for supper. Chinese supper is we eat dinner and then we had supper. Supper is like 11:00 or 11:30 p.m., but those were the special times that I spent with my dad, eating together. One thing I know is that I knew even though my father passed away, that he was not all gone. I was sad, but I didn’t have a lot of regrets even though I couldn’t see him before he passed away. We have had temple work for him. The temple ordinance was performed for him a year later by my brother Roy Tong.

Anyway, I saw him several times in my dream. He was not very happy in the dream, and he was not talking. He was not smiling until about six months later. Only I could see my

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father smile in the dream, so to me it was a consolation. [crying] It was a grieving period that I went through.

My mom was to live on her own ever since my father passed away. I think she focus on the family because she still had some purpose of living: she had grandchildren. Her grandchildren were going to get married, so there was a lot of hope and joyful events for her to look forward to. We made sure that every happy event that we have in the family is celebrated with her. So that was the year 1992.

In 1995, my fifth child was born on the 16th of June 1995. His name is Ern. We call him Erny. [laughs] He’s a special boy. When he was born, I was busy driving my children around, going to school—one to here, one to there. So he literally grew up in the van. [laughs] I would feed my children in the van on the way to pick up another child. He would have to drink his milk in the van. Sometimes I would bring his porridge to school, so I could feed him when my children are in school. So he grew up in the van. [laughs]

Then in the year 1997, I was expecting my sixth child. The house that we live in, in Ampang Jaya, became kind of crowded. So we moved to our current home in Ukay Heights, which is just the next taman, which means the next garden. Just like we can even walk from our old place to our new place. Yes, so it’s called Ukay Heights. So the name is quite nice. The street name is Jalan [Beverly?]. So that house, number 18, Jalan [Beverly?], was the house that my father-in-law built, like, maybe thirty years ago when my husband was still a young preteen. So my husband lived in there before he left for Australia to study, where he joined the Church. So we have come one big round, you know? For him especially. So finally, he is back to his own home.

By the time we moved to that house in the month of November the 2nd, which is exactly today, my last baby was born. He is Chong Un Ray, and he is my last. I’m quite sure that this will be my final child. I think during my progress in life, from having one child and to six children, I felt that I wanted to intellectually stimulate myself, especially because I have a very good Indonesian maid that I hired when my baby was born. She has been with me ever since Ray was born until now. She is a quite capable woman. She is quite young; she is less than twenty years old. So you can imagine, when she came, she was only fifteen. But we were fooled by her—her age, her looks. [laughs] So I have more time to serve the Church because of her. Yes, because she was there to care for my children when I had to just take off and see somebody.

But I also have—in the back of my mind, I felt that I wanted to continue with my studies. I didn’t have a chance to further my studies, and that bugged me for a long time. So I took up some part time interior design courses, and I decided that I think I wanted to pursue it further. In the year 2000, I made a big jump, and I took it full time. It’s a great challenge, but my children are very supportive. I know I’m doing things—it’s not normal. It’s out of the ordinary, but I’m just going to do it for these two years. Then because it’s a credit transfer kind of system, I can hold onto my junior and senior year until when my children are a little bit older because, right now, I have the opportunity because I have a

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good domestic helper, and she’s not going to be with me forever. She’s going to leave next year, so I’m just taking the opportunity.

I have a few highlights in my life. One of the highlights happened in the year 2000, January the 29th. I went down to Singapore to hear the prophet speak, so President [Gordon B.] Hinckley was there. In 1996, I was able to attend the Hong Kong [China] Temple dedication. I was a little bit upset then, to be honest. I’m speaking very honestly. Because I was not able to see the prophet personally, I was really not so happy.

So the year 1999, there was this news that President Hinckley was going to come to Singapore to speak, to meet the Saints. Brother Lim called me up and said, “Chong Lee, would you like to sing in the stake choir? We would love to have Malaysian participation.” I was more than delighted to join the choir, and on top of that, he gave me the honor, or the privilege, to be the chorister for that occasion. I felt so spoiled that I should deserve a chance like that. [laughs] It was really a chance of a lifetime to be able to sing in a choir for the prophet of God.

It was a unique experience in the sense that I was going through some difficult time in my life prior to this time. I was facing some personal challenges. I was questioning maybe about the meaning of my life, having six children. They call it midlife crisis, but I think it was more than that. It was some kind of problem that came up between me and my husband, but we were able to work on it instead of running away from it. So I felt I really needed to have some kind of spiritual experience to confirm to me that I was doing the right thing.

I remember we were supposed to wear a certain uniform for the choir presentation. I didn’t get the message straight, and I had no uniform. I was really upset. If I didn’t have the uniform, then I wouldn’t be able to sing in the choir. Someone in the choir, Diana Lim, Bishop Lim’s wife, said, “Hey, you know what? I was inspired to bring an extra set of uniform.” She said something whispered to her that she should bring an extra set. She didn’t know for who, but she just brought it. I know it was really for me. Then I also know that it was the Lord’s way of showing me that He had a hand in my meeting the prophet, that I was able to stand up there and sing in the choir and to feel the Spirit so strong.

The song that we sang was the first song that I ever learned from the Church choir. It’s “Oh, how lovely was the morning!” 1 It’s the First Vision. At the closing of that meeting, we sang, “God Be with You Till We Meet Again”2 I was leading the music and President Hinckley was leaving the stage and I think he must have heard my spirit crying. [crying] He turned around and shook my hand and he saw into my eyes and I think he knew that I needed that. He hugged me; I think he knew I needed to be hugged at that moment. It was

1. Editors’ note: Chong is referring to the line from “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” (Hymns, 1985, no. 26). 2. Editors’ note: “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” (Hymns, no. 152).

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a special experience because, to me, that was Heavenly Father’s arms, and He gave me encouragement to go on.

Because of that visit, I had the reason to come down to Singapore to see my mom for the last time. It was the last time I saw my mom in life. [crying] In the month of March, my mother passed away. When I look back about what a great example my mom has set for me, the sacrifices she made for everyone of her children, for the love that she had for each one of us—she was a very talented woman. She could sew; she could cook; she was a carpenter; she fixed furniture; she recycled things; she was a great example. I view— from my conversation—from her that, at one point in her life, she went to six years of school in China, which is not very common for a girl. She went to six years of school, and she was actually selected to go to nursing school, but somehow there was a twist of fate. She never managed to go. So that was the thing she wasn’t able to do.

After she passed away, that thing came back into me, [emotional] and it kind of reminded me that there were things that I wanted to do that I didn’t do—that I didn’t accomplish in my studies that I really wanted to do when I was young. I wasn’t able going for that goal, but I think if I had pursued my studies at a younger age, I wouldn’t have had six children. So now that I’ve had six children and I’m still going for my study, I think maybe it is better that way that I actually have my six children. I can not explain—I think maybe another ten years with them when I look back. But on the whole, I’m grateful for who I am.

The main thing is the Church has played a very vital role in my life because that is the anchor of what my decisions would be about choosing to be a full-time homemaker. Even the fact that I speak English to my children, it is really Church related because I know that church is conducted in English in Malaysia. So I felt that to get firsthand gospel knowledge, I would use English to teach my children. To make it up, we send them to Chinese school. All my children are bilingual. The fact that we live in Malaysia—we have to in Bahasa, Malaysia. So they go, and they also learn.

My two daughters have very strong testimony, and they go to early-morning seminary. So I think we are not perfect, but we live a life that probably Heavenly Father wants us to live. I am very grateful for all the examples that I’ve seen—the example of the expatriates who live in Kuala Lumpur Branch. From their example of service and from their example of overcoming their set of challenges, we learn from them. We view that this is the way to live, that the Church teaching is a good binding force in the family. For me—I don’t know about other people—for me, I feel that happiness or happy family is the by-product of an eternal family. Because of our constant pursuit of having eternal happiness, the by- product is temporal happiness. Happiness comes because of what we do that is God’s commandment.

In my secular study, I’m being exposed to all types of religion—philosophy to expand my mind. It helps me understand other people. It strengthens my testimony. I know what the world lacks. In the course of study, I also learn how to paint. That, to me, is a form of

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expressing my spirituality. When I do my work, I have to portray beauty, which I think the essence of our religion is also about beautifying this world in many forms: in arts, in living, portray of beauty and positive influences.

I hope that as a Church student in my class that I will be able to influence these eighteen- years-old, nineteen-years-old in a positive manner. So I think there’s more a missionary work opportunity for me now because I have come out of the close circle of Church member friends. I’m able to meet up with a lot of nonmember friends. I have nonmember friends in Singapore, but not here. [laughs] So this my life.

T: Thank you very much.


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Notes prepared before the talk:

When I joined the Church in 1979, the prophet at that time was President Spencer W. Kimball. President Kimball was a businessman before he was called to be an Apostle. I had learned that before accepting his call, he wanted to clear himself of any sins he may have committed and somehow reached out publicly to all those he had dealt with him before in the business world if any had felt he had done something wrong or transacted unfairly, he would do something to compensate them for his past sins. I was touched by learning of this history and when I heard the voice of President Kimball speaking on voice tape or video, I was also touched with the special kind of voice he spoke in. I had learned he had suffered cancer in his throat and doctors enabled him to speak with some artificial device implanted on him where he had to speak with more effort or wind to produce a very husky voice that had a humbling effect to listeners.

He who wrote a book entitled The Miracle of Forgiveness of which my talk will use some extracts from his teachings in this “Must Read Book” with further sharing of some of my personal feelings and experiences.

Chapter 18 “Forgive to Be Forgiven”

Matthew 6:14-15
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

The Lord must have considered this basic. He had long before made the same statement to his people in the Western world through his great prophet, Alma, when it was given in comparable words: 

Mosiah 26:31
30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.
31 And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.
32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward.
33 And it came to pass when Alma had heard these words he wrote them down that he might have them, and that he might judge the people of that church according to the commandments of God.

Forgiveness Must Be Sincere
The command to forgive and the condemnation which follows failure to do so could not be stated more plainly than in this modern revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith:  My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64:8-10.) 

The lesson stands for us today. Many people, when brought to a reconciliation with others, say that they forgive, but they continue to hold malice, continue to suspect the other party, continue to disbelieve the other's sincerity. This is sin, for when reconciliation has been effected and when repentance is claimed, each should forgive and forget, build immediately the fences which have been breached, and restore the former compatibility.

The early disciples evidently expressed words of forgiveness, and on the surface made the required adjustment, but "forgave not one another in their hearts." This was not a forgiveness, but savored of hypocrisy and deceit and subterfuge. As implied in Christ's model prayer, it must be a heart action and a purging of one's mind. Forgiveness means forgetfulness. One woman had "gone through" a reconciliation in a branch and had made the physical motions and verbal statements indicating it, and expressed the mouthy words forgiving. Then with flashing eyes, she remarked, "I will forgive her, but I have a memory like an elephant. I'll never forget."

Do Not Judge

One man came in with his erring wife, and when she had been disciplined by disfellowshipment he taunted her, saying, "Now, how do you like it? You can't take the sacrament. Now don't you wish you had listened to me?" As this despicable husband was judging, it reminded me of the corrupt men who brought the adulteress to the Lord, whose soft answer puts all such accusers to flight: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 87.)

The scriptures are very strict upon the unauthorized judging. The Lord himself made it clear and emphatic:  Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matt. 7:1-2.)

The Lord will judge with the same measurements meted out by us. If we are harsh, we should not expect other than harshness. If we are merciful with those who injure us, he will be merciful with us in our errors. If we are unforgiving, he will leave us weltering in our own sins. While the scriptures are plain in their declaration that man shall have meted out to him the same measure that he gives his fellowmen, the meting out even of warranted judgment is not for the layman, but for proper authorities in Church and state. The Lord will do the judging in the final analysis.
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3 Nephi 19:11
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of acontention is not of me, but is of the bdevil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. 

(Click here to return to the paragraph on top where this scripture was referred to)






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