Good morning Brothers and Sisters. I would like to first welcome all of the new midshipmen and I would also like to welcome their families who are visiting with us today.
To briefly introduce myself, I am Brother Keith Brown, the High Priest Group Leader. I began my Naval career as an enlisted man in March 1981. I retired after 20 years of faithful service in March 2001, and Lord willing, twelve days from today I will have completed 10 years of inactive Fleet Reserve duty for a total of 30 years of military service. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for almost 12 ½ years. I did not become a member of the Church until 17 years after I had joined the Navy, even though I had investigated the Church and had met with the missionaries for a time before leaving home . I joined the Navy in March 1981 and was baptized in Reykjavik Iceland while serving on active duty in Keflavik Iceland in March 1998. But, that is another story for another day.
The Scriptures teach us in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Having been raised in a good Baptist home by a loving mother who lived by the rule that if she were going to church on Sunday then so were you, and being taught by that same mother to have a love for the Scriptures carried with me even after I left home to go into the Navy. Even in boot camp when it may have seemed strange or odd to some of my shipmates that anyone would want to muster on a Sunday morning and be marched to church services, to me attending church services on Sunday was the normal thing to do. I was reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:25 when he warns us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some do, but we should exhort one another and so much more as we see the day approaching.
In boot camp I was not the best of swimmers. I was not the fattest of runners. And, I did not break any academic records, but I truly believe that it was because of the life that I strived to live and the example that I strived to be, that I was able to gain recognition and successfully accomplish the things that I was assigned to do.
Throughout my entire military career I was blessed to see the hand of God at work in so many ways. From the duty assignments that I received, to the people whom I was blessed to meet, to the places where I served, I know that I was able to have a successful military career because of my faith and my obedience to the will of my Heavenly Father. Even in places such as Bahrain where I served for a little over a year, where there were no weekly church services to attend, I had my Scriptures and found comfort and solace in being able to read and study the Scriptures. Even at times during my career when I may have strayed off the path and wanted to “sow my oats” as it were, in the back of my mind I was always constantly reminded of the things that my mother had taught me, the things that I had learned growing up in church, and the things that the missionaries and I had spent time discussing. At times there were also those gentile reminders of not so much who I am, but more importantly whose I am.
I have just a few moments to share with you one incident from my career where the Lord taught me a very important lesson. Twenty-two years ago this month I was a young 29 year old sailor aboard the U.S.S. Lake Champlain CG-57. I had the honor of being assigned as a member of the commissioning crew and thus had the dubious honor of riding the ship on her maiden cruise from New York City, where the ship was commissioned, to her homeport of San Diego California, via Cape Horn, South America. As the cruise progressed we ran into a major storm. Now for those of you who know anything about being caught at sea during a storm, you know that it is virtually impossible to outrun a storm at sea and so you are forced to ride the storm out. During the course of the storm we hit some really rough seas. The seas were so rough and the bow of the ship was taking on so much water that it made the ship tremor violently as the waves would cross the bow. Our forward guns were rendered inoperable, the forward water tight doors looked like something had rammed them with tremendous force, and we lost part of our hurricane bow. Below decks, eating was a major chore and sleeping for some was no easy task either. Those who were not assigned to be on deck were told to strap in and hold on.
As some became a bit concerned about the storm and what might could possibly happen, I found that I was able to sleep comfortably in my rack every night. Why? Because I had been taught about a Man who even the winds and the waves obey His voice. I could rest every night knowing that I have a Heavenly Father who promised never to leave me nor forsake me. Although He did not calm the winds and the seas in that particular case, I learned from that experience that sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes, if the sailor will allow Him, He calms the sailor to enable him to endure the storm. That lesson followed me throughout my career and afterwards. In life, Brothers and Sisters, when the storm winds seem to be blowing all about and we seem to be tossed to and fro, we must remember that sometimes God will calm those storms, but sometimes those storms are necessary to teach us things and so if we will allow Him, He will calm us to enable us to endure the storms.
The amazing thing is that during the storm we never lost the ship’s anchor. It remained steady and in place. If I could offer one small word of counsel to our new midshipman this morning it would be this: throughout your time at the Naval Academy and onward with your career, when it seems at times like storms are raging all about you and your ship is being tossed to and fro, be very sure that your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock which is Christ Jesus our Lord.
I bear you my testimony of the truthfulness and Divinity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify that I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church upon the earth today and is led by His chosen Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I further testify of the spiritual strength that is gained by assembling ourselves together and worshipping together just as we have done this morning. I know that God lives and Jesus is the Christ. And I bear this testimony and leave these thoughts with you humbly in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
** This Sacrament talk was delivered to the congregation of the Annapolis Maryland Ward, of the Annapolis Maryland Stake of Zion, on Sabbath Day morning, 15 August 2010.