Valuable lessons can be learned between 3 and 6 o'clock in the morning, Elder James J. Hamula discovered while serving as a young bishop in Arizona.
Elder Hamula, sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy during the April 2008 general conference, recalled during a Church News interview that shortly after his call to be a bishop, his growing stake, which only had one meetinghouse, planned to build three more.
In that era, he said, members were expected to donate money for their new buildings. His stake president realized that would be asking the members for a lot of money and instead worked out a sub-contracting arrangement with the general contractor so that members' labor could be their contribution.
Elder Hamula said he asked the stake president, "When are we going to do that." He and the other members had families, jobs and Church callings already demanding their time.
Elder Hamula recalled that the stake president answered with a question: "What are you doing at 3 o'clock in the morning?"
"So for two years, much of my work as a bishop was spent getting the priesthood organized to go to the Church building sites at 3 in the morning. We would work from 3 to 6."
After about a year, he said some members of the ward council decided it would be better to pay the money.
"So I went to the stake president and said, 'Our ward has been talking. We think we can come up with the money.' The president looked at me across his table and said, 'Bishop, the Lord doesn't need your money, he needs your time.'
"I learned a very important lesson at that moment: I had consecrated to give my time and my all to the work of the Church; that was more important than writing a check. I also learned at that moment which way I should be facing as a leader. It was my job to face the people and tell them what the Lord wanted, not to face the other way, with the people behind me, telling the leaders ahead of me what the people wanted."
Those principles have been a valuable blessing since that time as Elder Hamula has served as a stake president, mission president and Area Seventy.
Another blessing Elder Hamula and his wife, Joyce, are grateful for is the firm faith of their forebears.
His Hungarian grandparents immigrated to the United States in the early 20th Century seeking greater economic and religious freedom, Elder Hamula said. His grandfather, Ambrose Hamula, was actually sold into servitude in Hungary at age 12. After a time chained to a workbench, he escaped and made his way to America.
Elder Hamula's father, Joseph, was born and raised in a Hungarian-speaking suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. After serving in the military during the Korean Conflict and ending up in Southern California, he found the Church there. President Howard W. Hunter was his stake president and called him on a mission. Elder Hamula said his father's serving in the Swiss-Austrian Mission grounded him in the gospel. After his mission, he met and married Elder Hamula's mother, Joyce Jacobs.
Sister Hamula's parents, Henry and DeAnne Anderson, were converted when she was a young girl. Her mother had health problems and was confined to a wheelchair.
A year later, the family was sealed in the temple. Elder Hamula told the story of his wife's mother being taken into the temple on that day in her wheelchair, but experiencing a healing while there that enabled her to walk out. Sister Hamula said that the temple experience that day "was the first time I remember seeing my mother walk."
When Sister Hamula's father died a few years later, her mother was still struggling with her health and was told by doctors she would do better in a mountain or desert environment than in San Jose. Their bishop, Richard Hunter, set up a meeting for Sister Anderson with his father, Elder Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, who had already impacted the life of Elder Hamula through his father. Elder Hunter counseled Sister Anderson to take her family and move to Arizona.
"That's why Joyce was there by the time I got there," Elder Hamula said.
While in law school at BYU, he had the opportunity to work as a law clerk in the Phoenix area one summer. "I had this impression that I was going to Arizona because that was where I would meet my wife," he said.
He went to a dance at the institute adjacent to Arizona State University and met Joyce Anderson. The next day, they were in a Sunday School class together. Elder Hamula said he decided he would try to get her phone number. After Church, he was on his way to ask her when a friend interrupted his chance.
"I told him, 'You just caused me to lose a date,"' Elder Hamula said. The friend asked why. "I told him, and he said, 'I know who she is and here is her phone number.' I called her the next day."
A year later they were married.
When he finished law school, they returned to live in Arizona where he got a job at a law firm. Since that time, they have willingly given of their time serving in the Church and raising their family. While Elder Hamula fulfilled priesthood leadership callings, Sister Hamula nurtured their children. When he was called to preside over the Washington D.C. South Mission in 1994 they had four children under age 7, and then added twin boys there.
Though much of his time has been taken up by his career and Church service, his wife hasn't complained, Elder Hamula said. "She has always gone along happily, and has let me go happily at the same time. She has raised our young children and made it all work at home."
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