Sisters and Brothers, Aloha! I am glad to be here this morning.
We have come to this lovely campus from all corners of the world. My husband and I are just two of the 66 senior missionaries serving at BYU—Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and the Visitors Center. Our work, along with the faculty administration and staff, is to assist you in gaining a quality university education. You are here to obtain a balanced education, having opportunities for both secular and spiritual learning. We have come to learn, to be changed, and to serve. The deepening and practicing of our faith are as critical as our acquisition of information.
At the Welcome Ceremony for new students at the beginning of this semester, President Kauwe invited us to fast and pray to ask the Lord to give clear understanding of our individual purpose here at this university. Certainly, the Spirit has led and prompted you to gather here at this time to prepare you for a great work.
I am here in answer to a call from the prophet and to fulfill a lifelong dream and commitment. As a young girl, I planned and prepared to serve a full-time mission. However, my life plan was “reordered” when I went to a Young Adult activity. There I met a recently returned missionary who offered to teach me to waterski. Over the next year became good friends and grew in love. We embarked on one type of full-time mission, one without a release date: marriage and family. We were sealed in the Provo temple almost 44 years ago. Between then and now, Elder Rasmussen and I have enjoyed a life journey with all the ups and downs of raising seven children, having a career and serving in the church. I am grateful for my experiences as a “mommy missionary.” Our children, their spouses, and our 28 grandchildren are truly a blessing to us.
Last year, we received our call to serve as full-time missionaries here at BYUH. The pandemic made the process of coming complicated and interesting; you know what I mean! We began our BYUH experience remotely, like so many of you. But eventually, we made it to Hawaii. (To you students who are still remote: be patient and have hope. Keep working to get your visas and travel documents. You will get here. We need you here.) My husband teaches in the Religion department. I get to work with him. I also practice speaking conversational English with international students. We serve in the Laie Married Student Ward. It is a joy to serve here, to meet you, virtually and in person. I am grateful that of all the places in the world that we could have been called to serve a mission, we are called to this campus. I love being a missionary with my dearest friend, the companion of my choosing!
Whatever your individual purpose for being at this place at this time, our common goals as a community include unity and diversity.
The Savior defined Zion as “the pure in heart;” (D&C 97:2). In the days of the great prophet Enoch, “the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)
To be “one” does not mean to be “identical” or “the same,” but unified in purpose and in caring for each other. Unity is togetherness. As Paul taught about the church being like a body, composed of many distinct parts functioning together, our differences make it possible to work in harmony to build God’s kingdom on earth. (I Corinth. 12:12-25)
In order to create unity while remaining diverse, our hearts must undergo change. We must change from our proud, self-centered, ‘natural man’ condition and become “a saint through the Atonement of Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 3:19). It may require a change as extreme as Alma the Younger, who went from trying to destroy the church to being the leader and prophet, or slight changes, like Nephi, who went from desiring to believing, to being an unshakable witness of Jesus Christ. Where we are now is not as important as the direction we are moving. We all must continue in our development of Christlike attitudes and attributes that qualify us for Zion.
The catalyst for this change is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is possible through His Grace. It is an ongoing process as we learn and practice, progressing from good to better to best. It is in following the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is in the doing, that we will eventually become like Him.
I was raised in a home of faith. My parents taught me to pray and love Jesus as early as they taught me to walk and talk. But every one of us must be converted, changed. We cannot always remain reliant on others’ testimony of Christ.
As I share one of my early faith-building experiences, I hope you will remember times when your faith has been increased.
When I was a teenager, I re-read Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision. I thought it was true, I believed it, but I wanted a witness. I remember kneeling in my room and asking sincerely for a confirmation that Joseph saw and experienced what he said he saw and experienced. As I knelt, I felt light in the room, in my heart, and in my mind. I felt a warmth and comfort, a witness. I felt as though heavenly arms were wrapped around my shoulders, and almost a whisper in my heart said, “God, the Father, and Jesus Christ live! They appeared to Joseph Smith and, through him, restored the church and priesthood. It is true!” This and other experiences with prayer have taught me that God hears and answers prayers. He knows me by name. The scriptures and the prophets speak truth. Our Heavenly Parents love us. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. The Holy Ghost guides and comforts us. These things I know.
Some of you were also born into a home of faith. You were taught by your parents and had church support as your testimonies took root.
Many others are the pioneers in your families. Some of you came to know of Jesus Christ and His restored church because friends, relatives, or even a nanny invited you to worship with them. Others took English classes taught by missionaries and soon learned something even more important than English. Some saw coworkers or classmates bowing their heads in prayer before eating a meal and were curious about that action. One of you joined the church because your father loves to play table tennis! Some of you joined the church with family members, and some came alone, without family support. Whatever the circumstances, you have allowed your hearts to be changed. You have taken steps forward in faith that have brought you here. I admire you. I have often wondered if I would have been as brave and strong and faithful.
As we draw closer to the Savior through our own conversion, we naturally feel a greater connection to those around us. Like the Nephites hearing Alma at the waters of Mormon, we can avoid contention and have our “hearts knit together in unity and love.” (Mosiah 18:21)
So why is it that sometimes we do feel contention, and our hearts are not “knit together in unity and love?” Because we are still in the process of changing and becoming. It is a difficult, trying process. I guess that it is why we call mortality a test. We stumble; we fall. We get up and try over and over again. We are thankful when we receive encouragement and support, even in our inadequate efforts.
Pres. Eyring taught, “The greatest blessing that will come when we prove ourselves faithful to our covenants during our trials will be a change in our natures. By our choosing to keep our covenants, the power of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement can work in us. Our hearts can be softened to love, to forgive, and to invite others to come unto the Savior. Our confidence in the Lord increases. Our fears decrease.
“. . . we must notice the tribulation of others and try to help. That will be especially hard when we are being sorely tested ourselves. But we will discover as we lift another’s burden, even a little, that our backs are strengthened and we sense a light in the darkness”. (Henry B. Eyring, “Tested, Proved, and Polished,” Oct 2020)
As we learn more about Jesus and try to be like Him, we will learn that “Charity is . . .Kind.” (Moroni 7:45)
One indication that a person is truly converted to Jesus Christ is by how that person treats others. The Christlike way is to treat others with kindness, respect, love, and compassion—regardless of who we are or what challenges we are facing. It is in living the Golden Rule: “...whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them...” (Matt. 7:12)
Be kind. Be patient. Truly, kindness matters.
Kindness is the behavior of living the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor.
Someone once told President Eyring that “when you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” Pres. Eyring then noted, “Not only was he right, but I have learned over the years that he was too low in his estimate.” (Henry B. Eyring, “Try, Try, Try,” Oct. 2018).
We are surrounded by people who have unique, diverse challenges. All of you are balancing multiple responsibilities: classwork and homework, social life, children and families, job schedules, finances, physical and mental health concerns, and staying healthy during a pandemic. You are all incredibly busy! We are all still in the process of becoming like our Savior. We do not know the hard times others are facing or the burdens they are carrying. Be kind.
Sister Mary N. Cook offered a suggestion and an invitation to “do at least one Samaritan-like act this coming week. It may require that you reach beyond your usual friends or overcome your shyness. You may courageously choose to serve someone who doesn’t treat you well. I promise that if you will extend yourself beyond what is easy to do, you will feel so good inside that kindness will start to become a part of your everyday life. You’ll see that benevolence can bring joy and unity to your home, your class, your ward, and your school.” (Mary N. Cook, Ensign, May 2011)
I have seen many acts of kindness here in this community. You help tutor other students. You watch children so the parents can go to the temple. You share food, advice, and books. You teach skills like cooking, playing the piano, or auto maintenance. You give rides and take outings together. You reach out to new students. You practice English, helping those who are still learning. You are good friends. You are practicing kindness. Thank you for teaching me to live Zion.
In Section 4 of the D&C, the Lord gives a list of Christlike attributes:
Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence.
When reading this verse in preparation and pondering on kindness, my husband suggested that perhaps the word “brotherly” in front of kindness could refer to Jesus, our oldest brother’s, type of kindness. I love that insight. Jesus Christ did all things out of love for our Father and for our benefit. His is the greatest example of kindness.
Elder Holland gave this encouragement: “In spite of what we all feel are our limitations and inadequacies—and we all have challenges—nevertheless, may we labor side by side with the Lord of the vineyard, giving the God and Father of us all a helping hand with His staggering task of answering prayers, providing comfort, drying tears, and strengthening feeble knees.”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be With and Strengthen Them,” Ensign, May 2018)
I know that we are beloved daughters and sons of Heavenly Parents. As we help others to overcome their challenges, we are also lifted. I know that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He is mindful of this place. I believe we are here to learn to combine the Spirit of the Lord and the spirit of Aloha, to practice brotherly kindness, and to help establish Zion. I am thankful to be here.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.