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A Great Benefit to Your Fellow Beings

Elder Martino, President Kauwe, and especially each of you graduates, aloha, and congratulations!

Expressing Gratitude

Graduates, may I be your voice for a moment in expressing your gratitude.

Thank you to each of you staff, faculty, and administration who give your all to the students of BYU–Hawaii. I’ve joined you for commencement exercises as graduates file past you in your own colorful academic regalia and have tenderly taken note as their eyes and smiles light up in thanking you for your extra-mile efforts to lift and teach them. Thank you also to those who quietly and faithfully contribute financially.

Graduates, thanks to your families and friends who taught you to work hard, to have faith, and who helped you believe you could actually pass college algebra!

Like you, I love BYU–Hawaii. May I continue as your voice and express how incredibly grateful we are for the prophets, apostles, and other leaders, from President David O. McKay to President Russell M. Nelson, who have chosen to establish and sponsor this remarkable university.

And finally, each of you has gratefully heard Heavenly Father’s hope-filled voice whispering, “You can do this, and I will help you!”

Ten Louis D’ors

Thinking of all those we’ve just thanked, and with your diploma in hand, you may want to return to your home, friends, and family and somehow return what they’ve so generously given to you.

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers, received a letter from a friend who was in some financial trouble and asked for help. Benjamin Franklin’s response said this:

I received your [letter] of the 15th…. The account [it gave] of your situation grieves me. I send you herewith a Bill for Ten Louis d’ors [That’s the money he had that day]. I do not pretend to give such a Sum. I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your Country with a good Character, you cannot fail of getting into some Business that will in time enable you to pay all your Debts: In that case, when you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; [and then] enjoying [sic] him to discharge the Debt by a like operation when he shall be able….I am, dear sir, your most obdt. Servt. Benjamin Franklin. [1]

What an inspiring thought!

Finding a Benjamin Webb

As this commencement concludes, you won’t ever forget those who have given so much to help you get here today, and others, you may never even meet. Seeing their generosity as a loan helps us learn how to discharge our indebtedness.

Israel – Let God Prevail

President Nelson recently taught that “we can choose to be of Israel,” when we “let God prevail in our lives.” [2] The enormous blessings of Israel come with an obligation on our part which the Savior summarizes when He says that through your righteousness, through your sacrifice, through your exemplary lives, that “through [your] ministry [His] name shall be known in the earth forever.” [3]

That’s how we express our gratitude and begin to return what has so generously been given to us. We fill the earth with His name.

Everywhere you go, you will now be known as graduates of Brigham Young University–Hawaii and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That means something. Never shy away from it.

The other day, I was on the phone ordering airplane tickets for our daughter, Annie, who will be attending school here in the fall. The person taking our order asked for my email address. My email address isn’t or My email address is She repeated it back to me as,

I said, “no, that’s not quite right. It’s,” to which she replied, “Oh, you need the whole name? I answered, “Yes, we need His whole name.”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit- I’m nicer to folks after I’ve given them my email address, and when I know, that they know, that I’m part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

For a concluding metaphorical moment, substitute the spectacular sandy beaches and sunny waves of Laie for the wintry woods somewhere in the northeastern United States. There’s a farmhouse there, near a pond which is frozen, and it has begun to snow. It’s a gorgeous, white, quiet evening. You’re out on your horse, and you want to linger to take it all in when he shakes his harness bells, and you realize you must move on from this beautiful setting. You have other places you must be and things you need to do.

One of my favorite poets talks about these New England woods, but as a newly minted BYU–Hawaii graduate, recognize the beach in Robert Frost’s metaphor and notice Heavenly Father watching and enjoining you and me here today. I trust that Mr. Frost will approve of my license.

Whose woods these are I think I know. His [home] is in the [Heavens] though; He will see [us pausing] here To watch [H]is woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods, [this campus, these classrooms, these beaches, this paradise is] lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.[4]

Conclusion and Testimony

This beautiful expression is not unlike today’s commencement; as a previous university president taught, you’ve had the marvelous good fortune of attending college in paradise and now must leave[5] because you have other responsibilities, other lives to bless.

Tomorrow morning you will wake up. There won’t be a ten-page paper to write before noon or a pop-quiz awaiting in your 9 am class. You may wonder what’s next. Let’s be perfectly clear. Today…is…a…commencement, and you and I have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.

Like Benjamin Franklin, beginning tomorrow, it is our great privilege-obligation to watch for other honest men and women, with similar needs and hopes and ambitions as yours. You are now enjoined to give of your means, your faith, your example, the very name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, Himself, as you share with them the hope and encouragement and inspiration that has been so generously given you.

In the words of the Book of Mormon, after the pattern of the seers who sponsor this university, and as you emulate Him of whom we so willingly testify, you also now become “a great benefit to [your] fellow beings,”[6] for whom your coming generosity, encouragement, and faith will be a mighty miracle in their lives.

I testify of Him who has been so generous with each of us.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] From Benjamin Franklin to Benjamin Webb, 22 April 1784, Transcript: Library of Congress;

[2] President Russell M. Nelson, Let God Prevail, General Conference, October 2020

[3] Abraham 1:19

[4] Robert Frost, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

[5] John Tanner, Lessons on Leaving Paradise, BYH-Hawaii Commencement, December 13, 2019

[6] Mosiah 8:14-18