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After the Manner of God

Dear Brothers and Sisters: 

It's an honor to be here with you this winter commencement. I want to assure you how much we, as Church leaders, love you. You represent a select group of people from many nations. We are fortunate to have you.  

As graduates you may think this is the end of a significant chapter of your lives, and it certainly is, but it's also the beginning of a new chapter. Many of you came to this college as freshmen with a dream in mind. After years of hard work, you return home with more than a dream, but with a well-deserved degree. In addition, some of you are returning with a spouse and/or a child or two. Many decisions lie ahead, including where to live, where to work, how to develop your career, etc. These are exciting times. As you embark on this tremendous spiritual endeavor, make sure that you build your life after the manner of God. The Book of Mormon tells us about Lehi and his family when they were traveling to the promised land. They arrived at the seashore, and the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship.  

“And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.”

“And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.

Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner, which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.” [1]

We can compare our life to a ship that we can either build after the manner of man or after the manner of God. You may build the ship of your life after the manner of man, following all the standards of stability, structures, and load lines. With that kind of ship, you may reach many interesting destinations but not the celestial one God wants for you and your family. If we want to reach a celestial port, we need to build our ship after the manner of God. In our journey we need to balance our profession, family, church, studies, etc. There are many things that can distract us from serving God and being leaders in our families and communities. 

Your profession is what you do, but not who you are. You are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ to help Him to build His kingdom on this earth. Everything you do at work, home, and in private should reflect your discipleship.  

In the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who served many years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “The validation of our worth really comes from knowing who we are, not solely from what we do. Jesus' searching words remain: ‘What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am’” .  [2]

This morning I would like to share with you some inspired invitations that will help us to build our life after the manner of God.  

1. Seek to learn the will of the Lord.   

Nephi said that “… the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.” [3]

Laman and Lemuel were too comfortable in the land that they called Bountiful, abundant of fruit and honey. They didn't want to help Nephi to build a ship; they didn't believe Nephi could build a ship. The irony is that after being blessed for many years, they didn’t believe the Lord could help Nephi to achieve such a monumental task. Laman and Lemuel didn’t trust the Lord nor seek His will.   

We seek to learn the will of the Lord when we follow the counsel of our beloved prophet Russell M. Nelson to “Make Time for the Lord”. He said “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” [4]

Years ago, when I was a college student like you, I was occupied in my quest to become a computer science engineer. During college I got married in the temple to my lovely wife, Glenda, and a year later we had the privilege of receiving our first daughter, Nicolle. We started looking for opportunities to buy a small house but couldn't afford a down payment. When my wife received money from an inheritance equivalent to half of a typical down payment, we found a new residential development that allowed us to pay that initial amount of money in 12 months while the house was being built. We were unsure in the beginning about that financial commitment because, after paying the down payment in a year, we needed to be ready to face the monthly mortgage payments. I couldn't afford those monthly payments with my salary. My wife and I analyzed the situation and decided that three conditions needed to be met in those 12 months in order to acquire the new house. I needed to get my computer science degree, I would need it to get a new job with a better salary, and the mortgage rate must remain the same. After a lot of prayers, we decided to go ahead with the plan to pay the down payment in one year and work on the three conditions to afford the mortgage payments. After almost a year of that critical decision, we were on time to complete the down payment, but unfortunately the three conditions were unmet. I didn't finish my degree that year, and despite all my efforts, I couldn't find a new job. Furthermore, the interest rate suffered a considerable increase. We stopped praying for three miracles and started to pray for just one: to find a new job with a better salary. After many prayers, I found a job as an IT Manager in a bank in Guatemala. The pay was what I needed it to be to meet my obligations. Without thinking twice, I went to the final interview, they offered me the job, and I accepted it. After the interview, I decided to pray to thank my Heavenly Father for the new position. While praying, I felt uneasy about leaving my job. I couldn't believe what I was feeling. For me, that was the right choice. The proposed pay increase was substantial and more than enough to afford my new mortgage. I called my wife over the phone, and I explained to her what I was feeling. I wanted to take the new job, but it seemed that God didn't want me to. She supported my decision to keep looking and pass on the job offer. I continued looking for a new job, but I didn’t find one. As the due date to begin paying the mortgage was closing in, my current boss called me and told me that he was very pleased with my performance in the company and offered me a raise. This raise was not as much of a salary jump as the job I chose to turn down, but it was what we needed to afford the mortgage payments. I stayed working for that company, which turned out to be the beginning of a wonderful career with multiple promotions and development opportunities including living in a different country where I served as a bishop, stake president and Area Seventy. About five years later, I saw in the news, that the bank that offered me that “wonderful opportunity” went bankrupt, the owners were running away, and all employees lost their jobs. I learned at that moment that God who sees the end from the beginning is willing to share His light if we are humble to seek His will.  

2. To be faithful and diligent  

After arriving at the seashore, to the place they called Bountiful, the Lord invited Nephi to a mountain.  

“And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain and cried unto the Lord.” [5]

Nephi received instructions to build a ship after the manner of God. After receiving His instructions, Nephi went back to his brothers and extended an inspired invitation. 

Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence.

You are invited “to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders in your families, communities, chosen fields, and in building the kingdom of God.” [6] You are invited to give back to your communities and to be an example of intercultural peace in an increasingly diverse world. All of this through living the teachings of your master, Jesus Christ.  

After going back home, don’t treat this invitation as a nice “add-in” to your life, or as an app on your phone, that you liked or downloaded but never use. Take this invitation with faith and diligence. Make it an integral part of your life.  

Just as President Nelson did recently, I also reaffirm a profound teaching of President Ezra Taft Benson: “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, … lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.” [7]

3. Be a pacifier.  

This world is becoming more and more contentious. So contentious that a prophet of God had to specifically address the issue. In President Nelson’s talk in General Conference this month, he said “You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to choose to be a peacemaker, now and always." He also added: “Anger never persuades. Hostility builds no one. Contention never leads to inspired solutions. Regrettably, we sometimes see contentious behavior even within our own ranks. We hear of those who belittle their spouses and children, of those who use angry outbursts to control others, and of those who punish family members with the “silent treatment.”  

…My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others—especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower  of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.” [8]

You have been invited in this institution to be an example to the world of intercultural peace and unity through living the teachings of Jesus Christ. In Doctrine and Covenants we read a profound invitation with a promise from our Savior: “Learn of me and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.”  [9]

Avoid the enemy’s effort to transform disciples of Jesus Christ into activists towards or against the Lord’s church and its leaders. If you want to change the church, first: don’t forget that it’s not yours, it’s Christ’s Church. Second: be engaged, contribute, elevate, and inspire others, be peacemakers. I can’t think of better people to be ambassadors of peace and integration than you.  

4. Be honest and act on integrity.  

As disciples of Christ, we must do things after the manner of God. You lived a BYU–Hawaii Honor Code in preparation for what lies ahead. In your professional life you will need to comply with government regulations, standards, policies, corporate guidelines, etc. Most of the time you will act supervised only by your own moral compass. François de La Rochefoucauld a French moralist of the 17th century said, “Perfect valour consists in doing without witnesses that which we would be capable of doing before everyone.” Nephi built a ship after the manner of God. He followed His instructions with precision. How do we know? The ship withstood a long trip between two continents, its integrity was tested, it faced a terrible storm, rough open sea conditions, some disobedient passengers, but most importantly it reached its intended destination. 

Elder Neil L. Andersen said “Honesty, integrity, and truth are eternal principles that significantly shape our experience in mortality and help determine our eternal destiny. For a disciple of Christ, honesty is at the very heart of spirituality.”[10]

I can’t think of better-prepared people to face any condition without compromising integrity than you. 

BYU–Hawaii graduates, you have a wonderful life ahead. Never forget your roots, be thankful, be engaged. Build the ship of your life after the manner of God and you will have peace, joy, and happiness in your life. Jesus Christ is our example; He is the light of this world. I testify of His redeeming power, His grace, His love, and mercy. I know without a doubt that He lives.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

[1] 1 Nephi 18
[2] (3 Ne. 27:27)
[3] 1 Nephi 18
[4] Russell M. Nelson, "Make Time for the Lord," General Conference Address, October 2021
[5] 1 Nephi 17
[6] "Mission and Vision." BYUH About
[7] Jesus Christ-Gifts and Expectations, "Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations," Devotional, December 10, 1974
[8] Russell M. Nelson, "Peacemakers Wanted," General Conference Address, April 2023
[9] D&C 19:23
[10] Neil L. Andersen, "The Divine Standard of Honesty," Ensign or Liahona, August 2023