Wherever you came from, my dear graduates, you have been through a lot! Thank you for persevering through challenging times and completing your degree at BYU–Hawaii.
That degree, from this university, has special meaning. The WASC Senior College and University Commission recognizes it as an accredited academic degree of high quality. Employers recognize your skills and academic preparation. They also recognize your experience and exceptional capacity for being a valuable part of a diverse and unified community. This capacity is necessary for success in a world with increasing global connections and prized by employers and graduate programs. You can expect great things from your time spent here on the BYU–Hawaii campus.
Finally, I believe that the Lord recognizes this accomplishment as evidence of your capacity to love and serve as His covenant people.
During this week of the year, when we are reading and remembering the last week of Christ’s life, we are reminded of the new covenant that Christ made with his disciples during the Last Supper when he introduced the ordinance of the sacrament. In Luke 22: 19-20, we read:
“19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament (which can also be translated as a covenant) in my blood, which is shed for you.”
When we take the sacrament each week, we can gain a deeper understanding of and commitment to what it means to be part of God’s covenant. We can also develop a greater appreciation for the infinite love and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
President Nelson has given us some specific direction about walking the covenant path. He spoke to each of us when he said, “Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping these covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere.
“… The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary. Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path” Russell M. Nelson, “As We Go Forward Together,” First Presidency Message, Liahona, April 2018.
In your baptismal covenant, you took upon yourselves the name of Jesus Christ and promised to always remember him, keep his commandments and serve him always. Alma taught that this covenant was warranted for people who “…are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18: 8-9).
Many of us have made additional covenants in the temple, where we receive sacred ordinances and covenants that make it possible for us to return to God’s presence. We become even more fully committed to our covenants when we are sealed to a spouse and family in the temple. We renew each of these covenants each time we partake of the sacrament.
Your years at BYU–Hawaii have been a wonderful opportunity to learn about covenants, make covenants, keep covenants, and experience the blessings of being one of the Lord’s covenant people. On this path, you will receive the blessing of help and guidance from the Holy Ghost. You will have access to priesthood blessings which can provide healing, comfort, or counsel. Through your diligence, you will be able to return to live with a loving Father in Heaven.
We’ve recently been studying about the prophet Joseph of Egypt, the son of Jacob, who was heir to the covenant God had made with his fathers. Joseph lived among those who worshipped idols and whose ways were not compatible with the commandments of God. Amid those significant differences, he loved them. He supported their leadership in righteous ways. He served them with his talents. He used the power of God to bless their lives. Joseph did the right thing for the right reasons even though there were those who wished ill upon him. Throughout his lifetime, he experienced persecution, imprisonment, and countless hardships. Despite this adversity, Joseph trusted that God would not forsake him, and knew that “the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39: 3). He forgave those who hurt him. He honored his covenants and continued to work on behalf of the good of all God’s children with wisdom, faith, virtue, patience, and charity– all the best godlike attributes.
What an example Joseph set for us! Through his example, the Lord teaches us about the obligations and blessings that come through the covenants we make with him. Today we celebrate you moving on from this wonderful place where you learned and practiced good habits and developed the capacity to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. You have had unique and wonderful experiences. You are well prepared to thrive in society and serve others within your sphere of influence.
Like Joseph, you will experience challenges to your personal integrity, and to your faith.
Like Joseph, you may face trials in your future.
Like Joseph, you must avoid and resist temptation.
Like Joseph, you can trust that the Lord will be with you as you honor your covenants.
And when you do, like Joseph, you will experience miracles as the Lord works to love, serve, and save your family and community through you.
We have the Lord’s promise. Early in the Restoration, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were admonished to:
Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish;…(D&C 35: 24).
Thank you for your willingness to honor your covenants and keep your commitments to the university. Thank you for being an example and a blessing to your fellow students and to this community.
I testify to you that the Lord will bless you as you continue to honor your covenants and love and serve His children. I pray that you will continue to be blessed in all things spiritual and temporal, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.