My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
To the Graduating Class of 2020, I extend my heartfelt greetings and congratulations! You merit every tribute and commendation for the goodness of your lives and your outstanding accomplishments here at BYU–Hawaii. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in these commencement exercises. It is an honor to join with you to celebrate the commencement of the next stage of your lives.
I extend a tribute to your families, and the BYU–Hawaii administration, faculty, and staff. You have all made this journey together.
On this momentous occasion, great appreciation is also extended to President and Sister Tanner as they conclude their remarkable service at BYU–Hawaii. A hearty welcome and “Aloha” to President and Sister Kauwe as they commence their contribution to this outstanding University.
While we are unable to meet with you for this Commencement, I hope you will feel of my admiration and best wishes for each and every one of you.
If I could visit with each of you personally. I would ask, “Tell me the story of how you came to attend BYU–Hawaii?” Then I would listen, smile a lot, and be impressed by your personal sacrifices to gain your education.
Each of you has been brought here under heaven's influence. Your experiences at BYU–Hawaii have helped prepare your lives to accomplish the Lord´s divine purposes. You come from many countries around the world. Certainly, the hand of the Lord has rested upon you in making this great accomplishment possible and in preparing you for an outstanding future.
Now, having done a little homework on my own, I can attest that this is, in fact, an outstanding graduating class. You are 208 graduates, representing 24 different countries. The degrees being awarded include eight associates, 56 Bachelor of Arts, 134 Bachelor of Science, one Bachelor of Fine Arts, and nine Bachelor of Social Work. 208 degrees in total. This is a marvelous accomplishment. You are to be commended in every way.
It seems appropriate to remember what the Lord has taught us about learning and education:
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36).
“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18-19).
The Goal of Graduation has been before you for a good while.
Having endured much, these last several months, you have faced the ongoing challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been many starts, stops, and adjustments accompanied by considerable uncertainty. You never could have imagined that the last semester would play out as it has. Nevertheless, you were focused on the goal of receiving your degree. Being humble and teachable, you pressed forward in faith following the direction received from President Tanner. Because of your diligence, your goal has been realized.
Let’s consider your journey during this last semester.
Friday, March 13 – classes canceled
Wednesday, March 18 – online classes begin
Monday, March 23 – State of Hawaii issues its lockdown order
Now, many students were able to return home. However, approximately 880 students stayed on campus as the borders to their countries were closed.
Now, this is not the only time you will face difficult circumstances in your lives, having learned to handle this, you are better prepared for the challenges of marriage, additional schooling, and professions that lie ahead.
The painful truth of the school of hard knocks is that it administers the test first, and only then teaches the lesson.
As BYU–Hawaii graduates, you have passed the tests and learned the lessons. You have kept your eyes on the goal. You followed with faith the direction of your leaders. And, today, we celebrate with you. Well done!
Now, as all of you know, there is an even more important goal is before you - the goal of eternal life.
This great goal merits your best efforts. It is a loving invitation from our Heavenly Father to live worthy to return to His presence with our families and receive all that He has.
In every phase of your mortal lives, you will face difficulties, challenges, obstacles, and frustrations. That is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is such a blessing.
As you face the future, even in times of uncertainty, you can do so with faith and be blessed as you follow the Lord’s living prophet.
Let me say that again: As you face the future, even in times of uncertainty, you can do so with faith and be blessed as you follow the Lord’s living prophet.
This year, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we celebrate 200 years since the commencement of the Restoration.
We celebrate because God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, called a prophet of God. The Restoration started in 1820 and it continues today. We rejoice not just because God called a prophet, we also rejoice because faithful saints followed the prophet. The saints followed the Prophet Joseph and every prophet that has been called thereafter.
Your blessings and protection will come as you continue to follow the Lord’s living prophet throughout your lives.
You have lived during the presidency of three, four, or perhaps even five prophets.
You will come to know more, many more.
Make the determination now to always follow the prophet.
In the Book of Exodus we learn how the Children of Israel had the faith to follow Moses.
Would you have had the faith to paint the lentil and side posts of your door with the blood of a lamb on the night of the Passover? (Exodus 12:21-24)
After 430 years, would you have had faith to follow Moses and depart from Egypt? (Exodus 12:40-41)
Would you have had the faith to follow Moses as he led the Children of Israel right up to the borders of the Red Sea, with Pharaoh and his hosts of 600 chariots coming after you? (Exodus 14: 2,9-12)
There was no visible means of escape. What was Moses thinking?
In Exodus chapter 14 we read:
“Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…” (Exodus 14:13).
"And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided..."
"But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians" (Exodus 14: 21, 29-30).
Now, just as the Lord saved the children of Israel, He will also save you. He will also perform miracles for you throughout your lives, as you follow the Lord’s living prophet.
Do you have the faith to follow the Lord’s living prophet today?
Over the past several years, President Russell M Nelson has provided inspired direction for us to follow:
“We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering.” (April 2018)
“In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.” (April 2018)
The Complete Name of the Church
“I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen.” (October 2018)
Come, Follow Me
“The new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, … I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, … the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease.” (October 2018)
“In those two words—“Hear Him” —God gives us the pattern for success, happiness, and joy in this life. We are to hear the words of the Lord, hearken to them, and heed what He has told us!” (April 2020)
My dear friends, the Lord has promised you and has blessed you to obtain a wonderful education so that your contribution may be great. Now as you press on in faith, moving forward the Lord’s work wherever you live throughout your lives. The Lord has prepared you, here at BYU–Hawaii, to contribute to His great work.
Remember, whatever life’s challenges, be they social, political, economic or spiritual, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer.
And, as you face the future, even in times of uncertainty, you can do so with faith and be blessed as you follow the Lord’s living prophet.
May the Lord bless you to do so always, I pray.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.