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Fall 2022 Commencement Address

Graduation is bittersweet for me. Many of you are not just my students, but my neighbors and friends. I will miss you! I will miss your spirit, example, and leadership. I will miss the way you shared your talents with our campus community.

In one of this university’s foundational speeches, President David O. McKay gave us the two purposes for which this university was built. He said, “first, [for] the things pertaining to God and His kingdom, a testimony of the existence of Deity. Know that He lives and that He is our Father, the Father of all mankind and ruler of brothers. What that means toward peace, establishing peace in the world.”

He continued by telling us that the second purpose was to build noble men and women who were leaders with integrity. He said, “Secondly, that those noble men and women, the world needs them. One man said the world needs men who cannot be bought or sold, men who will scorn to violate truth, genuine gold. That is what this school is going to produce.” He continued by saying that they, YOU, will be leaders, “everywhere”; and that this “little church,” as “representatives who are true to the ideals, will leaven the whole lot.” [1]

The University Mission is to prepare students of Oceania and the Asian Rim to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders in their families, communities, chosen fields, and in building the Kingdom of God. This mission is what you commit to be part of as a student, and as a graduate, you remain an important contributor to this mission.

In a January 2010 devotional at BYU–Idaho, then Elder Russell M. Nelson said: "Your mind is precious! It is sacred. Therefore, the education of one's mind is also sacred. Indeed, education is a religious responsibility... So my counsel then--and now--is to continue your education, wherever you are, whatever your interest and opportunity may be.  Determine how you can best serve your family and society and prepare well" - Russell M. Nelson [2]

During your time at BYU–Hawaii, you have learned about kuleana, the Hawaiian word that has meaning close to the English word “stewardship.”. You’ve gained an understanding of how kuleana applies to land, water, and community. In traditional practice, a person receives kuleana when they demonstrate a readiness and worthiness to handle a responsibility. The word implies a balanced relationship between the responsible person and the responsibility. President Nelson’s counsel to you is clear-- your education represents a sacred kuleana.

As part of your educational experience, you have been uniquely prepared to be a productive and unifying member of the global community. As such, you have kuleana to build intercultural peace in your personal and professional endeavors.

Just a few weeks ago, at a campus devotional, President Eyring gave some direction to us regarding your future and that kuleana. He said, “I just think the idea of saying “go wherever you can build the kingdom of God and where you can touch people's lives in the way the Lord is trying to touch people's lives and build the church and that may be where you came from. It may not be. Again, I would think, pray hard about it. My guess is very often the Lord will say, “Yes, it's back where you came from. There's something you could do there, and it'd be best for your family.”

The Lord expects us to seek excellence and maximize our talents and abilities. He also expects us to have sufficient humility and faith to respond when He gives us direction. President Nelson is a great example of fulfilling this expectation. Prior to his call as a general authority, he was a world-renowned surgeon. He was doing research that saved lives and changed his chosen field. The call to serve in the church changed the trajectory of his life. About his call President Nelson has said, “I didn’t even ask President [Gordon B.] Hinckley, ‘Are you sure?’ My faith is just that profound and simple. When the Lord speaks through His prophet, my mind puts an exclamation point behind it, not a question mark.” [3]

I am certain many of you know people who have heeded the Lord in these ways. I want to express my appreciation to a group that is particularly important as we celebrate today, the faculty and staff here at BYU–Hawaii. Many of them are here because they feel it is the right place for them to use their talents, not because it is the place where they can live the most comfortably, make the most money, or have the most fame or accolades. We are grateful to them for listening to the Spirit and serving where the Lord directs them to serve.

In closing, I want to share with you the Savior’s direction to the Latter-Day Saints as they prepared for a long journey west in 1847. It is found in D&C 136:27-29.

"Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward.

"If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

"If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful."

My dear students, I plead with you to be diligent in your kuleana. Please be righteous stewards of both the spiritual and temporal blessings you have received here at BYU–Hawaii. Honor your covenants with God and your commitments to your family and community. When you do so, I am certain that you will find cause to be merry and cause to express praise and thanksgiving to God in your prayers. I am also certain that when you encounter the sorrowful challenges of this life, you will find joy through God. I testify that He will bless you in all things. I love you, and I pray for your continued success and joy. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] David O. Mckay, Groundbreaking & Dedication of CCH/BYU–Hawaii, February 1955
[2] Russell M. Nelson, Education: A Religious Responsibility, BYUI Devotional, January 2010
[3] Church News, Prophet, physician, husband and father: A look at the life of President Nelson, January 1, 2021
[4] D&C 136:27-29