Aloha, brothers, and sisters! Dear graduates, President and Sister Kauwe, faculty, staff, and friends, and families of the graduates, I am thrilled to be with you on this important occasion. As assigned by President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and on behalf of the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am here to wish each of you graduates a sincere and heartfelt congratulations. We love you. We are so proud of you and all that you have accomplished. Graduating from Brigham Young University–Hawaii, particularly at this unique time in the world, is no small thing. We acknowledge your many hours of work and sacrifice. We honor you for facing and persevering through challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and other personal challenges you may have overcome.
We also acknowledge the many people who have facilitated your graduation—your parents, family members, friends, financial supporters, professors, counselors, and administrators, as well as employees, alumni, and everyone who makes BYU–Hawaii the great university that it is.
This culturally rich, faith-based university is unique. You are blessed to be graduates of this special institution. You have not only increased in secular knowledge, but you have had opportunities to increase your faith in God and in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Redeemer. You have had the privilege of associating with people from all walks of life, and your capacity to love all of God’s children has increased. I hope your heart is full of gratitude for the wonderful blessings you have received.
As you leave your beloved BYU–Hawaii and spread throughout the world, there are people waiting for you who need you. Whether you begin a career at home or abroad, or move on to additional education, there are people who need your knowledge, your skills, your faith, and your strength. The Lord has work for you to do. You have such great capacity! Wherever you go, may you take all that you have learned, in and out of the classroom, and make a difference in this world—in both large ways and small ways. As you do, I know the Lord will guide and bless you in your journey as you seek to serve Him and bless His children.
I would like to share an experience I had that I hope will help you along your journey. When I was 15 years old, I was blessed to work on the Blossom Angus cattle farm in Warren, Utah. The owner, Harold Thompson, and his family raised prize-winning registered Black Angus bulls. Each beautiful and valuable Angus bull had a herd of cows. The desired offspring were pure-blooded bull calves that could be sold.
One day, I showed up for work and received my instructions from Mr. Thompson. I was to move the herds from the pastures where they had been grazing to new pastures that had more feed. He carefully outlined on paper exactly how to move the herds, such as “First, move herd one to pasture A, then move herd two to pasture C, and herd three to pasture E, and so on.”
As I walked out to the pastures, I realized his plan involved moving each herd several times before they would eventually end up in the desired pastures. I thought to myself, “It is going to take me most of the day to move the herds the way he has outlined it.” So, I decided to make some changes. I thought I had a better plan that would save a lot of time and effort.
Everything went well during the first move or two, but then disaster struck. On the next move, the cows began grazing on the new grass, but the big bull snorted and bellowed as he detected another big bull with a herd of cows in a neighboring pasture separated only by a wire fence. When these two bulls caught sight and smell of each other, they charged toward each other to establish their dominance.
What happened next looked similar to this: the two massive bulls collided at the fence. They butted heads, pushing each other back and forth, back and forth. Too late, I realized my serious mistake. We always kept the bulls and their herds separated from each other by at least one vacant pasture to avoid such confrontations. In my effort to simplify my day and “save time” I violated Mr. Thompson’s instructions, which would have kept an empty pasture between the bulls at all times. I had a disaster on my hands.
As the bulls fumed, snorted, and pushed each other, the wires on the fence began to pop and break like flimsy pieces of string. In a desperate attempt to get the bulls to stop, I grabbed an old fence post and hit one of the bulls over the head. That was my second big mistake! The bull turned toward me, angrily snorting and pawing, and I… RAN FOR MY LIFE! Lucky for me, the bull returned to fight with the other bull. Not so lucky, the strongest bull began trying to kill the other bull and seriously injured him. With no fence between them, the cows from the two herds began mixing with each other. I knew the pedigree charts and bloodlines for both herds would be in question.
I headed quickly for the farmhouse to inform the owner of the disaster. With deep regret, I reported the costly mess I had created. Mr. Thompson was shocked and visibly upset, but restraining himself, he simply asked, “Why didn’t you follow the plan?” I had no good answer. I was genuinely sorry for what I had done. I had put the lives of his prized bulls and the pedigree line of his valuable cows in jeopardy. I inflicted financial losses to the farm, all because I thought I knew better than he did. All I could do was apologize.
The memory of Mr. Thompson asking me, “Why didn’t you follow the plan?” is a painful memory, but thankfully I learned some powerful lessons. Even now, 50 years later, I try to do my best to follow a prescribed plan, even when I don’t fully understand all of the details associated with it.
My message to you, brothers and sisters, is that just as Mr. Thompson carefully created a plan for me to move the cows successfully, Heavenly Father has a plan for each of you. In the April General Conference of this year, President Russell M. Nelson said, “I know the Lord has great and marvelous plans for us—individually and collectively."1 Heavenly Father does have a plan for you! If you follow His plan with all of your heart, He will guide and bless you. You will be successful and experience true, enduring joy in your life. I know Heavenly Father loves you. He will guide you and help you along your path as you look to Him in faith.
Heavenly Father guides us in a variety of ways. Sometimes we receive guidance through personal revelation as we pray and study the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon. Our patriarchal blessings are filled with personalized counsel and direction for us. He also guides us through His ordained apostles and prophets—if we accept their messages as from the Lord Himself and choose to follow them in faith. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” 2
I once heard a man share how he learned the hard way the importance of following the prophet’s counsel. This man worked in the financial markets and earned his living by maximizing profit on debt. In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled all of us to pay off our debts as soon as possible. This man considered paying off the mortgage on his home and he had enough money to do so. However, he unwisely decided that President Hinckley’s counsel didn’t apply to him. Since he could make a much higher return on his investments than the mortgage rate he was paying, he invested his money in other things. A few years later, the recession of 2008-2009 sent the economy into a freefall and he incurred a significant loss on his investments. It was a miserable time of regret. In his words, his mind raced with questions, such as: “What if we lose our house? If we lose our home because of my poor decisions, will my wife and children forgive me? How could I have been so [foolish] not to pay off my mortgage when I had the chance? Why didn’t I listen to the prophet? He said he would never disregard the prophet’s words again, and he committed to pay off his mortgage as soon as possible.
Following Heavenly Father’s plan for us requires faith. It requires humbling ourselves enough to put His will above our will. In other words, it requires putting off the prideful, natural man, as described in Mosiah 3:19: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” 3
I know as we humble ourselves and submit our will to the will of the Lord, He will help us find and follow His plan for us. As He says in the scriptures, “I will lead you along.” 4
I don’t know what experiences lay ahead of you. I don’t know where you will go and what you will do after today, but wherever you go and whatever you do, I pray that you will take your testimony of God with you and continue to follow His plan for you. If you do, you will be blessed and you will prosper. I love the Savior’s encouraging words :
“Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail…. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” 5
Forty-one years ago, President M. Russell Ballard spoke to a group of students in a BYU devotional. His message to them is also relevant to you today as you leave this institution. He said: “Love the Lord. Get to know Him. Make Him your constant friend and companion. Counsel with Him.” He continued, “I pray that you will be close enough to Him … that when you take your diploma and walk into life to establish your own family and your own set of circumstances, you will also take with you the most precious part of your education. … It is the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God—that He is the source of all light, that by His light we can walk fearlessly with head held high, despite all kinds of obstacles”.6
The Savior truly is our source of light as we navigate life. During good times and challenging times, I know He is there. As you graduate today, I pray that you will treasure up all of the good you have received throughout your time here and move forward with an eye of faith along the path Heavenly Father has for you. I pray that you will “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”7 As you do, I know you will continue to experience true joy and success in your lives. I bear witness that God lives and loves us. Through Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we can do all things. May the Lord bless you, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Russell M. Nelson, "What We Are Learning and Will Never Forget", April 2021 General Conference.
2. Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.
3. Mosiah 3:19.
4. Doctrine and Covenants 78:18.
5. Doctrine and Covenants 6:34,36.
6. M. Russell Ballard, "Abide in the Light of the Gospel", BYU Devotional, October 21, 1980.
7. 2 Nephi 31:20.