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Give Me a Light That I May Tread Safely Into the Unknown

Opening Remarks

My dear friends, it is a pleasure to be with you here in this beautiful place, and an honor to speak to you on such a significant day in your lives.

As I prepared thoughts to share with you, of course I never imagined that I would be sharing them on the day when I would be named the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It is staggering to me to even say that. This call came yesterday. I slept very little last night, as you can well imagine. I realise now, in the most extraordinary way, that never have I prepared remarks for others that so perfectly fit a moment in my own life. God, who is over all, and to whom yesterday’s call is no surprise (however much of a surprise it is to me and certainly to all who know me well) directed me to these messages for you. But they are also, in this moment, very much for me. And I am going to need them desperately over the next few weeks, months, and indeed years.

To be an apostle is to be a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am keenly aware that I will need to grow in every conceivable good way to become the servant the Saviour needs me to be. My inadequacies, weaknesses, and lack are painfully clear to me, but I have faith in the patience of my Father, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the tutoring of the Holy Spirit.

Now, let’s turn to you —though in many regards I’m also speaking very much to myself.

You came here to grow and learn and work towards the achievement of this very day—I congratulate you on completing the hard-fought climb to this new threshold you stand on now. And what a threshold it is. Before you stretches a great unknown, an adventure which, I’m sure, inspires equal-parts excitement and trepidation.

With our heads and hearts contemplating the magnitude of this moment, I would like to share some words written by the poet Minnie Louise Haskins:

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day." [1]

You are here today because you had the determination and diligence to achieve something tremendous. We applaud each of you, and acknowledge that many will have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to get to this university and persevere to the end of your degree. How proud we are of you all!

And now, we celebrate the commencement of the rest of your lives. Your next steps may well be into the unknown—and indeed, there will be many such thresholds in your life, when much ahead is uncharted. But if you “put your hand into the Hand of God,” I know that, as the poem promises, His guidance “shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

“Put Your Hand into the Hand of God”

What does it mean to “put your hand into the Hand of God?” Perhaps it means exercising the faith of the widow of Zarephath, who used up the last of her meager resources to feed the prophet Elijah. She put her hand into the Hand of God with astonishing trust, and her barrel of meal and cruse of oil did not dry up but provided food to sustain her and her son through the famine. [2] Or maybe it’s glimpsed in the halting but ultimately humble obedience of Naaman, the military commander who suffered with leprosy, as he obeyed the prophet Elisha and bathed seven times in the Jordan River to be healed. [3] It might call to mind Mary, the mother of Jesus, who accepted a staggeringly life-altering charge with the mighty little phrase, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." [4]

Certainly, putting your hand into the hand of God means a constant quest to draw close to our Heavenly Father and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and feel the joy of their perfect love. It means pleading to understand that they are with us always, recognizing Their presence as it graces our lives, and experiencing the joy and gratitude that such companionship must inspire. It means “thinking celestial;” [5] looking ahead to the “breaking of day” that God is so patiently leading us towards, and dedicating ourselves to that bright goal. My friends, if we strive to be led purely by the Hand of God, and not by any other influence, we will be empowered to face the unknowns of our future with sustaining faith and abiding trust.

“Finding the Hand of God”

How, then, can we get there? How can we find the Hand of God and, as the poem describes, tread “gladly into the night”? The gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with light that can and will assist us in “finding the Hand of God.”

Jesus Christ, our beloved Saviour, is the transcendent source of light in our lives. He Himself has assured us, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [6] The light of life! That’s who He is. That’s what He offers us. Because of His light, we really can choose hope and joy in the midst of life’s confusing storms. If you have discovered this, you will know the miracle of His light that can penetrate any gloom.

Taking advantage of that beacon of light in our lives means discovering what President Nelson has described as the joy of daily repentance. He has told us that “Repentance is a resplendent gift. It is a process never to be feared. It is a gift for us to receive with joy and to use—even embrace—day after day as we seek to become more like our Saviour.” [7] Repeatedly turning back to God each time we get off course frees us from the bonds of sin and misery that the adversary would smother us in. We can learn to relish the opportunity for daily—even constant—repentance, and do so with sincere thanksgiving.

The scriptures are another precious source of light in our lives. The Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh, once wrote in a letter to his brother, “You do not know how I am drawn to the Bible; I read it daily, but I should like to know it by heart and to view life in the light of that phrase, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” [8] When I look at the complex beauty of his paintings, and particularly his swirling depictions of light, I imagine that in his art he depicted the world through the lens of that desire to view life through the light of God’s word. Do the words of the scriptures illuminate and shape the way you view the world? Perhaps you’ve already developed that level of intimacy with the word of God—perhaps not. Wherever you are with your personal study of the scriptures, I encourage you to continue seeking and learning. It’s never too late for us to open our hearts to the scriptures and be guided by their light. President Dallin H. Oaks teaches, “We say that the scriptures contain the answers to every question because the scriptures can lead us to every answer. They (the scriptures) will put us in a position where we can obtain inspiration to answer any doctrinal or personal question, whether or not that question directly concerns the subject we’re studying in the scriptures. That is a grand truth not understood by many.” [9]

As a lighthouse in a storm, the temple is an unwavering source of light and a symbol of safety. The unchanging doctrine of temple worship provides steadying constancy in a world of turmoil and uncertainty. The covenants we make in the temple endow us with power, God’s power, and fill us with the Lord’s light. We go forth from the temple with His name upon us, His glory round about us, and His angels having charge over us. President Russell M. Nelson has taught us that “making a covenant with God changes our relationship with Him forever. It blesses us with an extra measure of love and mercy. It affects who we are and how God will help us become what we can become.” [10] Truly, to make and keep such covenants is to “put your hand into the Hand of God.” If the temple does not yet fill you with light and peace, I encourage you to go more frequently. Seek God in His holy house. For, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” [11]

That precious scripture is true of all gospel light. As you “put your hand into the Hand of God,” as you seek Christ, meaningfully study the scriptures, and make sacred covenants in the temple, the light “of the breaking of day,” of that “perfect day” will gradually increase. Indeed, you will become a part of that light yourself.

A Lifetime of Service

The poem that I’ve been referencing today was made famous by the Christmas message of King George VI of the United Kingdom. In December 1939, Europe was entrenched in conflict, and the echoes of war reverberated through the hearts of millions. Citizens contemplated a new year that promised rationing, blackouts, and air raids. Many already mourned losses, and the future seemed to hold nothing but darkness.

It was in this context that King George VI spoke to his people and shared the words of Minnie Louise Haskins: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.” That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” The king’s words provided solace, courage, and a sense of national unity, setting the tone for the wartime spirit that would define the years to come. The future did hold grave hardship and uncertainty for the people of Europe in 1939, and the future no doubt holds challenges and growth opportunities for us as well. What the gospel promises us is that if we are led by God, with our hand in His, we will be guided through life’s tests and struggles and into His ever-increasing light.

King George VI led his people through one of history’s most grievous conflicts. His service to his country came at great personal sacrifice—he reluctantly took on the duty of the throne after the abdication of his elder brother. Leadership, and in particular public speaking, did not come naturally to him. It was only through prolonged efforts, including overcoming his stuttering speech impediment, that he was able to so effectively serve his people.

To lead others in the way that the Saviour led, in the way that He would have us lead, is to serve them. Often that service demands sacrifice and growth from us. Always, such service will help refine and sanctify us, changing our hearts and molding our characters to become more like our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, the greatest servant of all.

The mission of BYU–Hawaii, this wonderful university, 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.” It is hoped that your education here has prepared you “for a lifetime of service,” by equipping you with “the thinking skills and character of a servant-leader.” [12]

President Henry B. Eyring teaches something that applies especially to you in this moment:
“Your key and mine to rising to our potential as servants is to know our Master, to do for Him what we can, and be content to leave the residue in His hands. Let me give you an example that will face you in the days ahead. You will be torn between the demands to put bread on the table and a roof over your head, to take care of a family need, to respond to the cries of the widows or the orphans around you, and at the same time to meet the requirements of the calling you have accepted in the Church. When that happens, you will be sorely tempted to murmur, perhaps even to complain.

“But remember that you serve a Master who loves you, who knows you, and who is all-powerful. He has created not demands for your service but opportunities for your growth. You can pray to Him with confidence and ask, “What would you have me do next?” If you listen humbly and with faith, you will feel an answer. And you will, if you are wise and good, set about to do that which your Master has commanded. And you will leave the residue in His hands.” [13]

Graduates, your diligently applied time here has equipped you with a marvelous set of skills that, coupled with the guiding light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, will shape your contributions to the world. As you go out from this threshold, “into the unknown,” holding fast to pure sources of truth and light, let your mantra be “whom can I serve?” Remember that Christ has counseled, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” [14] In the Lord’s eyes, greatness is measured not by our personal achievements, but by the charity with which we treat His children.

Concluding Remarks

I testify of the reality of our loving Father in Heaven, who hears your every prayer, His living Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and the infinite atoning gift of the Redeemer of us all. There has been a restoration of eternal knowledge and truth. It continues now and will continue until that glorious day when Jesus Christ returns. Each of you is loved in ways you cannot comprehend.

How grateful I am, as I look at you all, to know that the future will be shaped by faithful servant leaders such as yourselves. How many numberless ways will you each “lift up the hands which hang down?” [15] I believe in your ability to serve humankind. More importantly, your Father in Heaven believes in you. He knows each of you personally, and He is reaching to give you His hand and to lead you towards “the breaking of day.” Go forth, my friends, with joy, “put your hand into the Hand of God,” and let Him guide you “safely into the unknown.”

[1] Minnie Louise Haskins, “God Knows,” 1908.
[2] See 1 Kings 17
[3] See 2 Kings 5
[4] Luke 1:38
[5] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial,” Liahona, Nov. 2023, 117.
[6] John 8:12
[7] Russell M. Nelson, “Four Gifts from the Saviour,” Ensign, Dec. 2019, 15.
[8] Vincent van Gogh, Letter to Theo van Gogh, Mar. 1877.
[9] Dallin H. Oaks, “Studying the Scriptures,” BYU—Hawaii devotional address, Mar. 14, 1986, 18–21, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
[10] Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant,” Liahona, Oct. 2022, 10.
[11] Doctrine and Covenants 50:24
[12] BYU–Hawaii, “Mission and Vision,”
[13] Henry B. Eyring, “Go Forth to Serve,” BYU commencement address, Apr. 25, 2002, 2,
[14] Matthew 23:11
[15] Doctrine and Covenants 81:5