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Led by Prophets

Brothers and Sisters and friends, Aloha!

Elder and Sister Cordón, President and Sister Kauwe, faculty, family, friends -- these graduates and I are deeply grateful to be here with you! And graduates, you look absolutely stunning. Congratulations!

Connie and I love being here with you. Last summer we were introduced to the gigantic mango tree behind President and Sister Kauwe’s home. I happen to know the Kauwe’s picked and gave away nearly 1,200 mangos, mostly to you. I got three or four and couldn’t eat them fast enough!

As you graduate today, you’ll leave this beautiful university with more memories than just mangos. For the rest of your lives, people will ask you about college and you will say with gratitude and joy, “I graduated from BYU–Hawaii.” You will notice more than just a little longing in their eyes as they say, “You went to BYU–Hawaii?” and your heart will flood with memories and feelings.

One of those great memories is your recent Culture Night. Some of you performed and most of you watched and cheered! This year was particularly tender for us as our daughter, who attends school here, participated. Annie and her friends practiced for weeks. We would get phone calls as she finished practice, at midnight, Hawaii time! (Which was, I might add, 3:00 am Utah time!) Annie would call and Connie would “walk home with her” as they talked. So, a few weeks ago, Connie came to Laie to be with Annie and all of you and experience the exhilaration of that beautiful celebration. I watched the livestream from home and we were misty-eyed, not just with your talent, but especially with who you are.

After the performances, I wrote a note to Annie. It was time stamped 12:51 A.M. and was both to her that night and to you here today. “I’m so deeply touched by the effort you’ve displayed and the spirit we’ve felt. Today is an expression of courage and determination and overcoming. The kernels of these characteristics will grow and bless your entire life to come. You should be deeply pleased with your work and accomplishments.”

The next day I spoke with President Kauwe. I told him how much we loved the celebration of cultures. He and I also talked about how we are all part of the same family—the same deep, eternal culture. The differences the world so often uses to divide us, are insignificant to God. Our first and most important identity is as His children, and therefore we are all family.

From culture and classes to mangos and majors, this university is a sacred place with a specific mission expected of it by the Board of Trustees. It is my tremendous privilege to represent BYU–Hawaii’s Board of Trustees today. All universities are governed by a Board of Trustees, but BYU–Hawaii has a unique distinction; its Board is led by prophets, seers, and revelators. These are the men who serve as the Officers, the presidency if you will, of the Board of Trustees. Let your mind wrap around that thought…your university is directed by prophets!

When President Kauwe and I meet with our Board, we don’t have to guess if their guidance will lead to success. There’s no debate about whether their direction is informed or enlightened. We know with perfect assurance that BYU–Hawaii’s success and your blessing is directly tied to our aligning with them, because—and this is really important—because by aligning with them, we are aligning with Him.

That is the singular distinction between this and other universities. And the synapse between the Board and BYU–Hawaii is your president, who is laser focused on listening to them. Today you leave this garden university and commence new opportunities. If you will leave with that same laser focus as President and Sister Kauwe and your professors, everything in your life will be blessed.

President Russell M. Nelson, the prophet and chief apostle of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and the chairman of the Board, has given you one final homework assignment as you leave. Pull out your notepads. Grab your phones. Don’t rely on your classmate to remind you. Here’s President Nelson’s instruction and assignment.

“Your personal intelligence--your personal identity--is everlasting and divine. Your mind is precious! It is sacred. Therefore, the education of one's mind is also sacred.” [...] “In the Church, obtaining an education and getting knowledge are a religious responsibility. We educate our minds so that one day we can render service of worth to somebody else.”

So, our assignment from President Nelson is to “build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire,” to share the Savior’s comfort and hope with the Church, with our employers, with our families, our friends, and even with our enemies. [1]

Will you please commit to fill this assignment wherever you go, from a small flat in a big city, to a noisy apartment with young children, to executive meetings with world leaders. Be courageous in sharing Jesus Christ and His restored gospel as the reason behind your hope and happiness.

I testify of Him who stands at the head of this Church and who is the Tender Mercy of God. I pray for His greatest blessings in every part of your lives and for you and me to share His name, and His hope, and His peace with the entire world.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Russell M. Nelson, "Education: A Religious Responsibility." Brigham Young University- Idaho devotional, Jan. 26, 2010.