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Forever Grateful to Brigham Young University-Hawaii

Brothers and Sisters, Aloha.

I’m forever grateful to BYU–Hawaii campus for my temporal and spiritual blessings. On June 1, 1915, during his last visit to Laie, President Joseph F. Smith dedicated the site for a temple. Then, on Thanksgiving Day 1919, President Heber J. Grant consecrated the completed structure. In his dedicatory prayer, President Grant mentions with gratitude the Lord’s promise to Brother Cluff, 55 years earlier, of a temple. Laie was now poised to be a spiritual and transcendent gathering place not only for the people of the Pacific, but for the entire world.

Then, just a little over two years later, Elder David O. McKay visited Laie in 1921 while on a world tour of the Church. He was profoundly moved by a flag-raising ceremony at the LDS elementary school with 127 children from different ethnic backgrounds, saluting America’s great symbol of freedom within the care of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Born within his soul was a conviction that Laie would be the educational and spiritual center of the Church in the islands. Later, as President of the Church College of Hawaii on February 12, 1955, [in the dedication of the campus] he recalled his visionary experience of the 1921 flag-raising ceremony, which is now memorialized in a grand mosaic depiction at the front foyer of the BYU–Hawaii Campus.

President McKay’s dedicatory address and prayer at the ground breaking, and again at the completion of the permanent physical plant in 1958, established once and for all the grand principles and purposes of the newly constructed BYU–Hawaii:

1.The institution will help unite peoples of all races by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2.The Lord inspired early prophets to secure this land as a gathering place for Hawaiians and other races.

3.Church members must “study and treasure the things of education in all fields” [1].

4.The priority emphasis of the college will pertain to the things of God and the development of character to make noble men and women.

5.The students educated here will become leaders everywhere, for “all the world is hungry for them.”

6.All who teach here must have a deep testimony that “God has had his hand over this entire valley, that dedication offered years ago was inspired, and this land is a choice land.

7.The influence of the men and women educated here “will be felt for good toward the establishment of peace internationally.”

8.God inspired and has approved the creation of the college.

9.The campus will be a missionary factor influencing millions of people.

10.Each building is to radiate an aura of light influencing all to “live clean and upright lives.”

11.This institution is to hold the respect of sister educational institutions and wield an influence throughout the world of good.

In August of 1977, after considering to play football for a small college in Oregon, I accepted a talent award to play small college basketball for BYU–Hawaii – this was a life changing decision for me. I was recruited by Norman Kaluhiokalani, also known as Coach K. I enjoyed playing football for the Kahuku Red Raiders, but basketball was my passion. In preparation for college basketball, I would practice my basketball skills for nearly eight hours a day after graduating from high school until the time I enrolled at BYU–Hawaii in August of 1977. Coach K. was my first contact with a BYU–Hawaii faculty member and he had a positive influence on my final decision to attend BYU–Hawaii. After graduating from high school, in June of 1977, Coach K. took me to the Polynesian Cultural Center and introduced me to Brother Magalei. Brother Magalei offered me a job as a canoe tour guide. They helped me secure my first job as a canoe tour guide. I spent the summer of 1977 working at the Polynesian Cultural Center before I enrolled at BYU–Hawaii. This is when I first learned of the partnership between the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Brigham Young-Hawaii campus. For the next four years I would work at the Polynesian Cultural Center, play college basketball at BYU­–­Hawaii and receive many temporal and spiritual blessings. I learned the importance of hard work even before I enrolled into Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

I would like to highlight sections in President McKay’s dedicatory address and prayer in relationship to my BYU–Hawaii experiences:

The institution will help unite peoples of all races by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I arrived at BYU–Hawaii, I was a young adult from the small town of Kahuku. I was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I was out of my comfort zone. I knew of the LDS church because there were “Mormons” who attended Kahuku High School and some of them were my friends on the football and basketball teams. But when I came to BYU–Hawaii, the school was united among many races because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I discovered that the students were from many nations, but they got along with each other because they were of one faith. I witnessed the Church at BYU–Hawaii bring international students together from all over the world, including students from the mainland United States. I enjoyed meeting students from all over the world. Pioneers of BYU–Hawaii small-college basketball program, my new college teammates were Hiram Akina, Mike Apo, James Niumatalolo, Dean Smith, Carl Stent, Mike Svien, Richard Vierra, Keli Lobendahn, Frank Buttel and Steve Kaui. These were the players when BYU–Hawaii fielded its first collegiate basketball team in 1977-1978. As members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), we were able to develop early rivalries with fellow state schools Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific University, and University of Hawaii at Hilo. These three rivalries continue to this day.

Church members must study and treasure the things of education in all fields.

During my first semester at BYU–Hawaii, I had to take the Basic English and Mathematics courses before I could enroll into freshmen level courses. For the English basic writing course, I did not receive a passing grade on my final writing easy. I had to retake the final in order to continue my college education and to remain eligible to play college basketball. While other students were enjoying their Christmas break I had to take a remedial writing course. I spent eight hours a day, Monday thru Friday for two weeks in class from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. just to qualify to retake the final essay and to receive credits for the course. I also worked nineteen hours a week at the PCC during this time. On the day of the retake essay, the instructor advised us that all students in attendance were required to take the remedial training in order to qualify for the final essay. Only five students of the twenty plus students in attendance were eligible to retake the examination that day. My coach Dan Smith was so proud of me, that he walked from the university to the PCC canoe landing area and told me the good news that I had passed the Basic English Course. This helped me to remain eligible to play basketball for the rest of the season.

Also during my first semester at BYU–Hawaii I enjoyed taking Math from Brother Richard Coburn. Brother Coburn was brilliant in math and you had to work hard to receive a passing grade.

I had a difficult time with word problems in his math class. Brother Coburn made himself available for extra help, going over those difficult word problems helping me to feel confident in math.

As a freshman, I was learning how to manage my time with work, being a full-time student and playing college basketball. I had to put a lot of effort into my first year at college in order to successfully pass all of my classes. This gave me confidence in myself that I could “study and treasure the things of education in all fields”. I also recalled seeing Brother Coburn in the HUB, in my day it was known as the game room, playing ping pong with BYU–Hawaii students. I also played ping pong against Brother Coburn and he would beat me every time. He was an excellent math teacher and an equally great ping pong player on campus.

The priority emphasis of the college will pertain to the things of God and the development of character to make noble men and women.

During my freshmen year, I was required to take religion courses. The doctrine was all new to me. The family of Lehi, the Book of Mormon, Zion and calling others on campus Brothers and Sisters were new and different. I began to study and learn more about the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My family and I believed in God but it wasn’t something we practiced daily in life as a member of my religion. During the basketball season, I was receiving “the discussions” from the full-time missionaries and also struggling in my religion classes. I remembered that I was not only receiving a secular education, but also the teachings of God and if you loved him you will keep his commandments. One day before basketball practice in the locker room, I found a wallet on a wooden bench. I picked up the wallet and told my teammate Frank Buttel what I had found. I looked in the wallet to see who it belonged to and I noticed it had approximately a thousand dollars in cash. My teammate looked at me to see what I would do. I remembered the religion courses that I was taking and the discussions I was receiving from the full-time missionaries. There was no doubt, I was going to locate the owner and return the wallet. I found the owner and he was frantically looking for his lost wallet. He said he had cash in the wallet and it was to pay for his schooling. He took the wallet and thanked me when he noticed nothing was missing from his wallet. I felt good about myself because I applied what I learned about God. That weekend we had a basketball game and I was in the zone. I scored 65 points in the game. Later that week on December 16, 1977, I scored 57 points in another game. Did it have anything to do with finding and returning the wallet? Maybe. Maybe not.

The students educated here will become leaders everywhere for all the world is hungry for them.

Upon my graduation from BYU–Hawaii in June of 1984, I enlisted into the U.S. Army and I advanced in the ranks from a private to an officer in the United States Army and the Hawaii Army National Guard. I became a leader among men from all over the United States of America. In 1985, I married my eternal companion Laura Lei Johnson. After my service in the U.S. Military, in 1988 I became an accountant/administrative assistant for the BYU–Hawaii Physical Plant Department, under Judd Whetten and later a Purchaser for the Presiding Bishopric for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under Robert Owan. In March of 1990, I accepted an invitation to a new agent class for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Quantico, Virginia. I graduated from the new agent’s class and was assigned to the Sacramento, California, Field Office in June of 1990. By this time I had been married for five years with two young sons, Kalani and Kulia, and took my family on a new career and adventure from Kahuku Hawaii to Sacramento, California. Our new Bishop in Sacramento was so happy to have our family in the Northgate Ward. My wife and I were quickly called to lead the Young Men and Young Women programs in our Ward. In 1993 and 1995 my family was blessed with new additions: a son Maka and a daughter Kawai. In 1994, I was called to serve as the Bishop in the Arcade Ward, in the Sacramento California North Stake. This leadership calling was very challenging, but once again my educational and work experience at BYU–Hawaii had helped me develop the leadership skills and abilities I needed to serve in this calling “...things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” [2]

All who teach here must have a deep testimony that God has had his hand over this entire valley, that the dedication offered years ago was inspired and this land is a choice land.

On a visit to BYU–Hawaii when I was in High School I remember visiting the library and how quiet it was, it seemed to be a great place of peace. It truly felt like a place of peace in a choice land.

Each time I tried calling both Chaminade and UH Hilo no one was available to speak to me regarding my interest to play basketball for those universities. I got a return call from Coach K. and he was very interested in having me attend BYU–Hawaii on a basketball talent award. I felt at peace that this was the place for me and to have the opportunity to pursue my first passion, playing college basketball while furthering my education. Chaminade and UH Hilo attempted to contact me but it was too late – I already decided to be a Seasider.

The influence of the men and women educated here will be felt for good toward the establishment of peace internationally.

As an FBI Agent I helped protect the constitution of the United States of America by investigating crimes against the U.S. I would travel yearly from September 2008 to August 2014 to American Samoa, Guam, Saipan and Tinian to protect these U.S. Territories from espionage attack. On March 13, 2014, a local defense contractor accused of leaking government secrets to his girlfriend from a foreign land was likely to go to jail for a long time. Sixty-year-old Benjamin Pierce Bishop, a former Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty Thursday, March 13, 2014, in federal court to willfully retaining and communicating classified national defense information to a person not authorized to receive it. Bishop had classified documents at his Hawaii home, including one titled “U.S. Department of Defense China Strategy,” another on U.S. force posture in Asia and the Pacific and a U.S. Pacific Command joint intelligence operations center special report. Bervar, his defense attorney said the two were in love and that the case was about love, and not espionage. Myself and other agents of the Honolulu FBI technical support program covertly, with a court order, gathered evidence to support his guilt in this investigation.

In October of 2010 I was involved in an investigation regarding Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, a former resident of Staten Island, N.Y., registered as a freshman at Kapiolani Community College in August 2009, pursuing a liberal arts degree. He was arrested and held at the federal detention center pending extradition to New York. The FBI in Eastern New York filed a complaint October 21, 2010, accusing Shehadeh of making false statements in matters involving terrorism between June 13, 2008, and February 10, 2009. The complaint stemmed from activities involving Shehedeh while he was a resident of Staten Island and he allegedly devised a plan to travel to Pakistan to join the Taliban or a similar terrorist group. I assisted in capturing audio and video evidence at Shehedeh’s rental home in Honolulu to support that he was going to plan attacks in Hawaii and the mainland United States. This New York and Hawaii FBI terror case was aided by Hawaii Muslims and a former student from BYU–Hawaii to protect peace internationally. In the spring of 2014 I was involved in a manhunt here in Hawaii for a “most-wanted” domestic terrorist. The FBI office in San Francisco said the agency received “credible intelligence “that Daniel Andreas San Diego might be on the state’s Big Island. I searched for him in the island’s eastern district of Puna and in the small, eclectic town of Pahoa. San Diego, 36, was suspected to be an animal rights extremist. He was charged with exploding pipe bombs in front of two San Francisco Bay area companies with ties to a lab that conducted animal experiments. Because I was from Hawaii and understood “Pidgin English” fluently I was instrumental in the search of this most wanted domestic terrorist in Hawaii.

God inspired and has approved the creation of the college and the campus will be a missionary factor influencing millions of people.

When I arrived at BYU–Hawaii I wasn’t a member of the Church. I had friends who were members of the “Mormon” Church. Calling each other Brother and Sister was new for me. I took required religion classes and received the missionary discussions. I was interested in joining the church, but it was difficult for my parents to have me change my religion. Then in the summer of 1980, I attended the baptism of my future father-in-law, Warren Johnson Sr., at Temple Beach I felt a special feeling, and was determined that I would get baptized as well. On July 4, 1980, my basketball teammate, Roger Rowberry from Idaho baptized me a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I can remember that early morning. I didn’t have a way to Laie so I ran from Kahuku to the Laie Hawaii Stake Center. The full-time missionaries had me change into my baptism clothing and one of my best friends baptized me. One of the full-time missionaries confirmed me a member of the church. BYU–Hawaii was definitely a missionary factor. I received the gospel and joined the church when I was a student at BYU–Hawaii. The next summer in August of 1981, I entered the Provo Missionary Training Center to serve in the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission. This was not a lifetime goal for me and if not for the influence I received from my wife, good friends, and people at BYU–Hawaii and PCC, I would not have gone on a mission. It was a difficult decision to graduate from college or to delay my education and serve a mission first. My parents did not understand a mission therefore they did not support it. I would not hear from my parents for two years until I returned from the mission field. What a great opportunity I had to serve the people in Wisconsin. Wisconsin was a foreign land for me the winters were long and cold. I remembered teaching the Littel Family. This Family was contacted by earlier missionaries going door-to-door finding people to teach the gospel. The earlier missionaries baptized two members of the family, but were unable to baptize the parents and two other siblings. My companion and I were able to share the gospel and the aloha spirit. This family became our friends and they wanted to know more about the gospel and beautiful Hawaii. Later the parents were also baptized. Another son and daughter were not baptized but were friendly towards the church. My required religion classes prepared me for my mission. When I entered into the mission field in August of 1981 I had read all of the standard works because it was required at BYU–Hawaii. What a blessing to have done that. Today students from BYU–Hawaii continue to enter into the mission field and serve millions.

Each building is to radiate an aura of light influencing all to live clean and upright lives.

When I arrived at BYU–Hawaii there was no Lorenzo Snow Building, Cannon Activities Center or Stake Center Building. What great blessing it is to benefit from the aura of light influencing all to “live clean and upright lives.” When the Cannon Activities Center was completed, Coach Ted Chidester gave me the honor to take the first official basketball shot in the Center. President Spencer W. Kimball, a prophet of God, visited the University and attended a Seasider game. Before the game started, President Kimball came into our locker room to personally greet all the players. During his youth he loved playing basketball. Now a prophet of God was in our locker room. He stood next to Hiram Akina and said, “It feels great that I’m not the shortest person in this locker room,”and he hugged Hiram Akina. Other living prophets of God would teach us in the Cannon Activities Center to “live clean and upright lives.” This is what I personally experienced here in this building. One day I would be making the first lay up in that basketball rim to my right, and later a prophet of God would counsel students, faculty and staff of this university under the same basketball rim.

This institution is to hold the respect of sister educational institutions and wield an influence throughout the world for good.

BYU–Hawaii is a great university and it has the respect from other universities throughout the United States and abroad. Many of my co-workers in the Bureau graduated from prestigious Yale, Stanford and Harvard. I worked with them in the Bureau with the same job assignments and opportunities. Students, don’t ever feel that your BYU–Hawaii education is not as competitive and valued as other universities. You can accomplish your goals and be an influence for good throughout the world.

Upon President McKay’s return from dedicating the New Zealand Temple in May 1958, he stopped in Hawaii to visit the fledgling campus of the Church College of Hawaii. After touring the newly constructed permanent campus, he spoke in a devotional assembly held at the Laie Chapel. Over 2,700 people were in attendance. President Law recorded: “As we sat on the stand during the preliminary music, President McKay turned to me and said: “I am pleased. The college has exceeded all expectations.” Then he added, “President Law, you have the right spirit here. I can feel it. ”Moments later, during his devotional address, he exclaimed, “What hath God wrought? And in vision I see great results from this college in Hawaii. I congratulate all who have been associated with it…. And with all my heart I bless you for the duties ahead.”

What indeed hath God wrought? This present history is one attempt to answer President McKay’s question from the perspective of 60 years, 1955-2015. The story of BYU–Hawaii’s emergence from obscurity and its tiny beginnings as the Church College of Hawaii into what it is today and what it will yet become is a compelling chronicle of faith and hardship not unlike the accounts of many of the other great Church historical accomplishments.

Established by the prophetic clarity of President McKay’s vision and by the faith, courage, sweat, and tears of men and women who clung to his prophecies, the campus was forged “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” [3], at times in the throes of discouragement, but nearly always with a sense of divine purpose.

In conclusion, I would like to bear my testimony. I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Holy Ghost bears witness to the truthfulness of the gospel. We are now under the leadership of President John S. Tanner and his wife Susan W. Tanner, former Young Women general president. “I am inspired by the vision that prophets have had for BYU–Hawaii,” President Tanner said. “I intend to build on that wonderful legacy of aloha and learning and service that exists here to bless the international Church.” Students, faculty and staff, may we take advantage of the opportunities we now have at BYU–Hawaii. “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more."

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] D&C 88:77-78

[2] D&C 78:19

[3] 2 Nephi 28:30