President and Sister Tanner: ALOHA!
President Tanner: We are so pleased to be with you today. We are especially pleased to speak together. Susan and I love to serve together. We are best as a team. Susan is a “help” perfectly “meet” for me. For me, she is like Mary Poppins in the movie we showed to our grandchildren last week. On my tape measure she is “Practically Perfect.”
Sister Tanner: And I fall in love with John all over again when I hear him speak. He’s a master teacher and my muse.
President Tanner: And we both have fallen in love with this place since we arrived here seven months ago.
Sister Tanner: We love the “aloha” spirit here. We love the sense of family we feel here in our new BYU ohana. We love the faculty, staff, and students. And we love the prophetic history and mission of BYU–Hawaii.
President Tanner: The founding mission and prophecies rest constantly upon our minds and hearts. We want to help BYU–Hawaii become the university that prophets have envisioned—a school that savors of Zion, as both President Eyring and I said at my inauguration.
Sister Tanner: I have long loved to study the Zion societies in the scriptures. What characterizes such communities? They are characterized by unity, righteousness, love, and holiness. The prophet Enoch’s Zion society was even called the “City of Holiness.”
So today we want to talk with you about holiness, one of the hallmarks of Zion. We’ve entitled our remarks “More Holiness Give Me” [i] after the hymn we just sang.
President Tanner: That beautiful hymn ends with words “More blessed and holy—More Savior like thee.” This expresses the deep yearning we have for ourselves and for you.
Sister Tanner: To become more holy is to become more like God. Holiness describes the very nature of God and all that is godlike. Real holiness requires that our goodness and godliness go all the way down to the depth of our souls. So this is our message today: to strive to become “More blessed and holy, More Savior like thee.
THE MEANING OF HOLINESS
President Tanner: As Susan and I have studied about holiness, we’ve come to realize that “holy” is a key term in the gospel. Susan discovered that it is used in the titles of every member of the Godhead.
Sister Tanner: That’s right! Heavenly Father is called “Holy Father” and “Man of Holiness.” Jesus is called the “Holy Messiah” and the “Holy One of Israel.” And of course the third member of the Godhead is called the “Holy Ghost” and the “Holy Spirit,” as well as the “Holy Spirit of Promise.” To be holy is to partake in the nature of God.
President Tanner: The term “holy” also is used often in scripture to describe things associated with God and godliness, such as:
The Holy Priesthood, the Holy of Holies, holy places, holy callings, holy ordinances, a holy people, holy days (such as the Sabbath), holy mountains, holy cities, the holy scriptures, holy garments, the holy apostleship, and on and on.
Sister Tanner: The word “holiness” is even carved above the entrance to every temple in the phrase “HOLINESS TO THE LORD.” In the same way, we should engrave “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” in our hearts, for we are living temples.
President Tanner: So what does the term “holy” mean? I like to understand words by excavating their origins. The word “holy” comes from an Old English root “hálig”, which is related to the concept whole and health. I like this. It suggests that a holy life is a whole life, a pure life, a life fully devoted to godliness. A person or place becomes holy when it has been touched by God and filled with godliness. You can’t truly be holy if you are faking it. As you said, Susan, real holiness requires that our goodness and godliness go all the way down to the depth of our souls.
Sister Tanner: For me the word “holy” also signifies anything that is hallowed, or sacred, or consecrated, or set apart for sacred purposes. When I worked with Young Women, I liked camp because it provided a place set apart from the world, where girls could have sacred, testimony-building experiences. For many young women, it became a holy place.
The Sabbath is set apart for sacred purposes; and that is how we keep it holy. A temple marks a place set apart for sacred purposes. We are commanded to keep it holy as well and never pollute or profane it.
President Tanner: It is interesting that the root meaning of temple is “a place set apart” for sacred purposes. And the opposite of sacred is profane. “Profane” literally means what is outside the temple. Thus profanity takes something that is inherently sacred and holy—like the name of God—and treats it in unholy ways, such as by using it as a curse word.
Sister Tanner: It seems to me that our world is awash in profanity of every sort. Secular society has forgotten how to reverence what is holy, whether this is the Lord’s name, or the Sabbath day, or the temple of our bodies, or our sacred procreative powers. Emma Smith – and all of us – were given the counsel to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10). We hope that those who come here will to learn to shun the profane, the worldly and embrace the sacred as they learn to savor Zion here.
President Tanner: In ancient times, this is one of the great lessons the Lord tried to teach Israel. He wanted his people to learn to “put a difference” between the holy and the profane. He chastised ancient Israel because, like us: “they have put no difference between the holy and unholy, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Ezek. 22:26).
Sister Tanner: We tried to teach our children to put a difference between the holy and unholy even when they were young. We taught them to dress modestly even before they matured physically. We tried to teach them to be reverent in church, especially during the sacrament, even before they could fully understand the significance of what the sacrament means. We taught them that some words are profane even before they could possibly understand why. We wanted them to learn early on to “put a difference between the holy and unholy.” We want you, too, to learn this here in your university home.
President Tanner: So brothers and sisters we challenge you to learn to put a difference between the holy and profane while you are here. You will come to savor Zion as you: Learn to delight in the Sabbath and in righteousness. Learn to love uplifting music and to find pleasure in seeking wisdom out the best books and movies. Learn to cherish chastity and to dress modestly. And learn the peace and power that comes from always acting with integrity.
Sister Tanner: By striving to build Zion here you are preparing to build Zion elsewhere—in your homes, your home stakes, and your home countries.
Building a holy Zion-society, like becoming a holy person, is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes conscientious effort to become “More blessed and holy; More Savior like thee”—and it also requires help from Heaven.
President Tanner: It does. The scriptures refer to this process as “sanctification,” which literally means to be made holy, from the Latin “ sanctificare”. “ Sanctus” is merely Latin for the Germanic term “holy.” And “ ficare” means “make.” So wherever scripture speaks of our being sanctified, it is referring to the process of our being made holy. This process can take a lifetime—and more.
STANDING IN HOLY PLACES
Sister Tanner: One way we can accelerate the process is by standing in holy places. Another word for holy places is “sanctuaries.” There are many sanctuaries or holy places we can stand in.
I love to stand in the sanctuary of the Lord’s House. I have been privileged to serve as a temple worker. This has truly been a sweet, sanctifying experience for me. As temple workers, we are frequently reminded to seek to be holy so that we can perform the sacred work in a way that helps patrons feel a spirit of holiness in the House of the Lord.
I encourage all of us—whether faculty, staff, or students—to stand often in the sanctuary of the Lord’s House. I promise you, this will grace your life with greater peace and holiness.
President Tanner: We are so blessed to study and work in the shadow of a temple. I am convinced that the prophet David O. McKay located the Church College of Hawaii here in Laie so that this house of learning and light would take its bearings from the Lord’s House of Learning and Light. I echo Susan’s promise: You will find greater peace and holiness in the House of the Lord. So go to the temple as often as you can!
Sister Tanner: Another holy place is, or should be, our own homes. When my mother first went to the temple, she felt the beauty, order, purity, and cleanliness there. She determined that she would try to create that same feeling in her own home. She wanted her home to be “a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” (D&C 88:119). And it became so. This was the home I grew up in. It was truly a sanctuary from the world.
President Tanner: You can begin to create such a home here and now, even in your dorm rooms. We know you can. We have seen it in missionary apartments, haven’t we Susan? Sister Tanner oversaw inspections of many missionary apartments in Brazil.
Sister Tanner: There was such a difference in the spirit of a missionary apartment that was clean and orderly—where the bed was made, the trash taken out, the bathrooms and kitchen cleaned—and ones that were dirty and disorderly. Some apartments invited the Spirit. They provided holy places for missionaries to study, prepare, and pray. Others did not.
President Tanner: Sister Tanner and I urge you to make your home a sanctuary for the Spirit. Keep it clean and tidy. Throw out the trash as well as any trashy pictures and videos. Keep the decibel level down on your music. Seek entertainment that is praiseworthy rather than merely praised by the world. Make your homes a place where you can feel the Spirit as you study, relax, and pray.
Sister Tanner: I rewarded missionaries who had clean apartments with treats. I would like to do the same for you students, but we want to respect your privacy. However, you will receive the reward of the Spirit if you keep a clean apartment; there is no better reward than this.
President Tanner: Now let me challenge the faculty to seek to make your classrooms holy places. This was clearly the ideal that the Prophet Joseph Smith set for Latter-day Saint education in the School of the Prophets. Students and teachers were to come prayerfully and prepared to participate; they were to learn together in the spirit of love, “that all may be edified of all” (D&C 88:122).
Sister Tanner: A man named Zebedee Coltrin said this about studying in the School of the Prophets: “we came together in the morning about sunrise, fasting, and partook of the Sacrament each time; and before going to school we washed ourselves and put on clean linen.” The School of the Prophets truly provided a temple-like educational experience that transformed the lives of all those who attended it.
President Tanner: The Prophet Joseph describes how the teacher in the School would kneel in prayer before he taught and then would greet the students, “as friend and brother,” in the bonds of love. There is a pattern for us as faculty here.
I encourage faculty to pray for your students in your private prayers, and to pray with your students in class. Also cultivate a spirit of love and respect in your classrooms. Let there be preparation, engagement, reflection, and standards of excellence. Let your classrooms also become a place where all are invited to learn of all, and where the Spirit enhances learning. In short, a holy place.
Sister Tanner: Do you remember Sister Grass, an English teacher at BYU? I felt the Spirit strongly in her classes. She called us her scholars. She believed in us and challenged us to work at a higher level than we thought possible. She inspired me to be my best self in every way. I felt enlightened and enlivened in her classes.
President Tanner: I did, too. I often felt charged with the Spirit as I left her class.
Sister Tanner: I felt the same thing in a class I taught here last semester. That classroom became a hallowed place for me on this campus. And through our experience together, the students and I all felt an outpouring of learning and love.
President Tanner: That’s why I say that the classroom can become a holy place. I have felt it as both student and teacher. Not always, but sometimes something sacred occurs between student and teacher as we learn together. When this has happened, I have felt prompted to remove my shoes, for the classroom has become holy ground.
Sister Tanner: Another holy place for me is often nature. When I first arrived in Hawaii on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon last July, I exulted the entire drive from Honolulu to Laie about the vast turquoise ocean with rolling white capped waves on one side of the road and the lush green cliffs flanking me on the other side. At every turn in the road the new vista seemed to beckon me to “come, jump in the water.” And I am not even much of a swimmer! I believe that this beautiful world was deliberately given to us by a loving Heavenly Father to bless us – “both to please the eye and gladden the heart” (D&C 59:18). It is a beautiful, sacred gift.
But I want to add a word of caution about the possible drain of beach culture on our personal holiness. One’s thoughts can be lulled into carnal places with what I call the “walking pornography” that sometimes surrounds us. I admit that sometimes I feel that drain on me.
President Tanner: One can also get caught up in a coarse, casual, worldly lifestyle at the beach. The worldliness of beach culture can also drain the Spirit away if we are not careful.
Like many of you, I find great peace and tranquility in the beauty and the sound of the sea. And I enjoy and am enlivened by the fun and physicality of exercising and participating in water sports. But it’s important to keep the Spirit even at the beach. So be modest in what you wear at the beach and as you go to and from the beach.
Sister Tanner: When I was building sand castles with grandchildren a week or so ago, it was so refreshing to see young people in modest swim suits and with light in their countenances run into the water for some good wholesome fun. Make sure your experiences at the beach strengthen your spirituality rather than diminish it.
BECOMING HOLY TEMPLES
President Tanner: Great counsel! In addition to standing in holy places, such as temples, homes, classrooms, and nature, we must bring holiness to the places we stand, wherever we are. The scriptures say that we are to become holy temples. Paul taught, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).
Sister Tanner: We live in a great age of temple construction. What a blessing this is! However, the Lord does not want His people merely to build holy temples but to become holy temples. He does not desire us merely to go through the temple. He desires the temple to go through us. President Hinckley often used to ask me and other Church leaders, “How can we get the gospel deep down in the hearts of the people?” This has always been the deepest desire of the Lord and his prophets.
President Tanner: Indeed! The scriptures teach that God’s laws should be written not merely on tables of stone but on the fleshly tables of the heart (Prov. 7:3; 2 Cor. 3:3). The Lord wants to put the law into His people’s “inward parts” and write it in their hearts. Only then, He says, shall I, the Lord, truly be “their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33) . This is what it means to become the Lord’s holy people. It is to have the gospel deep in our hearts so that our lives can be sanctified and holy, like a temple.
Sister Tanner: In this way we can become living temples in an increasingly profane world. There are 149 functioning temples today and over 15 million members. So for every temple of stone, there are potentially 100,000 living temples. Think what it would mean if each member radiated the same Spirit of the Lord as do our temple edifices. Just think if Latter-day Saints kept themselves as comely and clean, as pure and holy, as we do our temples. If our lives were truly inscribed with “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” others would feel the same sense of serenity and sanctity around us as they do when visiting our temples.
President Tanner: We would radiate light just like the temple does. I love the way that the Church lights up its temples at night. When I see a temple illuminating the night sky, it reminds me that we, as Latter-day Saints, are supposed to be beacons of light on a hill for an ever darkening world. I hope you will remember this each time you see our beautiful temple here in Laie shining majestically against the night sky. When you see it, remember that you and I are to be such a light on a hill. We are to be light bearers for a dark world that desperately needs the light of the gospel.
Sister Tanner: This is exactly what President David O. McKay foresaw when he dedicated the Church College of Hawaii. He prayed that there would be “an aura of light” radiating from both the buildings and the people here, “influencing all to live clean and upright lives.”
President Tanner: That reminds me of the story of my Aunt Agnes. Aunt Agnes was housebound in her later years, but she always kept a current temple recommend. She had the desire to get to the temple again somehow. One day her daughter Janeen came for her usual weekly visit. When she opened the door something seemed different. “Mother,” she said, “did you have a cleaning person come today? Everything seems so bright and sparkling.” “No, no one cleaned,” said my aunt. Janeen still persisted. “Did they paint the apartment a lighter color this week? It feels so different, so light to me.” Aunt Agnes smiled and said, “My visiting teachers were able to take me to the temple this morning. I must have brought the light and glory of the temple home with me.”
Sister Tanner: That is exactly what we want for you students—to bring the light of the gospel back to your homes and countries after you leave BYU–Hawaii, by becoming holy, living temples. That way you will bring a bit of Zion with you wherever you go “in this dark world and wide.” [ii]
President Tanner: One way you can become light bearers is by making and keeping sacred covenants. Our covenants enable us to become “more blessed and holy; more Savior like thee.” When covenant-making Latter-day Saints emerge from the waters of baptism, or leave the sacrament table, or come out of the House of the Lord, they “go forth [into the world] . . . armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory round about them” (D&C 109:22 ).
Sister Tanner: I remember an experience when John was armed with power and holiness after participating in the ordinance of the sacrament. A number of years ago when our family lived in Brazil for a short while, we were in an auto accident. As we drove home from Sacrament meeting in pouring rain, we entered a neighborhood intersection. A car pulled out from behind a parked vehicle and hit us, broadside. Fortunately no one in either of the cars was injured, but the automobiles were both pretty badly dented. As John got out to discuss the accident with the other driver, I kept reminding him that it was not our fault. Soon he returned to the car and slowly drove back to the little farmhouse where we were living, to the sound of metal grinding against the tires on every rotation. The other car followed. All John said was, “I’ll explain later.”
When we got home, John found our little envelope of emergency cash and paid the family to get their car repaired. They happily left. I was astonished. Then John gathered our family together to explain his actions. “You probably think I’m foolish because I know this accident was not our fault. But as I was negotiating with this family, the thought kept coming into my mind that a little over an hour ago I had covenanted with Heavenly Father to always act as Jesus would. I knew that if He were standing in my position, he would have had compassion on this family, who was so poor, and would have done all he could to help them.” That day John hadn’t just taken the sacrament; it had taken hold of him. He came away a holier, better person.
John had had a sacred Sacrament experience, and as Moses says after one of his sacred communications with God, “the Spirit had not altogether withdrawn from me.” It gave him the power to act in holiness.
President Tanner: I believe that all of us gain the power to act in holiness as we learn to keep not just our covenants but all our promises. This is why I feel so strongly about following the Honor Code. For me, it is about becoming a promise-keeper. We cannot become a Zion people if we are a group of promise breakers.
Sister Tanner: We often taught this to our missionaries. We frequently reminded them that the first law of Heaven is obedience. Like you students, they, too, had signed a letter agreeing to abide by certain standards. Their call letter says, “you will be expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance by keeping the commandments [and], living mission rules.” The moment they sign this call, their honor is at stake.
President Tanner: Absolutely! And note that the call letter from the prophet refers to both “commandments” and “rules.” A missionary is expected to live commandments, like the laws of chastity and modesty. He is also expected to obey rules related to chastity, like not being alone with a member of the opposite sex, and related to modesty like wearing white shirts and ties. Now mission rules do not refer to inherently evil actions, but violating them is immoral because it involves breaking your word.
The Honor Code also contains commandments (like chastity and the Word of Wisdom) and rules (like no beards). And once you agree to live by these rules, to break them is to break a commandment: which is the commandment to be honest and keep your promises.
Sister Tanner: We saw some missionaries who justified themselves in violating the rules because they were only rules, and not commandments. But this disobedience and rebellious behavior caused them to lose the Spirit. Disobedience and holiness just don’t mix.
President Tanner: There is a parallel in the law between commandments and rules, which may help you understand the point. The law distinguishes between two broad categories of crimes: those that are malum in se (meaning evil in themselves—like murder) and those malum prohibitum (meaning evil because they are forbidden—like jaywalking). A just society depends on people choosing to be law-abiding, whether the laws deal with murder or jaywalking.
Similarly, to enjoy a Zion society, we need to be people of integrity who keep our word because we have given it. The Spirit will not long strive with promise-breakers. You know this. You can feel the Spirit leave you when you start violating your promises and disobeying standards you have agreed to live.
Sister Tanner: Long ago the founding father of BYU, Karl G. Maeser, taught this principle in a powerful, memorable way. He spoke of a chalk circle.
President Tanner: I love the way he taught this principle. It has helped generations of students understand what it means to keep your word. Brother Maeser said:
“I have been asked what I mean by ‘word of honor.’ I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls–walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground–there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I’d die first!” [iii]
We need men and women here like Karl G. Maeser, who would die before they would break their word of honor! Who keep the Honor Code both because it contains sound principles AND simply because they promised that they would!
Sister Tanner: People with such character cannot be “bought or sold”; they are “genuine gold.” A university full of people of such sterling integrity, coupled with other Christ-like virtues like humility and love, would truly savor of Zion. It would be a light on a hill, a holy society.
CAUTION and CONCLUSION
President Tanner: Before we conclude, we need to add words of caution against two spiritual dangers related to the pursuit of holiness. One is the danger of pretending to be holy; the other is the danger of feeling “holier than thou.”
Some people pretend to be holy by putting on a hypocritical show of holiness and piety when they are not. This is called being sanctimonious. Sanctimonious people are concerned with the show of sanctity, not the substance. Sanctimony is what happens when you mix hypocrisy with the show of holiness.
Sister Tanner: I recall that the Savior delivered some of his strongest denunciations against the sanctimonious Pharisees. He called them “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27) . We must not be like them! As I said before, our goodness and godliness must go right to the core of our being. True holiness requires us to do the right things for the right reasons, to be good inside and out.
President Tanner: But Susan, none of us is perfect. We all have some dead men’s bones, some uncleanness inside. So how can we avoid being hypocrites while still striving to be holy?
Sister Tanner:I suppose that we can avoid being hypocritically pious by not pretending that we are perfect.
President Tanner: That’s right. It’s not the bones inside the sepulcher, but the whiting on the outside that is the problem. And I can give you a kind of embarrassing story on myself to show the problem. As a student, I once wanted to impress you that I was a spiritual person. And I was actually feeling spiritual, having just come from an inspiring Devotional. So I starting whistling a hymn, hoping you would notice. As they say in Portuguese: Que vergonha! How embarrassing even now to recall.
Fortunately, however, I caught myself in the act. I quickly realized that to truly BE holy, you can’t be trying to impress others that you are. You simply have to be good and not try to make others think you are good.
Sister Tanner: Fortunately, I knew of your internal goodness and I was impressed with that. John, you said that the scriptures warn against another form of false holiness, which you called being “holier than thou.” Talk about that.
President Tanner: Not only should we not pretend to be holier than we are, we should not presume that we are holier than others. This is the spiritual disease of the Zoramites on the tower Rameumptom. Their eyes are not looking upward, single to the glory of God but constantly glancing downwards in contempt for their neighbors and full of a sense of their own supposed righteousness.
The wealthy Zoramites were guilty of feeling “holier than thou” toward their poor neighbors. Such a feeling is never holy. The sense of spiritual superiority sometimes afflicts Latter-day Saints who are trying to build Zion. This seems to have happened with some of the early Saints in Missouri, and it may have exacerbated the troubles with their neighbors. It is something that we as Latter-day Saints trying to build Zion have to guard against.
Sister Tanner: Now let us conclude with our testimonies. Although holiness is difficult to achieve, it is something toward which we should all strive. When I served in Young Women, I often reminded young women and their leaders that each guidebook for the youth (Personal Progress, Duty to God, the manuals and the medallions) has a picture of the temple on it. Why? These are all temple-preparation books. They point us to the temple. And the temple points to a holy life, a god-like life, and ultimately to a return to Heavenly Father.
My concluding compliment to you as a student body and university community is that as Nehemiah said “[you] are doing a great work, so that [you] cannot come down” (Nehemiah 6:3 ). We applaud the goodness and holiness that we see and feel from you.
And as we strive to improve, I offer a concluding admonition to each of us from the words of the prophet Joseph F. Smith. We must “lead the world. . .in everything that is praise-worthy, everything that is God-like, everything that is uplifting and that is purifying. You are called by the voice of the Prophet of God . . . to be . . . the purest and the most devoted to the right.” [iv]
I testify that we are His children, blessed with a divine heritage and a most sacred responsibility to be holy. I know He loves us and will help us in our strivings to be “more blessed and holy, more Savior like thee.”
President Tanner: I, too, testify that what we have taught is true. The Lord wants us to be holy, for he is holy, and he wants us to become like him. As the apostle Peter says, “But as he that has called you is holy, so be ye holy. . . . Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy” ( 1 Pet. 1:15-16 ). This is “not idealist gas,” as C. S. Lewis says when defending the commandment to be perfect. It is the very purpose of the plan and shall be the end of a process of sanctification which requires all we can do AND the Lord’s enabling, cleansing grace working in us.
My dear brothers and sisters: May we become “more blessed and holy; more Savior like thee.” May we be among the redeemed who one day shall surround God’s holy throne, “clothed in white raiment,” praising him with the words “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:4, 8 ) and receiving from Him and from His Holy Son, blessing, honor, dominion, power, and glory forever.
In the sacred and holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] "More Holiness Give Me"
[ii] Milton, Sonnet 19
[iii] Karl G. Maeser
[iv] Joseph F. Smith