My dear brothers and sisters of BYU–Hawaii, good morning and Aloha! I am thankful to be here with my eternal and loving companion. I am also thankful to President Tanner for this invitation to speak to you. The Tanners are wonderful and amazing, and you should feel a great privilege and blessing to have them with us as they lead this university.
As I look out to you, I see amazing sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, talented, faithful and qualified to be part of this wonderful institution of learning. I recognize we have students, faculty and staff from all over the world and feel the love of our Heavenly Father for all of you. I too was born in a foreign country, known at that time as Western Samoa where I lived till I was 4 years old and again between ages 16 and 20. Throughout my life I have met and made friends from people all over the Pacific, the United States and Canada and many other parts of the world. I relate well to different cultures and diverse backgrounds, but what’s great about this wonderful setting is that while we come from various places around the world, we can be united in the same beliefs because of our conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I’m thankful for the gift of repentance provided through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s a gift that allows us to return to His presence if we use it. As we choose the right by following the Savior Jesus Christ and striving to become like Him we will find peace, happiness and joy. However, we are not perfect like Him and we will and do make mistakes. So, fortunately, we have the gift of repentance to make necessary changes. As we correct our ways, we may make the same mistake again or have new mistakes. So, we need to continue to repent, daily. It’s continued repentance that provides us with continued progression to being aligned with the will of God and to be one with God, our Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We may have changed what our fathers/mothers or forefathers believed in or taught, or even what previous church leaders taught, so that we can be aligned with the will of the Lord taught through living prophets, seers and revelators. We also continue to repent because we have made covenants with Jesus Christ through baptism and in the temple of our Lord.
Sister Taeoalii has shared the vision and purpose for this university by President McKay in preparing you to go forth.
In addition, I share a small portion of the talk given by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles he gave last year in this very auditorium. Quoting him,“We live in a world that is emphasizing diversity over unity. Many assume that it is virtually impossible for people from different cultures and diverse backgrounds to be united in common goals...A unifying answer to these assertions is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Righteousness is the underlying principle that brings unity and happiness...Your experience here at BYU–Hawaii and the education you are receiving prepares you for righteousness, unity and happiness.”
This apostle is proclaiming that you are being prepared for righteousness, unity and happiness. These are our common goals and desired outcomes, despite our diverse backgrounds. We achieve righteousness and find happiness as we acknowledge the gift of repentance through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Being here, you should feel privileged and very blessed. You should even feel a higher love. With that comes higher expectations. Where much is given much is expected. High love means high expectations.
Similar to entering this institution of higher learning, each one of us were born into this life with high expectations and with great potential, to become what Heavenly Father has prepared for us to become. Revelations from God through living prophets and through scriptures -Bible, Book of Mormon, Modern scriptures...we learn the teachings of a loving Heavenly Father. We learn that He is the father of our spirits, every one of us. He cares about each of us personally. His love is perfect, unconditional and eternal. Through our living prophet who pleads with us to repent, we can feel of the yearnings of our loving Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.
I have a CTR ring that we know means choose the right. It’s typically given to primary children, but as we progress as more experienced members, let’s consider further reminders, such as choose to repent and continue to repent, especially given the pleadings of our dear prophet. As we strive to choose the right, we progress in choosing to repent and we have further progression as we continue to repent.
These are the words from President Russell M. Nelson from April 2019 general conference. “Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent.”Repentance was a major theme in our most recent general conference. Through revelation our prophet is being directed by a loving Heavenly Father to plead with His children to repent. Again, he’s speaking to those who are diligently moving along the covenant path, those who have slipped or stepped away from the path and those that can’t even see the path. We all need to repent. Choose to repent and continue to repent.
President Oaks has described our journey through life with the analogy of paddling upstream against a strong current, saying“to move upstream toward our eternal goal, we must constantly keep paddling...the cultural currents are so strong that if we ever stop paddling, we will be carried downstream toward a destination we do not seek but which becomes inevitable if we do not constantly try to move forward.”(April 2018 general conference)
You have probably experienced that in your education. For example, if you just attend class and don’t study and keep up with the class, you will eventually find yourself in a situation where you are too far behind and will not pass the class.
Where I served as Mission President in Papua New Guinea, we used to tell our newly arrived missionaries that it’s not enough to receive a mission call and arrive in the mission field. You now have a lot of work that takes dedicated service, with diligence in daily personal and companionship study, and so on. Similarly, while I congratulate the new students who are in your first semester, I also can’t stress enough the importance of being diligent and keeping up with the pace. You need to have complete focus on those things that you are required to do and not be distracted from things that keep you from staying on track. All that you’ve done to prepare to come and all that your parents and loved ones who have helped you get here will be for nothing if you do not stay on track. You’ve been here just a few weeks and you may have already made some mistakes. So, I plead with you to repent. Make the necessary corrections now before it’s too late. Set some goals if you haven’t. Or if you have set goals, re-evaluate those goals. Do you have daily plans and weekly plans? If not make them and review them daily and weekly as you strive to keep your commitments. You need to do every thing in your power to be successful because you have high expectations that comes from high love. Those high expectations and that high love not only come from your parents and loved ones, but especially from your Heavenly who loves you unconditionally. Love is His motivation for giving us commandments which if kept, will provide us with blessings.
There are real distractions and it takes some adjustments. Keep paddling! Don’t become casual with the commitment you made to come to school here. Always remember you are accountable to the Lord. Again, the more you take a break from paddling as you go upstream the further you will go downstream.
Sister Becky Craven of the General Young Women Presidency said in the April 2019 general conference, “If we are not careful in living our covenants with exactness, our casual efforts may eventually lead us into forbidden paths or to join with those who have already entered the great and spacious building. If not careful, we may even drown in the depths of a filthy river.” Elder Wakolo of the Seventy also said in April 2018 general conference, “casualness leads to casualties”.We will not be casual as we choose to repent and continue to repent.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is our compass through life that guides us back to His presence. The doctrine of Christ are the essential elements of His gospel that teaches us to first have faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement. Repentance is a significant part of that doctrine and it should be done daily. As taught in the doctrine of Christ, faith in Jesus Christ empowers us to repent. In other words, faith unto repentance;and faith unto repentance qualifies us to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Then, through the gift of the Holy Ghost we can endure to the end. As missionaries teach investigators of the church, they will invite the investigators to make commitments such as attend church, read the Book of Mormon, live the law of chastity, live the word of wisdom and follow the Savior Jesus Christ to be baptized. Sometimes the investigator will accept the commitment verbally. However, there are times that the investigator does not keep the commitment. For example, the missionaries follow up and the investigator responds that he was not able to stop smoking. What do you do as a missionary to help this investigator? The best way is to help the investigator apply faith in Jesus Christ. He will learn that faith in Jesus Christ will empower him to repent and make the necessary changes. He cannot do it alone. He learns, it is not just a physical change, but a spiritual change as he relies on God through praying, fasting and applying faith in Him.
In the missionary manual, Preach My Gospel, it says “As we obey God, He blesses us. He gives us power to meet life’s challenges. He helps us change the desires of our hearts. Through our faith in Jesus Christ, He can heal us, both physically and spiritually...Our faith in Christ and our love for Him lead us to repent, or to change our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are not in harmony with His will.”
Faith in Jesus Christ helps us choose to repent and continue to repent.
Preach My Gospel states further, “As we change, we recognize that we are children of God and that we need not continue making the same mistakes over and over. If we sincerely repent, we turn away from our sins and do them no more. We resist any desire to commit sin. Our desire to follow God grows stronger and deeper.”
I’m grateful for the wonderful teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ that come from past and living prophets of God to protect us from the evils of the world, led by that evil one we know as Satan. Sin is all around us. We must be vigilant and diligent in protecting ourselves and in cultivating and maintaining the spirit in our lives. No one is exempt from temptation, but we need to recognize when we find ourselves in a situation that is not conducive to the spirit or is contrary to the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you do slip it’s easier to correct yourself when it’s small. However, whether the spiritual wound is small, getting bigger or is large, it’s critical that you repent immediately. Choose to repent and continue to repent.
In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin warned his people when he said, “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” Alma 4:29,30
The blessing of having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion blesses us with the power to overcome temptation if we listen and follow the still small voice. Satan has no power. The only power he has is when we give him power by succumbing to his temptations. It is absurd that we would want to give someone power over us that does not love us and who does not want us to be happy.On the other hand, with the enabling power of the Holy Ghost, we are guaranteed happiness if we follow the promptings and stay true to the covenants we already made with our loving Heavenly Father. Someone once said the definition of stupid is knowing the truth, seeing the truth but still believing the lies. Don’t believe the lies. Don’t be deceived. The more we stay on the path by following living prophets as we choose the right or choose to repent and continue to repent, the more we will be armed with the strength coming from the power and influence of the Holy Ghost to overcome temptation and sin.
Sister Craven said further, “Anytime we say, ‘however’, ‘except’, or ‘but’ when it applies to following the counsel of our prophet leaders or living the gospel carefully, we are in fact saying, ‘That counsel does not apply to me.’ We can rationalize all we want, but the fact is, there is not a right way to do the wrong thing!”
Sometimes we go through life thinking how hard it is and praying for better circumstances or an easier life. With a loving Heavenly Father He knows of our struggles. He will never give you more than you can handle. And, you can handle!
Another comforting and reassuring scripture, from our study of Come Follow Me is from 1st Corinthians 10:13, where it says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
So, pray as if everything depending on God and then work as if everything depended on you.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma 34:14,15 it says,
14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
15 And thus He shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on His name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which over powereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
I listened to a motivational speaker recently as he shared“You’re strong not because you have strength, but because you’re weak, and you didn’t give up.”
When we feel too overwhelmed because of our weaknesses and our sins, we can fall in a state of what might be referred to as being spiritually paralyzed. We feel stuck and lose hope. This is when we desperately need to apply faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. While we may want to give up, He does not give up on us.
The Lord speaks to us in those situations from Ether 12:27 when He says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
As we review this scripture, we recognize that that we need to humble ourselves before the Lord, but being humble is not enough. As He says, “have faith in me”. It’s humility combined with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that He will make weak things become strong.
The definition of humility as one of the attributes of Jesus Christ in Preach My Gospel states, “Humility is willingness to submit to the will of the Lord and to give the Lord the honor for what is accomplished. It includes gratitude for His blessings and acknowledgment of your constant need for His divine help. As we do this we perfect ourselves in becoming more like Him.”
Alma teaches us:
“27 And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;
28 But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
29 Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.”
My dear brothers and sisters, you have not come this far to fail. In fact, as difficult as life may seem, life is not meant for us to fail. Let us be patient and let us be humble and have faith in Jesus Christ. He is the light and our advocate. By following the Savior Jesus Christ we can be bound to Him, who will succor us and heal us through His Atoning Sacrifice. For He said, “I am bound if you do what I say, but if ye do not what I say ye have no promise”. (D&C82:10) You are privileged, you have high love and you have high expectations. Choose to repent and continue to repent by doing what He asks.
You are the future leaders of the church and your families. Don’t mess up the plan that Heavenly Father has for you, and if you do make a mistake don’t forget and don’t ever feel like you can’t get back on the path. Do it quickly and repent regularly from the mis-steps that you make.
It’s been said, “the pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change and the realist adjusts the sails”.Brothers and Sisters, don’t wait for the wind to change. You need to adjust that sail when the wind blows you in the wrong direction. That adjustment is through first recognizing immediately that you’re facing the wrong way and then immediately repenting and doing what you know to be right. So, if yesterday you were facing the wrong direction, change the sail. Keep checking every day if you’re facing the right direction and keep adjusting the sail as needed. That may mean changing the plan you had initially made to reach those righteous goals. Choose to repent and continue to repent.
Please note what Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve taught in the October 2017 general conference in his talk “Be Ye Therefore Perfect, Eventually”, focusing on “eventually”, where he shared,“except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call “toxic perfectionism.” We should avoid that latter excessive expectation of ourselves and of others...”
In recognizing the commemoration of 100 years since the dedication of the Laie Hawaii Temple, I’ll add one more meaning of CTR. As we choose the right, choose to repent and continue to repent we will always qualify to hold a current temple recommend and use it regularly in attending the temple.
In last December’s Christmas devotional, President Nelson taught: “True repentance is not an event. It is a never-ending privilege. It is fundamental to progression and having peace of mind, comfort, and joy.”
As our prophets have taught us the gift of repentance, if we heed to their pleadings, we will realize the miracle of forgiveness and qualify for many more blessings. I’m thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ which provides us the gift of repentance that we may all choose to repent and continue to repent to qualify to live eternally with our loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.