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Tied to ....

"Tied To..." - Ivy Kahalepuna

Mahalo nui loa to all the BYU-Hawai’i ohana and my ohana that have provided time, talent, service and patience in preparation for today’s devotional. I don’t have the list of all of your names and I don’t want to forget or miss anyone, so please accept my apology for not naming you specifically. But in my heart and prayers I thank you for your major actions and efforts. It has been challenging for all involved to put this together as I’ve been in California and New York for ten days with limited communication and just returned home on Sunday. A week or so of wearing double socks, shoes, gloves, scarves and a thick winter jacket has reminded me how great it is to live in Hawaii and to be back in the islands, home sweet home, what a blessing.

The music, singing, prayers and scripture sharing were choice, which surely invited the sweet spirit of peace and calmness to be here today. I know that Heavenly Father loves each of you dearly and he has a message for you. This task is quite overwhelming and intimidating and I don’t feel equal to the task, but I trust with faith, your prayers, the guidance of the spirit and Heavenly Father’s blessing I can deliver that message today. As Joseph Smith declared, “We have nothing to fear if we are faithful.” Carry on!

To my beloved brothers and sisters from all parts of the world, near and far, Aloha.

The university bulletin that listed today’s devotional included a simple request for the university ohana. Did you notice that I posed a couple of questions for you to ponder that relates to the devotional topic entitled TIED TO … I hope you had an opportunity to do that. Let me elaborate. What does the phrase “tied to…” mean to you? I checked the dictionary and also asked about ten others for their definition of tied to. The answers were very similar. Anchor, grab, grasp, join, connected, bound, hold on, related to.

Now let me offer you the completed thought in a question. What do we tie ourselves to? Keep that thought in mind as we move forward.

Sister Julie B. Beck, who was the 15th general president of the Relief Society from 2007 to 2012. I was serving as the Stake Relief Society President in the BYUH Married Stake at that time and heard her share this story.

“My parents, who had been my neighbors, announced that they would be moving to another part of the world. I had relied on my mother’s nurturing, wise, and encouraging example. Now she was going to be gone for a long time. This was before e-mail, fax machines, cell phones, and Web cameras, and mail delivery was notoriously slow. One day before she left, I sat weeping with her and asked, “Who will be my mother?” Mother thought carefully, and with the Spirit and power of revelation which comes to women of this kind, she said to me, “If I never come back, if you never see me again, if I’m never able to teach you another thing, you tie yourself to Relief Society. Relief Society will be your mother.

Three different women held the calling of Relief Society president in my wards during the years my parents were away. Alta Chamberlain invited me to teach time management and home organization to the other sisters, perhaps because she saw that I needed to improve those skills. Jeanne Horne encouraged me to complete my first serious personal study of the Book of Mormon. Norma Healey gave me my first assignments at the cannery and taught me much about service. These wonderful women understood the purpose of Relief Society.

Mother knew that if I was sick, the sisters would take care of me, and when I had my babies, they would help me. But my mother’s greatest hope was that the sisters in Relief Society would be powerful, spiritual leaders for me. I began from that time to learn abundantly from women of stature and faith.

When I heard this talk, I looked it up and read it again. I felt as if she were telling my story and speaking directly to me. I felt an immediate connection, a bonding with Sister Beck and her situation. Sister Beck’s story, her understanding of her mother’s counsel to tie herself to Relief Society has resonated in my mind then and for years I’ve tried to follow that simple and wise counsel to tie yourself to the things of the Lord, His word, the Atoning sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the reassuring spirit of the Holy Ghost, the principles of the gospel, the Priesthood, to faithful Saints, to the sacred covenants of baptism and the temple and the list continues.

So as we move forward in life and we follow this simple admonition to anchor ourselves, grab & grasp on to, join or connect to, bind, hold on or tie yourself to these foundational stakes, the question becomes personal, what do you tie yourselves to and why?

Beliefs, vision, mission, miracles, the journey, promises, covenants, leaders/mentors, family/friends, priorities

Let’s share a few vignettes of these special angels whose values fit this description and fulfill that role.

About six months after we were married my husband Boysie and I moved into a new ward in his hometown, Kaneohe. I was born and raised on Maui, majority of my immediate family lived there, more specifically, my mom. We had a great relationship, but it was long distance and the only way for me to communicate was to write letters. It was a hard and lonely time. We had no cell phones at that time. Calling long distance was expensive, especially for us as a young couple with just one income. I didn’t know my in-laws well, or the neighbors or the city. I was insecure and somewhat fearful of the unknown. My husband was working full time and my close friends were in the mainland attending college or lived on another island.

Heavenly Father knew that I needed the same thing as Sister Beck and he provided and angel in my life. Enter Sister Betty Poliahu, Kaneohe 2nd Ward Relief Society President. She is one of the sweetest and kindest women I’ve ever met in my life. She welcomed me into Relief Society with open arms, made me feel accepted and loved. She, along with the other sisters of that ward took me under their wing, taught, loved and nurtured me. They shared their wisdom and talents allowing me to develop my skills and I learned how to cook, to budget, to teach, to be a better wife and mother. I learned how valuable and essential Relief Society and that divine sisterhood was to developing and understanding my role as a beloved daughter of God. Those experiences with that wonderful, loving ward grounded me. I lived in Kaneohe II Ward for about seven precious years before moving to Kahuku. I feel that warmth and acceptance when I return there to attend church with my mother-in-law, Helene. I feel the bonding and feel that special connection every Tuesday, late afternoon when I see Sister Betty Poliahu at the temple. She’s leaving the day shift and I’m coming to work at the night shift. It feels so symbolic and natural to me as if that nurturing relationship continues, it didn’t skip a beat and I continue to be influenced by her spirit of goodness, service and dedication to the Lord. To all those wonderful Kaneohe Ward members, mahalo nui loa.

To all of you, Heavenly Father knows what you need, you just need to do your part and tie yourself to those that He places in your life. It’s always a win-win situation when you tie yourself to the Lord.

Another example can be found in Sisters, Eloise Richards and Beatrice Kailiponi were steadfast members of the Wailuku Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the valley isle of Maui. They were recognized as competent, dedicated, knowledgeable leaders in Primary, Relief Society and other community organizations. They were credited with initiating and implementing various programs and helpmeets, such as the first 72 Hour Emergency Kit on Maui and the Kupuna Program for public schools Teachers by profession and dedicated genealogists by choice, they offered guidance, expertise, secular and religious education, compassion, humor, discipline and care to all. They, their spouses and children provided years of service. These women shared their love, attention and home willingly and often to a very impressionable little girl whose parents divorced when she was four years old. Her parents were good individuals but not active in church. So she would ask her mother to drop her off at church where she would sit with either Sister Richards or Sister Kailiponi during Sacrament Meeting. After church she would spend majority of the Sunday with their family at their home. She ate meals with them, discussed future plans and felt like one of the immediate family. She observed and participated in family prayers, outings, events and it filled a void, one of being a complete family. She loved the feeling and spirit within the walls of their homes and the lessons she learned in church. The little girl witnessed the two families saving their money and vacation time as they prepared to travel to O’ahu every year to do temple work for the whole week. These caring, unselfish sisters made a marked difference and a lasting impression. They became mentors for this little girl and consistently magnified their Christlike attributes in such a way that this little girl’s hopes and dreams started to take shape, to possibly become a reality. She wanted what they had, an eternal family that attended church regularly, a temple attending family that lived, loved and shared the gospel with others. She saw the adult children in their families go to college and serve missions. She understood the Lord’s admonition to study, learn and serve and desired to have this in her life when she grew up. As time went by she became more confident and determined to follow their example and create a spiritual refuge for her own future family. That little girl was me and Aunty Eloise and Aunty Bea were my grandfather’s sisters. I hope that as they help guide and direct me from the other side of the veil that they are pleased with my choices to follow in their footsteps so we can be reunited in the eternities.

We can follow Aunty Eloise and Aunty Bea’s example by providing the safe haven in our homes, work settings and families for nurturing opportunities where we can truly cultivate our love for each other as we serve and love the Savior. Elder Marvin J. Ashton teaches us that “Home should be an anchor, a port in a storm, a refuge, a happy place in which to dwell, a place where we are loved and where we can love. Home should be where life’s greatest lessons are taught and learned.”

In 1949, eager 17 year old, Beautruss “Sweetie” Hussey, my mom was looking to make her mark in the world. She was a popular, smart, beautiful, talented singer, and recent convert to the church with hopes to attend college. Graduation was around the corner and her plans for the future seemed to be at a stand still, enter, tall, dark and handsome Army Master Sargent Eassie Miller, Sr., my dad. He was dashing and much sought after, but he became enamored with my mom and directed all of his attention her way. She saw all the dreams could be realized sooner than she thought, a loving, mature husband, independence, an opportunity to be out of her parent’s home, a chance to go to college, it all seemed possible. So they were married and for a while marriage was wonderful. Unfortunately, nine years later, after having four children, my parents divorced and they parted ways. At that time it was uncommon to be divorced, so we were in the minority. It was uncomfortable and I remember the stigma that seemed to accompany single parent families. The divorce was regrettable but my parents remained close friends the rest of their lives and although he moved to O’ahu, whenever we got together our friends would often comment that our parents didn’t act like they were divorced. Bea stayed on Maui close to her family where they were able to assist her as she shouldered the burden of single parenthood. Lacking the necessary work experience required to provide for our young family, Mom’s life became a continual circle of self-sacrifice, as she accepted jobs that would allow for the flexibility in allowing my siblings and I to often times accompany her to work at her second or third job. We enjoyed being with her but also realized there was rarely any time for her to rest; she just seemed to be working all the time. Life was difficult, and rewards were few but she never complained about her situation. She was a kind hearted, hard working, loving and devoted mother that put her family first and foremost. My two aunts offered my mom the option of going to the University of Hawaii to attend school while they would care for us. She declined because she felt it was more important for her to be with us.

Mom never talked bad about our dad to us. Although she took the brunt of the child raising responsibilities she was thoughtful and sensitive to our needs to have a positive relationship with our dad. Because she withheld her negative comments regarding our dad, that charitable act allowed us to love our dad, that when we matured we were able to see his weaknesses, but by then we loved him and things balanced out. As adults, my siblings and I realized what a sacrifice our mom had made. She gave up the chance to be the good guy in the relationship and instead just kept devoting her life to us, her children.

My mom taught me to be kind, loving and forgiving. She taught me that hard, honest work built character and allowed you to be independent and self reliant. She was an example. That true and selfless sacrifice was the legacy she left for her posterity to remember her by.

Elder Neil L. Andersen counsels, “Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. Our conversion comes step-by-step, line upon line. … But we are not alone.” We have tailor made trials, one size too big for us to carry alone. Like my mom, in spite of the difficulties and major challenges, she would say, “I pray to Him,” knowing she could turn to the Lord daily for solace. D&C 24:8: "Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days."

Merrilee Webb came to BYU-Hawaii as a choir director for a one year contract. She was a fireball, energetic, excited about life learning, music and people. She reminds me of the Duracell bunny, because she never seemed to run out of energy. The first day of class, she had 4 boys in the men’s choir, and 25 women in the women’s choir. She took it upon herself to recruit as many students as possible, roaming the hallways, dorms, cafeteria, and the aloha center looking for students to sing. “Everyone can sing,” was her motto. She was successful and her enthusiasm was contagious. She inspired and excited her students to sing a variety of songs. She would take the time and explain the meaning of each song, highlighting the descriptive language being used, the musical terms and so forth. I remember watching students literally running to her class, not because they were late but because they didn’t want to miss a minute of class time. Her goal was to memorize each of her students by name and face, and she would pray for them individually. Her class would host weekly Wednesday devotionals, and she would pray to see which student should offer their spiritual thought or story that week. It was a highlight of the week and the students were always eager to see “who’s turn was next.” We soon realized that Sister Webb truly led by the spirit. We witnessed time and time again how these devotionals ending up being a forum/venue for stories from students around the world, about sacrifices, major challenges and circumstances that were heart wrenching. However, the joy was seeing students testimonies strengthened and shared freely. We have memorable experiences of concerts where many of us, along with the audience felt the influence of the spirit and the spirit of angels singing along with us. She was so much more than a music teacher. She taught us to love the Lord, to be worthy of the prophets presence, to resolve conflicts, lift others burdens and sing with bright eyes and joyous spirits. My youngest daughter, Kieiki had one last semester to complete before graduation. She was the Student Body President at the time, her schedule was full with 21 credits. She had one more required class to take to complete her Minor in Economics. She came to me and explained that her Economics class was at the same time as Sister Webb’s class and this was the last semester Sister Webb would be teaching at BYU-Hawaii. She had a choice to make; graduate with a Minor in Economics or sing in Sis. Webb’s choir. She said, “I need to take Sister Webb’s class. I need that spiritual strength more.” I agreed and she has never regretted that decision. We both count the blessings of Merrilee Webb’s influence in our lives. She would remind us before each concert that this is not a performance, instead this is an opportunity to share the gospel, the spirit, the message through song, go and teach the people through your singing. Share the messages of inspiration, goodness and peace. I know that hearts and lives changed because Merrilee influenced her students to aspire to greater heights spiritually. I was changed for good and count her as one of the true spiritual giants in my life. I took Sister Webb’s class every semester for the three short years she taught at BYU-Hawaii. During that time both choirs grew to over 100 students enrolled every semester. Merrilee was also selected by students as Teacher of the Year by students two of the three years she taught at BYU-Hawaii. It would have been three years but the rules would not allow the same teacher to be awarded in consecutive years. The awards of man cannot be compared to pleasing the Lord by serving his children in exact obedience and humility as the Savior did.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson says “You make the gospel of Jesus Christ not just an influence in your life but the controlling influence and, indeed, the very core of what you are.” Sister Webb exemplified this belief by the way she lived. She inspired others by who she is. Her example reminds me of this scripture

In 3 Nephi 12:14-16 it says,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;

Therefore, let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I truly believe that like Sister Webb, Aunty Eloise, Aunty Bea, Sister Poliahu and My Mom, Bea Miller we need to be the extension of the light of Christ. We have that tremendous opportunity and calling. We can increase that light when we choose correctly what beliefs we tie ourselves too. We need to understand why need to be tied to those beliefs.and we press forward and share that understanding through testimony and the life we live.

And the follow up question to that is it connects us to:

Our purpose

Our priorities in life

Our loyalties and allegiance

Our values

Who and what we trust or care about

What motivates us

What covenants are important to us and ultimately it identifies who we truly are.

This realization is important because if used correctly it empowers us to make the choices that will draw us ever closer to Heavenly Father.

We then choose to align our hearts, minds, souls and actions with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost instead of the world’s way.

We make decisions on which foundational stakes in our lives need our attention, strengthening and developing.

For example:

  • What do I believe?
  • What is my purpose here on earth?
  • What journey/path am I to take here on earth?
  • What covenants and promises am I committed to honoring?
  • Who are my spiritual leaders and mentors?
  • Am I the right kind of spiritual partner to my family & friends that they need?
  • Are my priorities aligned with the Lord?

One of my purposes today was to share examples of the individuals that have influenced my life for good.

They are spiritually strong individuals that provided goodness, care, love and mentorship at my time of need. They, like me made mistakes, but we look to the word of God, his chosen prophets and authorized leaders for direction and inspired counsel so we can repent, make changes and return to the path of righteousness.

Let us joyfully follow the Savior and live the Gospel the best we can.

President Monson’s 3 Ds phrase gives great direction: Decisions Determine Destiny

I suggest and invite you to decide what you need to tie yourself to by:

  1. Listing the things you are tied to.
  2. Then assess and evaluate what you are tied to by determining which of your list items you need to nurture or to negate
  3. Create a simple plan that will work for you. One that you can track simply or with a timeline,
  4. Implement one day a time.

You will see and feel your heart and spirit change. Those changes draw us closer to our elder brother, Jesus Christ so we can be purified like him.

Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi said, "Our Redeemer’s compassionate act will purify us under only one condition. That is we must love Him. We must serve Him. We must offer our absolute commitment to Him. We must follow Him obediently with all of our might, mind, and strength."

We must tie ourselves to him.

In closing, may I share my testimony. I thank Heavenly Father for all my blessings, which includes my gratitude for my eternal sweetheart, my children and grandchildren for always loving and supporting me. I’m grateful for every individual and experience in my life that has helped me learn, live and love the gospel.

It is my testimony that we (all of us) chose to be here and stand as His witness. We need to give our all, it takes hard work, much sacrifice on our part, and then He will make up the difference. May we come to God, the Eternal Father in humility for guidance. May we tie ourselves to the light of Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.