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Trust in the Lord . . . Lean Not Unto Thy Own Understanding

"Trust in the Lord...Lean Not Unto Your Own Understanding" by Dawn Akana

Aloha Brothers and Sisters,

Can you take a paper like this [show] and using a scissor, make an opening big enough to fit your whole body through it and do it without rejoining any pieces? I am sure that there are some here that can do it, but there are probably more here that are thinking, “yeah, RIGHT,” it is impossible. Let me show you. . . like this opening was once a plain sheet of paper, we sometime struggle to see things another way. However, this example proves that by changing our perspectives and with the right guidance new visions can be accomplished.

The great inventor Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door is closed, another door opens . . .” (1) In Proverbs we are told to “Trust the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”(2)

My mother, Ethel Yakabe Kurihara, shared an experience she recalled while growing up on the island of Maui. On her walk home from school, as young high school student, she came upon a pamphlet put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In that pamphlet she learned for the first time, the story and testimony of Joseph Smith. She said that there was a strong and peaceful feeling within her, that this message was true. She asked permission from her parents if she could join this church, they told her she was too young. Besides living on the sugar plantation and being the third oldest child in a family of nine living children, there was not enough time in a day to complete her chores. For next three or so years she would come home from school, quickly attend to her chores and then walk several miles to and from the Mormon church. Finally in her senior year of high school her parents gave her permission to be baptized because of her diligence with school, family, commitment in attending her church meetings and the kind of person she had become. (3)

This is the example of faith and obedience that I was raised with. Both of my parents were converts to the gospel. Both truly loved the Lord and they strived to teach their children to also trust the Lord through their examples. I do not remember where or exactly how my mother said it but the message was, if I ever needed to call upon Heavenly Father in prayer and I was not able to kneel because of circumstances, I could just say a prayer in my heart and he would hear me.


My father’s employment with the Army, Air Force Exchange Service to the military, took our family from Guam to the Philippines. It was there that I put that first lesson to the test. I was five years old, when we attended the Clark Air Force Base Branch on their spring excursion to Baguio City. It is a lush tropical pine forest high in the mountainous terrain of the island of Luzon. Having been left behind at the cabin one night, I was relieved to be reunited with my mother at the Branch’s opening social.

We walked in the moonlight back to our cabin when I confided to my mother, that I had left the cabin lights on and the front door open – BUT I quickly added that I said a prayer in my heart as I ran out of the cabin down the steps, up the hill, and across the field. I asked Heavenly Father to “please, turn off the light and shut the door.” Well, as we got to the top of the hill and looked down to our cabin, I could not believe it. The lights were off and the front door was closed. He had answered my prayer just as my mother had promised if I would trust and believe.

Imagine a few moments later after we had entered the cabin, one of the members from our Branch who was staying in the adjacent cabin, came and told my mother, that she had come back early and noticed that our lights were on, front door open, my Dad’s camera in plain view and no one there. So she went ahead and closed things up. My heart sank and I began to doubt my faith as I overhead that sister. After that lady left, I told my Mother, “I guess Heavenly Father didn’t answer my prayer after all.” My mother knelt with me and taught me a lesson that night. In all tenderness and sincerity she said as she held me close, “Heavenly Father hears all our prayers and at times use other people to answer our prayers. He sent that sister to answer your prayer tonight.”

Do As He Asks

Fast forward . . . I had graduated from BYU-Hawaii and was taking time off from school to earn money to go onto graduate school. I was working three jobs, but arranged to work after my meetings on Sundays. One day my father shared a story of soccer star in Tahiti, Erroll Bennett. “Errol was planning on joining the church, but there was one problem, all the soccer games were on Sundays and he knew by joining the church he would need to keep the Sabbath holy”. (4) He was famous and one of the brilliant soccer player in Tahiti. Although he was passionate about soccer it was more important to him to follow the Savior.

Errol made his decision, not to play on Sunday and to be baptized. To his surprise just a few days later the League made a change in the rules, that his club would not play any Sunday games instead games would be played during the week. (5) I thought, “Wow, that pretty amazing, but I’m no one important, if I told my boss that I could not work on Sunday, he would probably tell me to go find another job.” A few months went by, but that story stayed with me. I finally realized that it was not enough to only make my Sunday meetings, it was about embracing the Sabbath fully and keeping the commandments.

I came to the conclusion that I needed to trust the Lord and stop my Sunday job. The day came and I went into tell my boss that I was giving my two week resignation notice. He asked me why. I told him that I was grateful that they had arranged my work schedule around my church meetings, but it was important that I not work on Sundays. Then he asked me, “Could you work another day during the week if you have Sunday off?” A bit surprised by his question, I said, “Sure!” Then he asked, “Is that all?” I replied, “Yes.” He then said, “Okay, you have Sundays off. Your schedule will be adjusted.” I left the office stunned, but elated. I could not believe the outcome. I trusted in the Lord and “Wow!” It really was not that hard.

His Will

About a year later I felt the promptings that it was time to leave Hawaii and to pursue my master degree in Athletic Training, at BYU-Provo. I called home to let my family know that my friend and I had made the drive safely from southern California. On that call, I learned that my father’s annual physical exam, that he had the day after I flew out, had produced suspicious results from his blood test and the doctor scheduled him for another blood test to confirm the findings. My mother then told me that the bishop (who was also our home teacher and dear family friend) was going to give my Dad a blessing. There was a longer pause then normal, realizing that she was trying not to be emotional for me. I knew coming to Provo was the right thing at the right time. I had stayed home two years to work and saved money, but I had also gained the benefit of spending some priceless time with my father.

As I prayed that night I asked Heavenly Father to give us, my family and I, the time so we would be able to accept His will. Early the next week my parents had received the official diagnosis that my father was in the early stage of Juvenile Leukemia, terminal for older people. It was determined that once the cancer progressed Chemotherapy would start, giving him 6 months to maybe 2 years to live. I saw my father for what would be the last time, when a couple months later my parents came up for the October General Conference.

Seven months later, on the last day of classes in my second semester, I got the phone call at work that “Dad was in a bad way and was not going to make it.” My mother asked if I would come home and with the money I had saved prior to school I was able to buy my round trip ticket home. My Dad died as my flight took off that evening from Salt Lake City Airport, but I was on my way home for my Mother and I would be there with my family as he passed beyond the veil.

Logistics Are Temporal

Skip forward two years. Having received my National Athletic Trainers’ certification I pursued looking for an athletic trainer job hoping to stay in Hawaii, but also realized that there were barely a handful of jobs on the island and they were all filled. A co-worker at one of the schools, had cut out and brought to my attention a job posted by University of Hawaii-Manoa Athletic Department. It was a part-time Athletic Trainer position. I applied anyway figuring I could still continue to teach. About two months went by and I heard nothing from UH.

So I made plans to fly to Southern California for job interviews in hopes of landing employment as an athletic trainer. The short version, I turned down two lucrative position to take a token $9,000 a year job at University of Hawaii because “it felt right” even though it did not make any logical sense.

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described spiritual communication:

 “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a ‘still small voice’ [D&C 85:6]. And while we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling. . . .’

“Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear.” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60). (6)

That decision was based simply on a feeling of peace and the load lifted, even when on paper it did not make financial sense, but I was single and had a widowed mother that was happy to have me live with her.

A little more than one year later, the pay match the full-time status that I was already working. Doors had opened to other venues of my profession, working with Olympic level athletes at various national and international events. Opportunities and travel I had never even dreamt of.

Time to Move

Almost eight and half years later, spring of 1994 I received a phone call inviting me to apply for the faculty position as a head athletic trainer here at BYU-Hawaii. This was the third call in four years but this time I felt it was time to go through the application process. When the job was offered I hesitated, because I loved the people that I was working with, the network of professionals and the university community. The new, Stan Sherriff Arena, was scheduled to be opening the following year.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband shared, “President Monson has taught, ‘As we pursue the journey of life, let us learn the language of the Spirit.’ (Thomas S. Monson, “The Spirit Giveth Life,” Ensign, May 1985, 70.) The Spirit speaks words that we feel. These feelings are gentle, a nudge to act, to do something, to say something, to respond in a certain way.” (“Let the Holy Spirit Guide,” Ensign, May 2017, Sunday Morning Session.) (7)

I struggled with the thought of leaving all that. Knowing I had to make a decision soon, I turned off the radio on my drive home from work. I debated in my head pros and cons of both jobs. I finally thought, “okay, maybe I should pray about it,” when a clear and distinct FEELING came into my mind . . . “Why? You already know the answer.” The prompting of the Holy Ghost was piercing and clear. I knew what I needed to do. The turmoil in my head was silenced. The weight of the decision was gone. Again the load was lifted and a feeling of peace settled my uncertainties.

Jump forward twenty years later. A meeting was called in Athletics where we were informed with the “unofficial official” decision that BYU-Hawaii Athletics’ would be terminated in three years. Initially, like others I was upset, angry and disappointed. That night during my hour long drive home many thoughts came, mainly self-pity, arguments of disgust, but one thought climaxed in my mind, “If athletics was going to be shutting down, then why did the Heavenly Father bring me here to BYU-Hawaii, leaving the University of Hawaii where I would still have a job.” In that moment my thoughts were stopped. “Wait, I’ve been here at BYU-Hawaii for twenty years. That’s a long time. Heavenly Father didn’t say how long, but that it was the right move and at the right time.” Wow, I had a humbling of my past feelings of selfishness and a grumbling heart.

President James E. Faust, of the First Presidency explained what it means to be past feelings, by comparing the signal on a cell phone to receiving the prompting of the spirit. He said: 

. . . [there are] dead spots where the signal coming to a cell phone fails. This can happen when the cell phone user is in a tunnel or a canyon or when there is other interference.

“So it is with divine communication. The still, small voice, though still and small, is very powerful. . . . Perhaps something in our lives prevents us from hearing the message because we are ‘past feeling’ [1 Nephi 17:45]. We often put ourselves in spiritual dead spots—places and situations that block out divine messages. Some of these dead spots include anger, pornography, transgression, selfishness, and other situations that offend the Spirit. (Ensign, May 2004, 67) (8)

I realized that I had a job that I loved on a campus that I equally loved, and I was also blessed with a wonderful eternal companion. That is another story, but let me share this much. Almost thirteen years ago when he asked if I would “consider dating him”, I was speechless. I felt like the animated cartoon with my mouth dropping to the floor and my eyes popping out of its sockets. It is amazing how many thoughts you can have in a split second. I told him, “I’d think about it.” I shut the door and my thoughts started spinning off all the reasons why NOT, but amidst it all the whisper came “if you don’t, you can never say that I did not provide someone for you.” So what do you do when you have that kind of direction?

Indulge me for a moment longer and let me share with you some of the making of who this wonderful, amazing and debonair dressed husband of mine is. Before the age of four he had experienced the violent abuse of his drunken father on his defenseless mother, many times. By age four he and his three younger siblings were left to be raised by their maternal grandparents. His beloved Tutu nurture and blessed him with skills that would help him in his life. At age sixteen, he was Hawaii U.S. Territorial Open Boxing Champion, meaning he a teenager was competing against adult men. His success lead him to receive a full ride scholarship upon graduating high school to box at San Jose State College (now called San Jose State University). While there he individually won the light weight division and helped his team win the NCAA National Boxing Championship title. However, if you ask him his greater accomplishment was earning his Bachelor Degree in Interior Design. The first in his family to go to college and he topped it off by graduating. (8)

That led to a successful and lucrative career that was interrupted with a divorce and three young sons to care for. Coming from a broken home he wanted a better life for his sons, but the question was HOW?

He was introduced to the Church after meeting a beautiful young woman named, Masina Malufau, who lovingly embraced him and his sons. Baptized and a year later, married in the Laie Hawaii Temple. They were blessed with another seven wonderful children. Making that eight handsome sons and two beautiful daughters, but more importantly good people from the inside out. (9)

So why I am sharing this story. When his youngest was nine years old, his loving wife was abruptly taken from this life without warning. The love of his life who was the sunlight in his days was gone. He chose to gather himself together and not blame the Lord. It was hard, but there were five children still at home. He choose to be a stalwart priesthood holder and trust Heavenly Father. Turning over the heartbreaking pain to the Savior’s atonement, who had already suffered and understood his pains completely. He kept to the faith and maybe sometime robotically as it may have been he did what was expected, in keeping his covenants with the Lord. (10)

He successfully sent their remaining four sons, making it eight of their eight sons on honorably served missions. Eight of their children have been sealed in the temple to their eternal companion, one son died unexpectedly a few years after his wife and one son is an emissary of compassionate serves while he travels the world today. You cannot make someone like that, they have to desire and choose to live their life as such. That is why I am honored that Heavenly Father choose him for me. It was my association with his children while working at BYU-Hawaii that this blessing came. Although reluctant, I heeded and I am honored to be blessed with these shared children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We are not perfect, but like you, we keep trying.

Now returning to my drive home. I recognized in that moment that I needed to trust the Lord. Granted, I did not understand this change, but I had to Trust Him. It would be okay, but what that meant I did not know.

On April 4th, 2014, the Friday evening before General Conference, BYU-Hawaii athletics, news reporters and administrators were all packed into CAC218 classroom. The official announcement was made: BYU-Hawaii would be terminating Athletics in three years. Needless to say there was disbelief, bewilderment, anger, hurt feelings, betrayal, and panic were among just a few of the emotions that filled the air. General Conference was just what I needed. There were many inspiring messages. Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s message spoke straight to my heart, about “Being Grateful in Our Circumstances”, pointing out that:

Often [our] grief is caused by what seems to [us] as an end . . .  those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding. . . .  I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be. . . . We can choose to be like Job, who seemed to have everything but then lost it all. Yet Job responded by saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return” (Job 1:21) . . .  We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain? (Ensign, April 2014, pp 70-77.) (11) 

A week after the official announcement was made, one of my former student worker, asked me, “Dawn, can I tell you something?” I said, “Sure.” He went on to say, “While reading the Book of Mormon the other day, I had the feeling, ‘was I being like Laman and Lemuel?’” (12) “Wow!” was all I could say. It hit me, just as the Lord told Lehi to leave Jerusalem and take his family into the wilderness – the unknown, so were we being told to accept the decision and what is unknown to us.

Like Lehi’s sons Laman and Lemuel, who could not see the logics of leaving their well-established homeland, being told that it would be destroyed (13) or leaving all their wealth and go off into wilderness (14) to a “unknown” place. However, both scriptural and secular history shows that Jerusalem was destroyed, (15) and Lehi’s family was taken to a promised land. (16)

Likewise, BYU-Hawaii Athletics has achieved conference and national championships, many athletes had the opportunity to learn about the gospel and some were baptized, many met their eternal companions, still others have gone onto make tremendous contributions in the world and yet others have become ambassadors, developing relationships that otherwise would not have happened. Unlike other government run institutions, BYU-Hawaii is ultimately run under the direction of our Prophet. The Lord teaches us in D&C: Doctrine & Covenants 1:38: . . . “whether by my voice or the voice of my servants it is the same . . .” (17)

Perhaps like the Nephites, we will not learn the reason until years down the road. Nephi trusted and prayed to understand. (18)  We too, must trust because we cannot see the future and pray that we may turn to the Lord (19) and choose not to lean onto our own limited understanding. (20)

Let me finish the rest of Alexander Graham Bell quote, “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” (21) Remember, the solution to my earlier challenge, that small piece of paper that held the opening opportunity to change. Be true to the things that matter most by staying away from dead spots or having “pass feelings.” Listen for your answers from the still small “feelings” of the Holy Ghost. Trust the Lord by honoring the answers that we may not have planned for. Always remembering to “be grateful for the rain until the rainbow comes.” (22) Is my prayer, in Jesus Christ name, Amen.