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Each of Us Has a Purpose – “At Such a Time as This’”

Thank you, Todd for that introduction. My husband is truly my hero. Marrying him was a “BEST” decision of my life.

Todd currently serves as our ward bishop. A few Sundays ago, I was planning on attending my sister’s ward to hear her play the piano and listen to their Samoan ward choir perform. Todd was going to be alone to conduct our ward sacrament meeting as both his counselors were out of town. He had interviews and appointments before church and after, so I knew he had quite a load on his shoulders that day. I mentioned to hibefore I left that I would prepare Sunday dinner when I returned home. Before he left for church, he sent me this text message:

Hi Honey, I prepared the roast and put it in the oven on 300. Hope this tastes good and will help you.

This is just one of the examples that describes the man that my eternal companion is. He is kind, happy, gentle, humble and always enjoyable to be with. He is an honorable father, full of charity and love and he genuinely cares about others. He loves our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ and dedicates his life to serving them. I am fortunate that he is my BEST FRIEND and blessed to have him in my life forever.

I was listening to the talk given by Sister Monica Kauwe at a recent BYU–Hawaii devotional where she spoke about “fear.” She told about being in a college class that required her to give an in-class presentation. As her turn to speak quickly came, her fear caused her to stand up and leave the classroom and not complete the assignment. She did not go back in but, in her words, “was fortunate and somehow managed to still pass the class.” [1]

I was invited by the university to speak about a year ago. Prior to receiving the invitation to speak, I was actually here visiting at BYUH with my sister and niece when I received a phone call at 2am in the morning, from Todd, who was at the hospital ER in Utah, informing me he had hurt his back while lifting our daughter, Whitney, who has cerebral palsy. After feeling that the lower section of his body was rapidly going numb, he hurriedly drove himself to the ER where he was told he had to have emergency back surgery that day. A couple of weeks later, the invitation came to speak, and I was relieved to decline as my husband was recuperating and still experiencing severe back pain.

Whitney, our angel daughter, is most cherished and is fully dependent on us for help which requires some lifting. She is like our little baby, dependent on being fed, bathed, and dressed. She now weighs approximately 120 lbs. Not only did I have to take care of Todd, but I also had to take care of Whitney and my 91-year-old mom, Mary, who also lives with us. My mom and I have reversed roles now – I am now the Mom and she is the spirited teenager!

Exactly a year after Todd’s back surgery, I received the dreaded letter, again asking if I would be able to speak at the devotional on October 25. Immediately, fear overtook and I began to search for reasons why I wouldn’t be able to accept the invitation. Todd had recovered and was now able to travel again. I had a very strong impression, a quiet, gentle but powerful whispering that I should accept the invitation. I also felt that this experience would help to greatly improve my spiritual course and discipleship which I treasure. What convinced me to accept was the impression that my experiences as an alumna of BYUH might benefit at least one student to realize their purpose “for such a time as this.” [2]

Sister Kauwe, I can relate to your fear of speaking and will confess that walking out did cross my mind, however, I also fear that this audience would not be as forgiving and I definitely would not pass as you managed to do.

I met Sister Kauwe just after they were called to be the President and First Lady of BYU–Hawaii and was touched by her humility and meekness, and her love for the Lord. I was impressed by her desire to be a good mother and friend to all of you. I believe that she was called with President Kauwe to serve at BYUH “for such a time as this.”[3] Since that first meeting and as I’ve listened to her speak, I’ve felt her love for you and for the community of Laie.

I am indeed grateful that I was given the unique and distinctive opportunity to attend this institution many years ago and for the positive effect it has had on my life. I came to BYU–Hawaii when I was 17, an inexperienced freshman from Apia, Samoa, very timid and shy. I lived in Hale 3 when the apartment spaces consisted of 8 small rooms with a separating curtain in what was then referred to as a “unit.” In our unit were three Samoans, one Japanese, two Canadians, one Mainlander, and one Hawaiian. While school was in session, the school and dorms were packed with students. During the summer and winter holidays, the locals and mainland students went home. Those of us from Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Asia and basically from the entire Pacific Rim, remained on campus. Even though there were no classes, we worked full-time to earn money to pay for our student loans. Each payday, we went to the business office to endorse our paychecks and receive money for tithing and personal spending. On one occasion as we stood in line, the lady at the window handed a student his paycheck to sign and return. We were all shocked when he ran off with it. She tried calling him back, but he had disappeared very quickly. It was humorous at the time, but I have since felt empathy for that student. There would have been numerous reasons why he desperately needed that money.

Eating in the cafeteria was a luxury during the summer so in order to reduce spending, we opted to provide our own meals. There was no grocery store in Laie so this developed our talents to become very creative. I remember sharing a pack of hot dogs someone gave us and a roommate showing us how to grill each dog on a hot iron. Sometimes we went into the mountains looking for mangoes, papaya and bananas. One of our roommates found an old electric frying pan to cook with. It was the first time I learned to cut up and fry green papaya to make stir fry with a can of fish. Another roommate worked at the PCC diner. When tourists left uneaten food on their plates, she would bring it home for all of us to enjoy. Our dorm parent was Bella Stokoe. On occasion she would make a large pot of Koko rice and feed us when we arrived home from work. On the weekends, there was no food to eat. We became more creative. We walked down the streets of Laie and began knocking on doors. One of us would stand at the opened doors and say, "We are hungry. Do you have any food to spare?" Sometimes the answer was "sorry we don't."

We were fortunate when people like Sister Valu Ta’ilele, Sister Ta’aloga Stone, Sister Eka Aumua, Sister Ann Rivers and Sister Malia Leiataua would recognize us and hand us food or invite us in. I am grateful and will never forget these mothers who loved us, who had hearts of gold to give and fed us “at such a time as this.”[4] Their acts of kindness have had a great effect on my life forever. It has taught me to do things for people NOT because of who they are or what they do for you in return, but because of who I am. It has taught me to simply reach out and LOVE without expectation.

After a year here at BYUH, I needed to make a decision about my major. My desire was to graduate and return to Samoa to help the students at my high school, CCWS. I wanted to be close to the students I was going to teach, to be a mentor as my teachers were to me.

One evening in the unit, I was sharing my feelings with a new roommate who had just returned after serving a mission. She asked where I was from and what I was studying. I mentioned that I was unsure whether I should be a school counselor or an English teacher and was having a difficult time deciding. She asked me if I had fasted and prayed about my decision. I replied that I hadn’t. She began to counsel with me and shared her experiences about fasting and praying for direction and confirmation of decisions. As she shared her thoughts and feelings, I felt strongly that I should try what she suggested. I had fasted every single fast Sunday while growing up at home, but had never fasted for a purpose. Using my own method of pros and cons, I decided I was going to be a school counselor. I reasoned that it was a way that I would be able to encourage and motivate students to not only pursue higher education, but also inspire them on their spiritual path. I chose a day and fasted and prayed to receive confirmation about my decision to be a school counselor. A few days later, I was sitting in a Psychology class taught by Professor Carl Harris. I distinctly and clearly heard Brother Harris say during the lecture, “If you want students to come to you for advice and if you want to inspire your students, don’t be a counselor, be a teacher! Students typically don’t go to counselors. They go to their favorite teacher.”

This experience taught me about what inspiration feels like. Elder Richard G. Scott former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “The Holy Ghost communicates important information that we need to guide us in our mortal journey. When it is crisp and clear and essential, it warrants the title of revelation.” [5]

What does it feel like when the Holy Spirit comes upon you? Most of us have felt the comforting presence of the Holy Ghost at one time or another. One of the best ways to invite the Spirit into your life is to ask for it. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord said, “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith.” [6] Praying every day specifically for the guidance and help of the Holy Ghost will give us spiritual promptings that will help us in everything we do.

Elder Scott further states that “Two indicators that a feeling or prompting comes from God are that it produces peace in your heart and a quiet, warm feeling….The more closely you follow divine guidance, the greater will be your happiness here and for eternity . . .” [7]

I am eternally grateful for my roommate who was courageous enough to share her spiritual wisdom and her missionary experiences with me about praying and fasting with a purpose. I believe that she was sent by a loving Heavenly Father to help me, an amateur sophomore, at “such a time as this.” [8]

You’ve heard me now repeat the words, “at such a time as this.” In the Old Testament, we read about Esther. Her parents had both passed away and she was raised by her cousin, Mordecai. She was a Jew and at the time when she was a young girl, the king of Persia was seeking for a new queen. Many maidens were taken into the king’s palace, but Esther pleased the king “and she obtained grace and favor in his sight.” [9] The king loved Esther “so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen . . .” [10] One of the king’s men, Haman, who was promoted, demanded that all the Jews bow down to him. Mordecai refused to reverence Haman which caused him to feel wrath. Not knowing that Esther was a Jew, the king was convinced by Haman to give him the power to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom.

When Mordecai learned of this, he sent a message to Esther suggesting the possibility that she had become queen, “for such a time as this?” [11] He reinforces the idea that, in all of Esther's life and the series of unusual events that led her to become queen, there was a greater purpose for her.

Esther then decided she and her maidens would fast three days. She asked Mordecai to gather all the Jews to fast for her three days and nights. After the fast, and without being summoned by the King, Esther risked her life and went in unto the king’s court. When the king saw Esther standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight and he said that whatever her request, he would honor it and even give her half of his kingdom. She invited the king and Haman to attend a banquet she had prepared.

In the meantime, the king found out that two of his servants sought to kill the king and that he was saved by Mordecai. The king commanded Haman to honor Mordecai by dressing him in the king’s royal apparel and riding on the king’s horse throughout the city. Once the king learned of the treacherous plan of Haman to destroy all the Jews of which Esther was, Haman was executed, and he took off his ring which he had taken from Haman and gave it to Mordecai. The order to destroy the Jews was reversed and “the king granted the Jews, who were in every city, to stand for their lives and destroy and slay any people that would assault them... And all the rulers of the provinces and lieutenants and the deputies and officers of the king helped the Jews... Many of the people of the land became Jews for fear of the Jews fell upon them. Mordecai and Esther were able to save their people. This, truly was a miracle at “such a time as this.” [12]

When you think of the billions of people born throughout the history of the world, have you ever wondered why you were born at this particular time? Brothers and sisters, each of you is here at this institution for a purpose, at “such a time as this.” You may be a student living in the dorm or off campus. Most of you have roommates. Please don’t be afraid to get to know them, befriend them and share with them your spiritual experiences that may help them along their path. Reaching out to others may be difficult, especially if it’s someone from a different country, from a different background or even different habits and beliefs. Learn to love them and be patient with them. Pray for them and invite them to attend sacrament meeting with you. Invite them to attend the temple with you. Your good example will have a positive effect on them forever as my roommate had on me! Your Christlike efforts performed with love and kindness and bearing your testimony is part of the gathering of Israel. President Nelson has asked us to participate in this important gathering.

He said, “When we speak of gathering Israel on both sides of the veil, we are referring, of course, to missionary, temple, and family history work. We are also referring to building faith and testimony in the hearts of those with whom we live, work, and serve. Anytime we do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—to make and keep their covenants with God, we are helping to gather Israel.” [13]

Your actions have the power to greatly bless the lives of others, your family, friends and those around you. You don’t have to be a queen of many nations or a political figure. As you strive to follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, you leave your mark. You will make a difference and the world a better place. Don’t underestimate the potential you have to influence others for good, whether by your words or your example.

Despite the great challenges we individually and collectively face today, I’m sure you will agree, this is a wonderful time to be alive. In the context of world history, there has never been a more exciting time to sojourn on earth. Like Esther, we must prepare for our time because our time has come.  We must possess the spiritual strength to overcome our challenges, laying our faults on the altar and giving our lives to the Lord.

Three years ago, I received a calling to be a Community Connections Coordinator in our stake. My purpose was to coordinate resources for any in the stake and community who had humanitarian needs. The resources were items such as household goods, furniture, walkers and wheelchairs, food, clothing, shoes, toys and any donated items for the needy. This involved seeking out, collecting and storing multitudes of these items and having them available when needs arose. I had a committee of about 20 people. One of our humanitarian activities is a Winter Clothing drive. Members of our Stake and others would voluntarily donate approximately 1,000 coats along with shoes, winter boots, scarves, beanies, hats, and gloves in preparation for the Saturday Drive. On that day, these items were displayed in our stake cultural hall and the community would come and shop for whatever they needed, free of charge. Many volunteers assisted in the setup and takedown. We managed to have several other drives or activities during the year such as: Easter Egg Hunt, Food Drive, Bicycle Giveaway, Household Goods Exchange, Thanksgiving Meals, Toy Exchange and our biggest event was in September, the “Share the Harvest Fair.” This calling became my second full-time job! Even though it required a lot of planning and coordinating, I absolutely loved it and enjoyed every minute of it!

About a year or so after serving in that calling, our stake president called me and Todd into his office and asked if I would serve in another stake calling which involved missionary work. I immediately felt overwhelmed and for the first time in my life, I did not accept but asked if I could think about it. That evening as I drove to an appointment by our home, I distinctly remember that crisp and clear feeling of these words penetrate my heart and mind saying, “Why are you thinking about your new calling? I will help you. I always help you!!” Once again, the guidance of the Comforter helped me to do the right thing. I immediately called my stake president and accepted the calling.

In D&C 8:2-3, it says, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation . . .”
President Boyd K. Packer taught, “No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less what it will become, without personal inspiration.” [14]

My dear friends, doing the right thing often requires great courage. I know that as you strive to stay on the covenant path and pray in faith to see the Lord’s hand in your life, He will open your eyes and you will see more clearly your purpose at this particular time. You are sons and daughters of Heavenly parents who rule over the worlds and the universe. You can be blessed with priesthood power to do our Father’s amazing work! You are royal heirs to His kingdom, and they stand ready to help. As Mordecai spoke to Esther, for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? [15]

Sister Virginia U. Jensen taught: “I do not believe that you and I are here at this unique time by accident. I believe that, like Esther of old, we are ‘come to the kingdom for such a time as this’ [Esther 4:14], when our influence, our example, our strength, and our faith may stand as a bulwark against the rising tide of evil that threatens to engulf our homes, our families, and our loved ones.” [16]

To each of you, no matter your nationality, race, social status, or individual talents, whether you are married, single, or widowed, whether you were born into the Church or are a new convert and the only member of your family, I say, you are an essential part of the army of our Savior, Jesus Christ, with a divine mission.

Set a goal to act on every righteous thought. You will soon realize that every righteous thought is actually a prompting. If the thought comes to your head to call a friend and check on them, DO IT! You may be prompted to invite a roommate to a Family Home Evening, DO IT! You may see your copy of the Book of Mormon and realize that it’s been a few days or even weeks since you picked it up. PICK IT UP AND READ IT! If you were gifted a journal but have never used it, TAKE IT OUT NOW AND WRITE IN IT! Pray for opportunities to serve more fully and recognize when those opportunities for service help you stretch and grow.

In closing, I’d like to talk briefly about what our dear prophet said, speaking to the youth and all of us regarding gathering Israel on both sides of the veil. He said, “[it is] the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on the were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing...more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing. This gathering should mean everything to you. This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.” [17]

Brothers and sisters, once you and I make a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before. Now we are bound together. He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and He will always have merciful patience with us. He will do everything He can, while allowing us our agency, to help us keep our part of the covenant. He always keeps His word.

Your temple is less than a mile from the university – what a blessing! If you have not made a commitment to attend the temple on a regular basis, do it now! Fast and pray for strength to fulfill your commitment.

Like courageous Esther of old, her unique purpose saved her people at “such a time as this.” My compassionate and caring roommate saved my life by teaching me about fasting and praying with a purpose at “such a time as this.” The sweet mothers in Laie and my dorm mother touched my life by their acts of charity at “such a time as this.” Professor Harris spoke the words by the Spirit in answer to my prayer at “such a time as this.” My life has been changed forever because I attended this special university, BYU –Hawaii, at “such a time as this.”

My beloved family and friends, YOU are free to choose who you will be, but I know, You are the ‘Genuine Gold’ spoken of by David O. McKay, who will be leaders, “not leaders only in this island, but everywhere.” [18] You have a mission, a sacred purpose to fulfill at “such a time as this.” This is the Church of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I testify of its truthfulness in His wonderful and sacred name, Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Fear Not, Monica Kauwe
[2] Esther 4:14
[3] Esther 4:14
[4] Esther 4:14
[5] How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for our Personal Life, Richard G. Scott, April 2012 General Conference
[6] D&C 42:14
[7] How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for our Personal Life, Richard G. Scott, April 2012 General Conference
[8] Esther 4:14
[9] Esther 2:17
[10] Esther 2:17
[11] Esther 4:14
[12] Esther 4:14
[13] Let God Prevail, Russell M. Nelson, General Conference, October 2020
[14] Counsel to Youth – Boyd K. Packer
[15] Esther 4:14
[16] Creating Places of Security, Ensign, Nov. 1997, 89
[17] Worldwide Youth Devotional, Russell M. Nelson, June 3, 2018
[18] Selected quotes compiled from transcripts of tapes and materials on file at BYU-Hawaii Archives; (File: CCH/BYUH, Dedications)