Skip to main content

Enlisted as Soldiers of the Spirit

Brothers and Sisters good morning, and aloha.

I want to express appreciation to my dear wife, Jazzeth, for introducing us. It is an honor for us to be on the program today. We are grateful and amazed that we can serve together at this wonderful university and be associated with you.

Thank you, Bret, Ezra, and Jennifer for your uplifting music. It provided a welcome influence before beginning our remarks.

I am also pleased to have students representing Residential Life on the stand. Our student housing program is a vital part of the university experience, so I appreciate being able to recognize the great work being done by Residential Life and Housing Operations to enhance our campus living environment.

Thank you all for being here. Gathering in this setting is a special time for us to rely on the Spirit and be taught and inspired together. I hope being here each week in devotional remains a priority and that doing so always helps nurture your faith in Jesus Christ and feel more connected as fellow disciples.

The term disciple is defined as a name for “all followers of Jesus Christ,” but a disciple is first identified as “a pupil or learner.” [1] Therefore, our institutional mission to “prepare [you] to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ,” [2] also encompasses being a lifelong learner. This habit is grown through consistent participation in opportunities such as this. It is a valuable way of “making yourself available to the Lord” [3] as Elder Schmutz taught in his recent devotional. I am grateful for the opportunity I have today to provide a message that in some way facilitates spiritual learning and supports your path of discipleship.

When my wife and I were in New York City a few years ago, we visited the main branch of the New York Public Library. It houses many impressive collections. On the third floor we found a set of large murals on display. There was one panel that stood out that I want to show you.

Entitled “The Medieval Scribe" [4] it is a painting of monks working meticulously inside their tower, copying a sacred text. Unfortunately, they are oblivious to the plundering and suffering that is taking place outside their window.

I want to use this piece of art to illustrate some key points from dialogue that I will share from a separate book called, “The White Company.” I think you will find it interesting how well they relate.

Here is a quick backstory to, “The White Company.” It was written by the British novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is best remembered for creating the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. It is an account of a young orphan named Alleyne whose humble ambition is to someday return to the abbey where he was raised and become a monk. Before doing so, he is required to leave his sheltered upbringing and learn about the outside world.

The scene I wish to match with the mural is an encounter between Alleyne and Lady Maude. She is the young daughter of a famous knight, who has hired Alleyne to be her tutor. However, it is the graceful but outspoken Lady Maude who will be the teacher in this instance.

Lady Maude is teasing Alleyne and challenging his reasons to become a monk. This is not the first time she has provoked him, and he reacts with frustration:

“I am the weakest of the weak,” he [groans]. “I pray that I may have more strength.”

“And to what end?” she ask[s] sharply. “If you are, as I understand, to shut yourself forever in your [room] within the four walls of an abbey, then of what use would it be were your prayer to be answered?”

“The use of my own salvation.” [he replies].

“Your own, you own, ever your own!” “Why…should you, who are soldiers of the Spirit, be ever moping or hiding, …with minds full of your own concerns, while the world, which you should be mending, is going on its way, and neither sees nor hears you?”

At this point, Alleyne can only offer a weak defense:

“There is [truth] in what you say...and yet I scarce can see what you would have [us] to do.”

With “eloquence and conviction” Lady Maude concludes: “I would have them...preaching by their lives rather than their words...I have asked myself if the best which can be done with virtue is to shut it within high walls as though it were some savage creature. If the good will lock themselves up, and if the wicked will still wander free, then alas for the world." [5]

Lady Maude is disappointed with the example of the monks who are absentee “soldiers of the Spirit”. They are caught up in their own projects and interests while neglecting the critical needs of others. There is so much they could do to offer compassion and Godly influence. Alleyne is left to ponder this dilemma and demonstrate his true character. Lady Maude was not mocking Alleyne’s desire to live a life for God. Rather she wanted him to see more clearly God's desires for the life of Alleyne, to live in His service.

That is my invitation to you as well, to discover all the good that our Heavenly Father desires for your life and how you might be enlisted as an active rather than passive soldier of the Spirit.

What a wonderful time it is to be enlisted in the Lord’s service and to be trained as soldiers of the Spirit at BYU–Hawaii. You have been granted an amazing opportunity to gain an education and prepare for the future armed with the blessings, knowledge, and abilities that will transform your lives and make you of greater use to the service of others.

I am going to talk briefly about six enlistments that are part of what I am calling the Soldier of the Spirit Experience here at BYU–Hawaii. Enlistments are the voluntary, but intentional responsibilities and commitments we undertake in choosing to live (or consecrate) our lives as soldiers of the Spirit. In the Lord’s battalion, everyone can enlist. All are invited, welcomed, and needed.

The six enlistments of a soldier of the Spirit are:

  • Charity
  • Intelligence
  • Covenants
  • Character
  • Unity
  • Joy

First, Charity

A soldier of the Spirit strives to be like the Savior and be filled with the perfect love He has for all His children. “Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever... Wherefore, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” [6]

A true disciple is motivated by the example of Jesus Christ to reach out with compassion to those who may be troubled or distressed. A soldier of the Spirit displays selfless concern for others and helps lift and bear burdens. They access the power of Christ’s atonement in dealing with their own struggles, so they can better support and minister to others in doing so as well.

The Savior commands us to love one another as He loves us and that by this we will be known as His disciples. [7] As you consider the needs of family members, roommates, neighbors, friends, and even strangers, and are less concerned about your own welfare, your love for others will increase and you will see them more clearly. The love you feel from God and for Him will also expand.

Second is Intelligence

President Russell M. Nelson teaches us: “Education is yours to obtain. No one else can gain it for you. Wherever you are, develop a deep desire to learn. For us as Latter-day Saints, gaining an education is not just a privilege, it is a religious responsibility. ‘The glory of God is intelligence’ (D&C 93:36). Indeed, our education is for the eternities." [8]

By enrolling as a student here, you embraced President Nelson’s charge to develop a deep desire to learn. You made a commitment to take your education seriously and be accountable for your learning. We are told, “…if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his or her diligence and obedience than another, he or she will have so much the advantage…” [9] Being enlisted as a soldier of the Spirit means you are willing to pay the price to learn what you want to become. By obtaining intelligence, you are also honoring God and developing your eternal potential to be like Him. We believe in eternal progression and that we never cease to learn.

Third is Covenants

President Nelson has shared, “Each person who makes covenants…—and keeps them—has increased access to the power of Jesus Christ.” “The reward for keeping covenants with God is heavenly power—power that strengthens us…" [10]

Our campus is fortunate to be adjacent to the beautiful Laie Hawaii Temple. Many of you regularly work and worship in the House of the Lord. You have a significant opportunity to serve unselfishly in the interest of others while gaining spiritually yourselves.

Soldiers of the Spirit draw upon the power of their covenants to accomplish the Lord’s purposes and assist in gathering Israel. We have been promised by our prophet: “Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere.” [11]

I am grateful that we have access to these sacred blessings and privileges. Never has there been a student body better prepared or equipped to be soldiers of the Spirit and meet the obligations and challenges of today.

Fourth is Character

A soldier of the Spirit is loyal to the principles of character and standards of appearance contained in our Honor Code. Elder Neal A. Maxwell offers helpful insight with the following:
First, “Righteous desires need to be relentless, … because, said President Brigham Young, ‘the men and women, who desire to obtain seats in the celestial kingdom, will find that they must battle... every day’ (in Journal of Discourses, 11:14). Therefore, true Christian soldiers are more than weekend warriors.” [12]

Second, “Those who live ‘after the manner of happiness’ (2 Nephi 5:27) also wisely develop protective, spiritual manners. These manners are reflected in their proper dress, language, humor, and music, thereby sending the signal of determined discipleship (see Prov. 23:7)." [13]

A true soldier of the Spirit is committed to putting on the “whole armour of God” [14], not just parts of it and not just on occasion. We value internal morality through principles of honor and virtue, as well as external behaviors such as proper dress and regular church attendance. A determined disciple adopts these “protective, spiritual manners” that invite the Spirit, promote integrity, foster uplifting interactions, safeguard against harmful influences, and express a style unique to our Church Educational System.

Fifth is Unity

An ensign is “a flag or a standard around which people gather in a unity of purpose... In ancient times an ensign served as a rallying point for soldiers in battle.” [15] Think of the words in our opening hymn, "Stand by our colors, proudly they wave. [...] Rally round the standard of the cross." Today, I envision our flag circle as our rallying point and ensign for all of you who are BYU–Hawaii soldiers of the Spirit.

We represent a great brotherhood and sisterhood from around the world working together in unity of purpose. President Nelson stated: “On every continent and across the isles of the sea, faithful people are being gathered into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Differences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance as the faithful enter the covenant path and come unto our beloved Redeemer.” [16]

In Moses 7:18 we read, “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” As soldiers of the Spirit, we work to be one in Christ, live in righteous, and ensure there are no spiritually, emotionally, physically, socially, nor temporally poor among us.

Sixth is Joy

In the hymn “We Are All Enlisted” we sing the refrain, “Happy are we! Happy are we!” Also, “We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.” The repetition and exclamation points remind us that as soldiers of the Spirit we should be cheerfully engaged even though the battle may be raging around us. We can stand confident and joyful that a “bright crown” awaits us as we follow Jesus Christ, our leader, “who ever is near.”

President Nelson said: “We as servants of the Lord are advocates of joy.” [16] Soldiers of the Spirit are advocates and champions of joy.

I am reminded of what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told us when he was here for the inauguration of President Kauwe. In the buoyant spirit of that occasion, he said, “Every now and then... school is supposed to just be I command all of you to be happy. You are to have fun today…” [17] While I do not have that same kind of authority, I will echo Elder Holland’s wise counsel and extend his good-natured imperative that you all be of good cheer and find joy today and every day.

Ever since arriving here almost three years ago, I have been reflecting on the unique features of BYU–Hawaii. What is unique about us? It is not necessarily our campus, our leadership, our community, or even our partnership with the Polynesian Cultural Center. The fundamental answer is you! I am inspired by you students whose light shines as soldiers of the Spirit. Thank you for enlisting as you strive to love as the Savior loves, to increase in knowledge and wisdom, to make and keep sacred covenants, to exemplify character and integrity, to be united as fellow disciples, and celebrate life with joy.


I am glad to have shared one of my favorite books, “The White Company,” from which I acquired the term “soldiers of the Spirit.” The exchange between Alleyne and Lady Maude helped me see how we may overestimate our own self-assured contributions and underestimate the impact we can have with elevated awareness and compassion. We can all identify with the motivations of Alleyne, who is capable and well-intentioned, but also inexperienced and insecure. We can also relate to Lady Maude’s sense of injustice and wanting to unleash the power of goodness and virtue to improve the world.

As a quick epilogue to the story, I should share that after spending more time with him, Lady Maude grew quite fond of the genuine and kind-hearted Alleyne. But he has gone off to war with her father. As time passes, she fears that he has been killed in battle. Ironically, she decides to turn her back on the world and take shelter from her grief by becoming a nun. She does not know that Alleyne has recovered from grave injuries and has distinguished himself through several noble deeds and rescues. He returns with honor and has been knighted, Sir Alleyne. He has also inherited wealth and property, which makes his conversion from fumbling tutor to brave hero complete. He arrives in time to rescue her at the convent's threshold with a marriage proposal.

Let me be clear this is not a romance novel. It is a serious action and adventure tale that happens to have a happy ending. Alleyne never becomes a monk nor Lady Maude a nun. Nevertheless, they both teach us through their devotion to God, their concern for others, and their hope for the future. Each of us is likewise poised to make a difference and positively influence those around us as fully enlisted soldiers of the Spirit.

Many of you practice and apply these enlistments naturally. I hope they will continue to develop and expand as a meaningful part of your journey of self-discovery and service here. I hope that being a soldier of the Spirit at BYU–Hawaii will enable you to gain the qualities to make of you a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for who we are becoming and for all that we are overcoming as we allow God to prevail in our lives. I testify that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have a perfect love for each of us. They will use our efforts and call upon us each day to accomplish their purposes at BYU–Hawaii and beyond. We are all enlisted as soldiers in a royal army. Through Christ our victory is secure.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Gospel Library Bible Dictionary, “Disciple”.
[2] BYU Hawaii Mission Statement.
[3] Elder Evan A. Schmutz, “Here Am I, Send Me”, BYU Hawaii Devotional, May 24, 2023.
[4] Murals in the McGraw Rotunda of the New York Public Library were created under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and are in the public domain. “Story of the Recorded Word” by artist: Edward Laning.
[5] The White Company, William Morrow and Company (1988), pp.113-114.
[6] Moroni 7:47, 48.
[7] See John 13:34-35.
[8] Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Youth of the Noble Birthright: What Will You Choose?”, CES Worldwide Devotional, September 6, 2013.
[9] See D&C 130:19.
[10] President Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest”, October 2022 General Conference.
[11] President Russell M. Nelson, “As We Go Forward Together”, April 2018 General Conference.
[12] Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts”, October 1996 General Conference.
[13] Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “The Seventh Commandment: A Shield”, October 2001 General Conference.
[14] Ephesians 6:11
[15] Gospel Library Guide to the Scriptures, “Ensign”.
[16] President Russell M. Nelson, “Building Bridges”, “Be One,” the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood, June 1, 2018.
[17] Russell M. Nelson, “Accomplishing the Impossible: What God does. What We Can Do.”, 2015, Deseret Book Company, p. 142.
[18] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Historic and Special Day”, Inauguration of President John S. K. Kauwe III, October 29, 2021.