Last week in their devotional, the Kauwes shared messages about how personal integrity and the gospel of Jesus Christ have the power to bring you the strength to endure the trials of this life. I hope you will follow their wise counsel and their faithful examples.
Please know that President and Sister Kauwe always have your best interest at heart. They have been called and are here at this time to fulfill President David O. McKay’s vision for this special place. I can attest that the Kauwes have a deep love for this university. And they have an even deeper love for you, our BYU–Hawaii students. Please don’t forget that.
Years ago, when I worked for BYUtv and BYU Broadcasting, I was asked to serve as a member of the network’s content committee. Basically, producers and outside production companies would come in and pitch us their show ideas. We would pick a few, and those were the new shows that would get produced for the next season.
I can clearly remember one of the very first pitches I heard while serving on this team. The pitch was simple: Everyone has a story, and those stories matter. This producer was on a mission to find and share those everyday stories. His proposal was to randomly pick places off of a map, travel there, and then knock on someone’s door--unannounced, I might add--so we could record and share their story on national television.
So, did it work? We did greenlight this production, which went on to run for 12 seasons, confirming the premise of the show: everyone has a story and those stories matter.
What’s Your Story
So, what’s your story? Is this your first semester here? Or are you a senior finishing up the end of your college career at BYU–Hawaii? Are you still trying to figure out your major and your minors for your Holokai? Or are you one of the lucky few who knows exactly what you want to do once you leave this school?
My BYU–Hawaii story starts in my junior year of high school. It was time to apply for colleges, and the good news was I knew exactly where I wanted to go—and that was here to BYU–Hawaii. My family had been here to Laie to visit a couple of times. My mom is also from Tahiti, and I had been fortunate to spend quite a few of my summers when I was growing up with my grandparents in Papeete, where they lived. So, BYU–Hawaii was always a school I was interested in.
There was just one teeny, tiny problem. My parents, or my dad to be more specific, had decided I would be going to BYU in Provo. The funny thing is my dad wasn’t even a member of the Church at that time, but his heart was set on Provo for some reason. (My sister always joked this was only because of the famous BYU football player, Jim McMahon.) I would also be the first person in my family to attend college, something my dad was very proud of. I had just always known that this was not a topic that was up for discussion.
I can remember trying to work up the courage to have this crucial conversation with them, which I finally did only because the application deadline was coming up. I just needed to convince them this was where I was supposed to be. I just knew it.
So, I pled my case, and I got my answer. You can go to BYU…in Provo.
I was so disappointed, but I was also a very obedient daughter who did what she was told. In the fall of 1990, I moved from Chicago, Illinois, to Provo, Utah. I was 17 years old when I moved into my dorm room at Deseret Towers and started my first year.
Don’t worry, though. I did eventually make my way here to my dream school. It only took me 26 more years to get here. I didn’t know it at the time, but Heavenly Father had a different story in mind for me. Looking back now, I can see how this beautiful life that I have is a perfectly curated masterpiece authored by a loving Heavenly Father just for me.
Invite Christ to Author Your Story
In her October 2021 General Conference talk, Primary General President, Sister Camille N. Johnson, urges us to invite Christ to author our story.1 She teaches us how we can let the Savior be the author and finisher of our personal narrative by having the faith to let God prevail in our lives.
She begins by posing several questions:
- What kind of personal narrative are you writing for your life?
- Is the path you describe in your story straight?
- Does your story end where it began, at your heavenly home?
- Is there an exemplar in your story, and it is the Savior Jesus Christ?
What are some of the things that keep us from turning our stories over to our Savior? Let me share a little more of what Sister Johnson had to say:
“Perhaps it’s because we don’t have the faith to accept the answer we might receive. Perhaps it’s because the natural man or woman in us is resistant to turning things over completely to the Lord and trusting him entirely.”
Two words that were emphasized in that passage are completely and entirely. How many of us sometimes try to pick and choose what we want to turn over to the Lord—like maybe we trust almost completely or almost entirely? I know I’ve done that before. I am also not proud to admit that I have, on past occasions, tried pleading with Heavenly Father to accept MY plan or MY timing—as if somehow I know better than He does.
Sister Johnson continues by saying, “Maybe that is why we choose to stick to the narrative we have written for ourselves, a comfortable version of our story unedited by the Master Author. We don’t want to ask a question and get an answer that doesn’t fit neatly into the story we are writing for ourselves.”
Can it be hard to leave our comfort zone even when we know we should? I’m guilty of doing that.
What about trying to ignore promptings? Has anyone else ever done that? And how does that usually turn out?
Staying on the Covenant Path
I do love how Sister Johnson shared examples from the scriptures of those who had the faith to let God author their story. The story of David overcoming Goliath. Esther and her courage to approach the king, even though she knew that anyone who did so without being called for could be put to death, saying “...and if I perish, I perish.” Luckily for us, as Sister Johnson points out, Esther’s level of courage is not what is asked of us.
Both David and Esther could have chosen the easier path and gone home, but these valiant examples put their trust and their faith in God.
One valiant example of faith that I have looked to in my life is that of my great grandfather, Tahauri Hutihuti. Tahauri was born in 1884 on the very small atoll of Takaro of the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia.
When he was baptized in 1893 or even when he married Pipi Tehetu Tetoka in 1903, it may have never occurred to him that he might go to a temple one day. At the time, the only temples were still in Utah. Even the Laie Hawaii Temple was not dedicated until 1919.
Like many other people on Takaroa, Papa Tahauri, or Papa Ru’au, as my mom called him, was a pearl shell diver. After my great-grandmother died in 1927, Papa Tahauri started saving what he could from his meager earnings as a pearl shell diver so he could go to the temple to be sealed to his wife and children. Except for a very small number of members who had traveled to Hawaii to receive their endowments in English, no Tahitian had ever received the temple endowment in the Tahitian language.
Over the years, Papa Tahauri and his fellow Saints continued to save and make plans for a temple excursion, and the temple made plans for them. In 1958, a temple was dedicated in Hamilton, New Zealand. Additionally, the temple ceremony was translated into Tahitian by Edgar Bentley Mitchell, who had served as a missionary to Tahiti in the 1930s and later returned as the mission president in 1944.
In late 1963, 64 Saints, including my Papa Tahauri, had qualified themselves to enter the temple. Funds had been raised, and travel arrangements were made for the trip.
It was almost midnight on December 24, 1963, when the travelers first saw the temple lights as they arrived on the temple grounds there in New Zealand.
Christmas Day was spent in the temple, and my 84-year-old Papa Tahauri received his endowments that day. A few days later, he was sealed to his wife as well as to two sons and a daughter who had died.
It is reported that these Tahitian Saints spent nearly every waking hour in the temple until they returned home on January 5, 1964. An elder in the mission home recorded that day saying, “The members who returned from New Zealand today are literally radiant and beaming and filled with the spirit of the gospel. We know that they will be a real strength to our mission.” 2
Tahauri Hutihuti is who I think of when I realize that I am taking my temple attendance for granted. He was also the first person who came to my mind when I heard that the temples were closing because of COVID. I try to make sure that I am living my life in a way that would make him proud. His example and sacrifice push me to be a better disciple of Christ.
I’ve wondered if there were people, maybe acquaintances or even family members, who told my great grandfather he wouldn’t be able to do this. That he was too old. Or that it seemed like a crazy idea to have to travel that far. At one point, an earlier temple excursion had been arranged for the group to travel here to Laie. The plan was to sail to Hawaii on an old 80-foot sailboat that the Tahiti Mission used to travel between the branches on the outer islands. That temple trip was canceled when President David O. McKay sent word from Salt Lake City just before the scheduled departure date that the group should not make the voyage. I’m sure the Saints were very disappointed, but not long after, that boat sank in the Papeete harbor.
I am eternally grateful for those Tahitian Saints who didn’t let that setback—an actual sinking ship—be the end of that story.
Trust in the Lord
So, let’s go back to the question that was posed earlier: What keeps us from turning our stories over to the Savior?
Think about that for a moment: What is it that holds you back from letting the Lord be the author of your story? And what can you do to change that?
I know for me personally, the biggest thing that I have a hard time with is giving up that control. As my family can confirm, I am a little bit of a control freak. Ok, I’m a huge control freak. So, I know firsthand how hard it can be to turn things over completely to the Lord. Remember our chat earlier about completely and entirely.
But I also know that the more we can put our trust in the Lord, if we can allow the Savior to write our story WITH us, he can help us become the person we are truly meant to be—a true disciple of the Lord.
Sister Johnson reminds us why the Savior is the supreme author and finisher, saying, “Because He knows our potential perfectly, He will take us to places we never imagined ourselves. He may make us a David or an Esther. He will stretch us and refine us to be more like Him. The things we will achieve as we act with more faith will increase our faith in Jesus Christ.”
So sometimes, it can be not trusting enough in the Lord. Other times, it can just be distractions that keep us from focusing on what is truly most important.
In Come Follow Me, we read recently in the Book of Exodus when Aaron makes a golden calf. It can be easy for us to look down on the Israelites for wanting to worship a golden calf. But unfortunately, idolatry is still a sin that still exists in our modern-day times. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord said that one of the causes of sin in the world today is that “Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.” 3
What are some of the golden calves that we worship today? President Spencer W. Kimball taught that false gods or idols include “everything which entices a person away from duty, loyalty, and love for and service to God.” 4
From material possessions, recreation, and even sometimes our business pursuits, we still worship many false gods today. We need to be careful that we don’t let these distractions become more important than the Lord.
One last point on the things that can keep us from turning our story over to the Lord. Sister Johnson pointed out that it’s the trials in our life that refine us. I wish it wasn’t that way. I know when I look back on my life and the times that I have grown the most, it’s when I have struggled the most. Life can be hard. Very hard. But it is the struggles in our stories that push us and help us to grow, and ultimately draw us closer to the Savior and make us more like Him.
Let God Prevail in Your Life
In his October 2020 General Conference talk entitled “Let God Prevail,” 5 President Russell M. Nelson challenged each of us to make God the most important influence in our lives. I’m sure you all remember this talk when he asked,
“Are you willing to let God prevail in your life?
Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life?
Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day?
Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other?
Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition?
Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?”
Towards the end of that talk, he shares the blessings we can receive when we follow his prophetic counsel:
“When your greatest desire is to let God prevail, to be a part of Israel, so many decisions become easier. So many issues become nonissues! You know how to best groom yourself. You know what to watch and read, where to spend your time, and with whom to associate. You know what you want to accomplish. And the kind of person you really want to become.”
I know I mentioned earlier that my great grandfather, Tahauri Hutihuti, makes me want to become a better disciple of Christ. I want to conclude with one final story about him. This account comes from Elder Marlowe Kent Ashton, a missionary that served in Tahiti from 1962 to 1965.
And one quick side note to all of you missionaries and future missionaries—please make sure to record these stories. Remember, everyone has a story and those stories matter. You don’t know how grateful I am to have these words about my great grandfather.
Elder Ashton said, “In 1964, Elder Thomas S. Monson, youngest member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, was assigned to oversee the missions of the South Pacific. When he visited the French Polynesian Mission in Tahiti, I, one of the missionaries there, was asked to translate for him at a special conference where he would talk to the members and missionaries in the capital city of Papeete. At the end of the conference, we all stood to sing “We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet.”
During the song, Elder Monson walked down into the audience to stand by an old man in shabby clothing standing next to one of the pews. He put his arm around the man, and we all sang this song in French, Tahitian, and English. Although President Monson could not see what was happening, I was standing where I could see many members of the congregation shedding tears as they watched an apostle of the Lord standing by one of the great and most beloved members of the Church in Tahiti. His name was Tahauri Hutihuti.” 6
When I was preparing for this devotional, I saw that President Monson even shared part of this story when he was here in Laie in January 1999 at a BYU–Hawaii devotional. Over the years, I had heard President Monson share this story in General Conference and a couple of other talks. I’m going to finish the rest of the story in President Monson’s own words:
“As I said a tender good-bye to the Tahitians, each one came forward, placed an exquisite shell lei about my neck, and left an affectionate kiss upon my cheek. Tahauri, who did not speak English, stood by my side and spoke to me through an interpreter. The interpreter listened attentively and then, turning to me, reported: "Tahauri says he has no gift to bestow except the love of a full heart." Tahauri clasped my hand and kissed my cheek. Of all the gifts received that memorable night, the gift of this faithful man remains the brightest.” 7
Brothers and sisters, I want to bear my testimony that I know God lives because I have felt His blessings in my life.
I know that Jesus Christ restored His church in these Latter-days, and I am blessed by the teachings of our modern-day prophets.
I also know that He sent His son to suffer, die, and live for me because I have felt the comfort of his forgiveness many, many times.
I know Jesus Christ stands ready to help author each of our stories—and he will write us a masterpiece—if we only have the faith to let Him.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
- Camille N. Johnson, "Invite Christ to Author Your Story," General Conference, October 2021
- Ardis E. Parshall, "Tahauri a Hutihtui: Thirty Years," 2009
- Doctrine and Covenants 1:16
- The Miracle of Forgiveness, pg. 40
- Russel M. Nelson, "Let God Prevail," General Conference, October 2020
- Marlowe K. Ashton, 2018
- Thomas S. Monson, 1966 General Conference Report, pg. 10