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Prepared for Your Finest Hour

Sisters and brothers, Aloha.

New students and employees, we extend you a special welcome to our BYU–Hawaii Ohana!

Our employees recently had the pleasure of hosting President Emily Belle Freeman, Young Women General President and member of the BYU–Hawaii Board of Trustees. She referred to a quote from Sir Winston Churchill that aligned closely with the remarks I had been considering for today’s devotional. Churchill said, “To each, there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour."

These words reminded me of the story of the famous American heavyweight boxer Joe Louis Barrow. Known to the world as Joe Louis or the Brown Bomber, he is one of the most storied champions in heavyweight boxing history. Even early in his career, his rise to becoming the heavyweight champion looked inevitable. But, after a streak of wins against top contenders, Louis became complacent and began to stray from the daily routine that made him excellent. In 1936, in New York City, he faced a fighter named Max Schmeling. The stakes were high, as the fight represented the conflict between American democracy and German fascism. Schmeling won the fight in the twelfth round by knockout. The loss devastated Joe Louis and many in the United States. One attendee noted the reaction,

“I walked down Seventh Avenue and saw grown men weeping like children, and women sitting in the curbs with their heads in their hands. All across the country that night when the news came that Joe was knocked out, people cried.” [1]

Sadly, Louis was “unprepared or unqualified for what could have been his finest hour.”

He regrouped, rededicated himself to a productive daily routine, and set out for redemption. The following year, he became the heavyweight champion. And a year later, he beat Schmeling with a first-round knockout. He remained the champion for nearly 12 years and had a streak of 25 successful defenses of his title. Louis’s later life was difficult and tragic, but he is credited with a quote that has great meaning.

He said, “A champion doesn't become a champion in the ring, he's merely recognized in the ring. His ‘becoming’ happens during his daily routine.”

Today, I want to talk to you about some of the choices you can make in your daily routine, and how those efforts will prepare and qualify you for your finest hour.

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi is a wonderful example of steady development and persistent effort.

Nephi wanted to know and understand what his father Lehi knew so he did the work! He “cried unto the Lord” frequently. The Lord visited him and Nephi believed.

Acting on that assurance, Nephi was able to get the plates from Laban but only after he and his brothers had tried several different ways.

Nephi didn’t know how to build a ship. But he went to work building tools as soon as he was given the task. His brothers mocked and doubted him but the Lord showed him “from time to time after what manner [he] should work the timbers of the ship.” [1 Nephi 18:1]

Nephi’s writing reflects his desire that we understand the importance of small and consistent efforts.

In 1 Nephi 16:29 he wrote, "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things;"

In 2 Nephi 28:30 he wrote, “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom;”

Modern prophets often remind us of this same principle. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, recently said, "Do you want to change the shape of your life? Change the shape of your day. Do you want to change your day? Change this hour. Change what you think, feel, and do at this very moment." [2]

President Ballard gave specific direction about the essential habits we should adopt when he said, “The Lord outlined simple, personal habits that keep us rooted, grounded, and connected to Him. Such habits, when done with full purpose of heart, real intent, and without hypocrisy and deception, allow us to be unwavering disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These essential habits include the things that seem to easily slip away in the rush of our very busy lives, even when we are engaged in good things like pursuing an education, working to support a family, and involving ourselves in community and Church service.

They include sincere daily prayer, faithful fasting, regular study and pondering of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets, making the Sabbath day a delight, partaking of the sacrament with humility and always remembering the Savior, worshipping in the temple as often as possible, and, finally, reaching out to the needy, poor, and lonely—both those close by and across the world.” [3]

This is a simple and essential list. Let’s review briefly:

  • Prayer
  • Regular study and pondering of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets
  • Reaching out to the needy, poor, and lonely


  • making the Sabbath day a delight
  • partaking of the sacrament with humility


  • faithful fasting
  • Worshipping in the temple as often as possible
  • Always remembering the Savior

I urge you to heed this wonderful advice. These small and simple things will prepare and qualify you for your finest hour.

We recently received some additional direction from living prophets that is designed to help us become champions for the Lord. It is very specific to each of you, the Church Educational System Honor Code.

As a student in the Church Educational System, or employee, you have a special kuleana. That word refers to stewardship and the fact that you have both privileges and responsibilities as a student here. The CES Honor Code and Dress and Grooming principles and expectations help you know what is required of you when you accept the sacred privilege of representing the Church in a visible, and lasting way as a member in the CES.

Let’s read it together, and I’ll add some commentary.

The Church Educational System is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church) and directed by the Church Board of Education/Boards of Trustees, with the mission to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the Church, and their communities. 

The CES Honor Code helps to accomplish the CES mission to build disciples of Jesus Christ. As faculty, administration, staff, and students voluntarily commit to conduct their lives in accordance with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they strive to maintain the highest standards in their personal conduct regarding honor, integrity, morality, and consideration of others. By accepting appointment, continuing in employment, being admitted, or continuing enrollment, each member of the campus communities personally commits to observe the CES Honor Code approved by the Board of Trustees.

Let’s stop there, who does this apply to? That is right. Every one of us. Faculty, Staff, Missionaries, Students. And as we read this, I think you will find that every one of us has ways that we could improve at living these standards.

So, let’s continue. First,

  • Maintain an Ecclesiastical Endorsement, including striving to deepen faith and maintain gospel standards.
  • Be honest.
  • Academic honesty is paramount to your progression while at BYU–Hawaii. Do your own work. Do not cheat. Do not help others cheat.
  • Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from sexual relations outside marriage between a man and a woman. Living a chaste and virtuous life also includes abstaining from same-sex romantic behavior.
  • Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping, marijuana, and other substance abuse.
  • Participate regularly in Church services.

Let’s stop here and discuss this for just a moment.

The Lord has commanded us to honor the sabbath day, and keep it holy. That is an important principle. The guideline you have been given is to participate in your church meetings regularly. That means YOUR meeting. That means nearly every week. That means fulfilling your calling. Please notice that other Sabbath activities are not prescribed or forbidden. For the rest of your observance, you must follow principles. President Nelson teaches, “How do we hallow the Sabbath day? In my much younger years, I studied the work of others who had compiled lists of things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath. It wasn’t until later that I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father. With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, ‘What sign do I want to give to God?’ That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear.” [4]

Continuing, it reads:

  • Respect others, including the avoidance of profane and vulgar language.
  • Obey the law and follow campus policies, including the CES Dress and Grooming standards.

Let’s take a moment to review the updated Dress and Grooming principles and expectations.

Each student, employee, and volunteer commits to: 

  • Represent the Savior Jesus Christ, the Church, and the Church Educational System.
  • Preserve an inspiring environment, without distraction or disruption, where covenants are kept in a spirit of unity so the Holy Ghost can teach truth.
  • Promote modesty, cleanliness, neatness, and restraint in dress and grooming.
  • Maintain an elevated standard distinctive to educational institutions of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Dress and grooming expectations as in the examples below should align with these principles. However, application of these principles is not limited to the expectations listed. Members of the university community are expected to apply these principles to dress and grooming questions as they arise. 

CES Dress and Grooming Expectations
Dress for men and women should:

  • Be modest in fit and style. Dressing in a way that would cover the temple garment is a good guideline, whether or not one has been endowed. Accommodation may be made for athletic participation.
  • Be neat and clean. Sloppy, overly casual, ragged, or extreme clothing is not acceptable.


  • Hair should be clean, neat, modest, and avoid extremes in styles and colors.
  • Men’s hair should be neatly trimmed. Men should be clean shaven. If worn, mustaches should be neatly trimmed.

Men, I encourage you to carefully consult some women in your life about whether you should have a mustache or not.

Now, what we just read is very similar to what we are taught regarding the Sabbath, some clear expectations with principles to help us govern our other actions.

Even with this clarity, some of you might be asking, “Why can’t I wear more revealing clothing that fits the current styles?”

And yes, I am talking about you men and your short shorts…
You might also be asking, “Why can't I have a beard?”

Well, many of you couldn’t grow a beard if you tried. But this is not a challenge, now isn’t the time to try. Seriously though, let’s address those questions. To start, consider how you use social media. I would guess that most of you have some kind of social media account. Even if you don't have social media, you've probably taken a selfie. Right?

And when you take a selfie, do you take just one selfie?
No, you take a couple, right? Why do you do that?
And when you post a picture, do you post the first one you took?
No, you don't do that, right? You look at all the photos from that event and that moment, and you pick the one that represents you and the event the way you want it to be perceived by others. Right?
Why do you do that? Of course, you have a particular image you want to maintain and a way of communicating that image that is important to you. That seems reasonable. We all do that.

So, if you step outside of your honor code commitment, having a beard is not a moral issue at all. And there will be plenty of time for you to test out your beard after you graduate. But when you or I commit to live by the CES Honor Code that changes. The “Why” is not complicated, being clean-shaven is simply an expectation of you from the Board of Trustees. It is completely normal for a company that hires you to tell you there are some standards for how you are expected to present yourself as a representative of that organization. There is no value in trying to engage in a moral debate about beards. The other aspects of the grooming expectations are also part of the baseline for what the Board of Trustees expects of you as you represent the Church Educational System. There are a few clear expectations, and there are four simple principles to govern the rest of your dress and grooming.

I expect you, and the Board of Trustees expects you, to follow these expectations, and then sincerely use these principles to govern your lives. I hope that's what I will see from you. We will do that together. It is part of our kuleana.

When we do, we're practicing a pattern that helps us follow Jesus Christ and honor the covenants we've made with our Heavenly Father.

Finally, the Honor Code states that you have committed to,

Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming standards.

This means that as a roommate, friend, and coworker, you should do what you can to help others honor their commitments. What are the best ways to do that?

First, set a good example. And second, teach the principles with love and candor.

Students, look to your Faculty and Staff for an example. They are your teachers and mentors. They have experienced the blessings of living the Honor Code and honoring sacred covenants and can help and encourage you. Please accept their loving counsel, and when necessary, correction. Faculty and Staff, it is your responsibility to set a good example and teach principles with love and candor. If you want assistance, the Office of Honor is happy to help you find and practice the right ways to support a student who is struggling with any aspect of the honor code.

In many cases living outside of the Honor Code puts a person in danger. Standing back while people you know, and love are cheating on schoolwork or violating immigration laws will only increase the probability of serious consequences for them. Doing nothing while others are abusing substances or otherwise putting their physical, mental, or spiritual health at risk only leads to more harm. We are a family. When one of us is in danger we should do what is necessary, even hard things, to support and protect each other. Reporting a concern to the Office of Honor should come after setting a good example and trying to teach principles with love and candor.

I want you to know that the Office of Honor isn’t a place that “gets you in trouble.” Meeting with the Office of Honor is a chance to get help in understanding the commitment you have made, learning how and why you are falling short, and developing a plan for health, happiness, and success.

“Punishment” in the form of losing the privilege of attending BYU–Hawaii will nearly always be associated with conduct that demonstrates a person is NOT genuinely striving to be a covenant and commitment-keeping member of the BYU–Hawaii Ohana.

The standards have been simplified and clarified for you. The Lord has put more trust in you than ever before. Prayerfully live by these principles and honor that trust. If you decide to behave at the outer edges of these principles, then you should expect others who care about you, including the Office of Honor, to talk to you about your commitment from time to time, because we love you.

Finally, I want to be very clear. Continued adherence to the Honor Code is not a matter of preference or opinion. It is a matter of personal integrity and a requisite for your continued attendance and employment at BYU–Hawaii. 

As we work to develop our physical, spiritual, social, and intellectual strength with our daily routines, live up to our commitments, and learn to align our lives with the principles of the gospel, we will improve our ability to honor our covenants and progress to make new covenants with God.

In closing I share with you two joyful teachings about covenants from our living Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson.

First, “making and keeping covenants actually makes life easier! Each person who makes covenants in baptismal fonts and in temples—and keeps them—has increased access to the power of Jesus Christ. Please ponder that stunning truth!

The reward for keeping covenants with God is heavenly power—power that strengthens us to withstand our trials, temptations, and heartaches better. This power eases our way. Those who live the higher laws of Jesus Christ have access to His higher power. Thus, covenant keepers are entitled to a special kind of rest that comes to them through their covenantal relationship with God.” [5]

And second, “Once you and I have made a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before our covenant. Now we are bound together. Because of our covenant with God, He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart. He has high hopes for us.” [6]

I testify you to you that we are children of God, and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I testify to you that President Nelson is God’s prophet on this earth. Your Heavenly Father has entrusted you with great blessings and has great confidence in you. I testify to you that your righteous daily routine will reflect your commitment to God, and he will empower you to have peace, joy, and the strength to overcome the pain and challenges of this world. He will ensure that your righteous, daily efforts qualify for your finest hour.

I love each of you dearly and I am certain that we have here assembled some of the most powerful people on this earth; men and women, genuine gold, with unique capacity to be an example to the world of intercultural peace and unity, through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I share this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] As quoted in Hughes, Langston (2002). Joseph McLaren (ed.). Autobiography: The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Vol. 14. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. p. 307.
[2] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Daily Restoration,” October 2021
[3] M. Russell Ballard, “To the Saints in the Utah South Area,” September 13, 2015
[4] Russell M. Nelson, “The Sabbath Is a Delight,” April 2015
[5] Russell M. Nelson, “Overcoming the World and Find Rest,” October 2022
[6] Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant,” October 2022