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Strength in the Lord Part 2

My dear Sisters and Brothers, Family, and Friends, Aloha!

It is an honor for Danelle and me to visit with you this morning. President and Sister Kauwe, we appreciate your invitation. Mahalo Vice President Walker for your kind introduction and to Poli’ahu for your inspiring invocation. The benediction will be offered by Sister Megan Freeze, one of our outstanding missionaries we served with. And, mahalo for that beautiful rendition of “If the Savior Stood Beside Me.” That hymn is our family favorite.

It was almost 44 years ago when I graduated from this university. The commencement exercises took place in the David O. McKay Auditorium. This Cannon Activities Center, the Lorenzo Snow Administration Building, the Heber J. Grant Building, and other buildings were not yet built. There were only 6 dorms on campus and TVA was half the size of what it is today. There was one on-campus stake with eight wards. Danelle was expecting our second child. Since then, five of our six children graduated from BYU–Hawaii. Four of them met their eternal companions while attending. We now have 17 grandchildren, one of whom is Poli’ahu, a freshman here.

Although Danelle and I came from the same stake and graduated from the same high school at the same time, it is here where we solidified our eternal relationship. Our experiences of courtship and marriage as students after serving our missions established a firm foundation that increased our strength in the Lord Jesus Christ. As BYU–Hawaii has had a significant impact upon us and our family, it will be a powerful influence for good upon you. You, as many others before you and many others that will follow you, are a fulfillment of President David O. McKay’s revelation, “From this school…will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally.” [1] We are forever grateful for our sacred experiences here.

Several weeks ago, while Danelle and I were reading from the Words of Mormon in the Book of Mormon, we came across the following passage that caused us to ponder our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ: “in the strength of the Lord.” [2] We asked ourselves, “Are we fully aligned with Him?” This phrase, “in the strength of the Lord,” appears three more times in the Book of Mormon, all referring to relying upon our Savior in doing difficult things. Like Lamoni’s encouraging words to Ammon, I say to each of you today, “I know, in the strength of the Lord thou canst do [hard] things.”[3] In other words, we can find strength in our relationship with Jesus Christ as we deal with the joys and challenges of life. Coincidently, this year’s youth theme is, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”[4]

The words “strength” and “strengthen” appear 123 times in the Book of Mormon. These references almost always refer to righteous capacity, firmness in faith, overcoming challenges, having courage, patience, obedience, humility, love for God, and other Christlike attributes. [5] It is through the redeeming and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we are able to have strength, courage, and faith to not only repent and receive a remission of our sins and transgressions, but also to increase our capacity to make and keep sacred covenants and meet our individual life challenges. I love Joshua’s encouragement. He said, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”[6]

President Russell M. Nelson recently said, “[M]aking 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. …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.” [7]

In addition to daily prayer, daily scripture study, daily repentance, frequent “Come, Follow Me” discussions, staying on the covenant path, and every other sacred means of coming closer to our Savior, today, I would like to emphasize four additional principles that I learned while attending BYU–Hawaii that have helped me, and hopefully, you, strengthen our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ:

1. Follow the Prophet.

2. Be temple worthy.

3. Serve faithfully in Church callings and assignments.

4. Strengthen others.

Principle #1: Follow the Prophet

The Laie Hawaii Temple was rededicated after its first major renovation in June 1978. We were students and attended one of several dedicatory sessions in the David O. McKay Auditorium. President Spencer W. Kimball presided and offered the dedicatory prayer. At that time, he announced that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.” [8] Danelle was expecting our first child and our daughter stirred quite a bit in her tummy when that announcement was made. I felt an overwhelming feeling of confirmation that President Kimball was a Prophet of God. I have had similar confirmations with other Prophets in the ensuing years, including being with President Russell M. Nelson on assignment.

I love the hymn, “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice.” [9] “To come” is an invitation to approach and move toward. “To listen” is to observe and give heed. Ammaron, the Nephite record keeper, described the prophet Mormon when he was 10 years old as one who was “quick to observe.” [10] Implicit in this invitation to “come, listen, and be quick to observe” is our responsibility to be obedient and do.

Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, was struck with leprosy when he went to see the prophet Elisha for help. [11] At first, Naaman was unwilling to follow Elisha’s counsel. He couldn’t understand what he was being asked to do. In other words, his pride and stubbornness kept him from receiving the Lord’s blessings through His prophet. After rejecting the invitation to wash seven times in the river Jordan, “his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” Heeding this admonition, Naaman “[t]hen went … down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” [12]

How humbling it must have been for Naaman to realize how close he came to allowing his own pride and his unwillingness to listen to a prophet which would have prevented him from receiving the blessing of being cured. And, how humbling it is to contemplate the wonderful blessings we will receive when we “come, listen, and are quick to observe” the relatively simple things a Prophet of God invites us to do today. God speaks to our living prophet and our living prophet speaks to us. In a few weeks, we will hear President Nelson again. I invite you to take note of his invitations. Then, with courage and faith, follow Him. As the Savior has taught us, “whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” [13]

Principle #2: Be Temple Worthy

I appreciate Sister Auna for sharing her insights on the temple. I agree with everything she said. We were blessed to live at TVA. Our apartment door opened to the sight of the Laie Hawaii Temple. We would attend often and when our first child was born we would alternate times to attend. The sight of and being in the temple provide continued strength in our daily challenges and spiritual growth.

President Nelson’s invitation is succinct, “My brothers and sisters, I plead with you to make time for the Lord! Make your own spiritual foundation firm and able to stand the test of time by doing those things that allow the Holy Ghost to be with you always. … Nothing will strengthen your spiritual foundation like temple service and temple worship.” [14]

If you have a current temple recommend or a temple recommend for proxy baptism and confirmation, attend the temple often as time allows. If your temple recommend has expired, I invite you to meet with your bishop promptly to renew it. If you do not have a temple recommend, contemplate your relationship with our Savior and move forward with faith. Know that you can find strength in the Lord by being worthy and attending the temple. Not only will your spiritual foundation be strengthened, your secular, emotional, and physical well-being will be healthy and strong. “Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.” [15] What greater service can one do than to perform an ordinance for someone who cannot do it for themselves!

Principle #3: Serve Faithfully in Callings and Assignments

You have the unique blessing of serving in a Church calling at a very young age. Leadership opportunities abound in young single adult and young married stakes. While serving as a stake and ward leader on campus, I enjoyed associating with fellow students who were faithful in their Church service while being diligent in their secular studies. I observed that the more attention students gave to serving faithfully, the more successful they were in their studies. I learned intimately how our Heavenly Father guides and directs us in ways beyond our abilities and capabilities. I learned to never doubt that I was called by the Lord. Being “willing to take upon [ourselves] the name of [Jesus Christ], and always remember him and keep his commandments” will invoke the covenant promise to “always have his Spirit to be with [us]." [16]

I recall an accounting professor inviting me into his office. In a very kind and loving way, he said, “Aley, your work in my class is mediocre. I know you can do much better. The Lord expects it.” He then expressed his appreciation, love, and counsel. I felt the Holy Ghost testify to me that what he said was true. I left his office feeling uplifted, not hurt or discouraged. His approach was an example of gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, and kindness. [17] Not only did he change my life to be a better student, he also changed my life to serve more faithfully and diligently as a disciple.

President Henry B. Eyring said, “Increased spiritual strength is a gift from God which He can give when we push in His service to our limits. Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our natures can be changed. Then our power to carry burdens can be increased more than enough to compensate for the increased service we will be asked to give.” [18]

Principle #4: Strengthen Others

The Savior taught, “[W]hen thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” [19] and I will add, “strengthen thy sisters, too.” Implicit in this invitation are the two great commandments, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [And,] [t]hou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” [20] Our ability to love, strengthen, and be kind to others is premised on our love for our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

A young Fijian brother approached me the first day I checked into my dorm room at Hale 6. He introduced himself and we visited for a few minutes. He was smiling, joyful, and encouraging. He asked me if I could assist him in the Elders Quorum, but we soon learned that my dorm room was not in his ward boundaries. He smiled and simply welcomed me to school. The next day our dorm parent approached me and asked if I would change rooms. She said there was a young man from Hong Kong who was also new and she felt I could help him acclimate to college life. I was then in an 8-man unit (there were 8-man units back then). He was assigned to a semi-private room. I quickly accepted and moved. That Sunday, I attended the ward I now belonged to. Sitting up on the stand was my new Fijian friend. He said after sacrament meeting that he knew I would be in his ward. A few days later I received a call to serve in the elders' quorum presidency. He taught me much about leadership and how to strengthen others. He was a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

About 15 years ago, I presided over a custody case in Family Court. I sensed there would be a problem when a couple walked into the courtroom. The husband and wife were both asking for temporary custody of their two daughters. They said some awful things about each other. As I said a silent prayer for help to make a decision, a scripture came to mind that I had read the night before from the Book of Jacob. Jacob had encouraged the Nephites to change their ways and be like the Lamanites who were more righteous. Jacob said, “[T]heir husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands, and their husbands and their wives love their children.” [21]

I also reflected upon my early years as a married student at BYU–Hawaii and how Danelle and I grew in our love for each other. We were taught principles such as never go to sleep while angry, resolve differences quickly, ask for forgiveness, be respectful, kind, and loving, and so on. With their permission, I shared these principles with them. The Spirit of Christ was certainly present. He created an environment of love and strength. [22]

The couple apologized to each other, hugged, and asked to return another day so that they could further discuss their situation. They walked out of the courtroom hand-in-hand. I do not recall seeing them again.

As we are faithful and obedient to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we increase in our ability to be kind, be charitable, be loving, and to strengthen one another. The Holy Ghost will always be present to sustain us in strengthening others by our words and deeds.


Sisters and Brothers: Follow the Prophet, be temple worthy, serve faithfully in Church callings and assignments, and strengthen others through kindness and love. I promise that when you do these things, you will find strength in the Lord.

The revered Eastern philosopher, Confucius, said, “Xiaoshan, qijia, zhiguo, pingtienshia.” This means, “Cultivate [or strengthen] yourself, fortify [or strengthen] your family, and govern [or strengthen] your nation. When you do all three, you will have peace under heaven.” Peace comes when we have strength in the Lord. The Savior said, “Learn of me, and listen to my words, walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” [23]

The redeeming and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ lifts us and increases our capacity to deal with the challenges of life. Do not fear. Have courage. The Savior will always, always, always “be on your right hand and on your left, and [His] Spirit shall be in your hearts.” [24]

Mahalo for having the faith to attend this wonderful university. Mahalo to the administrators, faculty, and all employees for having the love to serve and strengthen our beloved students. May we remember and apply these inspiring words: “In the strength of the Lord” “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve!”

I bear witness that God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing in the right way. May God prevail in our lives, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] President David O. McKay, Dedication of Church College of Hawaii, February 12, 1955.
[2] Words of Mormon 1:14; See also, Mosiah 9:17; Mosiah 10:10; Alma 20:4.
[3] Alma 20:4.
[4] Philippians 4:13.
[5] See, Preach My Gospel, Chapter 6 (2018).
[6] Joshua 1:9.
[7] President Russell M. Nelson, “Overcoming the World and Find Rest,” General Conference, October 2022.
[8] Official Declaration 2.
[9] Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985), No. 21.
[10] Mormon 1:2.
[11] 2 Kings 5:8-14.
[12] 2 Kings 5:13-14.
[13] D&C 1:38.
[14] President Russell M. Nelson, “Make Time for the Lord,” General Conference, October 2021.
[15] Bible Dictionary, Temple.
[16] Sacramental Prayer, D&C 20:77.
[17] See, D&C 121:41-43.
[18] President Henry B. Eyring, “O Ye That Embark,” General Conference, October 2008.
[19] Luke 22:32.
[20] Matthew 22:37, 39.
[21] Jacob 3:7.
[22] See, Moroni 7:16.
[23] D&C 19:23.
[24] D&C 84:88.