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The Power of Small and Simple Things

My dear brothers and sisters, ALOHA!

What an inspiring sight! It is wonderful to be with you and to welcome you to a new academic year on this beautiful campus. Over the past two months, Sister Wheelwright and I have come to know and appreciate you and the great spirit you bring to this campus. This is indeed a very special place, in large part because of your faith, devotion and obedience. It is a place of both great spiritual development and learning as well as outstanding academic development and learning. We thank you for all you do to help make this the kind of place that the Lord and His prophets would have it be.

I would like to begin today by recalling with you one of those unique, wonderful and insightful lesson we learn from the Book of Mormon. This lesson is initially taught to Lehi and his family through an amazing instrument prepared by the Lord - the Liahona. We first encounter the Liahona in verse 10 of the 16th chapter of 1st Nephi:

"And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness."

We learn a little more about this unique and special instrument in subsequent verses:

"And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness." (1 Nephi 16:16)

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them. (1 Nephi 16:28)."

I am sure that most of you are familiar with both the purpose of the Liahona and the principles of faith and obedience upon which its operation rested. The prophet Alma, in giving advice and counsel to his son Helaman chose to return to the story of the Liahona, in part because its operation was based on one of the most important patterns used by the Lord to guide and direct us.

In referring to the Liahona and what we can learn from it, Alma said:

"And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works." (Alma 37:40-41.)

In this description, Alma confirms for his son that indeed the pattern the Lord follows when we exercise faith in Him and follow his counsel in small and simple things, is that he blesses us with small daily miracles, and over time, with marvelous works. What a great lesson. If we daily do the small simple things that the Lord directs us to do through his prophets, like Lehi and his family, we experience small daily miracles, and our travels take us through the more fertile paths in our journey, with the end result being marvelous works. What a great and wonderful promise.

But Alma also describes for Heleman what happened to Lehi and his family when they wavered in their faith and diligence, and what could have been a positive pattern became a negative pattern:

"They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions." (Alma 37:41-42.)

Similarly, if we are slothful and lose sight of the Lord's purposes for us, we too fail to travel a direct course, and find ourselves adrift in the wilderness, without the benefit of those small daily miracles, and experiencing a lack of progress towards those marvelous works that the Lord so much desires to help us achieve and experience. We find ourselves not following the Lord's positive pattern, but following Satan's negative pattern.

Alma's summary of the positive pattern is that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; ...and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls." (Alma 37:6-7.)

By inspiration, the prophet Mormon chose to repeatedly emphasize this message -- that there are two common patterns related to small and simple things. One is the positive pattern taught by the Lord and His prophets:

Consistent Faith -- Small Daily Miracles -- Marvelous Works

Consistent faith leads to small daily miracles and there follows marvelous works.

And the other is the negative pattern so often seen around us:

Slothfulness -- Miracles Cease -- Progress Ceases

When we yield to slothfulness, the daily miracles cease, and our progress stops, causing us to lose out on both the small daily miracles and the marvelous works.

Let me expand on each of these patterns for just a moment. Satan knows and teaches the negative pattern with great cunning and skill. The prophet Nephi described one of the ways that Satan uses this pattern. In 2 Nephi, chapter 28, verses 21 and 22, we read:

"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well -- and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

"And behold, others he flattereth away and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them; I am no devil, for there is none -- and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance."

I can testify from my own experience and in observing the lives of many friends and associates over the years, that it is in failing to do the small and simple things that faith waivers, miracles cease, and progress towards the Lord and His Kingdom is first put on hold and then begins to unravel as seeking after the Kingdom of God is replaced with more temporal pursuits and worldly ambitions.

Let me give just one example. As some of you may know, our permanent home and gathering place for our family is in the small Mormon farm town of Oakley, Utah, located in a high mountain valley an hour east of Salt Lake City. About a year ago, a couple in their mid-fifties moved in. They are wonderful people and as we've gotten to know them we've discovered that they were married in the temple, but as the husband says, they've been "taking a sabbatical from the church for a few years."

Due to a series of small steps and seemingly insignificant choices, they have developed a perspective and orientation that has caused them to lose sight of the blessings they were promised in the temple. Of course that simply makes us want to help them receive the blessings of the gospel that much more. It is proving to be a long and challenging road to help them see and adopt the Lord's positive pattern of small simple steps followed by daily miracles and eventually leading to marvelous works. But they are making progress.

Elder M. Russell Ballard has added his personal insight into how this negative pattern, encouraged by the devil and his followers, works:

"[I have] been sobered by how small and simple things can be negative and destructive to a person's salvation. A series of seemingly small but incorrect choices can become those little soul-destroying termites that eat away at the foundations of our testimony until, before we are aware, we may be brought near spiritual and moral destruction." ("Small and Simple Things", Ensign, May 1990.)

Elder Ballard went on to say that even ignoring or passing by "the prompting of the Spirit to render service to another" can be the beginning of this wavering and slothfulness, and start us moving from the positive pattern to the negative one. "Indeed, great and marvelous events seem to motivate us, but small things often fail to hold our attention."

Let me add my testimony to that of so many others; if we exercise faith, and are consistent and diligent in small and simple things, our lives will be filled with small daily miracles, and over time, they will be filled with many marvelous works. That has been true in my own life whether it has been in connection with my educational and academic pursuits, my professional activities, my callings in the kingdom, or in my own family. I know that the positive cycle of faith and small simple steps is always followed by the blessings of small daily miracles and marvelous works.

I firmly believe that understanding these two patterns -- the one positive and the other negative -- is essential if we are to gain salvation and progress towards exaltation. And this is doubly true in our day. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons that Mormon was inspired to give so many examples of these two patterns in his abridgment of the Book of Mormon.

We live in a day when the rate of change in fads and fashions in both dress and grooming, in music and entertainment, and in the norms and behaviors accepted by society, is accelerating. Supported by an ever more powerful media and lifestyles that quickly adapt to the messages of that media, we are indeed seeing the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy regarding our day:

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter;

"Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21)

I doubt that there could be a more apt description of the media today and the many fashions and behaviors that it adopts, embraces, and then promotes. Satan uses these forces as he seeks to first bring small evils and bad choices into our lives, and then eventually great destruction and sorrow.

As I have thought about our own campus and how these two patterns can coexist and be at work here at the Lord's University, the topic that inevitably comes into sharp focus is that of the honor code. And so I want to spend just a few minutes exploring how these two patterns -- the one positive and the other negative -- find relevance to the Honor Code.

As I hope you all know, there are four key components of our Honor Code:

> The Academic Honesty Policy
> The Dress and Grooming Standards
> The Residential Living Standards, and
> The Ecclesiastical Leader's Endorsement

The essence of the first component, the academic honesty policy, is that we will each avoid any form of academic dishonesty and misconduct, including plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, and cheating. In addition to being completely honest in our own efforts, we agree to assist other students in fulfilling their commitment to be honest.

The second component, the dress and grooming standards, is most often the ones that people have in mind when they refer to the Honor Code. But as you will note, dress and grooming represents only one of the four components. Because this one receives so much attention, let me come back to it in a moment.

The third component, the residential living standards, seeks to provide an atmosphere that is consistent with the principles of the gospel for students residing in approved student housing both on and off campus. Included in these standards are no visitors in bedroom or bathroom areas, but only in lobbies and gathering areas during specified hours, following the Word of Wisdom throughout the residential space, avoiding pornography and any other obscene or indecent conduct or expressions, and maintaining within the residence an atmosphere and environment consistent with all aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including adherence to the dress and grooming standards.

The fourth component of the Honor Code, the continuing ecclesiastical leader's endorsement for LDS students, includes attending all church meetings in your assigned ward, fulfilling callings, and supporting church leaders in the geographical boundaries where you live. It also includes remaining in good standing with regards to your membership in the Church.

While there are many marvelous principles in the Honor Code such as honesty, integrity, the Lord's law of Chastity, the Word of Wisdom and adherence to the standards of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there are also many small and simple things in each of these four components of the Honor Code.

For example, within the dress and grooming standards, these small things would include for men, hairstyles that are neat and clean, a clean shaven look, and no body piercings. For women they would include no sleeveless, revealing or form fitting clothing, avoiding extremes in styles and colors, and only wearing skirts and dresses and other clothing that extends to the bottom of the knee or beyond. And for both men and women, having appropriate footwear on in all public places and only wearing athletic attire at appropriate athletic events.

Now I know that many of these elements of the Honor Code that I have just listed are not big things. They are small and simple, possibly they seem even insignificant. But as we learn in the Book of Mormon, obedience to these small and simple things enables us to recognize and accept those small daily miracles that then strengthen us and prepare us for the marvelous works that a loving Father desires to bless each of us with. As we are obedient to these small things, they provide a part of the armor the Apostle Paul talked about that enables us to withstand the "wiles of the devil."

This works not only for us individually, but it also works for us collectively. That is, increased obedience and adherence to the Honor Code brings greater blessings both to this campus and all that transpires here, as well as to our individual lives and the progress we each desire. The blessing of being in an environment where a higher standard prevails and where the Spirit can inspire and enlarge all that goes on across this campus is clearly one of the reasons that President Hinckley and the other prophets of this dispensation have been so committed to supporting and strengthening this university and the other institutions of higher education owned by the Church. It is one of those things that make us truly distinctive.

Let me give you an example of just how unique these standards are and how much they set us apart from other university campuses. During the first year that I was responsible for the Harvard M.B.A. Program and the 1,800 students enrolled there, I was often saddened by the behavior and choices of some of the students and their group norms. With the support of my LDS boss, we took on the task of establishing a set of norms and expectations -- founded on appropriate principles -- that would bless the lives of all of the students. You can imagine how some who knew us well accused us of imposing Mormon values on the program, while others from around the globe openly wondered why Christian ideals were being imposed on them.

But we knew it was the right thing to do, and that with the Lord's help it could be done successfully to the benefit of all. After literally hundreds of hours of work we finally were able to fully implement a set of "community standards," teach those to our faculty and staff, as well as our incoming students, and dramatically improve the environment in the classroom and across campus. Indeed, I count it as of the most important things I accomplished in my tenure running that program. I am grateful that under the guidance of a living prophet, we have been given a much higher standard, which brings even greater blessings, the BYU-Hawaii Honor Code.

Given the importance of our Honor Code, I want to spend a few minutes on just what it means to adhere to both the spirit and the letter of this important set of guidelines. As I contemplated how best to do this, I read several talks that have been given on this campus, as well as talks that have been given in Provo, Salt Lake and Rexburg. One of those that I found particularly useful in preparing today's devotional was by President Clark at BYU-Idaho. (See "Out of Small Things Proceedeth that Which is Great," President Kim B. Clark, BYU-Idaho Devotional, January 10, 2006.) I'm grateful to have had access to that and other talks for this presentation.

As did President Clark, I would like to invite each of you here today to make a personal assessment, or inventory, of your relationship to the Honor Code. To help you do this, I would like to suggest that you think about adherence to the Honor Code -- with its four component elements -- falling along a continuum. And I would like to label one end of this continuum, rebellion, and the other end of the continuum, discipleship.

REBELLION --------------------------------------- DISCIPLESHIP

As you might imagine, the characteristics of one in rebellion are that they know the principles of the Honor Code, but they intentionally fail to observe what they know. They might even think about a specific aspect of the honor code before going off to class or participating in an activity, but intentionally decide to ignore adherence to that aspect and do something different. Such individuals are in open rebellion.

If you find yourself falling into this category, I would urge you to repent and to bring your behavior into conformance and compliance with the Honor Code. It will be a great blessing to your life and make you much happier. Referring to those who find themselves in rebellion against the Honor Code, President Kimball said:

"Many of you know the feeling of missing a nail and hitting your thumb with a hammer.... We would hope that you would not spend your time banging your heads against these (Honor Code) regulations. They are not designed to make you unhappy or angry. Please respect them as you would any tool and use them for their intended purpose." ("On My Honor," President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, April 1979.)

At the opposite end of the continuum is discipleship. The characteristics of those at this preferred end of the continuum are that they know and understand the Honor Code, and they seek to live it both in letter and in spirit. They understand the purposes for which the Honor Code was developed and they desire the blessings that come with obedience -- both for themselves and for those around them. They know that what President Kimball said is indeed true:

"These standards... are designed to build character, to teach discipline, and to symbolize propriety and restraint and honor among the students, the faculty, and the institution as a whole." ("On My Honor," President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, April 1979.)

Now many of you may be saying to yourself, "I'm not in open rebellion, but it would also be a real stretch to claim that I am in the group named discipleship -- in fact, regarding some of the components of the Honor Code, I'm in total ignorance. I'm committed to living the Honor Code, but I'm not always aware of what it entails." On our continuum, let me refer to this as the "zone of ignorance."


REBELLION ---------------------------------------------- DISCIPLESHIP

Those in the zone of ignorance desire to live the Honor Code, but simply don't understand its components and guidelines. If you think you are in this group, I would invite and encourage you to get educated. Brother Jim Nilson and those in IT have been working these past two weeks to simplify the presentation of the Honor Code on the BYU-Hawaii website so that you can easily identify the four components of our Honor Code, and then learn the guidelines that make up each of these components. I would invite you to become more knowledgeable and to join the ranks of those at the discipleship end of the continuum, who are living both the spirit and the letter of the Honor Code.

It occurs to me that there may also be a handful of you who do not fit into one of these three groups. You do know and understand the Honor Code, but you are neither embracing it fully, nor are you in open rebellion. You may find yourself living the letter of the Honor Code -- perhaps because you fear the consequences of not doing so -- but you do not embrace the spirit of the Honor Code. You try to just get by and often have an excuse ready when asked about your 'marginal compliance.' Such individuals could be described as falling into the "zone of hypocrisy."


REBELLION ----------------------------------------------- DISCIPLESHIP


If you find yourself in the zone of hypocrisy, I would urge you to prayerfully consider all that the Lord has blessed you with, and then ask His help in softening your heart and helping you to develop a greater desire and commitment to follow the path of discipleship. Thankfully, I know that most of you are striving to be worthy disciples of the Savior in all aspects of your life. I am grateful for that, and I am grateful for your faith and righteousness. As Elder Eyring has taught,

"The Lord is anxious to lead us to the safety of higher ground, away from the path of physical and spiritual danger. His upward path will require us to climb. My mother used to say to me when I complained that things were hard, 'If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.' The path of discipleship is not the easy way, nor the broad road. It is the strait and narrow, and it goes uphill." (Elder Henry B. Eyring, "A Steady Upward Course," BYUI Devotional, September 2001.)

Let me now take the remaining time to expand on the blessing of the Honor Code and why it is so fundamental to this institution and to who we are, both individually and collectively. As we discussed a few minutes ago, the Honor Code can serve as a Liahona, where based on faith and obedience to small and simple things, we can experience daily miracles and eventually be blessed with the marvelous works that the Lord knows we are capable of being qualified to participate in. But it is much more than just a compass. It is a precursor to many other grand and glorious blessings.

In the 64th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we are instructed: "But all things will come to pass in their time.

"Wherefore, be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." (D&C 64: 32-33)

My dear brothers and sisters, progress and accomplishment do not often come from dramatic, short bursts of Herculean effort. Rather they come from the slow and steady following of the path of the Lord and His prophets. Adherence to the Honor Code -- in both letter and spirit -- teaches us the habits and commitment that can lead to even greater things -- if we will but continue on the path and "be not weary in well doing." Indeed, the Lord has taught us throughout the scriptures that adherence to what we have been given prepares us to receive even more.

"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; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2 Nephi 28:30.)

One of the wonderful blessings the Lord promises is that if we will accept and live the small and simple things we have been given -- like the Honor Code -- we will not only be blessed for doing so, but we will learn wisdom. Our minds will be enlightened and we will be given more because the Lord knows we will be willing to accept and obey that as well. Whereas, if we are unable to live even the small things, then even those things eventually will be taken from us.

In the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord adds that for those that are faithful and diligent, they will not only receive great blessings, but they will be given additional revelation and "commandments not a few." Clearly the Lord desires your every success while you are here at this great institution. And He will enlarge and expand that success not only academically, but spiritually, as you are faithful and diligent in the small and simple things. Let me close with one final statement from Elder Maxwell which summarizes the importance of learning and applying the Lord's pattern for success in our daily lives:

"Paced progress not only is acceptable to the Lord, but also is recommended by Him. Divine declarations say: 'Ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now' (D&C 50:40); 'I will lead you along' (D&C 78:18). Just as divine disclosure usually occurs line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, so likewise we will achieve our spiritual progress gradually." (see D&C 128:21; 98:12). ('Men and Women of Christ,'Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Deseret Book, p.23.)

In closing, I would invite each of us to become even more familiar with the pattern of small and simple things in our own lives. And at the start of this new academic year, I would encourage each of you to take an inventory or do a self assessment with regards to the Honor Code -- in terms of your understanding of it and in terms of your adherence to and embracing of it both in spirit and in letter. And to the extent you need to, I would urge you to repent and commit to the Lord that you will do all you can to follow His path of discipleship, so that you might receive and recognize those small daily miracles and be prepared to participate in His marvelous works as they unfold around you.

I know that our Father in Heaven loves you dearly, so much so that he has blessed you to be here at this time and to have all of the blessings of the restored gospel. I also know that He willingly sent His Son Jesus Christ to teach us and guide us, and to atone for our sins and shortcomings. I pray that we all might live worthy to receive the blessings of our Savior's Atonement. I know that by so doing, we will receive all that the Lord has promised us both individually and collectively, and this will indeed be a time of great growth and development, far beyond our wildest dreams, for each of you and for this university. May we so live is my humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.