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There Is a Lad Here

My wife Karri and I are grateful to be with you today on a campus that holds such a special place in our hearts. In a very real way, this campus changed the trajectory of our lives. In 1989, we came to this community as a young family with very few personal possessions and maybe just a molecule of faith. Our tiny little TVA apartment (G-265) seemed just big enough to fit a bed for Karri and I and two tiny beds for the little ones. The rest of the space doubled as a place to eat and an indoor garage for our luxurious two-seat baby stroller. The stroller was our means of transportation to family shopping events, family home evening activities, and probably even our “family vacations” while we attended BYU–Hawaii.

It is difficult for me to put into words my feelings about BYU–Hawaii and the experiences that seem to influence our family even today. The best way I can express my sentiments is that our involvement at BYU–Hawaii feels intertwined with the sacred covenants we have made in the temple. Our ability to keep temple covenants is interconnected with the commitments we made while attending BYU–Hawaii. Consistent with the mission of this institution, we came to Laie with very little, we left three years later as fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ. As time went on, we grew to be leaders in our family, our community, our chosen fields, and in building the kingdom of God. [1]

I am so grateful for President Kauwe. It has been my privilege to have known him for several years, going back to the time we spent together at BYU in Provo. When he was called as President of BYU–Hawaii, I was so excited. I knew he was the person the Lord needed to lead this incredible university at such a critical time. When I learned of his new assignment, I sent him a message. Probably more like a five-thousand-word text message (because that is how old people text) sharing all the reasons BYU–Hawaii is a sacred institution. He didn’t need my babbling text, but I sent it anyway. I have witnessed his vision to lead this institution and I have admired what he and his wife Monica have accomplished with their faith. 

There is a Lad Here

In all four of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have an account of Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people by using only five loaves and two fishes. This event, recorded in scripture, is one of the very few New Testament accounts that appears in each of the four Gospels. Mark chapter six introduces the event this way, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest [for] a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” [2] Jesus’ disciples state, “This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed… Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.” [3] In the description found in the fourteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus’ disciples seemed to be concerned that so many had traveled a distance to hear His teachings and were now hungry, “This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves [food].” [4] Jesus responds to this suggestion by saying, ‘”They need not depart; give ye them to eat.” [5]

In John’s account, Jesus asks his disciple Philip a question Jesus already knows the answer to: “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” [6] Philip responds that even “Two hundred penny worth of bread” would only feed the multitude very little.” [7] Not nearly enough to provide them all a meal. Suffice to say, all who are at the gathering are experiencing a level of hunger and maybe even anger. Today’s vernacular might be, all who were in attendance, including the disciples, were “hangry!”

Andrew, another of Jesus’ disciples, makes a statement that the others around may have found ridiculous considering the magnitude of the situation: “There is a lad here…” Just those first words alone may have seemed silly, but Andrew continues the statement nonetheless, “which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes…” and then demonstrating personal doubt that the five loaves and two fishes couldn’t possibly change the situation, Andrew finishes the thought with a question: “but what are they [referring to the loaves and fishes] among so many?” [8]

What happens next seems to be beyond any scientific or reasonable explanation – though obviously not beyond Jesus’ power or authority to perform miracles. John records, “And Jesus took the loaves; and had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would…” and the people “were filled.” [9]

I have often contemplated the first part of Andrew’s statement, “There is a lad here.” [10] There is no written record of the exact age of the lad, but like those whose faith played a key role in other miraculous events, embedded in the statement “There is a lad here,” implies a lack of experience that those around him may have had at this time. What kind of lad was he? More introspective, what caused him to attend Jesus’ instruction with five loaves and two fishes? As a side note, don’t show up to your religion class with five loaves of fresh-baked bread and two freshly caught fishes hoping to feed the entire class. That’s not the takeaway of this New Testament event.

Was this young man naïve enough think that his measly offering would make any difference at all? How did he come across the five loaves? When did he have time to go fishing or purchase food in the market? Did the food represent just enough to last his entire trip? None of these questions are clarified in any of the four Gospel accounts. What is clear is that the current need for food far exceeded what was available. The lad was obviously not planning long term and he certainly wasn’t planning for a large feast. With all these questions swirling around this event, reflect upon how bold this lad was to be noticed. He most likely placed himself in a position to be mocked for his dreadful offering in the face of a monumental need.

My own heart leads me to believe that this lad may have been demonstrating just enough faith to precede the miracle. [11] Though none of the Gospels provide additional context regarding the lad, they do provide insight into those who were fed. Apparently, it did not take long for them to forget the divine mission of Jesus Christ, [12] “for they considered not the miracle of the loaves…” [13] Other scriptural references support the idea that faith was required for the miracle to occur. In the Book of Ether, Moroni states, “If there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them… And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.” [14]

Faith is a consistent ingredient demonstrated prior to the other miracles Jesus performed [15] and I believe faith was needed here. In order to feed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, faith was a prerequisite.

Brothers and sisters, “Miracles are worked through the power of faith.” [16] I propose that in the case of the lad with five loaves and two fishes, the Lord was not looking for someone who had fish and bread, he was looking for someone who had faith. For students at BYU–Hawaii, it is more important for you to build the capacity of your faith, than to focus only on your current or future wealth.

The Worth of Our Soul Validates the Worth of Our Small Offerings

In February 2024, Elder Ronald A. Rasband stood at this pulpit and said, “This is a remarkable learning environment where your choices will shape your integrity and that integrity will be deeply rooted in your heart and soul.” [17] I testify time will prove this statement to be true for you. I love Elder Rasband’s reference to the soul. The soul of a man or women is defined as the spirit and the body. [18]

We are also taught that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” [19] Imagine for a moment if the lad with five loaves and two fishes had been judged or valued by today’s worldly standards. How many “likes” would his Tik Tok video receive showing him fishing or baking bread? Would his appearance on “Top Chef” changed his life forever? No one would have placed their worldly bet on the odds that five loaves and two fishes would feed five thousand. By today’s standards, his value would have been dismissed or ignored. However, when viewed in the context of the true worth of a soul, the lad’s value becomes clearer. His faithful soul was essential for the miracle to occur.

In some ways, maybe it is good we don’t take too much time to consider the value of the lad. In reality, it was the Savior Jesus Christ who performed the miracle. It is He who has the power to control the elements and produce such a phenomenon. Rightfully so, when we read the account of feeding the five thousand, we should consider the love, grace, and power of Jesus Christ. It is He who made so much out of so very little.

Jesus’ grace, love, power, and ability to perform miracles is clearly manifest in the story involving the lad with five loaves and two fishes, but we often miss the miracle of His love, grace, power, and ability to perform miracles in our own lives. You may not fully realize it now, I am sure I didn’t when I was attending BYU–Hawaii, but the five loaves and two fishes you bring as an offering today, are being prepared to feed thousands in the future. I am talking about you. The worth of [your] souls [attending BYU–Hawaii] is great in the sight of God.

Let me use a simple example to demonstrate the worth of your souls. It is a concept I learned from my stake president years ago at a stake conference. [20] If I were to ask you what is the value of my iPad, how would you determine that value? You might look at the specs, the model, the condition. You may research the amount others may be charging for a similar product. You may also consider how badly you want to purchase my iPad. All of these would be reasonable considerations one would make prior to purchasing the iPad. However, the actual value of any object, is equal to the price someone is willing to pay for it. Therefore, if someone decided to offer me a million dollars for this iPad, the iPad just became worth a million dollars.

There is a spiritual parallel when considering the value of our souls. Let’s consider some scriptural references regarding the worth of souls in the context of the price someone is willing to pay for it.

  • “Surely he [Jesus Christ] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…” [21
  • “And he [Jesus Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…” [22
  • “He [Jesus Christ] descended below all things…” [23
  • “An lo, he [Jesus Christ] shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish…” [24]

One of the most significant scriptures illustrating the actual price paid for our souls is found in the Doctrine and Covenants:

  • “For behold, I God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent… Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit-—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” [25

What is the real worth of souls in the sight of God? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [26] God loves our souls so much, that he was willing to send his Only Begotten Son to the earth. The worth of each soul is evident in the price Jesus Christ paid for each of us. The price He paid for our souls feels much greater than just five loaves and two fishes. The price feels “infinite and eternal.” [27] Think of it, the true value of your soul (body and spirit) is infinite and eternal. Even you have no right to place any other price on your soul. Each soul has already been purchased and paid for at a most significant cost. It is the life, the Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ that precisely defines the worth of your soul.

Five Loaves and Two Fishes, Tithing, and Faith

One way to build faith, like that demonstrated by the lad with five loaves and two fishes, is committing to pay a full tithe. President Nelson shared this experience when he was in a similar position as you. At the time, President Nelson was working as an intern on a meager wage. He explained, “When I was a young intern, my income was $15 a month. One night, my wife Dantzel asked if I was paying tithing on that meager stipend. I was not. I quickly repented and began paying the additional $1.50 in monthly tithing.

“Was the Church any different because we increased our tithing? Of course not. However, becoming a full-tithe payer changed me. That is when I learned that paying tithing is all about faith, not money. As I became a full-tithe payer, the windows of heaven began to open for me. I attribute several subsequent professional opportunities to our faithful payment of tithes.”

“Paying tithing requires faith, and it also builds faith in God and His Beloved Son.” [28]

I testify that paying tithing on a “meager” income does build faith. Karri and I had a similar experience building faith through paying a full tithe. A few months into our schooling here at BYU–Hawaii, we hit a financial roadblock. I remember returning home from class and finding my wife in tears. She explained that she had paid our rent, purchased a few diapers, and we had very little money left over. The money we did have was already set aside to pay tithing. I understood what was on my wife’s mind. (Yes, at least in one instance in our marriage I did read my wife’s mind.) If we pay our tithing, we do not have any money left to buy food. The staggering reality of not having food for nearly a month seemed to hit us both. We had left the security of living close to our families and for the first time in our marriage, we were truly independent. No mother or mother- in-law was going to bring us freshly baked bread and we didn’t even have the means to make it ourselves. However, we had made a commitment to pay our tithing, no matter what financial circumstances we were in. We chose faith and paid tithing.

A few days later, our food supply literally ran out. I recall the last bit of food we had was very close to a “handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse.” [29] In our case, it was a very small sum of Bisquick pancake mix, an even smaller amount of cooking oil, and a tiny bit of jam. My wife cheerfully took the last of the Bisquick, mixed it with water, rolled the dough into tiny balls, fried the dough in the oil, and served it with the last of the jam. We had no prospects of more food and I wrongfully had too much pride to ask for help.

The next day the mail arrived. In that day, the married student mailboxes were all located near the TVA laundromat. (Interestingly, the laundromat doubled as a computer lab for married students and housed five or so computers fully equipped with the latest 286 processors – a luxury in that day!) My wife retrieved the mail and returned to the apartment astonished. An unexpected check (yes, I said check) had arrived in the mail in the amount of two hundred dollars. More money than we made in a month’s time as poor college students. Our faith had been tested, our fervent prayers answered, our five loaves and two fishes were multiplied.

Like President Nelson indicated in the footnotes of his October 2023 General Conference talk “Think Celestial,” I am not implying a cause-and-effect relationship between always having money and paying tithing. Sometimes, the check doesn’t come right when we need it. However, I testify, along with President Nelson, the windows of heaven will be opened to the tithe payer. [30]

Five Loaves and Two Fishes and Covenants

Another way we demonstrate the faith needed for the Savior to turn our five loaves and two fishes into a meal for five thousand is through our covenants. President Nelson promised, “Each person who makes covenants in baptismal fonts and in temples—and keeps them—has increased access to the power of Jesus Christ.” [31]

Elder Dale G. Renlund stated, “As you walk the covenant path, from baptism to the temple and throughout life, I promise you power to go against the natural worldly flow—power to learn, power to repent and be sanctified, and power to find hope, comfort, and even joy as you face life’s challenges. I promise you and your family protection against the influence of the adversary, especially when you make the temple a major focus in your life.” [32]

As we consider the pattern of faith and covenants, let’s use the example of the lad with five loaves and two fishes as an illustration. First, the lad had faith to come forward with his small offering. “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes…” [33] I will compare his small offering to the faith required of us to come forward to the waters of baptism and to enter the temple. Next, after presenting what little he had, the lad then had to offer his small amount of food to Jesus. “And Jesus took the loaves…” [34] I will liken this to authentically entering into the baptismal covenant or into the temple covenant by giving what little our mortal lives can offer. In comparison to what we offer in the covenantal relationship, when we bind ourselves to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, they take our faith and commitment and make much more than we can make if left to ourselves. [35] In this particular miracle the scripture reinforces this, “And they did all eat, and were filled…” [36] Like Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes, our power is increased in a covenantal relationship with God.

Last of all, in this parallel, even after we are full, there is more They give. The extent of Jesus’ grace and power did not stop even at the point when all five thousand were filled. “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”
“Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barely loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.” [37]

The fact is, in our covenant relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ, and God the Father, we will never bring more to the covenant than we receive in the covenant. Feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes is good imagery, but even that does not compare to the blessings our Heavenly Father has in store for us when we bring what little we can to the covenant. His blessings include “worlds without number….” [38]

Jesus’ power is not limited to feeding five thousand. His grace is infinite and eternal. “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” [39]

Conclusion & Testimony

As you ponder your time here at BYU–Hawaii, consider the time and place in which you stand. You are at a small institution relatively unknown to the outside world. You came here with little more than five loaves and two fishes. Many of you came to BYU–Hawaii with nothing but faith. You are stiving to make and keep sacred covenants. In the process of your university studies, employment, and Church responsibilities, you may wonder what the Lord can possibly do with your offering. President James E. Faust put our consecrated efforts in good perspective, “It has been said that this church does not necessarily attract great people but more often makes ordinary people great. Many nameless people with gifts equal only to five loaves and two small fishes magnify their callings and serve without attention or recognition, feeding literally thousands.” [40]

As you take seriously your charge to “prepare the world for the promised Second Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” [41] I testify that the Lord treasures your fives loaves and two fishes. He doesn’t need bread and he doesn’t need fish, but he needs your faith, and you need His covenants.

If I could go back in time to the young family in TVA G-265. I would tell them that what little you have to offer today is going to produce unimaginable results. It will feed five thousand. I would tell that young family that the pains and growth required as young married students, with little outward evidence of success, is going to go forward and help fulfill the mission of this institution. Since I am unable to go back in time to that young family , I share it with you. You are that lad with only five loaves and two fishes. You are children of the covenant. You are a promised generation. “[Your] future is as bright as your faith.” [42] Through the grace of the Savior Jesus Christ and your small offering, like the lad who brought so little, you are going to make a difference in your families, communities, and in building the kingdom of God. [43]

As students of this most special institution, BYU–Hawaii, I invite you to recognize your worth through making and keeping sacred covenants. I promise the Lord knows you, loves you, and values your offering. I testify that Jesus Christ lives, and He watches over this magnificent university! I testify He watches over you! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] BYU–Hawaii Mission and Vision
[2] Mark 6:31
[3] Mark 6:35-36
[4] Matthew 14:15
[5] Matthew 14:16
[6] John 6:5
[7] John 6:7
[8] John 6:9
[9] John 6:11-12
[10] John 6:9
[11] “Faith Precedes the Miracle,” Spencer W. Kimball, Deseret Book Company, 1972.
[12] “Five Loaves and Two Fishes,” James E. Faust, Ensign, April 1994, 4.
[13] Mark 6:52
[14] Ether 12:12,18
[15] There are many examples in the scriptures where faith was required for the miracle to be performed. One of my favorite examples is The Woman with an Issue of Blood (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-36, Luke 8:43-48) who had demonstrated faith in a similar way that the Lad demonstrated in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. In the women’s case, she had faith that if she could simply touch Jesus’ clothing, she would be healed.
[16] Ronald A. Rasband, “Behold! I Am a God of Miracles,” Ensign or Liahona, April 2021, 112.
[17] Ronald A. Rasband, “Integrity to the Cause of Christ,” [Brigham Young University–Hawaii devotional, Feb. 9, 2024],; emphasis added
[18] Doctrine & Covenants 88:15
[19] Doctrine & Covenants 18:10
[20] Permission to use given by Logan Toone, President of the Clearfield Utah South Stake
[21] Isaiah 53:4
[22] Alma 7:11
[23] Doctrine & Covenants 88:6; emphasis added.
[24] Mosiah 3:7
[25] Doctrine & Covenants 19:16,18
[26] John 3:16
[27] Alma 34:10
[28] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial,” Liahona, Oct. 2023, 1.
[29] 1 Kings 17:12
[30] Malachi 3:10
[31] Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Liahona, Oct. 2022, 9.
[32] Dale G. Renlund, “Accessing God’s Power Through Covenants,” Liahona, Apr. 2023, 3.
[33] John 6:9
[34] John 6:11
[35] See Bible Dictionary, “Grace.”
[36] Matthew 14:20
[37] John 6:12-13; emphasis added.
[38] Moses 1:3,33
[39] John 4:14
[40] “Five Loaves and Two Fishes,” James E. Faust, Ensign, Apr. 1994, 5.
[41] “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World,” Gospel Library
[42] Thomas S. Monson, “Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2009, 93.
[43] BYU–Hawaii Mission and Vision