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"Trust in the Lord With All Thine Heart"

Brothers and Sisters, Aloha Mai Kakou,

It is truly a privilege to be standing here today. Thank you, Leilani, for the introduction. I'm thankful for my family and genuinely believe they are the best thing about me. Thank you to President Kauwe and the President's Council for the invitation to speak. I would also like to wish a "Happy Birthday" to my youngest son, Kona, who turns 11 today.

As my wife mentioned, I was blessed to have some athletic accolades and accomplishments. But she didn't mention that it was a tough journey getting there. I remember the first time I stepped onto the football field in the eighth grade. I was excited, but also nervous. I played on the defensive line on our intermediate football team and hardly ever got in the game. My coach said I wasn't mean enough and needed to get tougher. I was disheartened, but I didn't give up. I continued playing football, but I wasn't a consistent starter until my junior year in high school, and I only came into my own once I was a senior.

On the professional and academic side, I'm currently an accountant with my CPA license, but when I first went to the University of Arizona, I wanted to major in music. Yes, music. Growing up, I played many instruments in the band and was in the glee club. But then I changed my major to history and kept music as a minor. I would change my major one more time to psychology with a history minor.

Upon graduating with my bachelor's degree, I was blessed to play four years in the NFL. I battled injuries during my last two years with the Indianapolis Colts, and I could see the end coming. I had initially wanted to be a counselor or social worker. However, my dad always stressed the importance of academics and getting a graduate degree, so I enrolled in graduate school at Indiana University, seeking to earn a master's in business administration.

As a psychology major, I didn't have the opportunity to take the math classes required for business school. However, I made up for it by taking prerequisite courses, studying diligently, and achieving a satisfactory score on the GMAT, which led to my acceptance into Indiana University's business school. During my MBA program, I unexpectedly developed a passion for accounting and working with numbers. This newfound interest prompted me to seek guidance from one of my accounting professors, who happened to be the chair of the accounting department. He not only advised me on the necessary courses to pass my CPA exams, but also informed me that by completing those classes, I could earn a master's degree in accounting alongside my MBA. That's the short story of how I stand before you today as an accountant with a psychology degree, guided by divine wisdom and trust in the Lord's plan.

It was a windy road that brought me here today, and I'm still not sure what the Lord has in store for me and my family. But I know that as long as I put my trust in Him, He will never lead me astray. We all need to trust the Lord with all our hearts and have faith that He knows what's best for us. After four years in the NFL and when I couldn't pass my physical, the Colts cut me a week and a half before my MBA program started anbyd a week before my first child, Emalia, was born. While nobody who plays sports wants it to end, and very few get to decide on their terms when to retire, looking back on it, the Lord was leading me where I needed to be. I now had a child to look after, and that motivation allowed me to focus more on my studies and career after football. The Lord blessed me with the ability to go to school while being able to stay home and spend time with my family.

I believe the first thing we need to do in order to trust in the Lord with all our heart is to understand who we are, our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and how this life plays a part in our eternal destiny.

The plan of salvation, the Fall, and the Atonement are all part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us to return to Him. Each of us possesses a divine potential and are all beloved children of our Heavenly Father. He has a deep knowledge of and love for every one of us. As an apostle, President Russell M. Nelson said, "Prior to our birth, we dwelled as spirit children with our Father in Heaven. There we eagerly anticipated the possibility of coming to earth and obtaining a physical body. Knowingly we wanted the risks of mortality, which would allow the exercise of agency and accountability." [1]

Modern prophets teach that we cannot begin to measure the love our Heavenly Father has for us. “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have perfect love for each of us individually. They loved us before we came to this earth; They continue to love us now; and Their great love for us will never change.” [2] Heavenly Father and Jesus love us more than anyone.

That is such a profound statement. In the business world, the term micro-manage often has a negative connotation. However, I had a former boss who would always say, "Have the courage and faith to let the Lord micromanage your life." Why not let two people who love you so much guide you? It's not easy and might be challenging, but I promise it will be worth it. Trust in the plan the Lord has for you, and you will find peace and reassurance in His guidance.

As my wife mentioned, I am a convert to the Church. That process didn't happen overnight. It was truly a team effort. From my grandmother taking me to Church with her at Kaumakapili, to having high school friends who were members of the Church, chapel sessions before football games, and friends who were Christian who openly talked about the role of Christ in their lives. All these factors helped build a spiritual foundation where I believed we have a Father in Heaven and Jesus is His only begotten. As I read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it, the Holy Ghost testified of the truthfulness of the gospel. I didn't know it then, but from a spiritual perspective, the Lord was preparing me to be able to accept the gospel in my life.

As my wife stated earlier, we met in college at the University of Arizona. Initially, I didn't want to go to Arizona. Their football team wasn't very good, and I had my sights set on Washington or Colorado. However, my brother was already studying at Arizona and played as a tight end on the football team. Additionally, my close friend from high school was an offensive lineman on the team. Unbeknownst to me, the decision to go to Arizona would bring numerous blessings into my life.

Just as the Lord prepares us spiritually, he also cares about our professional lives. In his April 2017 general conference talk, Elder Ronald A. Rasband said, “Our Father in Heaven knew that in mortality we would face challenges, tribulation, and turmoil; He knew we would wrestle with questions, disappointments, temptations, and weaknesses. To give us mortal strength and divine guidance, He provided the Holy Spirit, another name for the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost binds us to the Lord. By divine assignment, He inspires, testifies, teaches, and prompts us to walk in the light of the Lord. We have the sacred responsibility to learn to recognize His influence in our lives and respond.” [3]

The Holy Spirit is not limited to guiding us only during Church-related activities or on Sundays; rather, He is meant to guide us in all aspects of our lives, both spiritual and professional. In my work, I rely on the Spirit for help and support in every task I undertake. When I begin my day, I express gratitude through prayer, seeking the Lord's blessings for our students and asking for assistance in fulfilling the needs of BYU–Hawaii.

After graduating from Indiana University, I worked as a tax accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which involved long days and frequent travel for client meetings. Following several years of extensive work-related travel, my wife and I decided it was time for a change. With her family residing in Phoenix, we contemplated relocating to either Arizona or Hawaii. After praying about our decision, we both felt prompted to move to Oahu. Thirteen years later, I am thankful for the Spirit's guidance, and I believe there is no better place to raise our family than in Hawaii.

How great is it to know that the Lord cares about every aspect of our lives and that we can ask for his assistance in everything we do? Who better to ask to micromanage our lives and to guide us?

The second thing we need to know when trusting the Lord is to realize that this mortal life will be challenging and that, by design, it's supposed to be that way. I can promise you that you will go through adversity and afflictions. President Nelson said, “Physical and spiritual trials provide continuing challenges in life.” [4] The Savior asks that we pattern our lives after His. So, we must endure trials, as He did.

We will all encounter obstacles in this life, some more than others. Some experience significant pain and suffering, loss of loved ones, and moments when we question our testimonies. I do not know why and cannot explain our different experiences. We must have faith that the Lord has a plan for us and will be there for us in all our afflictions. He will not give us anything that we cannot overcome.

In his April 2013 general conference talk, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave the account of a man who wished for Jesus to bless his ailing son. Jesus asked the man if he believed, and the man replied, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” [5]

Elder Holland describes that situation as follows: "Our whole family is pleading. Our struggle never ceases. We are exhausted. [...] We don't know where else to turn. Can you help us?"

The Savior replies, "If thou canst believe," right then, the father again says, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." In response to new and still partial faith, Jesus heals the boy.

Elder Holland further states: "In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy's affliction or this parent's desperation is going to come to all of us.

When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, ‘If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’"

] The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know. [...] Do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your ‘unbelief.’ [...] I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have.”

I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. [...] In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith." [6]

As an offensive lineman, I believe in the basics. Whether in pass protection or run blocking. My offensive line coach with the Colts would make us walk through drills so that we could understand what we were doing. He said that by slowing the game down and focusing on the little things, it will allow us to play faster. The same applies to the challenges we face in life. Start with the little things, such as prayer, fasting, and reading the scriptures. Doing this will allow us to slow down the world around us, ultimately allowing us to hear what the Lord wants us to hear. I promise that The Lord will listen to you and help you. As I stated earlier, this also applies to your profession.

I remember my rookie year with the Colts; we played the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. It was a sold-out crowd; they were celebrating their Super Bowl championship from the year before, and even Hulk Hogan was in the front row. We didn't play well the first three-quarters of the game and found ourselves down by 21 points in the fourth quarter with less than four minutes to go. We were able to come together as a team, erase that 21-point deficit, and win the game in overtime. The victory made us 5-0, but our starting left tackle got hurt, and I was next on the depth chart to take his place. Our next game was a home game against the Carolina Panthers, who were also 5-0. They had a really good defensive line, and the guy I had to block led the league in sacks.

I remember the start of the game against Carolina very vividly. I was a rookie starting at left tackle. The first play of the game was a pass play; now, before the game, my coach told me to get out there and jump in the defensive ends face when pass blocking. So, I decided to follow my coach's advice and jump in the defenders face the first chance I had. Well, it didn't work out the way I had planned, and he beat me clean. Luckily, the quarterback rolled out of pocket and threw the ball away. The next play was again a pass play. I told myself I was going to try it again. Well, I tried it again, and the same thing happened. I got beat clean again, but this time, I thought, "Oh no, not again." Luckily, those two plays did not result in sacks. We ran the ball on third down and punted on fourth down. 

While on the sideline, I had many thoughts running through my head. I heard the quarterback, who at the time was Peyton Manning, asking the offensive line coach if we got it fixed. The fans in the stands were getting upset, not to mention everyone else watching on TV, probably saying who knows what about me. I thought, "If I can't fix this, I'm going to get cut tomorrow, and every other team in the league will see this video, and nobody will want to give me a contract." But, most importantly, I knew that my family was watching this game, and when I called home, I was going to get yelled at by my dad, and my uncles would probably tease me about having a one-and-done career.

Luckily, I was able to gain my composure and rely on things I knew to be true. I knew what I was doing wasn't working, but I firmly believed that if I returned to basic pass protection, I could block the defender. So, I switched to a basic pass protection set, focused on the defender's inside shoulder, slowed the game down, and didn't get beat for the rest of the game. Although we ended up losing to Carolina in overtime, I was relieved it wasn't because I had given up a bunch of sacks or quarterback pressures.

After the game, my coach told me, "Anyone who says they never got beat didn't play that long." We all get beat at one point or another, especially in the NFL. If someone says they never got beat, it's because they didn't play.

While working here at BYU–Hawaii, an accounting issue will often arise, and initially, I'll scratch my head and ask myself, "What am I supposed to do?" I find that in these situations, I fall back to the basics. I use a basic accounting tool called a "T Account," which almost always works and seems to get me to where I am supposed to be. However, if I still feel I am missing some critical piece of data or overlooking something, just as in football, I ask my office teammates for help and advice. And together, we come up with the answer.

Just as my coach alluded to earlier, we all get beat. If you haven't, give it some time; it'll happen. The question is, how are you going to respond? Will professional issues make you question your skills or job purpose? Will spiritual issues make you question your testimony? Will difficult classes or a bad grade make you question why you are here? We cannot let that happen to ourselves. Just as Elder Holland said, "... hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes." [7] We know that we are sons and daughters of God and are created in his image. We are beloved sons and daughters of heavenly parents. We have our own divine nature and destiny. We know that families are central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Heavenly Father's love for us cannot be measured. [8]

When you encounter trials, remember these principles. Remember our Father's love for us, and I promise he will lead you where you need to be. Remember that the Savior has walked in your footsteps, knows what you are going through, understands your sorrow, and will offer you peace.

If you are having problems in your studies, what to do with your major, or what job to apply for, fall back on His love and trust that He will guide you to where you should be. Sometimes, you might have to ask others for help; often, those very people there to help you were led to you by Heavenly Father. Trust in His plan.

The native ‘a'ali'i flower is renowned for its ability to withstand strong winds. While most banana stumps will fall over and other flowers fall apart when encountering harsh winds, the 'a'ali'i stands strong. The 'a'ali'i has a strong, deep root system that allows it to stand tall. Even in the harshest of the Kohala winds, the 'a'ali'i will grow sideways and still produce a beautiful flower. The following olelo no'eau reads, "He 'a'ali'i kū makani mai au; ʻaʻohe makani, nāna e kūlaʻi. I am the wind-resisting 'aʻaliʻi plant; no gust can push me over. Another olelo noʻeau reads, "Mōhala mai, ka ʻōpuʻu ʻaʻaliʻi, i ka makani," the 'aʻaliʻi bud blossoms in the wind. This olelo noʻeau also applies to a person who matures and thrives in adversity.

May the aʻaliʻi flower remind us that to face adversity and thrive while facing it, we too must be deeply rooted in the gospel and cling to it when facing harsh winds. We must be rooted, resilient, and responsive.

Remember, “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son; imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with.” [9] Never be afraid; always believe.[10]

Finally, I urge you to make the most of your time here in Laie during your college years. Take the opportunity to connect with your peers and build meaningful friendships. Embrace new experiences, and don't hesitate to accept any opportunities that come your way. Indulge in the local delicacies like shave ice and plate lunches. Make sure to try the delicious garlic chicken at Sugoi's. Explore the wonders of fishing and diving. Witness the sunset on the North Shore and experience the thrill of night surfing at Waikiki during a full moon.

I’m grateful to all the people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with here at BYU–Hawaii and at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I’m thankful for the Financial Services and Financial Aid teams that I currently have the privilege to work with.

I know that the Church is true, and that Joseph Smith restored the gospel in this last dispensation. I'm thankful for the plan of salvation and the opportunity to live with Heavenly Father again and to be sealed to my wife and family. I'm thankful for the missionaries who were brought into my life. I know the Lord loves us and brings people into our lives to help us on our path to return to Him. I encourage all of you to trust in the Lord with all of your heart. I know that if you let the Lord micromanage your life, he will lead you to where you need to be.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Russell M. Nelson, “Doors of Death,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 72.
[2] Behold Your Little Ones: Nursery Manual, [2008], Lesson 4
[3] Ronald A. Rasband, “Let the Holy Spirit Guide,” April 2017 General Conference
[4] Russell M. Nelson, “Doors of Death,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 72.
[5] Mark 9:24
[6] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2013, 94.
[7] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2013, 94.
[8] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Gospel Library
[9] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2013, 94
[10] Mark 5:36