Anxiously Engaged in a Good Cause
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
January 22, 2013
Mustapha El Akkari, Kesa Kaufusi, John Fryhoff
BYU-Hawaii Student Association Presidency
Mustapha El Akkari
My dear brothers and sisters, good morning and aloha.
Recently we celebrated New Year, and we begin this new year and new semester with fresh goals, aspirations, and hopes for learning, growth, achievement, friends… and fun.
Reflecting on my life, I realize how blessed I am, and how fortunate we all are, to be here, at BYU–Hawaii, at this time. For all of us, collectively and individually, this time represents a potential tipping point that can forever change our direction and destiny.
My initial goal in coming here was to play college basketball—I was more concerned with tip-ins for points than tipping points. I was blessed to play basketball for BYU–Hawaii and win a ring in the NCAA championship game. If I learned anything in basketball, I learned that games are won, or lost, on points, sometimes by a single point.
Later when I ran for, and was elected to, student government, I set some personal goals. Another personal goal was to play the role of Mana in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s production of “Ha: Breath of Life.” I have yet to achieve that goal; in fact, I’m still waiting for a reply from the HR office at PCC since summer 2010.
When the ancient Hawaiians settled these islands, they traveled great distances across open oceans to reach new lands. They relied on ocean currents and winds to carry them, but they also followed stars, or points of heavenly light, to guide their boats.
I feel that each of us is on a similar journey, crossing vast expanses of open ocean, guided by stars at night and by an occasional sighting of an island on the horizon.
What might these island landmarks be? Maybe graduating from school, getting married, having a child, choosing a career, and finding or creating employment.
We rely on currents and winds to influence our choices of the classes we take, the career we pursue, the people we date, the person we marry, and the religion we practice. All these things fill our sails and push us towards our goals. Yes, storms arise, and obstacles occasionally set us back. But the islands we pass, the currents we travel, and the storms we encounter need not deter us from our final destination—our celestial goal of living eternally and progressing constantly with the Lord.
To reach this destination in an increasingly dark world, we must follow trustworthy points of lights. I would like to focus on three guiding stars on which we can and must rely to find our Heavenly Home again:
1) Follow our hearts,
2) Follow our dreams, and
3) Follow the Prophets.
First, follow your heart. Many people talk about the heart, the soul, or the spirit. I suggest that the heart is a symbol of who we truly are. It is our identity as members of the human family. It might represent your ancestry and your culture, your home country or home town. It represents your family, and the lessons they taught you. It represents your testimony of spiritual truths. It is your word of honor to your friends, and the driving force behind every hard thing you will ever accomplish in life.
When I was a young man, I convinced my father to pay for horseback-riding lessons. On one of my first lessons, I managed to climb up on this huge horse. Something spooked the horse, and he bolted. I fell from the saddle, but my foot was stuck in the stirrup and so my head was dragged through the sand and rocks. Then the horse reared up and threw me on the ground in front of him. I felt certain he was going to kill me as his front hooves landed on my arm, crushing it badly. I cradled my mangled arm and tried not to think about the hours of basketball practice that had been destroyed. I worried that my career was over, and wondered if I would ever regain the use of my limb again. When I arrived at the hospital, doctors determined that I had fractured my arm in four places and both of my ankles were broken. They performed surgery to fix my arm and set my ankles, but it wasn’t until later one night that I realized how badly my chest hurt.
I called for the nurse and convinced her to look at my chest, because my heart was hurting. She lifted my shirt to discover the hoof imprint directly over my heart. The fact that the beast didn’t crush me was a miracle. In my culture, to show sincere gratitude, my father offered a lamb as a sacrifice to thank God for sparing my life.
Every time I reflect on that experience, and remember the mark that the horse left over my heart, I am grateful for the life I have been given. I testify that each of us has a purpose to fulfill and a mission here on earth. Each of us has a unique story to tell and is blessed with individual talents that will unlock doors and cultivate friendships that only we can do. We are not here by chance, and we are not left to our own plans for our lives. God does not expect you to fail. He wants you to succeed, to build, to overcome, and to prosper.
Just as each of us has been blessed with a physical heart that keeps us alive, we have also been given a spiritual heart that can see and understand the things of God. Those truths should not be lost among all the other information we learn, because they are far more important and longer-lasting on our journey back to our Home. There is a hierarchy of truth, and some truths are more important than others. Let’s make sure we keep first things first in our lives. Turn off the cell phone sometimes, or take out your headphones. Talk to people, or just be still and listen. Great things can happen when you step away from a busy life and let your spirit breathe. As Robert Robinson in 1758 sang it:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Second, follow your dreams. Just as our heart is a representation of our past and the events that have brought us to this point in life, our dreams are a representation of where we are headed. They are the future journey we must make to get where we need to be. Dreams can be anything, but they become something when we crystallize them in the form of goals.
For many people throughout history, the goal was gold: The song from Paint Your Wagon (Gold Fever, Gold Fever) says:
Got a dream boy?
Got a song?
Paint your wagon
and come along.
What is your dream? Have you written it down? I recall as a boy, taking a permanent marker to the wall above my pillow and writing my dreams down so I could read them every night and remember them every morning. That’s what we do with goals. We write them down and reflect on them often. For most of us, our patriarchal blessings serve as a map to get where we need to be. Keep your dreams big, your options open, and your sights high. I speak in broad terms here, because we have very different goals in our individual lives. Once we achieve a goal, we set another that will challenge us and make us grow even more. However, we should aim for excellence in whatever we pursue—and have a plan. Don’t be like the clueless gold seeker:
When will I be there?
I don't know!
When will I get there?
I ain't certain!
All I know is I am on my way.
I had a friend that used to tell me “If you don’t have a plan, you’re part of someone else’s.” Dreaming big and planning ahead require you to do things differently than the world or society thinks you should do them.
As Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
You can’t be afraid of setting your own standards, of leaving tradition and pursuing truth. If it is a righteous desire and is important to you, if it is something that will help you to bless others and prepare you to serve in the Kingdom, then make the necessary changes and do the important things.
For me, I had a passion for basketball. I felt that the Lord had given me talents that I should develop. So when I was five years old, I busted out the bottom of a chair and nailed it to the telephone pole in the street by my house. I’m certain my parents and friends thought I was crazy, but I was deeply motivated by what was most important to me. The simple fact that I am standing here today is evidence that that vision has remained important to me.
The early Christian apostle Paul once taught: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). It is easy to see events in the world and to become discouraged or lose faith in the future. But we are taught that “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). The future is what we make of it, and true, enduring success often requires temporary sacrifices. That simple basketball hoop became a symbol to me of the hours of practice that set me apart and prepared me to come here. It is a reminder that small decisions determine greater destinies. I want to commend you all for the sacrifices you are making to earn long-term achievements: it might be a mission or gaining an education, or something smaller like paying an honest tithe or spending time to help a friend in need. Paul also said, later on to the Corinthians “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Third, follow the star of revelation to the Lord’s prophets. I know that God has spoken to prophets, and He reveals truth to His messengers. These men will not lead us astray- they invite us to live righteously, repent when we have strayed from the Strait Path, and remind us of God’s goodness and plan for us. If we are to be leaders in the world, we must start by building our lives on a sure foundation of true principles. We must decide now to follow the Lord’s messenger and choose to build our homes and families in the Lord’s kingdom.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie quoted a wise man by saying that “If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead” (General Conference Address, And the Caravan Moves On, October 1984).
Personal revelation is an essential part of this process. We need a personal connection with the Lord through personal prayer. Revelation can guide us during stormy times and through life’s currents that pull us in many different directions. Spiritual strength is the rudder that steers our ship through life; it is the anchor that keeps us safe in the harbor of truth; it is the light that leads us kindly on. As the Hymns, Lead, Kindly Light by John Henry Newman says:
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.
Elder Heber C. Kimball once said: “You will see the time when you will have all the trouble, trial and persecution that you can stand, and plenty of opportunities to show that you are true to God and his work. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?”
President Monson reminded us in April 2009 that “as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments… there will be nothing in this world that can defeat us. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith” (General Conference Address, Be of Good Cheer, April 2009). With the Lord’s help, we can accomplish great things.
I testify that all truth comes from God. He is the King of the Worlds, and the Creator of All- including you and me. He loves us and is merciful to us in our weakness, but He also expects us to become better. I know that if we follow these three eternal reference points: listen to our hearts, reach for our dreams, and follow the prophets, we will reach our eternal destination someday. I say this in the Lord’s name, the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate, Amen.
My dear brothers and sisters malo e lelei and aloha. I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to speak to you today. I pray that the spirit of the Lord will be with me so that the message I will share may edify us all.
After much prayerful consideration, I felt the need to speak on how serving with the Spirit of Aloha can help us be anxiously engaged in a good cause.
Aloha is the greeting in the Hawaiian language. Does it have another meaning? Yes, it can be goodbye, thank you and I love you. I know some of you might wonder why I am using aloha. It is because I served my mission here in Hawaii. I would like to use the Hawaii Honolulu Mission Motto as a basis of my remarks.
It is: "We are grateful to be in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission - the Aloha Mission. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is our message, love of God and others is our motivation, and obedience to the commandments and mission rules is our strength. By sharing the gospel with others, we can give them the "ha" - the breath of life, even eternal life. Aloha."
I believe this motto is for all of us, whether you are from Asian countries, Polynesian islands, the mainland, South America or even the Middle East. In fact, President Wheelwright has given coins to new students with atonement, love, obedience and aloha on it. Each one of us needs to have the spirit of aloha in order to serve our fellow beings. Let's apply the Hawaii Honolulu Mission motto into our daily life here at BYU–Hawaii.
Start with the letter “A”, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is our message. John 3:16-17 reads, “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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
The Atonement is the greatest sacrifice of love that only our Savior, Jesus Christ, could have done. He did it in order for us to be forgiven of our sins if we follow him faithfully. Often times, we start complaining about how hard life is and how we will never get things right, and as college students we feel as if we will never finish anything on time. Our lives are busy, and classes are difficult. We try to balance family, home, church, school, work, and other activities in our lives. The atonement of Christ is there to help us balance all things in our lives. Please let us remind ourselves of the Atonement.
“L” is the Love of God and others. One of my favorite scriptures is found in Mosiah 2:17 of the Book of Mormon. King Benjamin is addressing his people, saying “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
I have been blessed by having the opportunity to be a part of this BYUHSA team, and to work alongside each of the VPs that are here with us today. I have learned important lessons from each one of them, and I will be forever grateful for their examples and their service. Keep in mind that everyone is created in the image of God. He loves all of his children. When we look into a person’s eyes we can see God in them. Let's be motivated to show our love for each other by serving one another.
“O” is the Obedience to the commandments and the mission rules, which are only there to strengthen us. I have a friend of mine, who is here with us, and I won’t mention her name, but I have always admired her for being the greatest example of exact obedience. We served our mission together and we eventually ended up serving at the BYUHSA office at the same time. I’m grateful for all my friends who have helped me not only to be obedient, but to enjoy life here on campus. Satan won’t be able to overcome us if we are obeying all the commandments and rules of the school. Remember to abide by the standards of the honor code. Through keeping the honor code we can only be blessed. The honor code is there to benefit us. Always be modest and remember that your body is a Temple of God.
Lastly, the “HA” is the breath of life, even eternal life, ALOHA. We know that eternal life is only possible through our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the atonement. Let us prepare for eternal life by being anxiously engaged in the gospel of Jesus Christ and finding ways to be involved with the school. It could be giving service for 5 minutes in the “Stop and Serve” booth each week at the Aloha Center Mall, joining a club here on campus, or getting involved in BYUHSA. As a matter of fact, the new BYUHSA Presidential Election is coming up next month, and I encourage all of you to be part of it.
Let's continue being good examples to one another. It is my hope and my prayer that we continue in spreading the Aloha spirit among us, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Aloha, Brothers and Sisters. I would like to start my talk today by sharing part of recent general conference talk given by Elder M. Russell Ballard. His conference address helped inspire me on what I should speak about today. He shared a story about honeybees. In his talk He said,
"Honeybees are driven to pollinate, gather nectar, and condense the nectar into honey. It is their magnificent obsession imprinted into their genetic makeup by our Creator. It is estimated that to produce just one pound (0.45 kg) of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon. Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part … The Savior taught that the first and great commandment is: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. …’And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’” (October 2012).
We need to not only love our neighbors as ourselves, but help our neighbors as we would want them to help us.
Last year I attended the Winter 2012 BYU–Hawaii Career Fair. At that time I was working in the Alumni office on campus and had to work at a booth at the career fair. I took a break from sitting and decided that I was going to walk around the event looking for an opportunity to network or potentially seek a job interview. After circling the event I failed to find many opportunities relating to my major or career path. Soon after returning to my booth a career service representative started talking to me. She said that it is unfortunate that many students are not fully taking advantage of all the opportunities that are available at this fair, and then specifically mentioned a few companies that were looking to recruit at the fair but had not had many students approach them. After learning that one of these companies attending was the Pacific Heritage Academy, a new public charter school in Utah, I instantly received a prompting to call my friend, Irene.
She was a good friend of mine who graduated from BYU–Hawaii the previous year with a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education. She had been unsuccessful at finding a full time teaching position and was only subbing at a local Elementary school. At first I thought, “the career fair is ending in 20 minutes there probably isn’t enough time for Irene to make it.” However again a voice in my head told me that I should call her. I quickly called Irene and asked her what she was doing and told her to come to the CAC right away. I said don’t worry about changing clothes, just come. Irene showed up a few minutes before the fair was finished and was able to connect with a representative from the academy. After talking for 30 minutes she was able to set up a skype interview appointment.
A few months later Irene was offered and she accepted a full time teaching position at Pacific Heritage Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a Third Grade Teacher. I recently messaged Irene on facebook asking her if it was okay that I share this story in devotional. In response she said:
“Whenever anyone asks how I came across this job, I never forget to mention you! I have to tell you that my life was leading up to this point and if you hadn't called me, I'm not sure how I would have found this job that I love, serving Heavenly Father's children. Maybe Heavenly Father would have found another way for me to hear about it but it was you that made the choice to follow the prompting to call me. Totally a perfect example of how we can be instruments in answering other people's prayers.”
I know that I never would have been able to help Irene if I had not listened to the prompting of the Holy Ghost. Without me even telling her, she shared the exact lesson that I learned from this experience that is; God uses us to answer the prayers of others. It is amazing to think that we have the ability to be an answer to someone else’s prayer everyday. It saddens me to think of opportunities that have been lost to serve or help others, because I was not ready to recognize or receive the promptings of the Holy Ghost or because of my own selfishness.
Another story I would like to share happened winter semester 2011. The girls name in this story has been changed for confidentiality. It was the beginning of the semester and I just moved into a different house off campus. Friday evening I came home to find our neighbor Sarah sitting on the front porch all by herself playing with a cat that lived outside the house. She looked lonely and I felt bad for her but I simply said hi, and then walked to the back of the house to my apartment. I was planning to have a few friends over that evening to watch a movie. As I went into my house I felt strongly that I needed to go back outside and invite Sarah to come over to watch a movie with us, so I did. That evening was the beginning of a good friendship with Sarah. She started hanging out with my group of friends. After the semester ended Sarah and I both moved to different wards and didn’t see each other as often. Not for any particular reason, we no longer hung out anymore. We started hanging out with different groups of friends and went our own separate ways. Whenever I would see Sarah on campus or other places we always talked and said hi to each other. Just recently Sarah graduated from BYU–Hawaii. As my wife and I were saying goodbye to her she thanked me for being such a good friend to her. She said that I was so kind to her when she first got here. She said that I really helped her to meet people as well as get out and do stuff. Her roommates never invited her to do anything and she just thanked me for making her feel welcome. I could tell how sincere she was as she told me this.
This experience helped me to realize the difference I had made in her life. I never thought of it as anything great, I simply just invited her to come play games, but for her it made all the difference. She was a new transfer student who didn’t know anyone. She felt alone, which is especially hard when you go to a school thousands of miles away from home.
I too had a similar experience when I first came to school here, except from a different point of view. This time I was a new transfer student here. I had recently got back from my mission and was very eager to attend BYU–Hawaii. I had completed one year of school before my mission at a Junior College. When I transferred here I decided that I wanted to live off campus. I did not realize how hard it is to initially meet people if you live off campus. My first week here at BYU–Hawaii was miserable. I only knew one other person here at school when I arrived, she was a friend of mine growing up but had gotten married and things were not the same anymore. I learned quickly how it feels to be alone.
My roommates had all been at BYU–Hawaii for a while and already had their own groups of friends. During the first week out here my roommates would leave the house and go hang out with their friends but never think to invite me. I wanted to ask them if I could come but I was too embarrassed to do so. I remember the first weekend of school was the opening social and I wanted to go really bad but I was too shy to go by myself. I asked my roommates if they wanted to go but they all said that they already had plans. I remember sitting home by myself for the first time on a weekend in a long time and felt really alone. I prayed to Heavenly Father pleading to help me to be able to make friends and find people that I fit in with. I soon received an answer to my prayer when the next day a new roommate moved into my house unexpectedly. His name was Jimmy, and he was unable to find housing and ended up moving into our house a week after the semester started. Sunday evening Jimmy invited me to go to a gospel forum with him and some of his friends. I was so excited. I really enjoyed meeting new people.
I ended up meeting some people who became good friends of mine. Jimmy also is the one who introduced me to BYUHSA. He was an Executive Director for the student body President at the time. I started volunteering at dances and met a lot of really neat people. This experience helped change my perspective of BYU–Hawaii. I was introduced to fun students who wanted to serve and work hard. It was then that I knew I wanted to be involved in BYUHSA.
Although he probably never realized it, the simple invitation to go to the gospel forum was an answer to my prayer. My prayer was answered through the help of one of God’s children. Jimmy never told me whether he felt inspired to invite me that night or not but I know that it wasn’t a coincidence. I know that God uses us to answer the prayers of others. I hope that each of us constantly looks for opportunities to help those around us. There are probably many people that are listening to this talk today who are sick, afflicted, lonely, depressed, heartbroken, stressed, or grieved in one way or another. I hope that each of you know that you are not alone. Jesus Christ has suffered all of these things to comfort and heal you. There are so many great resources to help each of you. If you are struggling right now with something in your life, I hope that you will look for an opportunity to serve someone around you. People around you need your help as well.
Elder Ballard invites us to do the following: “In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children. Then go throughout the day with your heart full of faith and love, looking for someone to help” (October 2012).
I promise that as you serve those around you, you will find great joy and peace in your life. Whatever hole there may be in your soul right now, it will be filled. Elder Ballard also testified that: “great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands ‘anxiously engaged in a good cause’ (D&C 58:27). Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Imagine all the great things we could accomplish on this campus together if we are all anxiously engaged in a good cause.
Get involved on campus. There are so many great opportunities to be involved in. Take advantage of all the resources available while attending this University. I know that as you get involved in extracurricular activities you will be blessed in your academics. I have an experience to testify of this. After two semesters of serving as one of the Social Activities Vice Presidents for BYUHSA, I decided that I wanted to take a break from extra curricular activities and focus more on my studies. For a semester I wasn’t actively involved in any organizations on campus. When I received my grades for that semester I was shocked to see that my GPA had dropped from the previous semester. Although I had more time to study, I had wasted more of my time on meaningless things. I decided the following semester that I needed to get involved in something else on campus, so I did. Although I was busy again, my grades returned to what they were before. I learned how to better manage my time. I invite you all to find something meaningful to fill your time with. Get involved in a club, student chapter, academic association, the community, or something else productive. The main thing is to just Be involved!
I also encourage you each to attend the temple regularly. We are so blessed to have a temple in our back yard. I recently heard that the temple now has morning sessions for baptisms where you don’t need an appointment. Whether you are endowed or not there is great opportunity to serve in the temple. I know that as we each seek for opportunities to serve and help those around us, we will accomplish amazing things. Just like the honeybees, if we each contribute our 1/12 of a teaspoon to the hive, although it may seem small, great things will come to pass. We have a great potential, I pray that we may achieve it. I know that God will help us along the way. I know that what is says in Mosiah 2:17 is true, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” Let us each pray to be an answer someone else’s prayer each day and be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:42). I know that Jesus Christ lives and loves each and everyone of you, this I testify in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.