Cultivate a Spirit of Happiness…
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
4 April 2017
Ualani Mo'o Nagy
Executive Assistant for Vice President, Student Development & Services
My dear Brothers and Sisters, ALOHA!!
I am so humbled to stand before you today. I feel greatly honored and privileged for this opportunity to address you. I would like to thank President Tanner and the President’s Council for extending an invitation to be the devotional speaker. I pray that the message I have been impressed to share, will uplift, inspire and motivate you in your commitment to being better disciples of Jesus Christ.
I am so blessed to live and work at this university. I am in a position where I witness the university administration at work daily. I am privileged to sit with the President’s Council every week in devotionals and feel the warmth of the spirit as I listen to inspiring spiritual thoughts and experiences. I witness the power of the Priesthood and the magnitude of the calling bestowed upon President Tanner and his Vice Presidents as they ensure that the mission of this school is being fulfilled.
One of the things that I enjoy at work is participating in Commencement Exercises. I am privileged to interact with general authorities and special guests as we assist them with robing of their regalia before the processional. I see the President’s Council, special guests, and faculty dressed in their regalia as they march into the Cannon Activities Center (CAC). I see graduating students with smiles beaming on their faces as they march into the CAC and afterwards when they are being congratulated with leis. It is such a wonderful and joyous occasion. Everyone is happy and a feeling of love and unity is felt around campus.
The feeling of joy and happiness has been on my mind since I received this assignment to speak in Devotional. I have pondered, prayed and studied scriptures and words of our prophets on what I could say to you today. I have been impressed that I should speak to you about being happy.
Cultivate a spirit of happiness in your life by being optimistic, grateful, charitable and faithful. These virtues can help you to fulfill part of the university mission “to prepare students with character and integrity…”1
It is comforting to know that the Lord has promised you to “be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.”2
One thing that everyone wants in life is to be happy. For some of you, finding your eternal companion and being married will make you happy. For some, getting straight A’s will make you happy. For others, having a vehicle to drive will make you happy. Whatever reason it is, everyone wants to be happy. However, there are those who find happiness and satisfaction in activities that are against the commandments of God. They think they are finding true happiness but it is just a short-term happiness that does not last. Satan is ever vigilant as he “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”3 If you give in to Satan’s enticing’s, the outcome could be disastrous, and painful. Our Heavenly Father wants you to be happy, he wants you to have the kind of happiness that is eternal. You have the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and you know of the “great plan of happiness.”4 Living the gospel will help you achieve eternal happiness.
The Lord has taught us that “men are that they might have joy.”5
I love what President Gordon B. Hinckley’s mother, Ada Bitner Hinckley, said, that “a happy attitude and a smiling countenance could boost one over almost any misfortune and that every individual was responsible for his own happiness.”6
I have a great example of someone who exemplifies the quality of happiness. This person is very special to me. He is my father, Tehina Temanaha Mo’o. He is from French Polynesia, from Hikueru, a small atoll in the Tuamotu Islands. He grew up in humble beginnings. He started school at the age of 11 or 12 years old. He later went to Liahona High School in Tonga and served a mission for the Church in French Polynesia. After which, he came here to Laie to attend the Church College of Hawaii or BYU-Hawaii as it is known today. He met my mother (Marseilles Nepe Mo’o) here a young woman from Aotearoa, New Zealand. Here is a picture of my parents after one of the night shows at PCC, this is after they announced their engagement. They were both one of the first dancers at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). They were later married and sealed in the Laie, Hawaii temple. My father is the young man in the middle, the drummer is his brother (Opura Mo’o) and the young women near the drummer is his sister (Mahana Pulotu). They came here to attend school. Their parents wanted their children to have an education so they were sent here. My grandparents were also asked to help in the Tahitian village at PCC. Here is a picture of my father and his sister at PCC. This was a popular photo that was used in the early years of PCC. My father graduated from BYU-Hawaii, he helped with construction on some of the buildings and TVA apartments on campus. He even built our family home on Iosepa Street. He worked at BYU-Hawaii for over 30 years before he retired. He is a hard-working, kind and generous man. He is funny and always happy. No matter what circumstance or situation would arise, my father would smile and remain optimistic. He did not say anything negative and he did not complain. He smiled and laughed all the time. Being around him made you feel good. What I love the most about my father is that he is a worthy priesthood holder and loves our Heavenly Father and Savior very much. He emulates the light of Christ and has a loving heart. He just radiates happiness. I have learned from his example the importance of having a positive outlook and being cheerful.
Have a Positive Attitude
Cultivate a spirit of happiness in your life by being optimistic. You should choose to have a positive attitude. It is interesting how important your attitude can affect your life. No matter how old or young you are, your attitude whether positive or negative will affect you.
President Ezra Taft Benson said that “Latter-day Saints should be the most optimistic and the least pessimistic,” because you have the gospel of Jesus Christ in your life.7
No one wants to be around someone who is pessimistic. They tend to complain more and treat others poorly. They bring others down and make them feel just as miserable as they are feeling. Negative thinking and negative attitudes affect your school work, relationships, church callings, work performance, and even your faith.
President Thomas S. Monson taught:
“So much in life depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then to choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment. … We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. For maximum happiness, peace, and contentment, may we choose a positive attitude.”8
Having a positive attitude helps you to be happier in your life. Each of you will experience trials and challenges, it is part of the “great plan of happiness.”9 With a positive attitude, you will be able to cope with your challenges better. You cannot control your circumstances but you can control how you will react to them. Each of you can develop a cheerful and optimistic attitude when you are confronted with difficult challenges in your lives.
Unfortunately, the world you live in is full of negativity and pessimism, where criticism and fault-finding are common. Negative and unkind words are spoken more frequently than they should.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said this:
“I come … with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I’m suggesting that we accentuate the positive. I’m asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm that we more generously compliment virtue and effort… that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism.”10
With a positive attitude, you will be much nicer and kinder to others. Always show kindness, it will make you happy as well as the recipient of your kindness happy.
Cultivate a spirit of happiness in your life by being grateful. If you have gratitude in your hearts, you are much happier. You appreciate the blessings you have and what you have received. You have much to be grateful for: the gospel in your lives; the atonement of the Savior; a living prophet of God; your church membership; friends and family. You should count your many blessings daily. One such blessing you should count on is the opportunity to attend BYU-Hawaii. This is a special and unique place that was envisioned by a prophet of God. There is only a small window of opportunity to learn here at BYU-Hawaii. Use your time wisely and learn all that you can so you can leave this school prepared to “go forth to serve.”11
Showing appreciation to those who bless you, helps you to think about others. However, showing lack of gratitude is offensive to God.
In D&C 59:21, it reads:
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”12
Once you understand that you can kindle God’s wrath for the lack of appreciation, you will be more motivated to acknowledge all your blessings.
I would like to share an example of a time when I was grateful for blessings I received:
In 2009, my Father passed away at the age of 71. As the news spread throughout the community, we received many phone calls and visits from family members, neighbors, ward members, coworkers, and friends. We received monetary gifts, dinners, and groceries – just an abundance of gifts. We even received the gift of music – singing, chanting and dancing. For several weeks, we received an outpouring of love. We were overwhelmed and touched by the generosity of so many. What was a sad time for us became a happy and joyous time because of the love and support that we received from the community. It felt like a big party for our family as we gathered every night to eat and mingle together with visitors. What I remember most at the time, was how everyone made us feel so loved and cared for. Going through this experience makes the plan of happiness much more real to me and it makes me appreciate it more. I know that I will see my Father again. That brings joy to my heart and strengthens my faith. After this experience, it motivated me to want to give service to others especially to those who must go through a family member’s death.
I will always be grateful to all those who blessed our family in our time of need. Their gift of love and service brought a spirit of warmth and happiness into our lives.
Cultivate a spirit of happiness in your lives by serving others. Each of you can be an instrument in the Lord’s hands by helping those in need. Let us forget ourselves and reach out to others. You should put aside your own personal interests and serve. Why should you serve?
President Spencer W. Kimball has counseled us:
“Service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are preparing to live in a better world. It is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves!”13
You can follow the Savior’s example for he “went about doing good.”14 His work was about serving and blessing others.
I would like to share a story of when I was able to give service to someone:
In 2011, two years after my Father passed away, my cousin, Tamara Mo’o Ulima Soliai’s husband passed away leaving five young children ages 6 to 17 behind. Our family was shocked and saddened by the ordeal. This time I could give back and help support my cousin with love. I could provide some comfort and peace that I knew she was going through because we had gone through it before. I was grateful that I could give of my time by being there for her. Because I received service from others it helped me to render service to her and her family. I didn’t do anything big or spectacular. I didn’t do anything that was physically strenuous or tiring. I was just there for her, in person, to offer a helpful hand and a shoulder to lean on or cry on.
It doesn’t take much to give service. Start with a kind word, a smile, a warm hello, a friendly text or just being there, are a few simple things you can do. Make your service genuine and with love. You should be “anxiously engaged in a good cause … For the power is in [you].”15 You have the power to help and serve others, you should take every opportunity to do so. When you serve remember, “God loveth a cheerful giver.”16
President Thomas S. Monson counsels us:
“Let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable. As we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home.”17
I had the opportunity to serve and volunteer in many organizations that my children were involved in and it really blessed my life. I made many good friends and I learned new leadership and organizational skills. It allowed me to help my children pursue their interests and to enhance their talents and abilities. It helped me build closer relationships with my children and their friends. Some of my children’s best friends even call me Mom. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve and for the joy it has brought into my life.
Cultivate a spirit of happiness in your life by being faithful. The first principle of the Gospel is Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “If ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”18 When you have faith, you believe in him and you trust in him during times of need. The Lord promises, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”19
I would like to share a story where I faced a trial and had to rely on my faith in the Lord to overcome it:
Several years ago, I received bad news that was devastating to me. I was crushed and felt as if my whole world was turning upside down. All I could think of was, why me? Why is this happening to me? I took the bad news to heart and was overcome with emotion. I felt sadness, hurt, and disappointment. For the next few days, I humbled myself and prayed fervently to our Heavenly Father for help and for answers. I went to the temple to seek peace and comfort. I just wanted this heartache that I was feeling to go away. After a few days, I received an overwhelming powerful feeling of comfort and peace. The whisperings of the spirit told me that everything will be alright. Everything will be fine. You have nothing to worry about. Immediately after receiving those thoughts, I then felt a surprising feeling of reprimand from our Heavenly Father. These words came to me so strongly. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Be grateful for all your blessings. Be grateful and just be happy. I had to endure this trial for several months, but I did so with a positive attitude and with faith in my Heavenly Father. I knew that I would be alright and that everything would be fine. I was blessed immensely after this trial.
In our times of trials how many of you turn to the Lord asking, why me?
The Lord said, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly…”20
Elder Richard G. Scott said this:
“When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.”21
I would like to share another example of faith demonstrated by my father and grandparents.
Let’s return to the story of my father and my grandparents. It took a lot of faith for my grandparents to send their two sons, my father and my Uncle to Tonga to attend Liahona High School. They didn’t speak the language and did not know much about their culture. My grandparents wanted their sons to attend a Church school and to further their education. They had to be faithful and put their faith and trust in the Lord. Similarly, they were also sent here to Hawaii to attend school. They didn’t know the language either. They had language barriers and cultural issues to overcome. These challenges were faced with a positive attitude and with faith in our Heavenly Father.
There are many of you who come from the Pacific Islands or Asian countries or other foreign countries with English as your second language. For some, you are the first generation from your family to attend college. Your family has high hopes for you, they have the faith that you will graduate and return to them to serve in your countries. I encourage you to take every opportunity to learn and to work hard – in your studies, your jobs, your church callings, your service and your activities. Also, take the opportunity to increase your spiritual growth. This campus is a great training ground for you to do so. Live the gospel and keep the commandments so you can have the Holy Ghost as your constant companion.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said this:
“We must live the gospel in such a way that we will have the Spirt to ever be with us. If we live worthily, the Spirit will always be with us. We can then teach by the Spirit. …The reason we pray, study the scriptures, have good friends, and live the gospel through obedience to the commandments is so that when – not if, but when – the trials come, we are ready."22
As you keep the commandments and live gospel principles, you will have the constant companionship of the Spirit. The whisperings of the Spirit will come to you when you least expect it.
This is a time when I received a prompting from the Spirit. Let’s return one last time to my Father’s story. One night, I was watching my Father working on the new edition of our family home. He was wearing his tool belt and he was working so hard. He was laying the tiles on the floor and trimming some of the tiles so they would fit just right. He loved to work. He was in his element and he was happy. Suddenly, a thought came to my mind. The thought was that my Father was leaving soon. I wondered to myself, perhaps he is going on a trip soon so I dismissed the thought. Two days later, my Father passed away. I was immediately taken back to that moment when I received the thought. It was an impression from the Spirit. I received a personal revelation that my Father was leaving, little did I know, that he would be departing this earth life.
I hope you will learn to recognize the Holy Spirit. By living the gospel and keeping the commandments the Spirit will always be with you. This will cultivate a spirit of happiness in your life.
When I was younger, I was so excited to show off one of my school pictures to my parents. I thought it was a great picture, my father thought otherwise. He told me I didn’t see your smile. So I pointed to the close-lipped smile in the photo. He said that I need to practice smiling in the mirror. He took me in front of the mirror and went on to show me how to form my lips and show just enough teeth but not too much. I thought it was so silly. Later, in my early teens, I did take my father's advice and practiced smiling in front of the mirror. So, Dad, I know you’re listening and you’re smiling. I am smiling too.
Brothers and sisters, be happy! Enjoy your life! Cherish every moment that you have here at BYU-Hawaii!
I am so grateful and blessed to work at this fine university. I hope the stories that I have shared with you will help uplift, inspire, and motivate you to becoming better disciples of Jesus Christ. We discussed how you can cultivate a spirit of happiness in your life by being optimistic, grateful, charitable and faithful. Cultivating these virtues helps you to build your character and integrity which blesses your life and the lives of others. Having faith and relying on the Lord will help you. Living the gospel teachings and keeping the commandments will help you.
Our Heavenly Father wants you to be happy, he wants you to succeed, he loves you. Remember what the Lord has promised, to “be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you…”23 This is my testimony that I leave with you, humbly, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 D&C 68:6
 2 Nephi 2:27
 Alma 42:8
 2 Nephi 2:25
 Alma 42:8
 D&C 59:21
 Acts 10:38
 D&C 58:27-28
 2 Corinthians 9:7
 Alma 32:21
 D&C 6:36
 D&C 90:24
 D&C 68:6