That Our Joy May Be Full

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Feki Pouha & Steve LoweDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

January 25, 2007
Steve Lowe & Feki Pouha
BYUHSA President  & Executive Vice President

STEVE LOWE:

Brothers and sisters aloha.

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today. You will notice that my address today is not memorized. I urge you to the open your ears and your hearts to the message today. I also implore you to act upon the things which I shall discuss today. I testify to you that these things are right and true principles.

One of the things that I delight in most is the fact that my office is situated so that it is the first office you see when you come into the student activities building. I often take the chance to talk to those of you who are there to get a new ID and mourn with those of you who have lost your ID and are having to pay money to get a replacement. Those of you who have been to my office will notice that there's a picture in the window of my door simply put it is the internationally recognized yellow happy face. The happy face seems to be telling the world "Come on get happy." Happiness is a good thing to be sure. Most of us delight in finding things that bring us happiness whether its music, friends, family or other things. I find happiness, for example, in talking. I love talking with everybody. I'll talk with anybody! Devotional addresses on the other hand….But none the less everyone to some extent likes to feel happy. For my purposes today, though, I would like to talk about something that extends past happiness; something for which the creator has placed us on this earth. In second Nephi we find this defining goal, this heavenly purpose in a relatively short verse of Scripture that reads: "Adam felt that the men might be and men are that they might have joy." How profound! How comforting that our heavenly Father seeks for us to have joy.

Knowing that we seek joy and knowing that heavenly Father desires for us to have joy how do we obtain it? I would like to offer a few points or steps that have helped me on the path to joy. I would also submit to you that finding joy, that true lasting happiness, is an eternal journey. I also submit to you that the things which I will share with you today are just a few suggestions and that the pursuit of this joy includes not only the points I will share today but also all the personal points that are unique to you and/or your family. I urge you to find those unique points through prayerful consideration.

I ask you to consider that true joy stems from among other things:

o prayer
o obedience
o repentance

I would like to start with prayer. When speaking of joy one might wonder how prayer can bring us joy. Indeed prayer is most commonly identified with the act of pouring out one's heart pleading for forgiveness and asking earnestly for blessings, guidance, and an abundance of faith. It is however equally important to remember the blessings, in fact the MANY blessings that our heavenly Father grants us daily. Life, education, family and friends, the blessing of living in a free country. These are just some of the blessings that come to my mind. Reflecting on the many blessings as we verbally offer our thanks brings joy into our hearts and our minds. I humbly suggest that at the end of our prayers we pause and again think on those blessings and about the tremendous love our Father in heaven must have for us that He continues to bless to us time and again. I testify that doing so will bring a tremendous feeling of joy to your heart. I know because I have felt it. It brings me eternal joy to know that even in my stumbling and intermittent feelings of inadequacy, my loving Father in heaven seeks to extend his hand of mercy to me.

Obedience and joy are closely interconnected. To my mind you cannot have one without the other. The words of Delbert L. Stapley confirm this association, said he:


My brothers and sisters and friends, one goal that most of us share in this life is the desire to achieve true joy and lasting happiness. There is only one way to do this, and that is by being obedient to all the commandments of God. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have voluntarily entered into holy covenants, promising to obey the Lord's commandments. Willing, righteous obedience leads to celestial life; indeed, there is no eternal progress without it (Delbert L. Stapley, "The Blessings of Righteous Obedience," Ensign, Nov. 1977, 18).

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve said simply:

"Obedience to the plan is a requisite for full happiness in this life and a continuation of eternal joy beyond the veil."

In this light it is easy to see that obedience is a necessary even critical element in achieving eternal joy. As Disciples of Christ -- which each of us have committed to be from the time our baptism -- we hold ourselves to high standards. Obedience should stand among the highest. Some of us here today may be of the opinion that going to church regularly and attending classes may pretty much sum up the requirement of obedience. While any portion of obedience to Heavenly Father's requirements of us is good, complete obedience is the only way to experience a fullness of eternal joy. A significant way we can show obedience is adherence to both the honor code and the dress and grooming standards I mention this knowing that some may grow silently to themselves while some may even claim to have a headache from the repeated pounding down their throats about honor code and grooming standards. If I may speak plainly: it is a continual topic because it is a continual issue. Some would seek to trivialize the issue saying, "My hair is just a little bit longer than standards hip genes never hurt anyone besides it's the fashion. My bedroom is the only place where I can speak to my friend of the opposite sex where he or she can hear me besides nothings gonna happen we're just friends." I testify to you that this line of thought is wrong. Every student signs an honor code agreement a contract pledging compliance and commitment to standards higher than those of the world. There could be various reasons as to why we signed it but the principal of true obedience demands that we honor it. We cannot experience eternal joy while displaying disobedience to standards which the Lord has set. It cannot happen. The scriptures tell us that every blessing is predicated upon adherence to a certain law. The Lord will always keep his end of the promise; it is incumbent upon us to keep ours. Satan teaches that this is not so. It is my belief that he works especially hard on those like us. Students attending one of the Lord's universities. He tells us it's okay to lie to cheat to steal to keep the world's dress standards as our own to toss integrity to the wind. He teaches us that sacred covenants made at baptism or in the temple or otherwise hard thing to be trodden upon and replaced by seeking and gaining the acceptance of the world its fashions and its low morals.

In His most recent devotional address President Shumway said pointedly:

"Lyrics to popular songs, rap words and rhythm, dirty dancing, TV sitcoms, story lines from movies, free love philosophies, so called sexual liberation and free speech, clothing fashions and styles, the hot steamy love life of celebrities, and of course every form of pornography – all of these create a dense, many layered cloud cover that can extinguish the light in individuals and among the people. Like the vapor of darkness, after the days of destruction of the Nephite nation, unchaste and immoral living will suffocate your world as it has the rest of the planet (3 Nephi 8:20). How wonderful it will be when our desire to be 'pure before the Lord' will be greater than our desire to indulge in ungodly behavior."

These are powerful words of counsel given from a mighty servant of the Lord

I implore you to remember the covenants that you and I have made to be people of integrity to be the genuine gold that President McKay prophesied so long ago. The eternal joy of yourself and your families present and to come depend on it.

In the Book of Mosiah, King Benjamin reminds us of the resulting joy that comes from obedience:

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it" (Mosaiah 2:41).

There truly is joy in obedience.

Repentance. As we labor in our mortal existence, learning, growing and developing, there will be times when we fall short of the mark. Even in our best effort to do what we know to be right and good, we some times lose our way, suffer setbacks, and find ourselves losing grip on that seemingly elusive eternal joy. Yet through the atonement brought about by our Savior Jesus Christ there is hope of attaining joy again.

In Doctrine and Covenants 19:16 the Lord tells says:

"For behold, I, God, have suffered theses things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent" (Doctrine & Covenants 19:16).

What a comfort and blessing to know that our Savior Jesus Christ suffered all that we in our imperfect state may be able to call upon the cleansing power of his atonement through repentance. I cannot begin to tell just how crucial the principle of repentance has been in my life. We must always seek for opportunities, when situation or circumstances necessitates, to; practice sincere and honest repentance so that those sins that we carry, both large and small, may no longer burden us. Some of those sins can be forgiven through prayer and/or apology to those whom we've either offended or caused harm. Others though may require the help, understanding, and wisdom of a priesthood authority such as a bishop. Whatever the case, it is important that we take steps to resolve those issues of sin for if we do not the lord gives us a caution.

In D&C 19:17 we read: "But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I."

The principle of repentance is the only tool whereby we can avoid this undesirable state. Sometimes we may feel that we need not repent. We convince ourselves that it is better to hide our sin, that it is easier and more comfortable to keep them inside, that the embarrassment of confession is worse than consequences accompanying unresolved transgression. These are the promptings of Satan. He does not desire for us to have eternal joy but rather that we experience the exact opposite for as the scriptures tell us, he seeketh all to be miserable like unto himself. It is obvious that repentance is not easy, we do, to an extant suffer for our sins. Suffering is a significant part of the repentance process. Yet, the words of Alma relating his repentance experience gives us hope and makes to bolster our spirit through our own. He says:

17. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

18. "Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

19. "And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

20. "And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

21. "Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy" (Alma 36: 17-21).

Indeed the joy of the release and absolution of our sin is a great gift of which we should make use of on a daily basis. Elder Richard G. Scott sums it up most effectively:

"Have you wandered from the path of joy and now find yourself where you do not want to be, with feelings you do not want to have? Is there a yearning to return to the peace and joy of a worthy life? I invite you with all the love of my heart to repent and come back. Decide to do it now. That journey is not as difficult as it seems. You can cast out guilt, overcome depression, receive the blessing of peace of mind, and find enduring joy. Follow the path to peace and joy through complete repentance. The Savior will help you obtain forgiveness as you sincerely follow all of the steps to repentance. He is the Redeemer. He loves you. He wants you to have peace and joy in your life."

It is my sincerest hope that all of us can overcome sin and become clean again before the Lord that we may once again feel that blessed and happy state that King Benjamin spoke of.

My time with you is far spent. I hope that these few things that I have shared with you today will leave a mark on your minds and in your hearts. I have a testimony of these things. I know them to be true. Of this I testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


FEKI POUHA:

Hiki Mai e Na Pua I ka la'ie
Ke pi'i a'e la ka mauna ki'eki'e
Ha'a mai na kama me ka makua
He wehi pulama a'o ke kupuna
E ka'i mai ana, E ka'i mai ana
E hahai i ka leo o ka Haku E


University 'Ohana, aloha!

This chant was written by Kumu Hula Cy Bridges for the Pioneers in the Pacific Celebration in 1997, and clearly carries the voice of our ancestors and other family members depicting their love and hope for us. We literally stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Let us honor their sacrifices with our own, for they without us (and we without them) cannot be made perfect (Hebrews 12:40).

Hiki Mai e na Pua I ka la'ie: come and appear you precious flowers in the calmness of this special day.

Ke pii ae la ka mauna kiekie: each of you are taking to climb the highest and most majestic mountain of all.

Ha'a mai na kama me ka makua: dance forward (Do your best) you children of Heavenly Father.

He wehi pulama a'o ke kupuna: for you, our children are so very precious and are the most treasured adornment worn on the neck of our ancestors.

E ka'i mai ana, E ka'i mai ana: come and Lead, Come and Lead for there are many roads for you to choose.

E hahai i ka leo o ka Haku E: heed the voice of the Lord and He will care for you.

I often share this 'oli because much instruction is contained therein which can lead us to true joy and happiness.

I wish to honor President Shumway, the President's Council, teachers and staff for your tireless efforts to provide us with such a valuable experience on this campus. Thank you.

Fellow students, I hope we take full advantage of the opportunities we have to learn, contribute and grow while here on this campus. I hope each of you leave this meeting, and any other meeting or class you attend, with a stronger conviction to be better, to be like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

BYU-Hawaii is a training ground for Disciples of Christ. The Lord's team prepares here. Our Lord wishes for us to develop our intellectual, social, and spiritual senses so that we can know His voice when He speaks and thus be effective instruments in His hands. Part of our mission is to: "be an influence for good toward the establishment of peace internationally." That encompasses many facets of life, some of which we study here. Others, we will learn as we serve. One such facet of life is joy and happiness.

I would like to use President Joseph F. Smith's words as a basis for my remarks,

"There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home, and every effort made to sanctify and preserve it's influence is uplifting to those who toil and sacrifice for it's establishment. Men and women often seek to substitute some other life for that of the home; they would make themselves believe that the home means restraint; that the highest liberty is the fullest opportunity to move about at will. There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 382).

I believe this quote is for everyone within the sound of my voice, whether you are married or single. Each of us is a member of the family of God.

I humbly share with you personal insights from my family which bring me joy and happiness.

I extend my Eternal Love publicly to my Eternal Companion, Kieiki Haloakalani'okealoha Kahalepuna Po'uha and to our 2 month old son, Feki.

Those who can find such a loving companion as I have in Kieiki know intimately the goodness and mercy of our Father in Heaven. Through her I can see eternity and exaltation. Her self-less service and demeanor always seek for others to feel the joy of the Lord. She is always a source of revelation and counsel for me, as far as I am worthy of it. How critical it is to prepare now to be the eternal companion you desire in someone. Please allow me to rephrase that: It is critical to prepare now to be the eternal companion you desire in someone else. Preparation for eternal marriage begins long before the first date. And even after years of marriage, the effort to be a caring companion need only increase. Dates with your eternal companion are crucial during marriage. This is my example of joy in eternal marriage.

My Makua Joseph and Lehua Po'uha, have taught me how to recognize and listen to the Spirit of God. Without knowing what the Spirit of God feels like to me, how can I partake in the joys of the gospel?

My mother taught me about charity and service through her social work, and church service. She has influenced many to draw closer to Father in Heaven. I recall her countless hours dedicated to serving families throughout the community as well as her own. She has always given her very best to serving others, making sure that they had enough. As a practitioner of Ho'oponopono, or Hawaiian Peacemaking, my mother assists many families to make right unresolved issues, as well as teach others how to lead ho'oponopono sessions. Her endeavors to serve have been a temporal and spiritual effort to aid the destitute and needy. She is a pillar of our home and continues to urge her children to strive for excellence. She always instructed me to treat my sisters well, because that was how I was going to treat my spouse. I also learned from my mother that the family deserved better treatment than friends. Thank you mom for teaching me joy in charity.

My father has taught me what it means to have power in the priesthood. When the vacant house next to ours suddenly burst into flames, I remember my father placing himself between the burning house and ours with our garden hose. I recall that hose looked like it was shooting air rather than water. I was sure that the flames would engulf our home because it seemed to touch the eaves and walls. But my dad stood firm and sprayed the flames away. The fire department soon came and helped my dad. Dad later shared with our family that as the flames rose to their highest point, to the point of nearly igniting our house, he raised his hand to the square and in the name of the Savior and by the power and authority of the priesthood, commanded the flames not to touch our house. Those flames never touched our house, but it charred the banana trees right next to it. Through this experience I have learned joy in the power of the priesthood.

I salute my three sisters Nicole, Kanani and Ka'ua for making sure I could defend myself against bullies. I recognize my young brother Ammon for his efforts to be a good boy. I thank my other parents, uncles, aunties, teachers, coaches, friends and cousins who have pulled my ears when I needed it and embodied the all-time adage: "It takes a village to raise a child." I, along with all of you are products of various villages helping to shape and mold each of us. Remember, we are all part of a family, we are never alone. We find joy in our family relationships.

I also recognize my Kupuna, Sarah Mahi'ai of Hawai'i and Henry Fisiipeau of Tonga who are the grandparents I have on this side of the veil. I think of my grandparents and yours too, on both sides of the veil and their excitement and hope for us to represent them well and draw closer to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I can see them rejoicing that we desire goodness and mercy more than wickedness and sorrow, for wickedness was never happiness. I know they are praying for our success. This vision displays the joy of eternal families.

I also recognize my Aunty Lisa who suddenly and tragically passed away two days ago as a result of domestic violence. Aunty Lisa helped my parents raise my sister Nicole and I. We will be eternally grateful for her positive influence in our lives. As her "surrogate" children my sisters and I will always have fond memories of our Aunty and will look forward to seeing her in the next life. We know the plan of salvation and the doctrines pertaining unto it, but this tragic circumstance still pains. And I have learned of how the Lord works in mysterious ways and how I can continue to trust in Him. I feel as Job, "…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). On behalf of my family and I, thank you for your prayers and kind thoughts. I take comfort in the joy of the resurrection and eternal progression.

The only way to real happiness is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Recently an instructor of mine said, "Better days come to those who keep the commandments of God," and I believe that.

May I offer a few more principles that have brought me joy in my life?

We can find joy in attending church meetings on Sundays and during the week. This also includes serving in the temple. I invite each of us to make an extra effort to go to the temple often, weekly if feasible. That Holy edifice is our Father's House, that's where we belong.

Other things we can do to have real joy is to:
Pray daily
Read and study the scriptures daily
Be chaste
Have meaningful weekly family home evening
Have time to meditate the doctrines of the gospel
Be self-reliant
Sleep and arise early
Consume healthy foods

We should also balance our efforts with time to explore hobbies and other leisure. But leisure should never oust work that needs to be done. As I heard once, work first, play later.

We should participate in wholesome activities and give meaningful service within and without the Church. I invite each of you to contact myself or Steve, Aleta, Ha Le, Everton, Joshua, Kainoa, Kaj, or Sean to join us in providing service activities for our university in BYUHSA. We have a variety of areas that you can serve in. And we can always use willing hands, hearts, minds and spirits in joyful service to our fellow students. We thank those who have volunteered already and given so much.

I wish to share a story that illustrates the kind of work ethic we should all aspire to in Elder John H. Groberg's book entitled "In the Eye of the Storm," which many of you now know as "The Other Side of Heaven." This book is a record of his missionary service in the Kingdom of Tonga. Elder Groberg's missionary companion was my Grandpa Feki. This record of my Grandpa Feki depicts such a joyful spirit and admirable character.

Elder Groberg writes:

"…we realized we should have our own house.

"To begin construction, we needed several poles of considerable length for the outside supports. Experienced people told us that ironwood poles were best. It grows in the swamps and lasts a long time both above and below ground. Since there were no saws, the only way to get the ironwood out was to wade into the swamps and cut it with machetes. The wood was so hard that the first few blows of even the sharpest machete hardly made a dent.

"Early one morning, eight of us met to go two-by-two into the swamp. Each team was to bring back four ironwood poles of five to six inches in diameter and ten to twelve feet in length. The branch president had made team assignments. I was assigned to a strong young man. We all noticed that Feki was assigned to the laziest one of the group. We smiled, as we knew Feki was by far the hardest worker.

"It gets very hot and the mosquitoes are terrible in the swamp, so we were all anxious to cut the poles and get out as soon as possible.

"Each team separated to a different part of the swamp and started hacking away. I would swing a hundred times or so while my partner rested – if you can rest while knee deep in a hot, smelly swamp with mosquitoes constantly swarming around you! I suppose we were bitten with about the same frequency, whether standing or swinging the machete, but you didn't notice the mosquitoes, the heat, or the smells so much when you were working hard.

"Eventually, we finished cutting our trees. It was probably about three in the afternoon when we came dragging our poles back. One team had arrived shortly before us and another came soon after. We waited and waited, but Feki and his partner did not come. The Relief Society had the meal ready, but we decided to wait until Feki and his partner returned.

"We waited, wove, and talked for a long time. An hour went by – no Feki. We were hungry and the food was ready, but we waited. Two hours. Where was Feki? We all knew what had happened and why it was taking so long. We said as much as we got hungrier and hungrier." Finally after nearly three hours, Feki and his companion came dragging four nice poles. Almost in unison we called out, "Finally! What took you so long?" We all knew Feki had done nearly all the work and we were pushing him to tell us how lazy his partner was, but he just smiled as they placed their poles alongside the others. "We kept pushing him as the Relief Society sisters spread the meal, but he said nothing. Finally I said, "A c'mon, Feki, tell us why it took you so long. Didn't your partner work at all?

"Feki looked me straight in the eye. He looked at the others, too, then softly said, 'What difference does it make to you why it took us so long? We have our poles. The angels have recorded the work done this day, and that is all that counts.' He smiled broadly and sat down. We all looked at one another, somewhat embarrassed, realizing in our hearts that he had spoken the truth and said something quite profound. The atmosphere abruptly changed from one of needling to one of contemplation.

"As dusk deepened to darkness, I looked across the small fire into Feki's dancing eyes, and my heart melted with admiration. He had absolutely refused to downgrade another. I knew I could trust him. Yes, the angels had recorded the work, the words, and the feelings of that day, and they were good."

May we all have genuine joy and remember the words of President Joseph F. Smith, "There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home, and every effort made to sanctify and preserve it's influence is uplifting to those who toil and sacrifice for it's establishment…There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 382).

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.