To Become Like Him

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

June 10, 2004
Richie Norton & Elsie Moleni
BYU-Hawaii Student Body President and Vice President

Richie Norton

[Slide 1: picture of baby]  

This is a picture of my baby boy Raleigh. [Slide 2: picture of baby] When he was born, he was only 4 pounds 3 ounces. The doctors told that us that up until that point, he was the smallest baby to ever be born at Kahuku hospital. There were many complications in the birth of my son. In fact, the doctors said that both my wife and the baby could have died. Thankfully, we were blessed with a happy ending to that frightening experience.

As I look at my little baby boy, I sometimes wonder, what will he do with his life? What types of experiences will he have? My wife and I hope that he will lead a righteous life by following the counsel of the living prophets.  

Having a son makes me think about how Heavenly Father views us "His sons and His daughters. The scriptures teach us that He wants us to be happy for "men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). He has provided prophets to teach us the principles and ordinances necessary for us to be able to return to Him. In the first principle of the first discussion, missionaries teach: [Slide 3: Discussion quote] "Our Father, God loves us. He wants us to progress and be happy. He wants us to become more like him" (Discussion 1, 4).

Today, I will talk about who our Father in Heaven wants us to become, specifically, who we should become because of our experience at BYU-Hawaii. I will also talk about how we can become that person. As we meet together today, I pray that we might listen to the Spirit, for when we do the things that the Spirit tells us, we become more like our Father in Heaven.  

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that one of the things necessary for life and salvation is to have "an actual knowledge that the course of life which [we are] pursuing is according to his will" (Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5). For us to be able to return to our Heavenly Father, we must have an actual knowledge that the course of our life is aligned with the will of our Father in Heaven.

As members of the BYU-Hawaii family, what course of life does Father in Heaven want us to pursue?

In 1955, during the dedicatory service of the Church College of Hawaii, President David O. McKay said that this school was built for two purposes. [Slide 4:quote]First, for things "pertaining to God and His kingdom," and second, to help people "develop manhood, character, and make noble men and women." He went on to say, [Slide 5-6: picture/quote] "The world needs them. One man said that the world needs men who cannot be bought or sold, men who will scorn to violate truth, genuine gold. That is what this school is going to produce. More than that, they'll be leaders. Not leaders only in this island, but everywhere. All the world is hungering for them and, best of all, the world is recognizing them" (The Founding and Early Development of The Church College of Hawaii, 66-67).

Again, as members of the BYU-Hawaii family, who are we to become? A Prophet of God has spoken: if we obey the principles of the gospel, we are to become "genuine gold;" "leaders...all the world is hungering for." President McKay also said, "From this school, I'll tell you, will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally" (The Founding and Early Development of The Church College of Hawaii, 67).

The following are three examples of the types of people President McKay was talking about:

[Slide 7: picture Chan]

This is Chan. Chan is an example of the genuine gold that the world is hungering for. He was my neighbor when I lived in Hale 4. Chan is from Cambodia. When he was only 14 years old he fled Cambodia through dangerous jungles to a refugee camp in Thailand. There he was educated until he was 18 at which time he returned to Cambodia where he lived and served in a Buddhist monastery. One day he met a missionary couple, was given a Book of Mormon, converted to the gospel, and then sacrificed the luxury of consistent food and shelter provided by the Buddhist monastery to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Chan served a mission in California, is now here at BYU-Hawaii, and will return to his country to serve his people and build the kingdom of God. Chan will be a leader whose influence will be felt for good in his native country.

[Slide 8: Ariuna]

This is Ariuna. Ariuna is from Mongolia. She graduated from BYU-Hawaii a year ago, returned to her country and married another Mongolian who was also a student at BYU-Hawaii. She is just finishing working for the Embassy in her homeland. Her husband recently became the president of a large branch there and she is expecting her first child in a few months. Ariuna and her husband's leadership is at this very time establishing peace in their Mongolian community. They are working on starting a cashmere company that will create employment for several currently unemployed people. The world is hungering for more genuine gold leaders like them.

[Slide 9: picture Sherry]

This is Sherry. You've probably seen Sherry around campus. Sherry has worked with BYUHSA and spent countless hours in service to the students. Often times we will see Sherry in the Aloha Center cutting small strips of white paper over and over and over again. Those little papers are for the prayer roll at the temple. Sherry quietly serves the Lord and magnifies the talents she has been given. Sherry is a good example of someone who is always "anxiously engaged in a good cause" (D&C 58:27). She "abide[s] by the law of a celestial kingdom" and she "fills the measure of her creation" (D&C 88:25). Again, genuine gold.

We need to be as President McKay prophesied, "noble men and women" "genuine gold." Do we each think of ourselves as a part of President McKay's vision? Every individual who comes to this school has come here with a divine mission and purpose. We have an immense responsibility to know the course of life our Father in Heaven wants us to take and to follow that course.

So how does one become "genuine gold?"

We become "genuine gold" by the choices we make on a daily basis. We must live the simple principles of the gospel. For, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6). The difference between those who may be considered "fool's gold" and those who can be called "genuine gold" is comparable to those who don't abide by the principles of the gospel and those who do. Remember, President McKay said, [Slide 10:Quote] "Those who are obeying those principles will develop manhood, character, and make noble men and women." The Old Testament teaches that we will be tried even as "gold is tried" (Zech. 13:9). Gold is "tried" or in other words purified by fire. The heat of the fire melts the gold and separates the genuine gold from the other impure elements.

Let me give you an example of a student here at BYU-Hawaii who is becoming "genuine gold." This year, BYUHSA started a committee called the B.E. committee. B.E. is an acronym for Building Eternity. The purpose of the committee is to encourage students to live close to the Lord by abiding by the principles of the Honor Code.

One Sunday night we were giving a fireside and I was speaking on the topic of modesty. I was talking about how when I was seeking an eternal companion I wanted to marry a girl who not only had a testimony, but also showed her faith by her works (James 2:17). An indicator to me if a woman was converted or not was if she followed the counsel of the modern day prophets, more specifically, I was looking for a girl who read the Book of Mormon everyday and wore a one-piece bathing suit. One young woman who attended the fireside later told me that when I said that that was the type of woman I had been looking for, it made a profound impact in her life. She said, "I remember thinking that I wanted an eternal mate who would want me to follow the teachings of the living Prophet. So when I got home that night, I was thinking about the second piercing that I had in my ear. I remembered reading President Hinckley's counsel to treat our bodies as temples and limit piercing to one in each ear. So, I decided to take it out because I wanted to be that person and do what the Prophet wanted me to do. I wanted my life to be in Heavenly Father's hands. I also decided to give away my four bikinis and all of my short shorts. Then, I bought a one-piece swimming suit. After doing all that, I really learned about what a gift our bodies are and I definitely felt an increase in the Spirit."

People who are genuine gold keep their commitment to follow the Prophet. They read the scriptures everyday. They pray always. They keep the Sabbath day holy. They listen to wholesome music and watch wholesome entertainment. They are modest. They obey the word of wisdom. They keep themselves morally clean. They, as President Gordon B. Hinckley says, "avoid pornography as you would a plague" (Ensign, May 1983, 46). They seek eternal companionship and raise faithful families up unto the Lord. Those who are genuine gold avoid even the appearance of evil.

Genuine gold are those who do these things not only because they signed an honor code, but also because they know who they are...children of God. As Paul said, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17).

Genuine gold are those employed at BYU-Hawaii or PCC who truly earn their paycheck by putting in an honest days work before clocking out.

Genuine gold are the students who choose not to cheat or plagiarize.

Genuine gold are the husbands and wives who speak kindly to and of one another.

Genuine gold are the parents who teach their children the principles and ordinances of the gospel (D&C 68:25).

Genuine gold are the teachers, staff, and administration that do not take advantage of their position by exercising "unrighteous dominion."

In short, genuine gold are those who follow the counsel of the living prophets. It is that simple. In the last General Conference, Elder Henry B. Eyring said, Slide 11-12: Quote "We need strength beyond ourselves to keep the commandments in whatever circumstance life brings to us. For some it may be poverty, but for others it may be prosperity. It may be the ravages of age or the exuberance of youth. The combination of trials and their duration are as varied as are the children of our Heavenly Father. No two are alike. But what is being tested is the same, at all times in our lives and for every person: will we do whatsoever the Lord our God will command us?" (Ensign, May, 17). Let me read that again, "Will we do whatsoever the Lord our God will command us?" Will you do whatsoever the Lord your God will command you?

It is the small decisions that we make each and every day that will refine our rough edges, remove our impurities, and by "his grace" make us "become perfect in Christ" (Moroni 10:32). That is the beauty of the true and living gospel" It is important to remember that whatever wrong we've done in the past can be forgiven if we choose to repent and accept the atonement of our gracious Savior Jesus Christ.

Are we going to resist the Lord in letting Him make of us what he intended us to become when we were sent to this earth? Are we going to resist fulfilling the purpose of this life, which purpose is to become more like Him? No, "True to the faith that our parents have cherished; True to the truth for which martyrs have perished, To God's command; Soul, heart and hand; Faithful and true we will ever stand" (Hymn 254). We must be valiant in following the counsel of the living prophets. We must not be bought by the world for the payment of praise. We must not sell our genuine gold to the world for the meager payment of popularity.

[Slide 13: picture baby]

For my son Raleigh, it was a dangerous, painful, and difficult experience to come into this world, but he survived. And he has a bright future ahead of him. Likewise, however difficult it was for us before we came here to BYU-Hawaii. We now have a responsibility to become "genuine gold." No matter what circumstance we came from; whether it was a broken home, a corrupt country, poverty, or disability" as part of the prophetic mission of BYU-Hawaii "we have the responsibility to be leaders who "cannot be bought or sold;" leaders whose influence will be "felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally."

I challenge each of us to follow the counsel of the living prophets; to obey the principles of the gospel that we might become "genuine gold". That we might become like our Father in Heaven. For that is the purpose of this life to be happy and to become more like our Father in Heaven. I testify that the principles taught today are true, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Elsie Moleni

For most of my childhood years my grandmother Elsie Elkington lived with my family. What a grand blessing and privilege this was for us. She was a virtuous woman, highly favored of the Lord and her name is one I am striving to be worthy of. As a child I remember always being fascinated with her. She was a perfect lady, and although she was old and practically blind, using a cane to guide her, she always walked and talked like a perfect lady. Her mannerisms were extremely proper and when she ate it was like an art she spoke with a soft New Zealand accent. Always to me she was beautiful. We lived in New Zealand at the time and in our house, her room was at the end of the hallway. Stepping in her room, for a young girl, was like stepping into another world, stepping back in time. She had things a perfect lady should have. It all was so ancient and antique, jewelry box with beautiful necklaces and broaches, old books and shoes and coats. My imagination would run away with me, as I would dream whom my grandmother really was. I was told not to go in her room unless she was there but I was drawn to it. Couldn't help myself. One day alone in her room, I started to look through her old books, hoping to find a clue maybe to confirm my childhood imaginations of her identity. I came across a large book that looked hand made but with particular skill. The pages were thick and black and on those pages were the most beautiful old black and white photos of beautiful people. (Photo) One of them I recognized to be my grandmother (Photo) although much much younger I could identify her immediately. (Photo) As I continued to turn the pages I came across one particular photo that melted my heart. It was of a beautiful woman sitting alone on a stage with a crown on her head surrounded by people who were all looking at her. This woman I recognized to be my grandmother and can you imagine what began to go through my mind? Remember I was very young. My thoughts were, my grandmother is a queen! and then, if she is a queen than that makes me a princess. I was on top of the world that day but it was short-lived, later being told that it was only a beauty pageant. My grandmother passed away in 2000 and as I shared this story at her funeral I had a strong confirmation that she is indeed a queen and I also have the potential to become that also, and each of you Kings and Queens, the first presidency proclaims to the world that each of us "has a divine nature, a destiny." This is it. This thought has since been a powerful tool in my life. I have a vision of it, it affects the way I think, the way I act, the decision I make, the way I view others, truly the words of elder Maxwell are confirmed to me that "...There can be no true felicity without true identity..." As we understand our Destiny We can have the power to say as the young son of King Louis XVI said to those who after imprisoning his father, took him a young boy and tried to destroy him morally by exposing him to everything filthy and vile. We can stand in the face of temptation and say as this young prince said "...I cannot do what you ask for I was born to be a king".

We were born to become like Him Our Savior Born for Glory. As a student here a realization of this Destiny has become more real to me. How blessed we are that along with the promises of this gospel come promises specifically for us here at BYU-Hawaii. Becoming leaders as president McKay has said is one such promise. This is training and preparation for us to become like our savior and ultimately a Queen or King.

There are divers ways of things we can do to accomplish this task. As a student three key principles have helped me to become like the savior. They come from the Counsel given by our own prophet regarding retention in the church. I will say that in my situation it is retention to my conversion which conversion is ultimately my commitment to become like the savior. So here they are as they apply to me as a student.

A friend, a responsibility and nourishment by the good word of God.

A friend

This represents to two things for me. First, to be a friend. Leaving family and friends behind to come here left me excited but anxious and uneasy a familiar feeling. Day one was chaos learning where to go, whom to see, where to live... a fellow student, first a stranger to me went beyond the smile and hello and gave me her time. She included me in her circle of friends and she soon became as King Solomon said "...a friend that sticketh closer than a brother..." Joseph smith said. "A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race" I was a product of that kind of love. I have prayed to remember that experience so that I could always be a friend like that. One who holds back on opportunities of really making friends, here, right now, as David o McKay said "...starves his own soul..." The second, Surround yourself with good friends. President McKay said, "...Among life's sweetest blessings is fellowship with men and women whose ideals and aspirations are high and noble. Next to a sense of a kinship with God comes the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends..." He also said "...The friends with whom we choose to associate are major contributors to the formation of our character..." We are very blessed to be surrounded by great people. I have made many such friends. They sit behind me; I see many of you before me. Some have graduated, come and gone but our friendships I will always remember because something of them and you has become part of me part of my character. You help me to become more like the savior.

Second, A responsibility

President David O. McKay said, "Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God's greatest gift to man" What am I doing with that gift? What have I done with my time here at BYU Hawaii? I recognized the day that I stepped on to this campus that I was privileged to be here. And I understood completely that with that privilege came a responsibility. What was the responsibility? Back then I didn't know exactly what, but I new I wasn't going to wait for something to happen upon me, I was going to make things happen I was going to search for a responsibility. I then learned of a responsibility required of all who come to this school, to become a leader as David o McKay prophesied this school would produce. We have a part to play in that, so I looked for opportunities to develop leadership, knowing that, with this opportunity I would become a more qualified and worthy servant to my Heavenly Father and I would come closer to goal of becoming more like the Savior. We can find opportunities to be leaders in our work place in our classroom, through our church callings, attending forums, the list goes on. Finding these opportunities will enhance our experience here and we will leave this place much better than when we came. On the plane ride home from my mission I sat next to a very wise and elderly man, a member of the church. He said to me its always wonderful to hear missionaries say of their mission those were the best 2 years of my life. He continued, what worries me is if 5 years later they are still saying that. Life is supposed to get better and better. I am glad that I can say this past year has been the best year of my life. Because of this school because of you because of the privilege of being your fellow servant your vice president. A beautiful responsibility.

Last nourished by the good word of God.

At an early age I learned the power of the word. While living in Tonga, before I was blessed with sisters for a while it was just me, and five brothers . Life was a beautiful challenge. I loved my brothers, I wanted to be like them play with them, learn the haka with them (picture). At times I think my family forgot I was a little girl, and if it weren't for the few dresses I wore during church and special times like family photos (picture) I think maybe others would have thought there were 6 little Moleni boys instead of 5. Thanks to beautiful parent who love the Lord we read from the book of Mormon daily. We had hanging on a wall in our home a picture of the stripling warriors (picture). We loved that picture and we loved them. My brothers wanted to be like them and I in my confusion being surrounded by so many little boys, I also wanted to be a stripling warrior. Now as I think back to those childhood desires of ours I wonder why would we choose the stripling warriors to want to be like. And as I read back the scripture verses we read as children I think, indeed why not.

Helaman says of his sons:

"...But behold, my little band of two thousand and sixty fought most desperately; yea, they were firm before the Lamanites..." In another verse "...And as the remainder of our army were about to give way before the Lamanites, behold, those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted...never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites... Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon there on own lives."

Indeed why not.

As I matured and grew out of my tomboy stage I realized that instead of wanting to be a stripling warrior, I was going to marry one. And thanks to the word, at an early age I set a standard for my self, and with consistent nourishment of the word I was constantly reminded of and held true to my standard. And the wait has truly been worth it because I have found my beloved stripling warrior and on the 5th of August I will marry him, the love of my life in the SLC temple (picture). That's what the word does for me. It sets standards for me to live by. Elder Merill J Bateman former president of BYU Provo said. "However diligent we may be in other areas, certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures...a casual, infrequent exposure to the scriptures will generally not open the door to the whisperings of the spirit or provide insights into the Saviors life and character." The savior set the perfect standard. Those standards are abundant in the scriptures. Nourishment to the soul also come through words given to the youth of the church by the brethren which applies to all called the strength of youth. At BYU we have the words from the Honor code. I love it. In them I have found safety and peace and when we can live it in a way that it becomes a quest and not an irritant Like Ezra Taft Benson said, "...God will endow us with power..." That power is necessary to becoming like the Savior.

A friend, a responsibility and nourishment by the good word of God. Doing these things teach us of the Saviors attributes and we can never share in His power without sharing in His attributes. We need that power. It gives me courage and the ability to answer in the face of adversity "I cannot do what you ask for I was born to be a Queen". I love the savior, I love you. May each of us realize our Divine Destiny, that of Kings and Queens and live now to become more like the Savior is my prayer In the name of Jesus Christ amen.