Brothers and Sisters Aloha!
I am honored to address you at this time. I pray that the Spirit will accompany us, that all may be edified of all, and rejoice together. (D&C 88:122 and D&C 50:22)
As an Admissions Officer for the university, my primary responsibilities are to recruit and select students who are spiritually and academically ready to contribute to the mission and prophetic vision of the university. My message today will go beyond the recruitment spiel as I address the current learners, leaders, and builders here at BYU–Hawaii.
Before I begin my message, I would like to give you a glimpse into my awesome job. With the permission of this applicant, I would like to read part of her essay:
“There are four main reasons for me to be accepted to BYUH.
Reason #1: Pineapple is my favorite food EVER, and I, being a good person, believe that I deserve to have convenient access to good pineapple. I say good because I live in Nevada. Have you ever had Nevada pineapple? Don’t.
Reason #2: I have curly hair and, I cannot stress this enough, it looks AWESOME in humidity. The desert does a great injustice to my luscious locks.
Reason #3: I am a ukuleleist, whatever you wanna call it. I’m the queen of laying around and strumming tunes on “Franny”. The only way I could make her happier would be to do that on a beach.
Reason #4: I’m a swimmer. I love swimming. In the words of the famed Moana, “See that line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me.” I am the Nevada Moana. But the closest thing I have to the sea that is calling me would be a reservoir full of bottles down the road. Oh, and I guess my 5th reason would be that I need a wholesome education.
In all seriousness, BYUH has a well-earned reputation as a place where students go to prepare themselves intellectually and spiritually to make a difference in the world.”
In all fairness to the author, I omitted the second half of the essay which was just as good as the first. She is now a new student here and is loving the experience.
I hope that you all are loving the experience. By now, you should know the sacredness of this place. Please take advantage of this opportunity to grow both spiritually and intellectually.
“The mission of Brigham Young University–Hawaii is to integrate both spiritual and secular learning and to prepare students with character and integrity who can provide leadership in their families, their communities, their chosen fields, and in building the kingdom of God.” (about.byuh.edu/mission)
Today, I want to talk about the spiritual learning or higher learning that you will receive here. But more specifically, strengthening personal testimony.
At the groundbreaking ceremony of this college on February 12, 1955, President McKay said:
“The purpose for which it is being built, first, the things pertaining to God and His kingdom, a testimony of the existence of Deity. Know that he lives and that He is our Father, the Father of all mankind and ruler of brothers. What that means towards peace, establishing peace in the world” (David O. McKay, CCH Groundbreaking Ceremony, Feb. 12, 1955)
The first purpose for which this school was built was to strengthen testimony.
President McKay declared: “A testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most sacred, the most precious gift in our lives.” (Treasures of Life, comp. Clare Middlemiss, 1962, 228))
The Apostle Paul admonished, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 timothy 4:12)
Alma preaches, “Stand as a Witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places…” (Mosiah 18:9)
Yet, how can you be an example of the believers when you do not yet believe? Or, how can you stand as a witness of God when you have not yet received a witness?
Brothers and sisters, many of you probably came to BYU–Hawaii already knowing that God is our Father and that Jesus is the Christ. Some of you, however, may still be living on the testimony of others — your parents, your friends, your spouse, your church leaders. May I suggest that you set aside time every day to find out for yourself if the Book of Mormon is true. For it will change your heart and change your life. If you seek this knowledge “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ,” (Moroni 10:4) I promise you that you will receive an answer. And once you know that the Book of Mormon is true, then it will follow that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. You will have that burning testimony and knowledge that this Church is true!
As a freshman here at BYU–Hawaii in the early 90’s, I received a full tuition scholarship for one year. This scholarship was awarded to all seminary graduates from Laie with 100% attendance for all four years. Thanks to my goodly parents, they woke me up every day for early morning seminary. While studying, I worked part time in the P.E. Cage. My work schedule started at 5 AM Monday-Friday. After completing my work assignments, I sat patiently waiting for patrons to pick up issues or equipment. During those free moments, I read the Book of Mormon. I challenged myself to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover.
Despite my perfect seminary attendance, I had not yet read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover. Plus, I knew that I should serve a mission. But how could I serve a mission if I didn’t know for myself if it was true? So I decided to put it to the test. As Alma taught: “an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if you can no more than desire to believe…” (Alma 32:27) As I read each morning all by myself in the P.E. Cage, the words spoke to me and touched my heart and soul. “for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” By the time I finished Moroni chapter 10, I did not need to ask if it be true, because the Holy Ghost had already “manifested the truth of it unto” me. (Moroni 10:4)
I coined that spiritual experience my “Enter to Learn Go Forth to Serve” experience. It changed the trajectory of my life and literally, it motivated me to go forth to serve a full-time mission for the Church in Tokyo, Japan. My personal testimony strengthened from that experience and it motivated a lifetime of “Go Forth to Serve” opportunities.
Have you experienced your “Enter to Learn Go Forth to Serve” experience? If you have not, I urge you to experiment with the word.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf declared, “Our motives and thoughts ultimately influence our actions. The testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the most powerful motivating force in our lives. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the power of good thoughts and proper motives, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” (D&C 6:36)
Elder Uchtdorf continues:
“The testimony of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel will help us in our lives to learn of God’s specific plan for us and then to act accordingly. It gives us assurance of the reality, truth, and goodness of God, of the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, and of the divine calling of latter-day prophets. Our testimony motivates us to live righteously, and righteous living will cause our testimony to grow stronger.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Power of Personal Testimony” Oct 2006 GC)
Having a personal testimony is fundamental to our faith.
President David O. McKay said, “A testimony of the gospel is an anchor to the soul in the midst of confusion and strife.” (David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct. 1912, 122)
What is a testimony?
A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. (True to the Faith, Testimony)
Elder Bednar described testimony as, “A testimony is what we know to be true in our minds and in our hearts by the witness of the Holy Ghost” (David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home” Oct 2009)
He also adds, “A testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation.” (David A. Bednar, “Converted unto the Lord” Oct 2012 GC)
A powerful personal testimony will always include these truths:
- God lives. He is our loving Father in Heaven, and we are His children.
- Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world.
- Joseph Smith is the prophet of God through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the latter days.
- The Book of Mormon is the word of God.
- President Russell M. Nelson, his counselors, and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are the prophets, seers, and revelators in our day.
Jesus taught, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
How do we get a testimony?
The Prophet Joseph Smith provided a wonderful example of this. He had a specific question. He studied it out in his mind. Then he asked God if it be right. (D&C 9:8)
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
Acquiring a testimony is not a passive thing. It requires spiritual work.
So how do we receive a personal testimony? Here are five suggestions:
- Have a desire to believe (Alma 32:27)
- Search the scriptures
- Keep the commandments
- Ponder, fast and pray
- Bear testimony
The ideal applicant or student at BYU—Hawaii is one who possesses a deep and abiding personal testimony. Who knows the mission and purposes of this university and who knows their purpose for being here and how they will contribute to the university.
The ideal student knows who they are and who’s they are. They know that they are each a beloved spirit son and daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. (The Family, A Proclamation To The World)
The ideal student keeps the commandments and their commitments. They renew their covenants each week and strive to do better and be better. Ideal BYU—Hawaii students are true disciples of Jesus Christ and minister to all. “The world is hungering for them”, genuine gold. (David O. McKay, CCH Groundbreaking Ceremony, Feb. 12, 1955)
I would like to now share with you three stories of powerful personal testimonies.
The first story is a tender mercy experience of my wife and her family. When she was nine years old, her mother and father were students here at BYU–Hawaii living in TVA. The following account of the experience was given by my wife’s sister, Mele Ha’unga Hansen and written by President Eric B. Shumway, former BYU–Hawaii President and family friend:
“One day in a pickup rugby game on the front field, her father, Semisi Ha’unga, was severely injured. Paralyzed and suffering from a broken neck, Semisi languished for several weeks and died, leaving his wife, ‘Ahoika, and four small daughters. The sadness was almost too much to bear, but ‘Ahoika remained faithful and optimistic. Eventually she had to return home to Tonga with her children. She worked for the Latter-day Saint Church Schools, which paid her a modest salary. A widow and single parent with several children, ‘Ahoika eked out a living. Mele gave the following account:
I remember one day in Tonga, Mom called a family council and told us children that we had just enough money from that particular paycheck to pay tithing and the monthly bills, but there was no money for food. I remember complaining to Mom: “Why can’t we use the tithing money for food. Heavenly Father has plenty of money. Your tithing is so small compared to what He has. Does God want us to starve to pay tithing money He doesn’t need?” But Mom was adamant. “It’s His money,” she said. “He may not need it but we need to pay it. It is our need, not God’s, to pay tithing.”
Mele spoke of the prayers of her widowed mother and the anxiety of the children, when suddenly their father’s brother appeared at their home; he was not a member of the Church. He was laden with foodstuffs from his garden plot—yams, sweet potatoes, green bananas—and a roasted pig. There was also corned beef and bread. The sight of all this food made a deep impression, but it was their uncle’s story that moved them most. He said, “I was working in my plantation today. At noon I lay down to rest under a tree. I slept and saw your father walking toward me. When I saw him, I knew instantly why he had come to me. You were hungry and without food.”
Thus the widow’s faith was vindicated in front of her children. ‘Ahoika, still a widow, represents the millions of devoted Latter-day Saints all over the world whose faith and trust in paying their tithing make sacrifice joyful. Her generous, believing nature is part of her cultural as well as her spiritual heritage.”
This wonderful experience made a deep impression on my wife, one that she will never forget. The story of the widow’s mite comes to mind when I think of her mother’s faith and testimony. This experience will live on in our family history. The principle of the tithe has never been and issue in our family. Please don’t forget that you must keep the commandments for your strength to be faithened and your faith to be strengthened. (David F. Evans, BYUH Devotional, Oct. 3, 2018)
“Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6)
May I share with you another wonderful faith strengthening story. Last October, on a recruiting trip to South Korea, I met Seon Woong Hwang or Danny as he likes to be called, at the Yeongdeungpo Stake Center in Seoul. I learned that Danny and his Sister Joo Young, were recent converts to the Church. At the education fair he briefly shared with me his conversion story which began here in Laie on an unexpected visit to campus. His mother a graduate of the University of Hawaii Manoa suggested that they attend UH or another university in Hawaii. So they planned a family vacation to tour UH Manoa and other universities. Prior to their visit in February of 2018, Danny underwent two knee surgeries and ankle surgery. He was still rehabbing from these surgeries when they visited Hawaii. I’d like to now read his own account of his “Enter to Learn Go Forth to Serve” experience.
“We visited over 16 universities and I walked like a person who had a stroke because of my knee surgeries. I could get lots of good things from each school but I did not think that I would enroll in any of them. I had no more hope that I would find my ideal school. On our last day in Hawaii we decided to tour the island. Then by coincidence or luck we met two female
BYU–Hawaii students at Foodland in Laie. I started to get some information from them. My family and I thought that we should visit there. I think it was the power of the Holy Ghost or Jesus Christ. When we arrived at the front field. I will never forget the moment, the sunshine was lighting the whole school which made me feel like I was in heaven. And I felt like I found my final destination and this school was my destiny. All of a sudden my fatigue and tired body got cured without any reasons. I didn’t know where the power came from but I started to feel powerful and I really wanted to know more about BYUH. We asked people where is the admissions office or student help center but because of lack of English we started to find a Korean student. Thanks to Jesus Christ, we could meet a Korean student, Sister Sung Min Cho in the Aloha Center. She came tchere because of the Holy Ghost. It was a miracle. If she were not there we would have left without any specific information. My family felt so sad for her because we talked to her for 6 hours. She gave us lots of information about the school and the Church. My parents really liked the rules of BYUH. Especially the Honor Code. No drinking whiskey or brandy or tobacco and no smoking. We then enjoyed the PCC show and returned back to Korea. In Korea, I searched for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On May 6, 2018, I was baptized and I realized the love and sacrifice that Jesus Christ did for us and I cried a lot when I felt and knew the truth and love of Jesus Christ. I later gave baptism to my sister on July 29th.”
Danny and his sister Joo Young are now freshman here at BYU–Hawaii. His “Enter to Learn Go Forth to Serve” experience was powerful and a personal testimony for him. In the words of President McKay:
“We dedicate our actions in the service unto thee and unto thy glory and to the salvation of the children of men, that this college, and the temple, and the town of Laie may become a missionary factor, influencing not thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people who will come seeking to know what this town and its significance are.” (David O. McKay, CCH Dedicatory Prayer, Feb. 12, 1955)
I truly believe that Laie is a place of refuge. A sanctuary of faith. A “living laboratory in which individuals who share the teachings of the Master Teacher have an opportunity to develop appreciation, tolerance, and esteem for one another.” (Marion G. Romeny, Dedication Aloha Center, Jan. 26, 1973) “unique in all the world. “ (Gordon B. Hinckley)
Brothers and Sisters, we gain or strengthen our testimony by bearing it. When was the last time you bore your testimony?
This past August, I participated in several CES outreach events in the San Francisco Bay Area. The highlight of my trip was speaking to youth and young adults in the Oakland California East Tongan Stake. At that event, I showed this video of Olivia Takapu, an EXS—Biomedical major from Oakland, California. Olivia’s personal testimony shared in this video is a powerful example of how sharing testimony can strengthen and become a light unto others. Produced by our talented BYU–Hawaii media services team, I would like to show it to you now.
[Olivia Takapu Video] 2:43
Olivia’s powerful personal testimony has already touched hundreds of young people in the Bay Area. This scripture comes to mind when I think of Olivia’s testimony.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
Brothers and Sisters, one of the greatest things about our Heavenly Father’s plan for His children is that each of us can know the truth of that plan for ourselves. Each of us can have our own personal “Enter to Learn Go Forth to Serve” spiritual experiences.
If you don’t yet believe or if your testimony is wavering, I challenge you to put in the spiritual work and set aside time every day to read the Book of Mormon. I promise you, as you do so “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4)
I have a testimony of this. I know it to be true. God is our Eternal Father, we are his sons and daughters. He knows and loves each one of us. Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. Joseph Smith did see God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. President Russell M Nelson is our living prophet on the earth today. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is His church. This is my personal testimony.
“Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt 7:7)
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.