A center of learning, woven together with cultures

"Since Laie's early days, it has been crowned with a magnificent temple, which flanks this campus [Brigham Young University-Hawaii] on the one hand. The campus is flanked on the other by the beautiful and unique Polynesian Cultural Center, established by the Church to preserve and enhance the rich and beautiful cultures of the South Pacific islands and to further the education of young men and women. This university campus is perhaps one of the most beautifully situated of any in the world," President Howard W. Hunter said at the inauguration of BYU-Hawaii Pres. Eric B. Shumway Nov. 18.

"A magnificent center of learning has been woven together in this favored place called Laie."President Hunter made reference to the temple, one point of the "triad of learning," and its contributions to the spiritual development and learning among the BYU-Hawaii family. Later during the day, he and his wife, Inis, quietly absented themselves from festivities surrounding the inauguration Friday afternoon, Nov. 18, to attend the temple.

He and other speakers at the inauguration spoke in more detail about the other points on the triad of learning - the university and the cultural center.

In speaking of the development of BYU-Hawaii, President Hunter briefly reviewed the origins and progress of the Church in Hawaii. "Only three years after the first settlers entered the Salt Lake Valley, missionaries were sent to Hawaii," President Hunter said. "The pioneers had scarcely had time to build a shelter and break ground for planting when Apostle Charles C. Rich, under the direction of Brigham Young, called 10 missionaries to open the work of the Lord in these Sandwich Islands.

"After a long trek to the Pacific Coast and a slow voyage from there to the islands, these first missionaries came ashore at Honolulu, the capital of the kingdom, on Dec. 12, 1850. The following day, after finding lodging, they climbed a mountain behind the port city. Each of them carried a stone for the building of an altar at which they offered prayer, dedicating the land for the preaching of the gospel."

President Hunter said that some years later difficulties arose at the initial gathering place for the Saints on the island of Lanai. Brigham Young then sent two former Hawaiian missionaries, George Nebeker and F.A. Hammond, to locate a new gathering place. President Hunter said, "After an intensive search on the islands of Hawaii and Kauai, Elder Hammond negotiated the purchase of 6,000 acres in Laie for the price of $14,000. This occurred on Jan. 26, 1865. . . .

"The BYU-Hawaii Campus was established to fulfill the admonition of the Lord to seek learning, even by study and also by faith.' In this same revelation the Saints were admonished to studythings both in heaven and in the earth, . . . things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.' "

President Hunter said the Church, from its earliest beginnings, has placed the education of its members at the forefront. "This commitment is based on such fundamental revealed truths as the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth' andit is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.'

"Also, `Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.' "

In an interview with the Church News, BYU-Hawaii Pres. Eric B. Shumway said: "BYU-Hawaii is a marvelous place to be.

"It was conceived as an idea in the mind of a prophet, David O. McKay, when he visited these islands in 1921. He called it a vision. At a flag-raising ceremony, he was deeply moved by the many races and cultures represented by the little children of the Laie Elementary School. What touched him was the essential fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ would and could unite peoples of great diversity as one people, the people of Christ. He saw that one day a university would stand in Laie, dedicated to the purpose of preparing students who would help unite a people in Christ and establish peace in the world. Not just peace among countries, but the peace of Christ in the minds and hearts of individuals."

That vision, Pres. Shumway said, resulted in the establishment of the Church College of Hawaii in 1955, which was renamed Brigham Young University-Hawaii Campus in 1974.

Pres. Shumway said, "Perhaps the prophecy and admonition that has become the signature of BYU-Hawaii's purpose were spoken by Pres. McKay, who said, `You mark my word, from this school will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good toward the establishment for peace internationally."

Pres. Shumway added, "I love what one student said: `At BYU-Hawaii, I found my faith and my testimony. I gained my ability to think and work. I won self-confidence at BYU-Hawaii, I discovered my identity as a child of God among many of Heavenly Father's other children from all over the world. I found my wife and my goals for eternity. I learned how to express myself without fear. At BYU-Hawaii I realized I could make sense of life. The university gave me that chance. It sponsored me, encouraged me, subsidized me. Now I want to give something back by the kind of life I lead.' "

Pres. Shumway said visitors to BYU-Hawaii see right away that it is a unique place. "It's an American university, but it's an international university," he said. "It's not a Polynesian school, and it's not an Asian school, although we have many students from Polynesia and Asia. It's kind of a perfect mix of people from 60 countries. BYU-Hawaii is unique in all the world. In proportion to each other among the students, we don't have any minorities. We have no majorities, either."

In his inaugural address, Pres. Shumway spoke of "five constants" that ran through letters from alumni who responded to a survey mailed to them. He said they wrote of: Gratitude for the strong religious and moral values manifest not only in the honor code which all students subscribe to, but in the curriculum as well. The opportunity for a competitive academic training that prepares them for their life's work. The rich interaction of people of many cultures. The integration of training, theoretical study, and practical work experiences, particularly at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is an extension of inestimable worth to the campus - educationally, culturally, and financially. A deep appreciation for a caring faculty who, as mentors, even ministers, gave them personal time and attention both inside and outside the classroom.

Pres. Shumway further said: "Two years ago when we were trying to recruit a new psychology professor from a mainland university, he made an observation about our campus that we too often take for granted. He attended a class where the students had brought refreshments to celebrate the last day of class. They called on their regular teacher to bless the food. He called upon the powers of heaven to bless the students as well, in their lives and in their exams. In the prospective professor's words, `How wonderful to be at a university where teachers can literally bless their students.' He is now with us.

"The five constants . . . are anchored in certain perspectives which we believe are universally true and eternal, and which give meaning and substance to BYU-Hawaii's educational mission, namely, that God is real. He is personal. We are all His children. He knows each and all of us intimately and loves us infinitely. His desire is that we learn to love as He loves, to cherish one another on this planet as brothers and sisters."

When President Hunter visited the Polynesian Cultural Center Nov. 19, he was met with the words "Welcome home," an appropriate greeting since, as president and chairman of the center's board of trustees from 1965-1976, he is regarded as one of the center's founding fathers.

President and Sister Hunter, Elder and Sister Neal A. Maxwell and other invited guests toured the center Saturday afternoon. The tour included visits to seven re-created villages representing Pacific island cultures and a ceremony at which gifts were presented to President and Sister Hunter. That evening, they attended the center's major attraction, a show featuring songs and dances of the Pacific.

Preserving and sharing the heritage of Pacific island cultures has been the center's main purpose ever since it opened on Oct. 12, 1963. Under President Hunter's direction as its president, the center grew. Before he was released as its president and chairman of the board of trustees, it was redesigned and enlarged from its original 15 acres to more than 45 acres with the present seven re-created South Pacific island villages. In 1991, an IMAX theater with a large screen, on which are shown cultural and educational films photographed on locations in the South Pacific, was added.

Today, the Polynesian Cultural Center is Hawaii's top paid tourist attraction, receiving about a million visitors annually. Tourists come from nearly every nation. Hardly a week or month goes by that some national or international leader, prime minister, member of royalty or other dignitary isn't hosted at the center. (See page 6 for examples.)

The Polynesian Cultural Center not only teaches tourists about Polynesian culture, but also provides employment to students of BYU-Hawaii. Lester B. Moore, who has been president of the Polynesian Cultural Center since October 1991, told the Church News: "The Lord has His hand over this center. It touches lives."

He said that beyond being a tourist attraction, BYU-Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center have two major roles, one of which is financial and the other of which is an extension of the classroom.

"On the financial side, we have 1,200 employees at the center, two-thirds of whom are students. Most of these students are on work-scholarships. Some are from developing countries, where the annual income is as low as $560, compared to $18,000 in the United States. Without the PCC, most of the students who are here now would not be able to go to a college.

"Students receive financial aid through the PCC. They attend classes, and work 20 hours a week at the center to pay for their tuition, room, board and books, and still have some `pocket money.' During the summer, when they aren't in classes, they work 40 hours a week. Tourists who come here are, in essence, helping provide an education for the students. And the students are learning the work ethic. They're getting an education and self-esteem at the same time. If it were not for the Polynesian Cultural Center and the funds it generates, these students would have to go someplace else for their education. The problem is that they wouldn't be able to afford to go anyplace else."

Pres. Moore said: "The second major role of the center - being an extension of the classroom - is fulfilled as students have the opportunity to learn of their own culture and other cultures and languages. They have a chance to draw closer, to recognize the things they have in common, that bind them together."

Sonya Au, a sophomore from New Zealand, is a typical student who works at the center. She is assigned to the customer services office and also serves as a guide. "The PCC is my means of going to school," she said. "If it were not for the center, there would be no way for me and others to go to school at all.

"I'm majoring in music, but I am learning so much more than just music. In the dorm where I live, there are four different languages spoken in a group of eight girls. I'm learning about different cultures. When I came here, I thought of myself as a New Zealander. Now I feel a kinship with people from other islands of the Pacific. I hear the similarities in the languages of the islands, and I can see how we resemble each other in our looks and customs."

After he completed his visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, President Hunter expressed his gratitude for the many gifts and remembrances provided him. "It was wonderful to see so many people that I had known from the earliest years of the center," he said. "These are a gracious and wonderful people and I am honored to be remembered by them."

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