Elder Cook offers 4 points of counsel to BYU–Hawaii graduates

As BYU–Hawaii graduates move on to the next phase of life, Elder Cook offered four points of counsel to help strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered counsel and direction to graduates of BYU–Hawaii on Friday, Dec. 9 — directing them to be beacons of light, strengthen their personal testimonies, prayerfully consider significant choices and protect themselves spiritually and physically.

“My overall feelings about your generation — and particularly you wonderful graduates — is highly optimistic,” the Apostle told the 221 fall semester graduates and their loved ones gathered in the Cannon Activities Center on the Laie, Hawaii, campus for commencement exercises.

Elder Cook spoke to the graduates as they prepare to move on to the next phase of life, promising that “a remarkable future” awaits the “wise and righteous.”  

“As I look back over the 60 years since I graduated from university, I recognize that there are many challenges that need to be avoided and some opportunities that need to be pursued,” Elder Cook promised.

He was joined at the commencement services by his wife, Sister Mary Cook, and BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church commissioner of education, and his wife, Sister Christine Gilbert.

Elder Cook offered four specific points of counsel to help graduates strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ as they move forward from their university experience.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Mary Cook, and BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, participate in the BYU–Hawaii graduation ceremony in Laie, Hawaii, on Dec. 9, 2022. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

1. Avoid bondage and addictions

Bondage to addictions can come in many forms, Elder Cook said. Addictions cause bondage when they impair agency, contradict moral beliefs and destroy good health, whether that be drugs and alcohol, immorality, pornography, gambling or others. 

Some addictions, or predilections, while not inherently evil, can use up precious time that could be used for other virtuous objectives. “These can include excessive use of social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation and many others,” Elder Cook said.

Ideologies or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ can also lead individuals away from the simplicity of the Savior’s message, Elder Cook warned. 

Today, “gospel truths are often rejected or distorted to make them intellectually more appealing or compatible with current cultural trends and intellectual philosophies. If we are not careful, we can be captured by these trends and place ourselves in intellectual bondage.”

Forces that violate sincerely held religious beliefs can also result in bondage, he said. “One of the most invidious forms is when righteous people who feel accountable to God for their conduct are forced into activities that violate their conscience,” such as a health provider forced to choose between assisting with abortions or losing his or her job.

BYU–Hawaii graduates applaud during graduation ceremonies with Elder Quentin L. Cook on Dec. 9, 2022. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

2. Be a beacon light

In his responsibilities as a general authority through the years, Elder Cook said he has lived and traveled in the Philippines, New Zealand, Asia and most of the islands of the Pacific and has seen the “enormous contributions” BYU–Hawaii graduates are making in the Church and in their communities. 

Beacon lights are often seen as lights on the shore that allow ships in dangerous weather to find a safe harbor, Elder Cook explained. “Many people are experiencing all kinds of storms in their lives. You graduates can be a beacon light to them through your example.”

Related Story
President Eyring calls his time at BYU–Hawaii devotional a ‘sacred time and sacred place’

In his 33 years of living and working in the San Francisco area, Elder Cook said he observed that young graduates who came to the area and camouflaged their faith — or did not let people know who they are and what they believed — struggled. However, those who were beacon lights — who let people know what they believed — had added protections.

“My counsel to you is to be a beacon light and make a positive contribution to the community where you choose to live,” he said.

BYU–Hawaii graduates line up for processional during ceremonies on Dec. 9, 2022. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

3. ‘Strengthen your own testimony’

“The foundation for every important decision and choice you will make is your testimony of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is an essential element of that testimony,” Elder Cook said.

During President Nelson’s ministry tour to South America in August 2019, Elder Cook accompanied him on a visit to the president of one of the countries. During the visit, President Nelson presented the president with a leather-bound copy of the Book of Mormon and, after explaining a bit about the book, invited him to read the heading for chapter 11 of 3 Nephi, where Christ visits the Nephites.

“The leader of this country was obviously touched when he read the heading aloud,” Elder Cook recalled. “The Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ and contains His commandments and teachings. Continuously reading and studying this sublime book will strengthen your desire to live His commandments and provide you with a strong testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III conducts graduation ceremonies on Dec. 9, 2022. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

4. ‘Live so that the Atonement of Jesus Christ can be efficacious in your life’

“Those who repent will be particularly blessed by the Atonement,” Elder Cook taught. “Without the Atonement, the eternal principle of justice would require punishment.  Because of the Atonement, mercy can prevail for those who have repented and allow them to return to the presence of God.”

When he was 26 years old and studying for the California bar exam, Elder Cook received a call from his mother, who told him that his grandfather, who was 86, was extremely ill. Elder Cook traveled to Utah to see his grandfather one last time. “He was so pleased to see me and share his testimony,” Elder Cook recalled.

To this day, Elder Cook said he can remember the great love that his grandfather had for the Savior and the appreciation he had for the Atonement.

Elder Cook quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley, who taught, “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace.”

In conclusion, Elder Cook testified of the “divinity of the Savior and the reality of the Atonement, and I hope that you will prayerfully consider the significant choices that are before you.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook greets BYU–Hawaii graduates during the ceremonies on Dec. 9, 2022. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

Educational stewardship

In his remarks, Elder Gilbert expressed his hope that as graduates celebrate and commemorate their milestone, that they would pause to consider what it means to leave BYU–Hawaii not only with a degree but with a stewardship of the Lord.

Quoting Matthew 25:15 — “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability” — Elder Gilbert told graduates that each of them is a recipient of a large talent portion from the Lord. In the parable, it wasn’t important how many talents the servant returned, but whether they returned what they received with increase, he noted.

“How will you use your educational talent to provide increase in your own life, in your family, and in the Church?” Elder Gilbert asked. 

He promised, “if you will continue to make the Lord your partner in your future development — the same way you have involved him in your educational development — He will amplify and strengthen you in ways you can hardly believe.”

Related Story
Why the Church Educational System needs more than just BYU
BYU–Hawaii graduates celebrate following graduation ceremonies in Laie, Hawaii, on Dec. 9, 2022. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii


President Kauwe quoted President Nelson, who taught in a BYU–Idaho devotional in 2010, “Your mind is precious! It is sacred. Therefore, the education of one’s mind is also sacred. ... So my counsel then — and now — is to continue your education, wherever you are, whatever your interest and opportunity may be. Determine how you can best serve your family and society and prepare well.”

During graduates’ time at BYU–Hawaii, President Kauwe said, they have gained an understanding for “kuleana” — a Hawaiian word for stewardship.

“In traditional practice, a person receives kuleana when they demonstrate a readiness and worthiness to handle a responsibility. The word implies a balanced relationship between the responsible person and the responsibility. President Nelson’s counsel to you is clear — your education represents a sacred kuleana,” President Kauwe said.

BYU–Hawaii — which includes a vast international student body — has helped prepare graduates to be a productive and unifying member of the global community. “As such, you have kuleana to build intercultural peace in your personal and professional endeavors.”

President Kauwe pleaded with graduates to be diligent in their kuleana. “Please be righteous stewards of both the spiritual and temporal blessings you have received here at BYU–Hawaii. Honor your covenants with God and your commitments to your family and community.”

As they do so, when they experience the sorrowful challenges of life, they will be able to find joy through God, President Kauwe promised.

Of the 221 degrees bestowed during Friday’s commencement, 211 were bachelor’s degrees while 10 were associate degrees. The fall semester graduates represented 26 different countries; 56% came from outside the U.S. while 44% came from 22 different states. 

Related Story
What BYU–Hawaii President Kauwe has learned about ‘growing into revelation’ throughout his life
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed