In the fall of 1959, Utah State University student body officer Quentin L. Cook made plans to visit Hawaii to watch the USU football team play against the University of Hawaii.
“We student officers paid our own way but accompanied the football team on the same airplane,” he recalled. “President David O. McKay, who was then the president and prophet of the Church, learned of our trip and invited us to meet with him at Church Headquarters.”
It was the first time the 19-year-old had met a prophet, and he was impressed with his countenance and spirit.
“He was warm and gracious to us,” Elder Cook told BYU-Hawaii students during a campus devotional on Nov. 20. “President McKay then told us about this institution where we are today with great enthusiasm.”
The school had been in existence for only four years, and President McKay had dedicated the first permanent buildings the year before.
“He asked if we would meet with the students and administrators, give them his love and blessing and encourage them in every possible way,” he said.
Elder Cook said he remembered the feeling of awe he had when he first saw the beautiful setting.
“The ocean, the mountains, the temple, the magnificent vistas are as inspiring today as they were then,” he said.
While there on that earlier trip, the students met with the new governor of Hawaii, William F. Quinn. Just prior to his visit, Hawaii had been admitted as a new state in the United States on August 21, 1959.
“I love the diversity of students that attend this great institution," Elder Cook said.
Over the years, and through many of his assignments as a General Authority, Elder Cook has seen how unity is an eternally significant principle — especially amid diversity.
“We live in a world that is emphasizing diversity over unity,” Elder Cook said. “Many assume that it is virtually impossible for people from different cultures and diverse backgrounds to be united in common goals. … A unifying answer to these assertions is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Righteousness is the underlying principle that brings unity and happiness.”
Drawing from 2 Nephi chapter 9, Elder Cook spoke of the instruction for young people about learning, wisdom, wealth, labor and the profound doctrine that allows all to follow the paths of righteousness that lead to the Savior.
“Your experience here at BYU-Hawaii and the education you are receiving prepares you for righteousness, unity and happiness,” he said.
Elder Cook shared five principles to help contribute to a successful quest for faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, righteousness and knowledge.
“At a practical level you are preparing for family life and the means of supporting your family,” he said. “Faith, righteousness, and knowledge will greatly assist you in both areas. Any honest labor is worthwhile and to be admired. Work that includes values, meaningfulness, new ideas and blesses mankind is particularly significant.”
1. Enthusiastically and righteously continue the quest for knowledge.
Elder Cook shared the story of Sir Hans Sloane, a physician in the mid-1600s who was interested in botany. In his work, he identified about 800 new species of plants and created the recipe for milk chocolate. After selling his recipe, he became wealthy and poured much of that money into creating a large collection of botanical and other specimens from around the world.
“When he died, he (had) made provision for his collection to become the property of the British nation,” he said. “That was the beginning of the British Museum.”
Elder Cook also spoke of Paul Cox, a former BYU professor who has been part of several breakthroughs in treating diseases, some based on research he did in Samoa.
“Sloane and Cox represent a continuing quest for knowledge to bless mankind,” Elder Cook said. “I relate these accounts because they exemplify the love of learning and the synergism of knowledge.”
2. Righteous choices matter.
“The choices we make are critical — they are the key to our future and happiness,” he said. “Remember, we are the sum total of every decision we make.”
Recognizing today is a time when almost every choice is debated and dissected, when people immediately oppose any righteous proposal or principle, and when many argue that accountability is not necessary, Elder Cook told listeners to not be discouraged.
“Lest we be discouraged, let us remember the outcome of the war in heaven, and the wonderful outcome that we know will be ushered in with the Second Coming of Christ,” he said.
3. Righteous day-to-day consecrated effort is better than occasional heroic actions.
Consecration is not a once-in-a-lifetime event, Elder Cook said. Rather, it is a daily devotion.
“Some members profess that they would commit themselves with enthusiasm if given some great calling, but they do not find ministering or gathering family history sufficiently heroic for their sustained effort,” he said.
It is more important to develop consistent, faithful, righteous dedication.
“My mission president put all this into perspective for me and taught that, in some cases, seeking to perform a heroic effort can be a form of looking beyond the mark,” he said.
4. Be strong and immovable in matters of righteousness.
When basically decent people simply get caught up in the cares of the world, they lose their way, Elder Cook said.
Drawing from the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Elder Cook said, “The decent people to whom this happens haven’t engaged in major transgressions, as a rule, but they have distanced themselves from the Savior, and He has become a stranger to them.”
Elder Cook added, “It is essential that we place faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ at the center of our lives.”
5. Earn the heritage bestowed “upon us as we make righteous choices.”
“Many of you, if not most, have a testimony,” Elder Cook said. “We each need a personal testimony.”
Of the importance of not living off of “borrowed light,” Elder Cook spoke of the responsibility every person has to develop his or her own testimony.
“Your principal goal is to build your personal faith,” he said. “World conditions increasingly require deepening individual conversion to and strengthening faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement. The Church has made an incredible effort to give you a road map to assist you in making righteous choices.”
Listing a few of the actions on the “road map,” Elder Cook reminded listeners of the emphasis on honoring the Sabbath Day, the strengthening of elders quorums and Relief Societies, ministering in a higher and holier way, as well as the home-centered, Church-supported Sabbath effort.
"Righteously adhering to the counsel given will bless you now and throughout your life."