For BYU–Hawaii student Pua’ena Kapu, Tuesday’s campus devotional was a bit nostalgic.
Being in the presence of several general Church leaders — including an Apostle, the Relief Society general president and two other general authorities — reminded her of her mission.
“[It] brought back the memories and emotions of love and humility that I felt as a missionary on Temple Square,” the senior from the Big Island of Hawaii told the Church News.
Members of the Church Educational System’s Executive Committee — including Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson; the Church commissioner of education, Elder Clark G. Gilbert; and Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Presidency of the Seventy — all participated in the weekly campus devotional of the seaside university in Laie, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
The Church leaders shared experiences, testimonies and perspectives in response to questions collected from a survey of the campus community.
One of Kapu’s main learnings from the devotional, she said, was that in order to find true and lasting joy, “we must let God prevail and be honorable covenant keepers.”
The topic of covenants was threaded throughout many of the leaders’ comments.
In his ultimate remarks before closing the meeting, Elder Christofferson spoke of Abraham, “father of the faithful” who was chosen to bring forth a covenant people.
And yet, Abraham could have doubted the Lord’s ability and willingness to fulfill His covenant or promises, Elder Christofferson said. For example, Abraham is promised land, but he has to leave it because of famine and go to Egypt. He is promised posterity as numerous as the stars in heaven, but his wife is barren. He finally has a covenant son and then is commanded to sacrifice him.
“All of these things you think might have caused him to doubt, but in reality, they were the things that strengthened his faith,” Elder Christofferson said. The trials and difficulties that covenant children of God experience can similarly be opportunities in which the Lord will prove how faithful He is as they turn to Him.
“We want to be faithful in our promises and in keeping our covenants with Him,” Elder Christofferson said. “Yes. But He also wants to show us that we can have faith in Him, can count on Him and that He will fulfill His promises to us.”
With BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III acting as moderator, the first question focused on how to find joy, peace, confidence and the rest that President Russell M. Nelson promised in an October 2022 general conference address.
In response, Elder Christofferson shared a quote from President Nelson’s “masterful” address: “I grieve for those who leave the Church because they feel membership requires too much of them. They have not yet discovered that making and keeping covenants actually makes life easier. Each person who makes covenants has increased access to the power of Jesus Christ.”
If individuals focus on Christ and link themselves to Him by covenant, then joy is the product, Elder Christofferson said.
In that same talk, President Nelson also explained that knowing of Heavenly Father and the Savior’s love for individuals is vital, added President Johnson.
In response to President Nelson’s invitation, President Johnson said she has tried to be deliberate about looking for Their love.
“And it’s everywhere,” she said. “When I go looking for the love of my Savior, I see it in the beautiful sky this morning here on the island as the sun came up, and I see it in your faces. I recognize that as evidence of the love of my Heavenly Father, my Savior for me, and that has made me more joyful.”
Teachings of President Nelson
When asked about what message of President Nelson’s has resonated with them, President Johnson spoke about the Prophet’s first address after being sustained in April 2018, where he invited Church members to seek personal revelation and to learn to utilize the blessing of the Holy Ghost to guide, direct and comfort.
The message resonated with her then, President Johnson said, but became even more important to her in April 2021 when she was called to be the Primary general president and thought about how to teach children about the Holy Ghost.
“That lesson from President Nelson and that invitation to understand better how the Holy Ghost communicates with me has made a big difference for me and given me more confidence that I’m on the Lord’s errand,” President Johnson said.
Elder Christofferson spoke of President Nelson’s opening remarks last conference where he said, “Dear brothers and sisters, God is the source of all truth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces all truth that God conveys to His children, whether learned in a scientific laboratory or received by direct revelation from Him.”
That message is important especially in a university setting, Elder Christofferson said, where individuals are seeking to know and live by truth. “That is done by being and feeling and acting accountable to God, the source of truth.”
Although it’s hard to pick a favorite talk, Elder Gilbert said he tries to pay attention when the Prophet repeats something, and so he paid particular attention when President Nelson repeated his injunction to young adults last May during his conference talk in October.
The Prophet repeated his plea to take charge of one’s testimony. “Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth.”
Elder Gilbert encouraged students, “If you want to follow the Prophet, look at when he repeats something and pay particular attention when he pleads with you.”
As Elder Johnson has pondered the Prophet’s invitation to “let God prevail,” he said he has noticed that there are times “it seems like I’m trying to convince God to use His power to accomplish my will, rather than trying to bend my will or to allow my will to be subject to God’s will or to align my will with His and to focus my efforts to help Him get His work done.”
Learning to submit his will to God is “graduate work in the gospel,” Elder Johnson said, and will be a lifelong effort.
BYU–Hawaii’s role in CES
When asked about the Church’s vision for the Church Educational System and BYU–Hawaii’s role in the plan, Elder Gilbert reiterated the mission of CES: “We encourage students to become disciples of Jesus Christ, who can be leaders in their homes, the Church and in their communities.”
That is the central responsibility of the Church educational institutions, Elder Gilbert said. “Don’t come here and just get a career preparation and a degree and make some wonderful friends in a beautiful place, but use your time to become something totally different in Jesus Christ.”
The wonderful education and preparation that students are receiving is not an end in itself, agreed Elder Christofferson, “but it’s a means to a greater end, of blessing others, blessing people in your homeland, blessing your own family, blessing all those around you in different ways. But you’re intended to use this wonderful blessing … as a tool to make a difference in other people’s lives just as the Savior did.”
Making temple experience more meaningful
The last question posed to the visiting Church leaders asked how to make worship of the Savior in the temple more meaningful and valuable.
President Johnson said she has tried to look for the Savior in the temple every time she goes. “He’s there,” she said. “He’s in everything we do, what we say, the clothes that we’re wearing.”
President Johnson also reiterated President Nelson’s advice to those who do not love going to the temple to go more. “Absolutely, positively true,” she said. “Keep going and look for the Savior, and I know that you will find Him there.”
Even though those who attend a temple session are doing and hearing the same things, “each of us is developing and progressing and deepening our conversion and discipleship based on our own preparation and where we are and what we’re open to receive,” Elder Christofferson added.
As individuals attend the temple they ought to be patient but diligent “and recognize that the Lord will speak to us as fast and as much as we’re ready to receive as we go along,” he said.
Elder Gilbert referenced President Nelson’s talk, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” where the Prophet showed the foundations of the Salt Lake Temple during reconstruction. “When renovations on the Salt Lake Temple are completed, there will be no safer place during an earthquake in the Salt Lake Valley than inside that temple,” President Nelson said.
At this point Elder Gilbert said he expected the Prophet to say there was no safer place to be spiritually than in the temple but President Nelson added a phrase. “Whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants,” President Nelson taught.
As students think about their temple worship, Elder Gilbert said, “you can go to the temple and receive revelation. You can go to the temple and feel closer to the Savior, but above all, you’re reminded of the covenants you made in the temple, and in the coming days, they will be your protection.”