In his first address as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — and just hours after the announcement was made of his call — Elder Patrick Kearon stood in front of BYU–Hawaii graduates and invited them to “put your hand into the hand of God.”
Elder Kearon was ordained on Thursday, Dec. 7, then flew with his wife, Sister Jennifer Kearon, to Hawaii for the commencement exercises on Friday, Dec. 8.
“I slept very little last night, as you can well imagine,” he told the graduates. “I realize now in the most extraordinary way that never have I actually prepared remarks for others that so perfectly fit a moment in my own life.”
He said he knows that God — who is over all and to whom the call came as no surprise — directed him to say what he had already prepared to say for the graduation.
“I am keenly aware that I will need to grow in every conceivable good way to become the servant the Savior needs me to be. My inadequacies, weaknesses and lack are painfully clear to me. But I have faith in the patience of my Father, the grace of Jesus Christ and the tutoring of the Holy Ghost,” he said.
Elder Kearon told the 234 fall graduates that they stand on a new threshold, and before them stretches an adventure — and also a lot of unknowns.
But as they step forward, they can trust that as they reach out to God, He will be a light and guide for them along the way.
He shared these words written by poet Minnie Louise Haskins:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
“And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
“That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
“So I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
“And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day.”
Elder Kearon said putting “your hand into the hand of God” may mean exercising the faith of the widow of Zarephath, who used the last of her meal and oil to feed the prophet Elijah. Or it could mean the humble obedience of Naaman, who listened to the prophet Elisha and bathed seven times in the Jordan River to be healed. It might call to mind Mary, the mother of Jesus, who trustingly accepted her role in God’s plan.
“Certainly, putting your hand into the hand of God means a constant quest to draw close to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and feel the joy of Their perfect love,” Elder Kearon said.
It means recognizing Their presence, thinking celestial and looking ahead to what God has in store.
“My friends, if we strive to be led purely by the hand of God, and not by any other influence, we will be empowered to face the unknowns of our future with sustaining faith and abiding trust.”
‘Finding the hand of God’
Elder Kearon said the gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with light that can and will assist everyone in “finding the hand of God” as the poem describes. This light is found through seeking Christ, repenting, studying the scriptures and making covenants in the house of the Lord.
“Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, is the transcendent source of light in our lives. … Because of His light, we really can choose hope and joy in the midst of life’s confusing storms.”
Said Elder Kearon: “Repeatedly turning back to God each time we get off course frees us from the bonds of sin and misery that the adversary would smother us in. We can learn to relish the opportunity for daily — even constant — repentance, and do so with sincere thanksgiving.”
The scriptures are another source of light and can illuminate and shape the way people view the world. Elder Kearon said President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, has taught that the scriptures contain the answers to every question because they can lead to every answer.
“Wherever you are with your personal study of the scriptures, I would encourage you to continue seeking and learning. It is never too late for us to open our hearts to the scriptures and be guided by their light,” Elder Kearon said.
The temple is an unwavering source of light and a symbol of safety, providing constancy in a world of uncertainty. Making covenants with God in the house of the Lord is to “put your hand into the hand of God” and can fill people with light and peace.
“The covenants we make in the temple endow us with power, God’s power, and fill us with the Lord’s light. We go forth from the temple with His name upon us, His glory round about us and His angels having charge over us,” Elder Kearon said.
Graduates look toward a lifetime of service
Elder Kearon — who was born in England — said the poem he referenced was made famous by England’s King George VI in his address in December 1939 during World War II.
These words to the people to “go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God” provided solace, courage, unity and hope, even with the hardship and uncertainty ahead.
The future holds challenges and growth opportunities for the BYU–Hawaii graduates as well. “What the gospel promises us is that if we are led by God, with our hand in His, we will be guided through life’s tests and struggles and into His ever-increasing light.”
King George VI led his people through one of history’s most grievous conflicts, serving his country and the people at great personal sacrifice.
Elder Kearon said to lead others in the way the Savior led is to serve them. Often that service demands sacrifice and growth. But such service will refine and sanctify, changing hearts and molding characters to become more like Christ, “the greatest servant of all.”
The mission of BYU–Hawaii is to prepare students to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders.
Elder Kearon told the graduates their time applied at BYU–Hawaii has equipped them with a set of skills that, coupled with the guiding light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, will shape their contributions to the world.
As they go out from this threshold into the unknown, holding fast to pure sources of truth and light, they must look for whom they can serve around them.
“In the Lord’s eyes, greatness is measured not by our personal achievements, but by the charity with which we treat His children. … I believe in your ability to serve humankind. More importantly, your Father in Heaven believes in you.”
BYU–Hawaii graduates can be peacemakers, trust in the Lord
BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III began the commencement exercises by expressing his gratitude to Elder and Sister Kearon for coming to the campus.
He told the graduates to always be grateful for the faith and Christlike love that have provided this experience for them.
“Every moment we share on this campus has been intricately woven together by our collective faith in God, in His prophets and in one another,” he said.
He invited the students to follow the direction of President Nelson to choose to be a peacemaker: “As BYU–Hawaii graduates, you will find that your capacity as a peacemaker will be recognized, and you will become a leader and an example.”
President Kauwe told the students they can trust the Lord’s promises, and as they strive to be true to their covenants and act with faith in Jesus Christ, they will see those promises fulfilled in their lives.
The student speaker, Crystal Tania — a communications, media and culture major from Indonesia — said that as the graduates step into the future, uncertainties will greet them at every turn, “but we will always make it through. … It is always comforting to remember that Heavenly Father will never abandon us and that He has a unique plan for each of us.”
R. Kelly Haws, assistant to the commissioner of Church education, also attended and spoke.
BYU–Hawaii fall 2023 graduates
- 234 graduates.
- 220 bachelor’s degrees.
- 14 associate degrees.
- Range from 19 to 83 years of age.
- 44% come from outside the U.S.
- From 24 U.S. states and 23 countries.
- 61% are women and 39% are men.
- 90% had at least one job.
See more photos from BYU–Hawaii December 2023 graduation below.