In these ‘exceptional’ times, BYU–Hawaii graduates taught they can find enduring strength in eternal truths

In the last year, students of BYU–Hawaii have faced many disruptions to their education. The seaside university located in Laie, Hawaii, which includes a large international student body, canceled in-person classes and transitioned to a primarily remote learning model for much of the pandemic.

In Saturday’s commencement ceremony — the university’s fourth such event to be held virtually — Elder Timothy J. Dyches, a General Authority Seventy, told the 254 BYU–Hawaii graduates that they have proven to be “adjustable, adaptable and exceptional.”

Like the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “‘[You] have fought the good fight, [you] have finished the course, [you] have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for [you] a crown’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8) or perhaps a degree,” Elder Dyches said.

The “exceptional times” faced by students in the last year may be just one of many complications they may encounter in coming days, Elder Dyches noted. “This new normal may be prologue to even more challenging new normals, each one with potential seismic impact upon you and your plans.”

Graduates must build and develop spiritual resilience upon a firm foundation, he said and quoted Helaman 5:12: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built.”

Quoting the motto of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he attended — “Per Veritatem Vis” or “through truth, strength” — Elder Dyches testified that there is enduring strength in eternal truths.

He encouraged graduates to live a life that invites the Holy Ghost, who will affirm what is truth and what is not.

Elder Timothy J. Dyches, a General Authority Seventy, speaks during BYU-Hawaii virtual commencement ceremony broadcast on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
Elder Timothy J. Dyches, a General Authority Seventy, speaks during BYU-Hawaii virtual commencement ceremony broadcast on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Satan will entice individuals to “call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). “As you obey and keep the commandments and ‘walk in the ordinances of the Lord,’ you will be guided and protected by the Holy Ghost from Satan’s ongoing deception,” Elder Dyches promised.

Opposition and trials in life are unavoidable, the General Authority Seventy continued. 

Those who place spiritual things first and faithfully maintain a current temple recommend will be able to maintain their moral compass, he promised. “In each decision possible, ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you’” (Matthew 6:33).

Elder Dyches asked graduates to remember three important eternal gospel truths.

First, “there is a power in ordinances and covenants, and honoring and keeping them will be predictive of your final destination.” 

Second, “with daily determination stay close to the Lord and the Holy Ghost.”

Third, wickedness will never bring happiness. “In truth, God’s love alone cannot remove the eternal consequences of sin. Only faith, repentance, and your obedience to God’s commandments can activate that cleansing and redeeming power of Christ’s infinite Atonement for you. It is better to prepare and prevent than it is to repair and repent,” he said.

Elder Dyches said that Heavenly Father has intervened in many critical points throughout his life. “Looking back, I would not have traded places with anyone else. … Trials and setbacks are a part of this life. You can do the hard thing.”

In conclusion, Elder Dyches said, “I pray the Lord will bless you throughout your life, that your memories of BYU–Hawaii will bring to your mind, in the years to come, the blessing of increasing knowledge and truth that is uniquely coupled with the developing and unshakable testimony of Jesus Christ in His Atonement,” Elder Dyches concluded. “Per Veritatem Vis” — “through truth, strength.”

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III speaks during a virtual commencement ceremony broadcast on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III speaks during a virtual commencement ceremony broadcast on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Credit: Joshua Sanchez, BYU–Hawaii

In his remarks, BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III told graduates that their experiences at the university have provided them with unique preparation to deal with the complexities and challenges of the world. 

“As graduates of Brigham Young University–Hawaii, you can feel confident in your capacity to prepare and your ability to face each new opportunity of the future with excitement and enthusiasm. You need not fear because you are ready for the future,” he said.

As graduates face challenging times, as they certainly will, he said, “you can have the confidence that you are prepared and can turn to our Savior, who will provide the strength you need to continue moving forward.”

R. Kelly Haws, assistant to the commissioner of the Church Educational System, asked graduates if they arrived to take an important test after having studied and the professor was waiting for them and gave them the answers, “would you use them?”

“Can you imagine disregarding the answers of the professor who knows, in favor of whatever answers someone else whispered to you?” Haws said.

As graduates leave the university they will find “purveyors of answers which many consider fashionable, reasonable and even indisputable,” he said. 

There are a precious few, however, who can be relied on to always provide answers that can be trusted, Haws said. “Our Heavenly Father is about truth, and He can not lie, and He loves you perfectly. Just consider what that means. You and I can trust Him and His Only Begotten Son, with absolute certainty. We can also trust the answers we receive through His anointed mouthpieces.”

The Savior knows all answers, Haws said. “If tomorrow we have the choice — and we will — to choose between the Omniscient One and His foreordained and anointed apostles or the sophisticated-sounding and popularly appealing answers which enamor the multitude, where will we side?”

Saturday’s ceremony recognized 254 graduates — 243 bachelor’s degrees and 11 associate degrees — from 30 different countries and 24 states in the U.S.