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What BYU–Hawaii President Kauwe has learned about ‘growing into revelation’ throughout his life

President Kauwe shared several personal examples from his life to show how to use prayer to seek direction from Heavenly Father for important decisions

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, pose for a photo with students following the opening devotional for fall semester on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, pose for a photo with students following the opening devotional for fall semester on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

Camille Jovenes, BYU–Hawaii


BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his future wife, Monica Mortenson, were running partners before they were romantic partners. 

The two were introduced by President Kauwe’s cousin but had little interaction until they bumped into each other at a Fourth of July 10K. 

They soon realized they were both training for the same marathon and both of their running partners had backed out. The two began running together, and after several hundred miles, they began to date. 

“We had many conversations about important aspects of life and faith as we ran,” President Kauwe recalled during the opening devotional for fall semester. “There were perhaps hundreds of moments in which I felt confirmation about our relationship.”

When he finally presented the Lord his carefully considered decision that he wanted to marry her, “I felt very clearly the prompting that I had already been given my answer many times.”

In addressing students gathered in the Cannon Activities Center on the Laie, Hawaii, campus on Tuesday, Sept. 6, President Kauwe used the story of his courtship of Sister Kauwe as one of several personal illustrations of the different ways the Lord responds to prayers.

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III speaks during the opening devotional for fall semester on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii.

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III speaks during the opening devotional for fall semester on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii.

Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

Many students are, or will be, making significant decisions that will impact the trajectory of their lives, President Kauwe noted. In his case, he is grateful to have navigated those decisions with the help of Sister Kauwe and the Spirit.

“My purpose today is to discuss how we can best use prayer to access the support and direction of our Father in Heaven when making important decisions in our lives,” President Kauwe said.

He began his remarks by reviewing some of the basic principles and scriptures associated with prayer, including James 1:5-7, Moroni 10:3-5, and Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9.

In summation, he reminded students: “We need to recognize that the Lord is there to help us. We need to pray often and over all things. We need to find a quiet place where we can pour out our heart with real intent. We need to ask for confirmation after careful preparation, study, work and action. And finally, we must listen.”

If individuals will do that day by day, month by month, year by year, then, as President Russell M. Nelson has said, “you will grow into the principle of revelation.”

There are times when the answer to prayer will be a spiritual assurance that an individual has already received an answer, President Kauwe explained, such as his experience about whether to marry Monica.

But, President Kauwe said, there have also been times that the Lord directly answered prayers by speaking through the Spirit and communicating confirmation of a decision, such as when he was applying for graduate school.

After getting engaged to Monica, he began interviewing for graduate schools and was accepted to three distinguished programs. After a campus visit to Washington University, he called Monica and told her he felt like it was the right fit. That night they prayed about that decision. President Kauwe recalled that he felt calm, confident, “just simple peace.”

The next morning both he and Monica shared their mutual confirmation from Heavenly Father about where they should go to school.

“I don’t know exactly why, but clearly God knew that our experiences and opportunities at Washington University in St. Louis would prepare us in ways that were important enough for Him to direct our path,” President Kauwe said.

He and Sister Kauwe have also had experiences where they studied things out, came to a conclusion and received clear direction that the answer was “No.”

Shortly after arriving in St. Louis, the Kauwes decided to buy a house. They found a home, put in an offer and the seller made a counteroffer. They prayed about the counteroffer price, and President Kauwe said he experienced the strongest “stupor of thought” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9) he’s ever had. 

They told the real estate agent the deal was off, and, even though they felt pressured to change their minds, they followed the direction they were given from the Lord.

“I don’t know all the reasons that we learned our lesson this way,” President Kauwe said, “but every graduate student who bought a home when we arrived in St. Louis was caught in the difficult economic conditions that suppressed real estate values in 2009. We were spared that challenge and were well-positioned to begin our life after graduate school because of this guidance from the Lord.”

As individuals seek guidance from the Lord, they must be humble enough to accept His answers and faithful enough to carry them out, even when they are difficult, President Kauwe continued.

Several years ago, President Kauwe was serving as the bishop of their ward. They lived in “a wonderful neighborhood” with many dear friends. President Kauwe was also busy teaching and running a research lab when his father became seriously ill. 

They added to their already busy lives the need to support President Kauwe’s mother, look after his parents’ home and yard and visit his father in the hospital. The long drive to his parent’s home soon became prohibitive. 

“As much as I love my parents, I did not want to leave our ward,” President Kauwe recalled. “I wanted to keep making the drive and find a way to do it all.”

Students gather in the Cannon Activities Center for devotional with BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Laie, Hawaii.

Students gather in the Cannon Activities Center for devotional with BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Laie, Hawaii.

Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

After careful study and discussion they knelt in prayer to tell Heavenly Father they thought they should move closer to his parents. “I desperately wanted the answer to be a stupor of thought,” President Kauwe said.

Instead, they both felt a confirmation from the Lord. “I was heartbroken,” he said, but their family was greatly blessed for following that direction. 

“My father passed away just four years later. We were able to have experiences with my parents and with our new neighbors that defined our family and our faith in ways that could never have occurred otherwise.”

President Kauwe noted that in some cases individuals are choosing between several good things that would lead to different desirable outcomes. In those cases, they should move forward in faith with what they feel is right.

In some cases, the Lord allows individuals to proceed without direct revelation. In other cases, He will intervene or tell them to change direction, such as when the Kauwes were planning to purchase a house in St. Louis. “We have found that if we are practicing the process of revelation, He will give us the direction we need in the moment and way that we need it.”

President Kauwe reminded students to please listen. “It is so easy in this world to fill you heart and mind with content and never make time to listen. Listen after you pray.”

Take a walk around the campus or temple grounds without the distraction of a phone or headphones, he encouraged listeners. “Allow your mind some clarity to contemplate the important aspects of your life and future. You must make conscious efforts to allow the process of revelation to act more frequently in your life.”

Sister Monica Kauwe speaks during the opening devotional for fall semester at BYU–Hawaii in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

Sister Monica Kauwe speaks during the opening devotional for fall semester at BYU–Hawaii in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

Camille Jovenes, BYU–Hawaii

‘Fear not’

In her remarks, Sister Kauwe shared four ways to help students better understand and control fear.

First, “don’t forget your true identity as beloved children of God.”

In the worldwide devotional for young adults earlier this year, President Nelson urged listeners to remember that “first and foremost, you are a child of God, a child of the covenant, a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Knowing their divine source of strength, Sister Kauwe said, can help them overcome fears.

Second, make time to consistently do the small things that invite the Spirit.

Some of the small things could include family and personal prayer, studying the scriptures, attending church meetings or being thoughtful or kind when interacting with others, Sister Kauwe said.

“If we do our part, the Lord will do His in helping us overcome any challenges and fears that come our way.”

Third, serve. Taking advantage of opportunities to serve will help individuals not focus on their fears, Sister Kauwe said.

She quoted Martin Luther King Jr., who made this observation about the parable of the good Samaritan. “I imagine that the first question which the priest and the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

Fourth, “surround yourself with people who will help and support you as you follow the covenant path.”

Sister Kauwe recalled being assigned to speak in devotional for the first time as the new first lady of BYU–Hawaii. “Fear and inadequacy overcame me,” she said.

A friend and mentor sent her a message reminding her of the Lord’s help. “It helped remind me that the Lord knows me, and He will help me ...,” Sister Kauwe said. “What a difference good friendships and positive relationships have made in my efforts to live the gospel and to overcome my personal fears and challenges. Choose friends that can do that for you.”

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, greet students following the opening devotional for fall semester on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii.

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III and his wife, Sister Monica Kauwe, greet students following the opening devotional for fall semester on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii.

Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

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