Remember divine covenants and spiritual identity, President Kauwe tells BYU–Hawaii students

In the opening winter semester devotional, President Kauwe and his wife encouraged students to heed gospel covenants and their true identity as children of God

Referencing President Russell M. Nelson’s 2022 devotional to young adults, BYU-Hawaii President John S. K. Kauwe III shared three important truths to remember — the truth of who they are, the truth of what God and Jesus Christ has offered them and the truth related to their conversion.

He addressed BYU–Hawaii students during the university’s first devotional of the winter 2023 semester on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Sister Monica Kauwe, his wife, shared how making and keeping covenants with God reassures He will bless people in their unique circumstances.

True identity

All are children of God, and members of His Church are children of the covenant and disciples of Christ, said President Kauwe, citing President Nelson’s devotional.

That doesn’t mean to disregard other personal labels that are personally important but to ensure they don’t replace the three enduring labels, President Kauwe said.

Upon hearing the Prophet’s counsel, President Kauwe said he was inspired to change his Instagram biography to read, “Child of God, member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, husband, father, president of the BYU–Hawaii, scientist, kānaka maoli (native Hawaiian), waterman.”

By aligning his spiritual labels with his other designations, President Kauwe said he has prospered and found joy in his personal and professional life.

In the 1880s, Church conferences in Lāie, Hawaii, incorporated the traditions of Hawaiian dance and chant, said President Kauwe, adding that he has been blessed to witness examples of his native culture being compatible with his spiritual beliefs.

President Kauwe said as much as he enjoys fishing, he sacrificed fishing on Sundays to faithfully observe the Sabbath. As a result, he has been blessed with much more opportunities and conditions when fishing.

Many people don’t view religion and science as being compatible. During an Alzheimer’s research conference, he said one of the board members questioned his religious beliefs. Despite such criticism, his research proposal for a cure for Alzheimer’s was ranked in first place.

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III speaks during the opening devotional for the semester on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Laie, Hawaii. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

Everyone has an essential role in the gathering of Israel, the university president shared, and students should serve one another and learn, grow and labor to gather Israel.

President Kauwe reminded students that their education at BYU–Hawaii is built upon these three truths.

“Here you have the special opportunity to pursue your college degree and prepare for your productive future while making your testimony and its development your highest priority,” he said.

Practicing gospel principles

Thirty-three years ago, Sister Kauwe was baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by her father. She recalled feeling overwhelmed by the Spirit, full of gratitude to have the gift of the Holy Ghost and the gospel in her life.

At baptism, Sister Kauwe said, people promise to take Christ’s name upon them, remember Him and keep His commandments. By doing so, Heavenly Father promises the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. She added that by remembering these promises, Heavenly Father can provide the guidance needed during life’s challenges.

Sister Monica Kauwe speaks during the opening devotional for the semester on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Laie, Hawaii. | Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

Four ways students can honor their baptismal covenants and maintain the Spirit’s closeness are by attending sacrament meeting, serving others, daily prayer and scripture study, and following the Prophet, she said.

First, weekly sacrament observance is important to renew our baptismal covenants, Sister Kauwe shared. Sister Julie B. Beck, a former Relief Society general president, said, “It is not possible to make real change all by ourselves” and partaking of the sacrament demonstrates our faith in Christ. People also benefit from learning from others’ faith, testimonies and experiences, Sister Kauwe added.

Second, serving others can allow people to feel the Spirit, Sister Kauwe said, including opportunities to serve in ward callings. Elder Dieter F. Utchdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the October 2008 general conference said, “When we seek to serve others, we are motivated not by selfishnes but by charity.”

Third, by practicing daily prayer and scripture study, people can maintain the Spirit’s presence and come to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in their lives, Sister Kauwe shared. By doing so, people can gain greater power to weather challenges and resist temptations.

Last, people must follow and heed the counsel of the Prophet, Sister Kauwe said. In the 2022 devotional to young adults, President Nelson urged listeners to “watch for miracles to happen in our lives.”

Sister Kauwe said that while growing up, she and her family had many challenges, including financial difficulties. Her mother reminded her how fortunate they were to have a home to live in and food to eat. Despite their challenges, her family was always close to each other and received specific blessings from God.

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