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Build your life the same way Nephi built a ship, Elder Cordón tells BYU–Hawaii graduates

The General Authority Seventy offered four ways individuals can build their lives ‘after the manner of God’

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi is commanded to build a ship. Nephi records that he did not build the ship “after the manner of men” but “after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me” (1 Nephi 18:2).

In speaking to BYU–Hawaii graduates during commencement exercises Friday, April 14, Elder Valeri V. Cordón, a General Authority Seventy, invited individuals to, like Nephi, build their lives after the manner of God rather than the manner of men.

Elder Valeri V. Cordon, a General Authority Seventy, speaks to BYU–Hawaii graduates.
Elder Valeri V. Cordon, a General Authority Seventy, speaks to BYU–Hawaii graduates during commencement held in the Cannon Activities Center on April 14, 2023. | Zane Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

“If we want to reach a celestial port, we need to build our ship after the manner of God. In our journey we need to balance our profession, family, church, studies, etc. There are many things that can distract us from serving God and being leaders in our families and communities,” he said.

Everything graduates do at work, home and in private should reflect their discipleship, Elder Cordón said. He then offered four ways individuals can help build their lives after the manner of God.

1. Seek to learn the will of God

The Lord was able to show Nephi how to work the timbers of the ship (1 Nephi 18:1). In contrast, Laman and Lemuel did not want to help Nephi build a ship because they didn’t believe he could achieve such a monumental task. “Laman and Lemuel didn’t trust the Lord nor seek His will,” Elder Cordón observed.

Individuals seek to learn the will of the Lord as they follow the counsel of President Russell M. Nelson to “make time for the Lord,” he said. Elder Cordón then quoted President Nelson, who said: “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. … But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”

Elder Cordón related how early in his professional career he was offered a position at a bank with a considerable raise. Although initially excited, after he prayed about it, Elder Cordón said he felt uneasy about leaving his current job. With the support of his wife, he turned down the seemingly promising offer. Eventually, his boss offered him a raise that enabled him and his wife to afford a home and was the beginning of a “wonderful career.” Five years later, he learned the bank that had offered him the position was bankrupt.

“I learned at that moment that God, who sees the end from the beginning, is willing to share His light if we are humble to seek His will,” Elder Cordón told graduates.

BYU–Hawaii graduates, family and friends fill the Cannon Activities Center.
BYU–Hawaii graduates, family and friends fill the Cannon Activities Center on the Laie, Hawaii, campus for commencement exercises on April 14, 2023. | Zane Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

2. Be faithful and diligent

After Nephi received instructions to build a ship after the manner of God, Nephi went to his brothers and extended an invitation, Elder Cordón continued. 

“Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence” (1 Nephi 17:15).

Students of BYU–Hawaii are invited, according to the school’s mission statement, to become lifelong disciples of Christ and leaders in their homes, communities, chosen fields and in building the kingdom of God. “You are invited to give back to your communities and to be an example of intercultural peace in an increasingly diverse world. All of this through living the teachings of your Master, Jesus Christ,” Elder Cordón said.

After going home, don’t treat that invitation like an app on a phone or something “you liked or downloaded but never use. … Make it an integral part of your life,” he told graduates.

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III speaks during winter commencement.
BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III speaks during winter commencement held in the Cannon Activities Center on April 14, 2023. | Zane Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

3. Be a peacemaker

Elder Cordón noted the world is becoming increasingly contentious. But, as President Nelson taught in the most recent general conference: “You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to choose to be a peacemaker, now and always.” 

The Prophet also taught: “Regrettably, we sometimes see contentious behavior even within our own ranks. We hear of those who belittle their spouses and children, of those who use angry outbursts to control others, and of those who punish family members with the ‘silent treatment.’

“… My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others — especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.”

Students of BYU–Hawaii are to be an example to the world of intercultural peace and unity through living the teachings of Jesus Christ, Elder Cordón said.

“If you want to change the Church, first, don’t forget that it’s not yours. It’s Christ’s Church. Second, be engaged, contribute, elevate and inspire others. Be peacemakers. I can’t think of better people to be ambassadors of peace and integration than you,” Elder Cordón said.

Graduates pause for a photo following commencement held in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii, on April 14, 2023.
Graduates pause for a photo following commencement held in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii, on April 14, 2023. | Zane Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

4. Be honest and act on integrity

At BYU–Hawaii, graduates have lived in accordance to an honor code. In their professional lives, graduates will only be supervised by their own moral compass, Elder Cordón noted.

Nephi built a ship after the manner of God. “He followed His instructions with precision. How do we know? The ship withstood a long trip between two continents. Its integrity was tested. It faced a terrible storm, rough open sea conditions, some disobedient passengers, but most importantly it reached its intended destination,” Elder Cordón said.

He quoted Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who taught: “Honesty, integrity and truth are eternal principles that significantly shape our experience in mortality and help determine our eternal destiny. For a disciple of Christ, honesty is at the very heart of spirituality” (“The Divine Standard of Honesty,” Liahona, August 2017).

Elder Cordón concluded: “Build the ship of your life after the manner of God, and you will have peace, joy and happiness in your life. Jesus Christ is our example; He is the light of the world.”

Luisa Kava Kavea Soloai receives her diploma during BYU–Hawaii commencement held in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii, on April 14, 2023.
Luisa Kava Kavea Soloai receives her diploma during BYU–Hawaii commencement held in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii, on April 14, 2023. | Zane Saenz, BYU–Hawaii

Embody the mission of BYU–Hawaii

The mission of BYU–Hawaii “is to prepare students of Oceania and the Asian Rim to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders in their families, communities, chosen fields and in building the Kingdom of God.”

“You commit to this mission as a student,” said BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III in his remarks. “And, as you leave here as graduates today, you will continue to fulfill the mission as you ‘go forth to serve.’” 

He shared the story of a special graduate participating in Friday’s services. In 1982, Luisa Kava Kavea Soloai was to receive her associate degree in arts and sciences from BYU–Hawaii while her husband was to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in social work. 

What should have been a joyous occasion, however, became heartbreaking when Luisa Soloai’s name was never called. Despite being dressed in cap and gown, she was too embarrassed to walk with her husband even after he invited her to join him.

Eventually, a daughter confirmed her mother’s graduation with the registrar’s office at BYU–Hawaii and presented her with a copy of her diploma. 

Throughout their lives together, the Soloais served in the Church Educational System, served as mission president and companion and in many callings. Luisa Soloai is the only one of her 10 siblings to have completed a college degree.

Forty years after what should have been her graduation, the university was able to right the wrong on Soloai’s graduation day and her name was read during Friday’s commencement to the cheers of her family.

“Sister Soloai exemplifies what it means to be a graduate of Brigham Young University–Hawaii,” President Kauwe said. “Rather than take offense at an unintentional oversight, she has embodied the mission and motto by living a life of purpose, honoring her covenants and striving to live like Jesus Christ.” 

During Friday’s graduation services, 418 degrees were awarded — 389 bachelor’s degrees, 26 associate degrees and three teaching certificates. Graduates represented 34 countries.

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