The time spent by students at BYU-Hawaii is not a chance for idle indifference, but a time to prepare for church service, said Elder Robert C. Gay, Area Seventy of the North American Southeast Area. That service, explained Elder Gay during his devotional address November 11, will bring about the spiritual and physical salvation of God’s children all over the earth.
Reminiscing of his own time in Hawaii, Elder Gay shared a story of how, at the age of 14, he was allowed to spend his summer vacation in Laie. He promised his father, however, that if he spent the summer in Laie, he would get his Eagle Scout Award. But Elder Gay later broke his word to his father and said he betrayed his father’s trust by not earning his Eagle Scout.
Elder Gay then said, “Now you may ask why do I share this story with you? I do so, because I believe not one of us in this auditorium this morning is here by accident. Each of you has arrived at this point in time and to this very campus for a purpose. Each of you has made promises to get to this point. It may be a commitment to get the best grades possible, or to get prepared to go serve a mission. Or it may be to attend college among Church members and to be where so many live the gospel. It may be to find a righteous companion or to get a degree that will allow you to find work or to get further education. Or it may more likely be some combination of these things.”
“My deep concern and message today is that it’s paramount that you do not, like me and my scouting experience, allow yourself to be distracted from this purpose by the beauty or comfort of the setting, by the commotion of the times, or as in the language of the Book of Mormon, by the whisperings of the Adversary who stirs men to anger against that which is good or who pacifies and flatters others into a false carnal security You must avoid these calls to indifference because any such indifference leaves people standing and hurt.”
Elder Gay also suggested the students model their service after that of the sons of King Mosiah. “They rejected their familiar home territory and the comfort of their kingdom and elected to go out and bless the lives of their enemies. Their mission, according to the Lord, was to ’show forth good examples unto them in me, that I may make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls’.” During the entire 14 years they were missionaries, the sons of Mosiah served with all their hearts.
Elder Gay continued, “Again I want to testify to you that you are here so that you can go forth and bless the world. This is not an easy assignment—it may mean going back home to villages or distant lands and taking work that earns less than what you can earn here. But think about why you are really here. The world is hurting. We need to bless it both spiritually and temporally. As agents of the gospel of Jesus Christ you, more than anyone else, are uniquely qualified to do that. Why? Because when you take the skills, learning and training you receive at this university and combine them with the power of faith and the covenants of God, which you have also been taught here, it endows you with the means to change the world. No wonder the Lord has proclaimed in our day, For unto whom much is given much is required. This is the essence of the very promise and covenant we have entered into.”
While the international students at BYUH may need to return home to fulfill this promise, Elder Gay encouraged students from the U nited S tates to look for opportunities to serve globally. Elder Gay referred to the words of Amassa Lyman, one of the first pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young. In a meeting, Lyman encouraged the saints at Winter Quarters to move westward to a harder, but much more rewarding life. “Some men when getting a little farm let their whole soul and entire manner be swallowed up in 160 acres of land at the footstool of the Almighty. Men do not appreciate unto what they are called, this people are called to revolutionize the world. You have to turn the world inside out. Let us wake up. If you are going to be latter-day saints, wake up, and don’t be swallowed up in a little patch of 160 acres.”
“That is it,” added Elder Gay. “We can’t let ourselves get distracted by our little patch of the world, by our comfort zone. We are to move out and turn this world upside down. We are to take a walk of 1,000 miles. We are to become submissive instruments in astonishing kings and their subjects like Ammon [in the Book of Mormon]. Do you see and understand that your mission is not here? This university time is but a gift and training ground for you. With all my heart I believe that our Father in Heaven expects you to leave here and go have impact back home and throughout the world. Ours is a world that is desperately seeking your touch.”
Elder Gay then shared four “simple observations” to help students catch his vision.
“First, there are many out there who think they are forgotten and our Father in Heaven needs you to be the instrument to answer their cries of despair.” For example, Elder Gay said t he community of Dulac, Louisiana was hit hard by hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Martin Luther King III had heard about the situation there and asked local LDS Church leaders for help. Two thousand LDS volunteers showed up but 500 were turned away because there wasn’t enough work for them. The LDS volunteers that went were able to help the people of Dulac realize that God knew they were there and that He cared, explained Elder Gay. The Church has donated time and supplies to help the people there, and in the process, softened the heart of a very anti-Mormon minister.
“Second, some of you may say, but who am I? I do not have any special talents or skills or I am just one person.” To this, Elder Gay taught that with faith, nothing is impossible. “About eight years ago a handful of us, all Church members, gathered around a conference table in Orem, Utah. We challenged ourselves to see if we could help lift 1 million people out of poverty. We had no extraordinary insights or resources, just a desire to bless our fellow man and great faith. Today the organization we founded is currently helping lift over 5.1 million impoverished people around the globe. Never did such impact ever cross our minds. Yes, in a deep way I know as the Savior said, all things are possible to those who believe—even great works.”
“Third, some of you may be worried or fearful of the times in which we live. Do not let these times paralyze you.” While Elder Gay was serving as a mission president in Accra, Ghana, he had to travel to Sierra Leone for an assignment. After a plane flight, a helicopter flight and a long and bumpy truck ride, their truck hit a deep pothole and was thrown off the road, rolling along the loose gravel on the road. No one was seriously injured, but Elder Gay’s arm was in bad shape and he needed medical attention. He and a senior missionary were able to catch a ride to the nearest town to receive medical attention. The doctor who fixed Elder Gay’s arm told him a senior missionary couple donated the medical supplies they had. Elder Gay said, “And then I heard the still small voice whisper: You have been spared because two missionaries who you will probably never meet or know gave of their time to go serve unselfishly into the African jungle .”
“Please don’t ever consider the cost of the sacrifice the Lord asks you to make. Everything we have we owe to him. Our assignment is to take, as my father said long ago at this campus, the tools, the talents, the resources and the opportunities and bridge the crossroads and revolutionize this world. This might mean being a simple servant for a season like Ammon. That is the sacred obligation of your degree from this institution…”
“Never forget from where you came. You are children of the covenant. Let it burn and stir within you. If you have to change yourself, if you have to forsake the smooth roads for the dirt roads, if you must, in the words of Christ, forsake houses, or brethren…or lands for his namesake you, in His words, will receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life. In so doing, you will have lifted your soul to an important part of the pre-mortal covenant made with your Father in Heaven.”
-Photo by Monique Saenz