The following is the text from an address given by Elder Neil L. Andersen during Brigham Young University–Hawaii’s commencement October 31, 2016.
My dear young friends, I congratulate you on this special day of your graduation. I bring you the love and greetings of President Thomas S. Monson, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve.
While it seems very unusual to have our graduation ceremonies on the holiday of Halloween, it seems almost appropriate that we would dress in black robes and wear pointed hats. To receive a diploma from this respected institution is no small achievement, and I express my admiration and respect for you.
I begin with an event surrounding my own graduation from Brigham Young University Provo in 1975. My happiness was beyond expression—not because of my graduation but because a year earlier I had met Miss Kathy Williams and just three weeks before my graduation, she married me. I was one very fortunate man!
Following our day of graduation, we loaded our car for the long trip across the United States to Kathy’s home in Florida, where we would work before beginning graduate school in the northeastern United States in the fall. But before traveling east, we determined to spend one last night with my grandmother who lived 150 miles north of Provo, in the little town of Preston, Idaho. She was 78 years old and frail, and I was unsure if I would see her again. Of course, the woman who would influence my life and bring me greater happiness than anyone else was my new bride, Kathy, but I wanted her to share the memory of my grandmother who, for me, was a remarkable person.
Elder Neil L. Andersen's grandmother, Mary Evans Keller.
Her life had not been easy. When she was six years old her cherished mother died suddenly. During my grandmother’s 80 years, she would have few worldly possessions, and she lived most of her life in the same home. She was trained as a teacher, but most of her teaching would be of her six children, whom she would instill with a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. All three of her sons and one of her daughters served missions at a time when missions were less expected. Her husband died unexpectedly when she was still in her 50s.
As Kathy and I turned our car east 41 years ago to begin our lives together, I thought of all that was ahead of us but already behind for my grandmother. I was deeply in love with Kathy. I looked forward to having a family together, to our schooling, and to work. I was excited about the dreams we shared. Yet, I thought, “While living our younger lives, could I somehow hold on to the perspective of my grandmother?” A thought entered into my mind: “I will live younger, but think older.” This is my message to you today. As you live younger, learn to embrace the perspective of those who are older. Live younger; think older.
You’re young. We want you to fill your lives with ambition and energy. Pursue your dreams. Work hard. Enjoy the strength of your body and the openness of your mind. But while you are younger, think of those who are older whom you respect and admire. Some may be here on this campus. Some may be in your hometown. They may be your parents and grandparents or your Church leaders. Now that they are older, how has their thinking evolved? If you are able to embrace their older thinking while you are younger, it will bring you great happiness and satisfaction.
To help you, I inquired of several of those who are now older and live in places you are from—Korea, Japan, the Philippines, all of Asia, and from the Pacific islands. Many of this group attended BYU–Hawaii years ago.
I could not include in this brief talk all of their counsel, but we will put their thoughts for you on the BYU–Hawaii website following our graduation ceremony. Let me summarize their thinking into three categories: Trust in our Heavenly Father and in the Savior. Gratitude beyond the obvious. Love in first place.
Trust in our Heavenly Father and in the Savior
First, trust in our Heavenly Father and in the Savior.
Sister Sumamaan Khanakham from Thailand said this: “I have learned to always put God first in my life. Living the gospel has become part of me like the blood in my veins. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been my strength, helped me to repent, do better each day, and be cleansed of sin. All of this has helped me fully understand that I am a child of God. He really does love me. I can be like Him, and I will return to His presence again.”
Sumamaan Khanakham from Thailand
This trust in the Lord was echoed by Brother and Sister Arsenio Pagaduan from the Philippines. They have sent their children to BYU–Hawaii, and their seventh child, who graduated from here a few years ago, recently received his doctorate degree in biochemistry. The Pagaduans said, “Our counsel is to really trust the Lord under any circumstance and to follow the counsel of our prophets and leaders as well as to understand more fully the great importance of the temple ordinances.”
Brother and Sister Arsenio Pagaduan from the Philippines
Brother and Sister Cabrito from Baguio, Philippines, explained how this trust in the Lord brings strength when difficulties arise. They wrote: “A couple of years ago, our eldest daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Within 45 days of being diagnosed, she passed away and left two handsome sons who we are now blessed to be taking care of.” Sister Cabrito explained, “Should we have experienced such great loss when I was younger, I would have felt pain, resentment, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ But my testimony of the blessing of the temple has become so much stronger. I have felt Heavenly Father’s arms around me and my family as we have gone through this trying time.”
Edison and Florciele Cabrito from the Philippines
Trust in our Heavenly Father and in the Savior.
Gratitude beyond the obvious
Next is gratitude beyond the obvious.
Sister Mi Duk Lee from Korea explained how even her difficult childhood could be accepted with gratitude. She said: “My father died in an accident and my mother was seriously injured when I was sophomore in high school. I thought nothing good would ever happen in my life. Forty years later, as I look back on my life, there were countless amazing and joyful events that I could not have imagined back then. If we don’t stray from the gospel, all the hardship that we face will make our lives more meaningful.”
Mi Duk Lee from Korea
Brother Samisone Uasila’a from Tonga expressed his gratefulness for BYU–Hawaii. He said, “I am so thankful to have been educated at BYU–Hawaii, and I now see how important this is in raising a family and being a parent. Being educated helps prepare us to live in the world today.”
Samisone Uasila’a from Tonga
Sister Aliitasi Talataina from Samoa explained that when she was young she couldn’t understand why her mother and father demanded so much of her—so much work, so much study of the scriptures, so much school—but she added, “Now that I am older, I have come to understand why. They truly loved me and they were actually preparing me to be a better parent than they were.”
Aliitasi Talataina from Samoa
Brother Sid Going from New Zealand, the famous rugby star who is currently the temple president in New Zealand, tells of how thankful he is for the heritage that he was given. He said: “I never fully appreciated my heritage when I was young. The men in my family have been hardworking farmers—my grandfather and grandmother Percy and Gertrude Going were the first to join the Church. They have set an example of putting the Lord first. I look back now and wish I had more fully appreciated their sacrifice.”
Sid Going from New Zealand
Brother Benson Misalucha of the Philippines summed it up when he said: “We cannot be grateful enough to our Father in Heaven. I wish that I had counted my blessings more often, especially during the difficult times. I wish that when I was younger I had understood more that gratitude removes our blindness to all that is good in life. Often being grateful is the first step to the virtues we need to develop as part of our mortal probation.”
Arleen and Benson Misalucha of the Philippines
Gratitude beyond the obvious.
Love in first place
And finally, love in first place.
We begin with the Savior’s teaching:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Sister Choi Myeong Soon from Korea said it this way: “I used to think happiness was measured by our possessions, but as I grew older, I came to know that our happiness is as big as the size of our love.”
Choi Myeong Soon from Korea
These noble Saints, as they became older, realized more and more that this love of family and friends becomes much more important than the possessions we obtain.
Chimedbaatar, a patriarch from Mongolia, added this: “I know that God loves His children; He doesn’t care about the small differences like whether someone is rich or poor, old or young.”
Chimedbaatar from Mongolia
This love has many applications. As Sister Amparo Revillo from the Philippines explained the difficulty of her youth, she said: “My father was an alcoholic, drinking almost every day. When he was drunk, he would beat my mother and my brothers.” She said that as a young woman she never felt love for her father. But then she explained that as she got older, she began to understand more what had happened to her family. Two of her brothers were innocently murdered. Her father became discouraged and lived a lonely life. Without condoning the abuse, she then commented, “Now that I am older, I wish I would have known and understood more fully the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the principle of love and forgiveness. I now feel compassion for my father and have long ago forgiven him.”
Amparo Revillo and her husband (left) from the Philippines
Brother Michael Chua in Malaysia said: “I wish that I would have understood more fully when I was younger the love that Jesus taught and commands us to follow. It would have made me a better son, husband, father, and friend.” Then Brother Chua quoted the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death.”
Michael Chua and his wife and children in Malaysia
Remember these three important statements of counsel: trust in our Heavenly Father and the Savior, gratitude beyond the obvious, and love in first place.
We must not only believe these things, but put them into practice. In this last conference, President Monson said: “It is not enough … merely to believe in [the Savior] and His mission. We need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them. We need to receive His saving ordinances. Only by so doing will we obtain true, eternal happiness.”
My young brothers and sisters, live younger, think older. Decide now while you are young that you will follow one of President Monson’s favorite scriptures:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
One of the greatest commitments that my wonderful wife, Kathy, and I made when we were young was that we would be true and faithful to our Heavenly Father and to our Savior Jesus Christ. We would always keep Them foremost in our minds and hearts.
Gratitude helps keep the fire of faith alive.
Remember King Benjamin’s words:
“If you should render … the thanks and praise [of] your whole soul … to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you … from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another … yet ye would be unprofitable servants. …
“… In the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you. … And ye are still indebted unto him … and will be, forever and ever.”
As we trust in the Lord and live righteously, we suddenly see our lives more clearly. It is not what we obtain. It is not our money or fame. It is not the fulfillment of our ambitions or the satisfactions of prosperity that give life to the soul. Happiness comes in trusting in God, loving Him and being grateful for all He gives to us, and loving those around us. Did not Jesus say, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”?
In this assembly today are graduates from all around the world. It is not by chance that you are from Asia, the Pacific, North or South America, or another place in God’s world. You are part of the great gathering of Israel, and you have a responsibility to who you are and to who you are to become.
Sixty years ago a prophet of God, President David O. McKay, in beginning this institution said: “The world needs men [and women] who cannot be bought or sold, … who will scorn to violate truth, genuine gold. That is what this school is going to produce. … They will be leaders! … Everywhere. … From this school … will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally.” The Savior is the Prince of Peace, and you are His disciples.
Prayerfully decide where to live, how to employ your educational talents, and where to raise your family, if you have that opportunity. You are an important part of the prophecy of President McKay, and the Lord is depending upon you.
My promise to you is this: your ability to raise a righteous family, to strengthen the kingdom of God, and to contribute to the world will not be measured by wealth, fame, or convenience. As you follow the Lord’s inspiration to do His will, He will bless your life, and you will be part of the promise of President McKay.
I close with an illustration of a man, Willy Binene, who has exhibited these principles. He is a man from Africa, and you will not have heard his story. He lives in Luputa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has never left the continent of Africa. He has never experienced prosperity, fame, or the things of the world. But his life is an example of how by trusting in the Lord—no matter where you live, no matter what your circumstance—you will fulfill the purposes of your mortality and be great in the eyes of God.
Willy Binene was born in 1969 in Kolwezi, DR Congo. In his teenage years, he, along with his parents, joined a Protestant church, but they always felt there was something more to discover. They found a pamphlet that spoke about a modern prophet and a holy book called the Book of Mormon. They sent away and received a package from the Church in Salt Lake City. Eventually, in 1987, 20 people from Kolwezi traveled to Lubumbashi and were baptized. The Kolwezi Branch was officially established. Willy Binene was baptized in October 1990 at 21 years old. In 1992, hatred and xenophobia raised their ugly head toward all those who were not originally from the Kolwezi area. Willy Binene and his family were forced to leave with only the clothes on their backs, arriving in Luputa in September 1993. With the permission of the mission president, the members began holding a Sunday School. For three years, the collection of tithes and fast offerings was done every Sunday and the money kept in a safe place.
In 1996, Willy Binene and another brother traveled the more than 500 kilometers to Kolwezi, taking with them the tithing donations and envelopes that had accumulated over three years. In 1997 the branch in Luputa was finally organized. Willy, still unmarried, pursued an advanced education in nursing and was a very active branch missionary. Willy taught the gospel constantly, including to an amazing young woman, Lyly, who was baptized in 1999. Willy and Lyly were married the following year. Children came.
There were no full-time missionaries in Luputa, but Brother Binene and the other Saints continued to expand the Church. In 2006, the Luputa District was formed with Brother Willy Binene as the district president. He was 36 years old. In the years that followed, Brother Binene not only built the Church, but he and Lyly also organized and started a school, which today has 600 students attending. With the leadership of President Binene and the faith of the members, the Church grew rapidly, and in 2011 the Luputa Stake was organized, with Brother Willy Binene called as president of the stake. It was not until after the stake was formed that the first full-time missionaries arrived to serve in Luputa. Can you imagine it—a stake prepared without any full-time missionaries and with almost no authorities visiting from outside of Luputa?
Willy Binene with his wife and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In February of this year, I met President Binene for the first time. I found him to be a man of character, strong in mind and spirit, and full of faith.
The lesson we learn from Willy Binene is that wherever you live and whatever your situation, you can fill your life with goodness, and the Lord will bless you, lift you, and strengthen you. If you are willing, you will be an instrument in bringing about His glorious purposes.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and President Willy Binene of the Laputa Stake
Live younger, think older.
We honor you this day. We are proud of you. We love you. I give you my witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He has restored His priesthood upon the earth, and as one of His servants, I remind you that you are vital to the building of His kingdom in these important days as we prepare for the return of the Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 David O. McKay, groundbreaking services of Brigham Young University–Hawaii, Feb. 12, 1955.