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The Peace, Unity Embodied at BYU–Hawaii Is ‘a Miracle,’ Elder Ringwood Says

Those who lament the polarization of modern society should ‘spend a day at BYU–Hawaii,’ Elder Ringwood tells graduates

BYU–Hawaii graduates celebrate outside the Cannon Activities Center following commencement exercises held on the Laie, Hawaii, campus on Friday, April 19, 2024. Photo by Monique Saenz, courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.All rights reserved.

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Rachel Sterzer Gibson, Church News

On a warm but overcast morning in Laie, Hawaii, Brigham Young University–Hawaii awarded degrees to 380 graduates from 23 countries during commencement exercises on April 19.

In his remarks, Elder Michael T. Ringwood, a General Authority Seventy, acknowledged the many nations represented by the graduating class: from Australia to Mongolia, China to Samoa, India to South Korea.

“What an amazing diversity of cultures, backgrounds and perspectives,” Elder Ringwood said.

While many graduates may not have known anyone from most of those countries when they began their studies, they are now classmates, fellow graduates and friends, said Elder Ringwood, who offered the keynote address for Friday’s commencement.

“In the spirit of aloha — which is simply a manifestation of the Spirit of Christ — you have welcomed each other, learned from each other, and lifted each other above manmade boundaries. When people lament the polarization of modern society — the bitterness and racism and tribalism — I wish they could come spend a day at BYU–Hawaii.”

He then added, “You are a miracle that simply must spread throughout the world.”

BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III, second from left, and Elder Michael T. Ringwood, a General Authority Seventy, middle, and his wife, Rosalie, right, pose for a photo with graduates following commencement exercise in Laie, Hawaii, on April 19, 2024. Photo by Monique Saenz, courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.All rights reserved.

In welcoming graduates along with their family and friends and others within the campus community gathered in the Cannon Activities Center, BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III noted that “diversity and unity work together here in remarkable ways.”

The purpose of the university is to provide a capstone experience for students of Oceania and the Asian Rim and to prepare students to be lifelong disciples of Christ who can continue to be leaders and examples of peace and unity, President Kauwe said. “This university is, and will continue to be, a place where people from across the world gather to be one in Christ and educate and uplift each other.”

In addition to remarks by Elder Ringwood and President Kauwe, the proceedings included an address by R. Kelly Haws, assistant to the commissioner of the Church Educational System, and Shareef Basan, a graduate from the Philippines who took part in the university’s IWORK program.

Elder Michael T. Ringwood, a General Authority Seventy, speaks during commencement held in the Cannon Activities Center on the BYU–Hawaii campus in Laie, Hawaii, on Friday, April 19, 2024. Photo by Monique Saenz, courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.All rights reserved.

‘Wonderful Things Ahead’

Elder Ringwood said although he doesn’t know exactly what Heavenly Father has in store for each graduate, he knows that Church President Russell M. Nelson has promised “wonderful things ahead.”

In his October 2022 general conference address, President Nelson taught, “In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen.”

Elder Ringwood asked, “Have you ever considered the implications of that statement? The greatest manifestations ever?”

The God of miracles has parted the Red Sea, made water come out of a rock, caused prison walls to fall, multiplied bread and fish, healed lepers, and raised the dead yet His greatest manifestations of power are yet to come, Elder Ringwood noted.

In Joshua 3, the children of Israel are camped on the banks of the Jordan River. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, they are preparing to enter their promised land.

“The air must have been heavy with anticipation … perhaps something like the excitement you feel today,” Elder Ringwood said.

Although there was likely also some trepidation. The children of Israel needed to cross the deep and swift-moving Jordan River. It was in that setting that Joshua went among the people, saying, “Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5).

In a miracle similar to the parting of the Red Sea a generation earlier, the Lord caused the waters of the Jordan River to “stand upon an heap,” and His people walked across “on dry ground.”

Elder Ringwood then shared three principles graduates could learn from the story of the Israelites entering the promised land.

3 Principles

1. Repent

.First, Elder Ringwood noted that Joshua told the people to prepare for the wonders of the Lord by sanctifying themselves. Today’s vernacular would call that repentance, he said.

“Let’s each examine our lives, every day, and remove anything that shouldn’t be there — thoughts, attitudes, habits, influences, anything that might limit the wonders the Lord can do in our lives. I testify that Jesus Christ, by virtue of His atoning sacrifice, has the power to cleanse and to sanctify you,” Elder Ringwood said.

2. Keep covenants

Next, Elder Ringwood noted that when the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, the ark of the covenant when first. “The ark symbolized both the presence of God and their covenant relationship with Him, and it led the way in their journeyings,” he explained.

Just as the children of Israel always had the ark of the covenant at the front of their camp, graduates should keep their covenants with Christ at the forefront of their lives. “What does that mean? It means to let those covenants lead us in the choices we make.”

BYU–Hawaii graduates listen to remarks from Elder Michael T. Ringwood, a General Authority Seventy, during commencement on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Laie, Hawaii. Photo by Monique Saenz, courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.All rights reserved.

3. Take Steps of Faith

Third, the water did not part until the feet of the priests carrying the ark “were dipped in the brim of the water” (Joshua 3:15). In other words, the miracle only happened after they had taken a step of faith, Elder Ringwood noted.

“To experience the wonders that the Lord wants to do in your life, you too will need to take a step of faith. The miracles won’t happen while you are standing on the riverbank, waiting for the water to stop. They will happen when your feet are wet because you showed that you are committed to moving forward and that you trust the Lord to open the way,” Elder Ringwood said.

In conclusion, Elder Ringwood said he can’t wait to see what wonders the Lord will do in the lives of His children. “As impressive as it is to stop the waters of the rushing Jordan River or topple the walls of Jericho or multiply bread or heal a leper, these aren’t the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power. Much more eternally significant is His power to stop the flow of bitterness and hate; to bring down walls of prejudice that divide God’s children; to multiply our small, humble offerings of goodness and spread their influence to multitudes; to heal relationships, broken hearts and spiritual wounds. The greatest of these manifestations of the power of Jesus Christ are still ahead of us. And He will do these wonders among you as you sanctify yourselves, let your covenants lead you, and take courageous steps of faith.”

BYU–Hawaii graduates celebrate outside the Cannon Activities Center following commencement on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Laie, Hawaii. Photo by Monique Saenz, courtesy of BYU–Hawaii.All rights reserved.

April 2024 BYU–Hawaii Graduation

Total # of graduates: 380

Total # of U.S. states represented: 34

Total # of countries represented: 23

Age range of graduates: 19 to 50

Gender ratio of graduates (% of women, % of men): 55% women, 45% men

# of bachelor's degrees earned: 371

# of associate's degrees earned: 9

% of grads who had at least 1 job via BYU–H or Polynesian Cultural Center while a student: 88%

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