Coming to Hawaii and serving a senior mission was not in the plans of Elder Brent Esplin, a senior missionary from Utah assigned to the Religious Education Department at BYU–Hawaii. He said because of his faith, Hawaii brought great blessings of health and spiritual growth.
“I had many health issues, especially after I retired. It is interesting to come here and to put in incredible hours from 4 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., but still be able to wake up refreshed and full of energy. I marvel at that, because the Lord kept his word and sustained me. I couldn’t even stand up with the back surgeries and the knee surgeries I had. Now I don’t have any effects of it when I am teaching.”
Before he was asked to serve in Hawaii, Esplin and his wife were senior missionaries in Utica, New York. He said serving in the brutal cold of the Northeast and shoveling snow was hard on him. So when the two got the call to come to Hawaii, they had to decide if another mission was a good choice.
“Our kids said, ‘Dad, you are going out of the snow to Hawaii. It is a no-brainer,’” shared Esplin. “One of our kids said, ‘The Lord is rewarding you for all the snow you shoveled in New York.’”
Since Aug. 2017, he has taught the classes Doctrines of the Book of Mormon, Foundations of the Restoration, and the Eternal Family. After this semester, Esplin and his wife plan to go back home and spend more time with their grandchildren, but he said another mission could be in his future.
“[My wife and I] have always wanted to serve a mission. I served a mission when I was 19. I wanted my wife to have this experience, and she wanted to have the experience of a mission too. We have five sons, and they all went on missions. So [my wife] has heard their stories, and we planned to go on a mission when we retired.”
Through his experience of teaching at BYUH, Esplin said when he interacts with students, he knows the Church is in good hands. “I have worked harder at this than working for 38 years teaching Seminary and Institute for the church. It is very rewarding to be around young people and to see the church on a worldwide basis.
“It is amazing to see the different cultures and nations who at times were at war with each other, and now they’re working together sitting side by side in a classroom.”
Charlotte Kennington, a freshman from Belgium majoring in elementary education, is in Esplin’s Book of Mormon class. She said Esplin is more than a teacher, but rather a close friend. She said she went to Esplin during a difficult time, and he offered her peace.
Kennington also expressed she loved being in his Religion class because she never experienced one back home.
“I graduated from Seminary, but I never had a sit-down experience,” said Kennington. “I did online Seminary my senior year, and the other three years I did Seminary through Google hangouts. It was nice to be in my house, but you don’t get the same feeling as sitting in a classroom and actually taking notes.”
Along with the open environment Esplin created for his class, Kennington said she appreciates Esplin’s stories because she finds him understandable. “You understand his stories… Sometimes people give spiritual stories about their lives and say how blessed they are. He is very humble about his experiences.
“Brother Esplin is the best professor I have ever had. He truly cares about his students and emits a Christlike love. His lectures are spiritual. My testimony has grown in his class because he focuses on learning, rather than bombarding us with unnecessary academic work like some Religion professors tend to do. As a result, I can focus more on feeling the spirit and applying his valuable lessons to my life. I really like how he uses personal or real life stories because they are inspiring in various ways.”
Emily Payne, a freshman from California majoring in sports medicine, shared having Esplin as a teacher has positively impacted her BYUH experience. “My testimony has grown in his class because he focuses on learning rather than focusing solely on homework and tests. As a result, I can focus more on feeling the spirit and applying his valuable lessons to my life.”
Payne said Esplin is one of the best professors she has ever had because he emits Christlike love and truly cares about the wellbeing of his students. Each day, he personally shakes his hand with everyone in class which shows he invests time to understand his students.
Before Esplin leaves BYUH, he said he wants students to have a strong foundation in gospel doctrines of the Atonement and personal revelation. “There is a power in the Atonement. It is not just [about] forgiveness and that we can live again, but our lives can be sustained, and we can get through hard times because of His Atonement.”
Esplin continued by saying personal revelation is vital because we need it now more than ever. “There is a great need for personal revelation and for the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion. We live in tough times, as President Nelson said. We won’t survive if we don’t learn to get personal revelation. I have learned that without walking by faith, you can’t make it.”