Through five principles and relevant stories, Elder Quentin L. Cook, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, emphasized ways BYU–Hawaii students and others can make righteous choices.
Cook explained his personal connection to the Pacific Islands. “I love the diversity of students who attend this great institution. As a new general authority, I served two years in the Philippines and three years in the Pacific Islands. I gained a greater love and appreciation for your part of the world.”
After the BYUH Concert Choir opened the Nov. 20 devotional singing “Hosanna,” BYUH President John S. Tanner asked the audience, “Don’t you brothers and sisters feel like shouting ‘Hosanna’ being here on this beautiful day, in the presence of one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?”
Cook began, “Brothers and sisters, it’s a great pleasure for President Tanner, my wife Mary, and me to join you and the students and faculty of BYU–Hawaii. I commend you, wonderful students, for what you are accomplishing. BYU–Hawaii is an outstanding university, and maintains the highest standards in academics and spirituality. Many sacrifices allow you to be here. Thank them as well.”
He continued, “Your experience here at BYUH and the education that you are receiving prepares you for the righteousness and unity you must have in the future.”
Cook then shared five principles with the audience that he said “will contribute to your success in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, righteousness, and knowledge.”
The five principles:
1. To enthusiastically and righteously continue your quest for knowledge. Cook shared the story of Hans Sloane, and how his constant search for greater knowledge and understanding led to him to invent milk chocolate.
“Sloane experimented with cocoa by mixing it with milk and honey. He mixed the cocoa with milk and sugar and found that it was delicious. What is most interesting to me is that Sloane used much of that money to collect herbs and other specimens and donated them to what would one day be the British Museum.”
2. Righteous choices matter.
Cook shared an example of the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster, where, after winning a quiz show, he could choose between getting a new house one month later, getting a new car one week later, or a delicious cookie immediately.
“We laugh at this,” Cook said, “but the choices we make are critical. They are the key to our future and our happiness. We are the sum total of all the choices we make.”
3. Righteous day-to-day consecrated effort is better than occasional heroic actions.
“A friend of mine commented that when he was student at BYU, he thought of consecrating his life in one grand, heroic gesture. He came to realize that consecration is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is a daily devotion.
“When I was young myself, I too wanted to prove myself through some heroic gesture. My great-grandfather was one of the young men who helped carry pioneers across the Sweetwater [River]. That sounded like the sort of consecration for me.
“It would be equally heroic today to follow the prophet by serving people daily, studying from the scriptures, and helping to gather scattered Israel on both sides of the veil.”
4. To be strong and immovable in matters of righteousness. “It is essential that we place faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the center of our lives. My mission president had me memorize a statement that has stayed with me all my life. There is no chance, no faith, no destiny that can circumvent or control the firm resolve of a firm soul.
“My dear friends, you need to be determined souls when it comes time to living righteously.”
5. Each of us must earn heritage bestowed upon us as we make righteous choices.
“One of the great accounts in the Book of Mormon is Alma’s counsel to his three sons. Alma experienced a miraculous conversion as a young man. Two of his sons have made good choices, but one son made some very bad choices. The greatest significance about his counsel is that he was doing it as a father for his own children.
“His first concern was that they have a testimony of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. He tells Helaman of his own miraculous conversion. He testifies of the knowledge he was sharing. The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light.”
Cook said he first visited BYUH “59 years ago, in the Fall of 1959, when I was 19 years old. I was a student body officer at Utah State University, and USU was playing the University of Hawaii in football. President David O. McKay was then the president and prophet of the church. He learned of our trip and invited us to meet with him at Church Headquarters.”
Cook remarked, “It was the first time I had ever met a prophet, and I was impressed with his countenance. He was warm and gracious with us. President McKay then told us about this institution, where we are today, with great enthusiasm. The school had only been in existence for four years. He had dedicated the first permanent buildings.”
Cook recalled the feelings of awe he experienced when he first arrived at the BYUH campus. He called it “a beautiful setting. The ocean, the mountains, the temple, the magnificent vistas are as inspiring today as they were then.”
As part of the trip to the campus, the 19-year-old Cook was able to meet with the new [and first] governor of Hawaii. Hawaii had recently become the 50th state only four months before their trip. He showed a picture from 1959 of him with the then-governor William F. Quinn.
Cook joked in reference to the picture of him from 1959, “I have this ongoing conversation with Elder Bednar, whose hair is almost perfect. I’ve told Elder Bednar many times, there was a time when I had hair.”
Trinity Carlisle, a freshman from Illinois majoring in business, said, “Elder Cook’s words really hit me. We often rely on other people for our testimonies, and in order to have our own beliefs, we need to gain our own light.”
Elder Cook was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 2007. He served as a general authority in the First Quorum of the Presidency of the Seventy beginning in 1996. He previously served in an Area Presidency in the Philippines and was the president of the Pacific Islands and the North America Northwest areas. He also served as the executive director of Missionary Work.