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Newly called Hawaii Laie Mission president tells students to choose to belong at BYUH

President Sidney J. Bassett standing at the BYUH pulpit wearing a blue tie, grey suit and purple and white lei. He is smiling.
President Sidney J. Bassett said people can choose to belong even in situations that may feel isolating.

When President Sidney J. Bassett returned to graduate school in his 50s, he said he felt he did not belong in many ways. In his first online class, he shared he was discouraged, embarrassed and his confidence was shot from everyone ignoring and talking over him. He explained he later realized that he had been on mute the entire time. He unmuted, waited his turn, then jumped in to be heard. “It wasn’t profound in any way, but at that moment, I chose to belong.”

Choosing to belong, having confidence and fostering self-worth were the focus of President Sidney and Stephanie Bassett’s BYU–Hawaii devotional speeches on March 1. The Bassetts are the newly called mission president and companion for the Hawaii Laie Mission, created in early January 2022.

Choose to belong

Going back to school as an adult, President Bassett said his age and technological application skills led him to think he was “completely out of [his] league.”

He said he noticed differences from his university experience when he was young. His younger classmates were seemingly smarter, more clever and competent. Because of this, he added he felt he did not belong. “Like perhaps some of you, in going back to school, I felt woefully inadequate to compete at the high level that was expected of me.”

While doing a practice counseling session with a classmate, President Bassett said his partner began sharing real concerns, which he felt unprepared to help her with. Just then, he said a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants came to his mind that talks about having charity and confidence in God and keeping the Holy Ghost as a companion.

“At that moment, I needed confidence. I needed to know that I belonged there. I needed guidance from the power of God to distill upon me dews of wisdom from heaven. And he did. In that instant I realized it wasn’t about me. It was about him and how he wanted to help this young woman,” President Bassett explained.

He reminded students the BYUH administration, facilities, faculty and staff are a beautiful tower, and the academic staff are here for one reason. He urged each student to choose to belong because BYUH would be of no use without them.

He said before BYUH students began studying at the university, they had to achieve a certain standard of academic proficiency, agree to live the honor code, make sacrifices to be separated from their homes and loved ones, register for classes and have their names on the professors’ lists to study on campus. He said all these facts show they belong at BYUH and are more than enough.

Travel Services Manager Lurline Nunu from Laie, Hawaii, attended the devotional and shared, “I just really felt the Lord's love for me, … and I want all the students to feel the same way, even though they just arrived.”

She said international students often feel they do not belong because they are surrounded by different cultures and struggle with the language barrier. “I want them [students] to feel how I feel, that this is such a special place.” She added she believes they are all “chosen to be here at this very time.”

Have confidence

President Bassett shared as a licensed counselor, he has a lot of clients who had exceptional temporal and spiritual talents and gifts who were kind to everyone except themselves.

He said they were “particularly skilled at deflecting compliments, downplaying talents and reveling in their perceived mediocrity, all while internally absorbing criticism, welcoming or exposing themselves to hate on social media and overanalyzing personal mistakes.”

President Bassett continued, “A common theme with many of them [his clients] was that they lacked confidence. Confidence in self and the confidence to hold up the power of godliness within.”

Students must remain balanced and centered on Christ to find the confidence within, he added. He restated what Sister Bassett shared in her speech, “No one knows us like him [Christ]. No one.” He added by trusting him, people can have confidence they are following God’s path for them.

Fostering self-worth

During her speech, Sister Bassett said people’s self-worth is not influenced by their parents, possessions, talents or abilities.

Sister Stephanie Bassett, wearing a grey and black blouse and a purple and white lei with black glasses, smiles while standing at the BYUH pulpit.
Sister Stephanie Bassett explained avoiding comparison is one way to choose to belong.

She explained children of God often foster self-doubts and underestimate their worth by seeing themselves through the world’s perspective. Referring to a quote by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, she said people underestimate their “divine worth” when they de-emphasize their “divine parentage and overemphasize [their] value to the world.”

She said comparison is harmful and causes doubt and frustration. “God created [people] individually with gifts and talents tailored to fit [their] unique lives and personalities.” She invited students to remember most things in social media are altered, edited and photoshopped. “Let’s not compare ourselves to the edited versions of others.”

She also invited students to turn to God to see how he views and thinks of them and to not let the world answer. She quoted Elder J. Devin Cornish, who said the only opinion of a person that matters is Gods. “Please sincerely ask him what he thinks. … He will love and correct but never discourage.”

Shan Arumugam, a senior majoring in hospitality and tourism management from India, said the knowledge Heavenly Father knows every person helps him continue to have faith and make sure he and others belong here.

The musical number, “The Cause of Christ,” was written by President and Sister Bassett before the talk. The chorus’s lyrics were written in Hawaiian and performed by the BYUH Ho‘olōkahi Chamber Choir, directed by Erica Glenn.

Nunu commented on the musical number and said for her it was one of the highlights of the devotional. She shared she grew up and lived almost all her life in Laie and for her, it is a very special place. She said, “I was crying because of the words.”