Faculty and staff chant hiki mai for incoming students in a first for the university
Written by
Taffie Kwok and Dani Castro
Students are greeted by chants from the university faculty
Image By
Chad Hsieh

New Student Experience (NSE) in combined efforts with the BYU-Hawaii President’s Council began two new traditions on Aug. 30 at the Cannon Activities Center. The hiki mai chant and the Mālamalama. Incoming students were encouraged to respect and love the community of Laie as well as to stay on the covenant path.

“You may think you’ve come here to swim, surf, enjoy the beach, or have an island vacation,” said President Tanner. “You are here for higher purposes. You are here to learn and to live up to the prophetic destiny of this place. We invite you new students to live up to your privileges here.”

As part of the Mālamalama tradition, each student walked in and was given, one by one, a bright-colored kukui-nut lei. NSE Coordinator Mamao Mo’o said over 800 kukui-nut leis were made and each was to represent light.

After everyone received a lei, the faculty and staff stood up in front of the stands and chanted the hiki mai, a welcoming chant.

Opening the meeting, Vice President for Academics John D. Bell taught students they are on a personal journey and soon their time at BYUH would become a critical segment of their life’s journey. “We refer to this segment as the holokai, which is Hawaiian for sea voyage.

“We use that word for our program to study here because a significant education will prepare spiritually, intellectually and vocationally for future elements of your story. Actually, it means much more than that. We hope you will align your holokai with the covenant path that leads to eternal life.”

Talamonu Tupou, a sophomore from Tonga majoring in accounting, said the purpose of the Mālamalama is to help the students connect and understand the purpose of BYUH. “Everyone is coming here to be like a light unto everyone else.”

Having transferred from a non-church college, Randall Andres, a freshman from California majoring in biochemistry, said he felt honored to be a part of the new ceremony. He shared how he felt a special type of spirit during the Mālamalama ceremony, especially when Vice President Bell and President Tanner explained what the meaning of their leis were.

Andres shared, “I prayed about [BYUH] and I felt strongly to come here. Everything seemed to line up perfectly for me to come, so I decided, ‘Okay, it is where He [Heavenly Father] wants me to be right now. I will be here.’”

Despite being part of NSE before, Mo’o said the Mālamalama ceremony was something new and she didn’t know what to expect. Later she said she learned “the Mālamalama idea was… to have a ceremony that would help our new students learn more about Laie and the prophetic destiny of BYUH. This campus… is a very special place. They want the new students, when they first come here, to know it is a place set apart by the prophet for education. 

President Tanner told the audience the blowing of the conch shells may be unfamiliar to many students, but eventually they will come to feel the spirit of aloha. He encouraged the students to “take good care of this place. Laie is a sacred place, a place of refuge, a place of gathering, a place of covenant, a place of learning, a place of prophecy, a place of love, a place of light.”

Mo’o commented on how she learned how coming to Laie is a two-way promise. The university will welcome you, and in return, students should respect and serve this university and its community.

In his final words to the students before sharing his testimony, Bell said, “There are reasons this segment of your personal journey will take place here. We invite you to take time and thought and prayer to contemplate those reasons in your discovery as they relate to your own life.

“This is truly a sacred place. It has been made holy by the sacrifice of saints for the last 150 years. It was dedicated by a prophet of God and consecrated by the temple he appointed. It was then dedicated by a second prophet of God and is now consecrated by your righteous contributions at the school he appointed. May God bless you and guide you in the choices you make while you are here.”

Date Published
September 9, 2019
Last Edited
September 9, 2019