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President and Sister Tanner encourage students to make a vision correction for the new decade

President John S. Tanner speaks wearing a purple and white orchid lei during the devotional

BYU–Hawaii President John S. Tanner and his wife, Susan Tanner, taught students how they can see more vision in their lives at the devotional on Jan. 21. President Tanner explained students can learn how God truly loves his children just as Joseph Smith learned two centuries ago.

2020 should be centered on spiritual vision

Every year Sister Tanner picks a new word to study to help her learn and improve and her word for 2020 is: Vision. “When the words 2020 rolled off my tongue, [I thought] what better word than vision, or in other words perfect sight.” She gave five different ways students can look at vision this year.

  1. The First Vision
  2. A prophet’s vision
  3. The living prophet’s current vision and continuing revelation
  4. Personal vision
  5. Godly vision

Sister Tanner had a special focus on the living prophet. To bring in her point, Sister Tanner quoted John A. Widtsoe, “The most important prophet in any age is the living prophet. To follow the living prophet, the interpreter of the past, is the essence of wisdom. The very strength of the Church lies in the doctrine of continuous revelation through a living prophet.”

Sister Tanner said, “I will emphasize the living prophet’s vision, especially for women.” She quoted President Nelson, “If the world loses the moral rectitude of women, the world will never recover. I worry that our women do not understand this. Are we losing our vision of who we are and what our purposes are?”

Sister Tanner then changed her focus to her mother-in-law. She said in the hard times, she lived on a “healthy dose of faith in Jesus Christ.” She said she made sure all her 13 children felt loved, wanted, and cherished. She created “lifelong learners. This is evident in how President Tanner’s face lights up when he hears people speak about philosophy or books.”

Her own mother even said, “John’s mother is a noble and amazing woman. You must learn everything you can from her. Keep the vision of her example ever before you.”

Sister Tanner ended by bearing her testimony. She challenged students to “take your rightful and needful place in your home, community, and the Kingdom of God, and as you do the Lord will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way.”

Seeing through God’s eyes

President Tanner reminded the audience of how the year 2020 is the bicentennial of the First Vision. He said, “To see our lives with God’s eyes is to see with 2020 spiritual vision.”

Joseph Smith came to know the real vision of God, according to President Tanner. Before, the way the Lord saw him caused him to be “exceedingly distressed [so] he cried unto the Lord for mercy, for there was none else [he] could go to obtain mercy.”

President Tanner mentioned how Joseph Smith went into the grove of trees, not expecting to see God, but hoping to learn how God saw him. He learned God “knew him by name, loved him, forgave him, and was with him.” He said Joseph then saw a little more with God’s eyes.

“A marvelous statue entitled ‘Face to Face’ helps us imagine how God saw Joseph and Joseph saw God.” This statue, President Tanner said, shows the First Vision through Joseph’s eyes looking at beings who are “living beings” and “kind and compassionate.”

According to President Tanner, the statue invites the viewer to see Joseph Smith in “very human terms. He wears a working boy’s clothes and there is even a hole in one of his shoes.”

President Tanner said this hole symbolizes how Joseph Smith came to this “glorious theophany as a regular boy with human imperfections that we all have.” The Lord would continue to show Joseph Smith the loving way he saw him throughout future visions and revelations.

The doctrine of acceptable sacrifice is when “we are prepared to sacrifice everything for the [Lord]” and “we offer our whole souls as an offering unto Him. The Lord accepts our offering even if it’s imperfect.”

The Lord accepted the early Latter-day Saints’ offering to build a city and a temple in Jackson County, Missouri, President Tanner said. They were not able to fully build either of those because of their enemies. President Tanner added, “The Lord takes our intent for the deed when we try our best, our very best, to obey him. He makes up the difference.”

President Tanner remembered a painting of the prodigal son. “The father has come running all the way down the steps to embrace his errant child and the prodigal son has placed just one foot on the lowest step. It is a humble offering of a weary and sin-sick soul, but the father accepts this offering with a loving embrace.”

President Tanner reminisced about his mother, who passed away recently. He said she had 20/20 spiritual vision. “I know of no one who has loved the Savior more. She would weep at the thought that she had in some measure added to the Savior’s suffering.”

He ended with his testimony, “It’s my testimony that if we, as my mother, keep our covenants and offer our whole souls to God, although we are not perfect, God will accept our sacrifice. For in the end, we are all beggars when we knock on the portals of Heaven. We all have thorns in the flesh that will require celestial excision, but no blessing will be denied to those who truly love him.”

Students said they were touched by the Tanners’ devotional. As for Sister Tanner’s talk, Grace Mata’itusi, an elementary education freshman from California, shared she thought her talk was insightful and she loved how Sister Tanner focused on the word “vision” throughout the year.

Hailee Gornichec, from Nevada, commented saying she thought it was inspiring and well thought out. “I liked that she focused on having a plan to apply that word throughout the year.”

Before leaving after the prayer, the students sang “Aloha Oe” to the Tanners before they left for the funeral of President Tanner’s mother. She was 99 years old at the time of her passing.

Before the devotional

Before the Tanners gave their talks, there was a musical number entitled “Be Thou My Vision.” It was sung by Jeremay Basulgan, a marketing senior from the Philippines, and Jinev Villanueva, an interdisciplinary studies junior from the Philippines, accompanied by Sabrina Hsi Ting, a piano performance senior from Taiwan, on piano and Jinyong Jung, a music senior from Korea, on the violin.

There was also a new procedure presented for those sharing a favorite scripture before the speaker. Vice President of Administration Steven W. Tueller said, “We’ve invited all those who share the scripture to also share why it is important to them.”

Jessica Gentry, an exercise and sport science junior from California, shared Doctrine and Covenants 59:23: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” She then remarked, “I chose this scripture because it reminds us that the Lord will always bless us when we strive to do what’s right.”

Tueller spoke about when the Tanners were called as leaders of the university Sister Tanner’s father passed away. He said, “Yet their devotion to duty brought them here with smiles on their faces.”

With the recent passing of President Tanner’s mother, Tueller said, “As they deal with that grief, they continue to serve, to teach us, and bless us today.”