In their first devotional as president and first lady of BYU–Hawaii, John S.K. Kauwe III and Monica Kauwe urged students to take full advantage of their educational experience and said understanding and living by the principles of the gospel would bring blessings.
President John Kauwe said, “In this time when we are not able to be here together, it is vital that you embrace the principle of obtaining knowledge and take ownership of your educational experience.”
He expressed his gratitude for the love and support his family had received since moving to Laie and the passing of his father.
To introduce the topic of their devotion, Sister Monica Kauwe said, “We felt prompted to talk about principles and how a strong understanding of principles leads to great blessings. God’s people are governed by principles. When Christ was on the earth, he taught through principles rather than rules.”
John Kauwe acknowledged the unique circumstances of this semester and how difficult times highlight the importance of principles to govern our lives and actions. To explain the importance of principles, he recounted a story told by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
He shared how Gong met a woman on a flight to New York City. The woman was a bilingual Italian-English translator, and she began to talk to Gong about Italian art and culture. Although he was not an expert, Gong’s studies had introduced him to various artists, allowing him to converse with the woman.
As their conversation progressed, the woman opened up to Gong and told him her son had committed suicide, and she was making arrangements for his funeral. She then added, “‘I feel you are a man of God. God put you here today because I have no one I can talk to about these things.’”
John Kauwe said their discussion about Italian art and literature had led these two strangers to the tender topics of God’s plan, the restored gospel and how families can be reunited.
Gong’s story struck him, he explained, because of its stark contrast to what he had learned in his college student experience. He found himself looking back at his college years with regret.
“Unlike Elder Gong, who felt blessed and grateful for the knowledge he obtained in his undergraduate courses, I felt regret when my future experiences took me to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Louvre in Paris, and other important cultural and historical sites around the world. Due to my own shortcomings and lack of effort, I was not equipped with the knowledge to appreciate them,” explained John Kauwe.
This helped him understand the importance of learning in order to gain knowledge, rather than a grade. He said, “Slowly I progressed to the point I began to understand the principle of obtaining knowledge was far more important than the ‘rules’ associated with getting good grades. Learning and practicing the principle of obtaining knowledge changed my life.”
Longo Huhane, a junior from Tonga majoring in interdisciplinary studies, said the Kauwe’s words brought comfort and reassurance. “[It] gave me hope and comfort that despite how bad my grades can be, it doesn’t define who I am and who I can become.”
John Kauwe said the principle of obtaining knowledge is both spiritual and secular. “I didn’t completely grasp that as a young man, but the Lord is clear in his desire for us [to obtain knowledge].”
He said he is still working on mastering this principle, but so far his efforts have led to significant personal growth.
“I encourage each of you to consider your approach to learning and find a way to emphasize the principle of obtaining knowledge. I am certain that the result will be more joy in your educational pursuits and fantastic grades.”
Jango Bazar, a senior from the Philippines studying business management, said he related to the experiences John Kauwe shared. “He shared his struggle during his first semester because he focused on getting good grades rather than mastering the content... If we follow that principle of mastering the content and prioritize acquiring knowledge first, having good grades will follow, and we will achieve A’s.”
John Kauwe also emphasized the importance of integrity and choosing to uphold Church standards we commit to, including the Honor Code. “The standards are clear. If you are a BYU–Hawaii student or employee, you should be following these standards, wherever you are around the world. The principle is also clear. We have committed to live by these standards at all times and in all places. As people who value the principle of integrity, we choose to uphold those standards to which we have committed.”
He concluded by saying, “We cannot be successful in any endeavor to develop spiritually without the companionship of the Holy Ghost that comes through practicing the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ… Living by these principles will provide you with the capacity to overcome the unique challenges you face this coming semester.”