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Devotional: Waipahu Stake President Mullaney shared six 'life-changing' lessons from his 27 years in the U.S. Navy

Mullaney speaking at the microphoen wearing a black suit with a blue striped tie with a purple flower lei around his neck and blackness behind him.
President Sean H. Mullaney at BYUH devotional on May, 19, 2021.

When retired naval officer and stake President Sean H. Mullaney was serving in the U.S. Navy, he had the opportunity to go to the North Pole. He said when he stepped outside and saw he was surrounded by snow and ice, he felt cold and lonely even though the scene was breathtakingly beautiful. However, when he called his wife, Jade Mullaney, he said he felt the cold melt away.

Mullaney applied this lesson to the importance of communicating with Heavenly Father daily during his address at the BYU–Hawaii devotional on May 19, 2021.

“If you will let Him prevail in your life, you never have to be cold or lonely, even when you are on top of the world,” he said.

Mullaney illustrated this lesson and others from his own life experiences in the Navy to teach BYUH students how to effectively navigate life.

About Sean H. Mullaney

Jade Mullaney introduced her husband as a hardworking and loving father to their three children and four grandchildren. She said Sean H. Mullaney was born and raised on Oahu and graduated from Kamehameha schools.

They met while attending BYUH and were married on Valentine's Day in 1981 when they were both nonmembers. She said he later enlisted in the Navy and qualified for the nuclear power and submarine service programs. He served three tours on the submarines USS Tani, USS Kamehameha and USS Honolulu. While he was serving, she said he received his bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College in New York and an MBA from Hawaii Pacific University.

He has served in many callings, she said, including Young Men's, elder’s quorum, Sunday School, stake high counselor, the bishopric, assistant area auditor, temple ordinance worker and his most recent calling as a stake president in Waipahu.

She said he retired from being a master chief in 2008 after 27 years and credited Mathew 7:7 for helping her through her husband’s deployments, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,”

Out of his 27 years in the Navy, he shared six life “life-changing” lessons that blessed his life in his career, as a husband, father and in the Church.

Sean (left) in a black suit with a blue tie smiling next to his wife Jade Mullaney wearing an orange and black lined shirt both wearing purple flower leis around their neck with greenery behind them.
Sean and Jade Mullaney

Lesson #1: He knows

Sean H. Mullaney said when he went to San Diego for training, “boot camp hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was sure I'd made the biggest mistake of my life.”

He recalled missing his wife so terribly he felt regrets during his first night and woke up to the sounds of metal trash cans and yelling early the next morning. “Our politicians were working hard to dismantle us and exclude the vulnerable,” he explained.

His company commander, a chief petty officer, took him aside and told him he was a member of the Church and would be there for him if Mullaney ever needed a blessing.

He said, “Regardless of the company I was assigned to or which company commander I was assigned to, Heavenly Father made certain I knew who I was and where I was and that He was watching over me.”

Heavenly Father made certain I knew who I was and where I was and that He was watching over me.
Sean H. Mullaney

He said the Church service on his first Sunday saved his life during that difficult time. “I knew that day God knew what I needed and I was going to be okay and so was my wife back home. Boot camp got a whole lot easier after that first sacrament meeting.”

To students who are struggling, he said, “Take comfort in knowing He knows you, He cares about you, He loves you and He is always there for you. … He has reaffirmed His role in the journey of our lives in both old and modern times.”

Ultimately, he said if students only take one thing away from his devotional message, they should always remember “He knows.”

Lesson #2: Be prepared

Mullaney said submarining is a dangerous business, so crewmates need to be prepared to take action at any time. “When a casualty occurs, no one is coming to help you right away. You are the emergency responders. So, we memorize the immediate actions of our casualty procedures.”

The best way to prepare for a casualty on the submarines, according to Mullaney, is to learn and practice. “We train incessantly on a submarine and test our knowledge by running drills to increase proficiency and sharpen skill.”

He said it is important to know how to keep casualties in everyday life from getting out of hand. According to Mullaney, studying the Bible and the words of latter-day prophets and apostles, praying in earnest, obeying the commandments and ministering in the Savior’s manner will prepare people for life’s casualties.

Lesson #3: Every accomplishment matters

Among the Navy’s long history of traditions is celebrating when crossing the equator. Mullaney said when he had the blessing of doing so, he recalled seeing nothing but deep blue water surrounding the ship. “That was an impressive and humbling sight. No one was there to witness the proceedings or celebrate with us, but it was special nonetheless.”

He said this experience taught him the importance of celebrating every accomplishment no matter how small and even if nobody else is there to see it.

Take time to acknowledge your successes, the milestones you reach, life’s little victories.
Sean H. Mullaney

“Take time to acknowledge your successes, the milestones you reach, life’s little victories. … You are doing incredible things and will accomplish many more in your life. Heavenly Father created you that you ‘might have joy,’ so have joy and celebrate your achievements.”

Lesson #4: Make the call today

While traveling to the North Pole, he said he soon found himself surrounded by snow and ice. Although the scene was beautiful, he said it was also lifeless, cold and lonely. However, he was given the opportunity to call his wife. When he spoke to her, he said he felt the cold and loneliness fading.

“If it has been a while since you have called home, call today. Your family will be happy to hear from you, and you will be better for it.”

He also applied this lesson to the importance of communicating with Heavenly Father. “He wants to hear from you and have you hear Him.”

Lesson #5: He is our navigator

Mullaney said in the Navy they would use navigation systems when saliing to keep them on the right course. As such, he said it is important to have a navigator in life.

To navigate successfully through life, he said people should take advantage of reliable Church sources to help them. “In a crowded and chaotic world, the scriptures and the voices of latter-day prophets, seers and revelators, and general Church leaders provide light and direction.”

Local elders and ministering brothers and sisters provide inspiration and guidance to help people stay on track, he added. “We can fix our position firmly on our Savior and master navigator, Jesus Christ, even with our own internal instrument error by virtue of our mortal weaknesses.”

Lesson #6: Trust the Lord

Mullaney testified, “Jesus Christ is our eternal pilot. He knows where the hazards are and He knows how to guide us safely through life and home to Him and our Heavenly Father.” He concluded by quoting the hymn “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.”

Jesus Christ is our eternal pilot. He knows where the hazards are and He knows how to guide us safely through life and home to Him and our Heavenly Father.
Sean H. Mullaney

Ultimately, he said learning from others is crucial in navigation. “Lessons learned from others are the best way to stay on course without having to make our own mistakes or endure unnecessary hardship. Jesus Christ is our Savior, redeemer, master navigator and eternal pilot. Know that He knows you, He knows who you are and where you are and loves you. Know He can teach you what to do before you have to do it.”

Students thoughts

Vaishali Kilaparthi, a junior from India majoring in accounting, said the devotional was inspirational. “I was able to relate to him, as I myself am a convert to the Church. I had the opportunity to serve in callings just like he did.”

She said her favorite part of the devotional was hearing Mullaney's testimony that Heavenly Father cares for each of his children, loves them and reaffirms His role in their journeys. This helped her because she said she misses her family at times.

“I appreciated his experience of feeling close to his wife after being apart from her. I believe the Holy Ghost has the ability to make us feel closer to our loved ones even though we are separated.” She said she has also felt the Lord’s warmth through the Holy Ghost when she misses her loved ones.

In addition, Kilaparthi said she learned God will help His children when they put themselves in a position to hear Him. “Placing ourselves in a position where we can hear his voice will help us avoid unnecessary confusion and focus on the journey back to him,” she said.

Munkhtaivan Javzandulam, a junior majoring in business management from Mongolia, said she was overjoyed because she was able to watch the devotional in person again. “The talk and music were inspiring and beautiful,” she added.

She said the devotional message blessed her life because it helped her feel even more grateful for the Savior as she reflected on the lessons. “I learned my Heavenly Father knows me, and although sometimes we feel like Heavenly Father is not hearing our prayers, He does know.”