President Wheelwright encourages devoted discipleship
President Steven C. Wheelwright of Brigham Young University-Hawaii began a new semester by encouraging students, faculty, and staff to improve in their efforts to become devoted disciples of Jesus Christ in his initial devotional address. In reference to the recent summer Olympics, Wheelwright compared devoted disciples to Olympic athletes in their mutual focus, discipline, and commitment. Inviting listeners to increase their devotion by attending weekly devotionals held every Tuesday at 10 a.m., President Wheelwright said, "These devotionals are a unique feature of the Church Education System, and one that can bless all of our lives, both individually and collectively."
Wheelwright framed his devotional remarks around a quote by the late President James E. Faust who said, "One of the greatest blessings of life and eternity is to be counted as one of the devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ." Referencing Elder L. Tom Perry, Wheelwright described a disciple of Christ as one learning to be like the Savior and, as King Benjamin from the Book of Mormon encouraged, one must be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works with the promised blessings of everlasting salvation and eternal life. Wheelwright also explained "that the blessings of being a devoted disciple are not just the blessings of eternity but also the blessings of a clear path and a straightforward purpose in dealing with the challenges and opportunities of mortality."
"I testify that as we accept the Savior's invitation to follow Him, our lives will be filled with innumerable blessings – the blessings promised throughout the ages to all devoted disciples of the Savior. Our path will be clear, and our purpose straightforward…May we each grow in our desire and ability to serve Him and be recognized as one of His devoted disciples is my prayer…"
Remarking on the devotion displayed at the Olympics, Wheelwright stated, "[The Lord's] path to discipleship also requires focus, discipline and self-control if we are to be well prepared for life and eternal salvation and their accompanying blessings." Wheelwright then broke down "the Lord's 'fitness regimen,' if you will" into three broad areas of development: spirituality, integrity, and unity.
Wheelwright defined spirituality as "being worthy to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion" and explained "the challenge lies in the frequency of that companionship. Just like those Olympic athletes, it requires sincere focus, discipline, and self-control to be worthy to receive and be guided by the Spirit at all times, each and every day." In referring counsel given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Wheelwright emphasized that people must employ self-denial, though challenging, in order to become true devoted disciples. "We are to deny ourselves of any appetites," Wheelwright said, "actions or even thoughts that would make us unworthy of the Spirit of the Lord."
Elder Boyd K. Packer in an address at BYU-Hawaii said, "Spirituality, while consummately strong, reacts to very delicate changes in its environment. To have it present at all, and to keep it in some degree of purity requires the commitment and watch-care [of a devoted disciple]." Wheelwright supported this idea and promoted "repeated acts of devotion" including frequent scripture study, church attendance, and prayer, which he also encouraged as part of university classes, meetings, and events in order to maintain an atmosphere or spirituality.
As examples of integrity, the second essential characteristic, Wheelwright utilized Captain Moroni and the stripling warriors, both examples found in the Book of Mormon, as "they were focused, disciplined, self-controlled...[and] true in all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted." He added that just like athletic abilities, true integrity of character requires constancy and strength.
Wheelwright also employed remarks said by the late President Gordon B. Hinckley about BYU-Hawaii on two different occasions in regards to developing character and the mission of the university. Hinckley emphasized the need for "the education of the heart, of the conscience, of the character of the spirit—these indefinable aspects of our personalities which determine so certainly what we are and what we do in our relationships one with another."
Hinckley also stated "[The world needs young men and young women who are] not weak, but forgiving; not soft, but understanding; not arrogant, but respectful of the rights and feelings of others; not boastful, but thankful for the blessings of the Almighty; not selfish, but generous in giving of their abundance to the less fortunate; not drunk with power, but humble before God in whom they place their trust. These are the...qualities I challenge you to cultivate." In regards to BYU-Hawaii, both President David O. McKay and President Hinckley prophesied the need for people "who could not be bought or sold," that of "genuine gold," and "leaders who speak out for truth and goodness and decency."
Wheelwright encouraged the BYU-Hawaii Ohana to strive through the refining process and to build a foundation of "righteous character" and "spiritual strength" through each choice they make to become the people these prophets envisioned. "Even seemingly small and inconsequential choices have an impact on our character, and thus contribute to our progress in becoming a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ," said Wheelwright.
In introducing the third essential characteristic, Wheelwright counseled: "Achieving the kind of unity required of a devoted disciple begins with ones' self." Echoing Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Wheelwright advised listeners to take after the Savior in His "unity with the Father" and refrain from "double-mindedness."
"Here at BYU-Hawaii," explained Wheelwright, "as we each overcome double-mindedness and unite our efforts – whether it's working with classmates on a group project, fulfilling our calling as part of a ward family, or working as part of a team in one of the PCC villages – we will see greater progress in building the kingdom and in developing our own talents and abilities. Indeed, we will extend and enhance our ability to accomplish all the Lord would have done here in this part of his vineyard… Each one of us is a critical member of the BYU-Hawaii Ohana. You are an integral part of our success."
Wheelwright concluded by issuing an invitation: "I challenge each and every one of us to make an assessment of where we are in our quest to become a devoted disciple of the Lord, and then to push ourselves just a little bit harder…Once you've made this assessment of your degree of devotion, I would invite you to prayerfully develop a tangible plan for how you will make real progress on all three of these discipleship characteristics…And don't be afraid to ask a loving Heavenly Father for increased focus, discipline, and self-control.