Skip to main content

Pacific Ponderings

By President John S. TannerOctober 31, 2019
The headnote to D&C 138 informs us that President Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the dead “was unanimously accepted” by the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and Church Patriarch on October 31, 1918—Halloween! Though merely a historical coincidence, how appropriate that this revelation would be ratified on Halloween. After all, Joseph F. Smith’s glorious vision of the dead reveals the real relationship between the world of the living and of the dead, the very topic that Halloween sensationalizes and distorts.
By President John S. TannerAugust 27, 2019
I had never heard of Children’s Day when growing up. As a child, it seemed unfair to me that a Sunday was set aside each year to honor mothers and another to honor fathers but none to honor children...
By President John S. TannerJuly 23, 2019
Becoming Temple Guardians and Gardeners
By President John S. TannerMay 10, 2019
This Mother’s Day I write in praise not only of my mother, whom I can never praise enough, and of mothers in general, but of mothering.
By President John S. TannerApril 10, 2019
I write today in praise of libraries, books, and reading. This is National Library Week. Its organizers have invited the public to “share your library story” on social media. My library story is bathed in the soft, gauzy glow of boyhood memories of the library of my youth.
By President John S. TannerMarch 22, 2019
Just a week ago, I awoke to the horrific news that 49 people had been killed in two mosques in Christchurch, NZ, with more in hospital. Since then, another has died. The victims were gunned down in cold blood as they gathered to pray, by a shooter filled with rage and hatred for Muslims and immigrants. I felt sickened by the news. I wept that morning as I prayed for the victims and for a world where, as prophesied, the love of many was waxing cold.
By President John S. TannerJuly 03, 2019
“Let us now praise famous men” (Ecclesiasticus, 44)
By President John S. TannerOctober 29, 2018
My father would have been 98 on Monday (22 October). It happened that I was assigned to give a message for the office devotional that day. In tribute to dad and to follow up on General Conference, I shared some thoughts from a talk I gave in Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting in 1999 called “The Church as an Auxiliary to the Family.” Here is the talk, reconstructed from old notes. Happy birthday dad! You would be pleased to know that the Prophet is emphasizing a “home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine.”
By President John S. TannerOctober 09, 2018
[ With the announcement of the new meeting schedule, it is more important than ever that sacrament meeting strengthens our discipleship. I share this Pondering with the hope of deepening our sacrament worship.]
By President John S. TannerOctober 04, 2018
A couple years ago I wrote the campus a pre-Conference message on hearkening. (See https://president.byuh.edu/pacificponderings/hearken.) I spoke about how we should listen to prophets with the intent to obey. Today I want to share a similar message but from the negative perspective: how not to listen to prophets.
By President John S. TannerJuly 01, 2019
We sang one of my favorite patriotic songs in Church on Sunday, “America the Beautiful.” It has a charming history. It was written by Katherine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, when she was visiting Colorado College in 1893 to teach summer school. On her journey across the country, Bates witnessed first-hand vast “amber waves” of wheat covering the Great Plains. She also admired images of futuristic gleaming white cities in the Chicago World’s Fair. But above all she was stirred by a beautiful panoramic view of America atop Pike’s Peak. The thrilling experience of being surrounded by ”purple mountain majesties” with “fruited plains” stretching far into the distance below led Bates to write “America the Beautiful,” a poem originally entitled “Pike’s Peak.”
By President John S. TannerApril 17, 2018
I recently read an article in Scientific Reports about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (GPGP). The GPGP is an area of ocean between Hawaii and North America about three times the size of France that collects vast quantities of plastic waste. The waste is trapped in an immense oceanic “gyre” whose currents accumulate, circulate, and concentrate plastic trash.
By President John S. TannerApril 13, 2019
Tomorrow is Joseph Ah Quin’s funeral. I shall miss Uncle Joe. His beautiful voice welcomed Susan and me to Laie on the day I was announced as the new BYU–Hawaii president. I’d love to hear him sing just once more.
By President John S. TannerMarch 17, 2018
It’s St. Patrick’s Day—a good day not only to wear green but to act green. So I went “plogging” this morning. “Plogging” is a new craze from Sweden that combines exercise with environmentalism. Ploggers pick up trash while jogging. The word is a mash-up of “jogging” and the Swedish word for “pick up.”
By President John S. TannerDecember 13, 2017
In the traditional Christian calendar, Christmas is followed by Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas (hence, the twelve days of Christmas). Epiphany commemorates the recognition by the Wise Men that the baby is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. His birth fulfills prophecy that "the Lord Omnipotent ... , who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay" (Mosiah 3:5).
By President John S. TannerOctober 31, 2017
Halloween Pondering:
By President John S. TannerOctober 22, 2017
A THOUGHT FOR THANKSGIVING 2015
By President John S. TannerOctober 04, 2017
Put a Difference Between the Holy and Profane
By President John S. TannerAugust 18, 2017
Moral Courage “I come to bring him sleep” (Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale)
By President John S. TannerJuly 03, 2017
Yesterday we buried my mother-in-law, Barbara Winder, a great and noble woman. Today, Sunday, I woke up with two scriptural phrases running through my mind: “Why weepest thou?” and “Thou shalt live together in love.”
By President John S. TannerJune 07, 2019
Social psychologists have discovered that individuals are less likely to help a victim when bystanders are present. In fact, if you are a victim, the more people around you the less likely it is that one of them will intervene. There is a diffusion of responsibility in a crowd. This is called “the bystander effect.” If you want to watch some disturbing videos, look up “bystander effect” on YouTube. The videos show actors playing victims moaning on the sidewalk in a big city and even crying out “help me” while people pass them by, sometimes for a very long time, with no one stopping to help.
By President John S. TannerJune 05, 2017
Recently Billy Bush expressed regret for engaging in a now infamous conversation with Donald Trump in which Trump bragged about groping women while Bush laughed at and went along with the crude talk. Bush now says, “I wish I had changed the topic on the bus. But I didn’t have the strength of character to do it. I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in.” He went on to reveal that when the tape of this vulgar conversation was made public, his 15-year-old daughter said, “Why were you laughing at the things that [Trump] was saying on that bus, Dad? They weren’t funny.”
By President John S. TannerJuly 03, 2019
Last week as I was quickly mopping the kitchen floor before some visitors arrived, I began arguing in my head, as I often have, against the familiar maxim “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” Many of us grew up with this saying. It was drummed into us by well-meaning and hard-working parents and grandparents trying to instill in us a strong work ethic and to help us take pride in our work. I honor and applaud the intent behind their advice. But for those who struggle against perfectionism, this is an adage from the dark side. It can invite paralysis and procrastination.
By President John S. TannerApril 21, 2017
The first time I returned to Brazil after my mission, I saw some graffiti that caught my attention. I have thought about it often over the years, including this Easter weekend as I witnessed the baptism of three granddaughters. Scrawled on the wall of a building were the words “Cristo é o sabão!”—meaning “Christ is the soap.”
By President John S. TannerFebruary 16, 2017
Eating red grapefruit for breakfast this morning made me think about the half-life of learning. The grapefruit reminded me of a science project that I did for my high school chemistry class 50 years ago. I set about to determine the pH values of red vs. yellow grapefruit. It was a trivial project. Nonetheless, I still remember it a half-century later, which is far from trivial.
By President John S. TannerDecember 22, 2016
This Christmas “pondering” for the university ‘ohana is longer than most because I wanted to share some stories—a story from Dickens famous novella, and from his experience working in a blacking factory, my own Dickensian work experience, and the inspiring stories of some of our wonderful students. In a greetings that Dickens made famous: “Merry Christmas!” and “God bless us, every one!”
By President John S. TannerDecember 15, 2016
December 15, 2016
By President John S. TannerNovember 04, 2016
“And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him” (D&C 88:11)
By President John S. TannerOctober 25, 2016
Although many retailers try their best to convince us that “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are the most important days in the Holiday Season, we know better. In fact, the word “holiday” comes from the old English word for holy day, and not even the increasing commercialization of Christmas can drown out the sacred joy of this holy time of year. In the United State we recognize our national day of Thanksgiving at the end of November, about a month before we celebrate Christmas, which I find to be a highly appropriate start to the Holiday Season. Indeed, in the progression of the holidays (or holy days) from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Day, I find many parallels with steps an individual might take when striving to become more Christian.
By President John S. TannerOctober 24, 2016
It is Thanksgiving Day 2016. Today my thoughts turn back in gratitude to a Thanksgiving nearly 100 years ago on November 27, 1919. On that Thanksgiving Day, President Heber J. Grant dedicated the Hawaiian Temple, thus linking forever our lovely temple here in Laie with the Thanksgiving holiday.
By President John S. TannerSeptember 08, 2016
On Saturday we hosted the Fijian ambassador to campus. After his campus tour, he held a Q&A in which he fielded questions about passports among other topics. He explained that it is now possible for Fijian citizens to hold dual passports—one from the Republic of Fiji and a second from any other country.
By President John S. TannerSeptember 08, 2016
Yesterday was our anniversary. Susan and I have been married for 42 wonderful years! I love her more deeply with every passing year. Yes, the initial headiness of the honeymoon is long past, but not the intensity, depth or ardor of my love for her.
By President John S. TannerAugust 08, 2016
As I write this, the Rio Olympics are just opening. By coincidence, our student athletes also assembled today for the official opening of the Seasider season. I was asked to speak to them. I decided to base my brief remarks on the inspiring life and words of the Olympic gold medal winner Eric Liddell, the Scottish sprinter who famously refused to run on Sunday in the 1924 Paris Olympics and so was disqualified for the 100, his best event, but still won gold in the 400 in a world-record time. I asked our student athletes how many had heard of Eric Liddell through the movie Chariots of Fire. I was surprised that very few had. This is a shame! For not only is Chariots of Fire a great movie—one of my all-time favorites—but Liddell is a man whose life is worth remembering.
By President John S. TannerApril 29, 2016
The Polynesian Cultural Center has adopted the motto “One ‘Ohana Sharing Aloha.” We spoke about this motto at the PCC Board Meeting recently. We even heard a new song that features the motto as part of an inspiring new show that is being developed. I love this phrase. I am glad that our students who work at the PCC will be exposed to it daily. It captures a gospel ideal that we should all strive to live, whether at the PCC, here on campus, or across cultures internationally.
By President John S. TannerMarch 23, 2016
On a recent Sunday morning before church, my wife and I took our grandchildren to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific—the Punchbowl. We felt that this would be a place where they could feel the Spirit and where we could talk about sacred things.
By President John S. TannerMarch 15, 2016
I learned a new Hawaiian word at our annual employee appreciation dinner: ho’omaika’i, which means “congratulations.” Ho’omaika’i is the name of our annual gathering where we recognize and celebrate our employees.
By President John S. TannerFebruary 17, 2019
One of my favorite passages from the Psalms is “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps. 84:10). This verse often comes to my mind, unbidden, reminding me of eternal priorities.
By President John S. TannerDecember 23, 2015
In early December, I was invited to give an impromptu Christmas message to the Intercultural Peacebuilding Association. I spoke about building peace on earth through good will toward men, referring to the angels’ message in Luke, a stanza from “O Holy Night,” and Paul’s Epistle to Philemon to develop the theme. I have written down these thoughts as a brief Christmas “Pondering” for the whole campus community. Merry Christmas!
By President John S. TannerNovember 25, 2015
A Thought for Thanksgiving 2015
By President John S. TannerOctober 23, 2015
Dear BYU–Hawaii Ohana: This month we will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the LDS Church in Laie as well as the 60th Anniversary of BYU–Hawaii. I offer this brief essay as a reminder of our responsibility for our lovely island home.
By President John S. TannerSeptember 11, 2015
When President McKay saw children from many nations gathered around that flagpole in Laie, he envisioned a world where people live together “united in brotherhood.” The gospel teaches us that we are brothers and sisters because God is our Father. This simple but profound truth underlies why we must strive to live together in love and peace. For we are family, no matter our differences.
By President John S. TannerSeptember 04, 2015
In 1520, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed into an unfamiliar ocean, which he named “Pacific,” meaning “peaceful,” owing to the calmness of the sea. The Pacific Ocean, however, has often been anything but peaceful. It is subject to frequent and fierce hurricanes and typhoons. Ringed by volcanoes and rocked by massive underwater movements in the earth’s crust, it has seen monster tsunamis devastate settlements along its shores. It has also witnessed terrible man-made devastation of war. The battles in the Pacific Theater during WWII were particularly bloody and brutal. The Pacific Rim is the only place on earth where atomic bombs have been dropped on human populations. It has also witnessed the testing of nuclear bombs a thousand times more powerful on the little atoll called “Bikini” in the Marshall Islands. So the Pacific has often been anything but pacific.
By President John S. TannerAugust 26, 2015
In 1520, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed into an unfamiliar ocean, which he named “Pacific,” meaning “peaceful,” owing to the calmness of the sea. The Pacific Ocean, however, has often been anything but peaceful. It is subject to frequent and fierce hurricanes and typhoons. Ringed by volcanoes and rocked by massive underwater movements in the earth’s crust, it has seen monster tsunamis devastate settlements along its shores. It has also witnessed terrible man-made devastation of war. The battles in the Pacific Theater during WWII were particularly bloody and brutal. The Pacific Rim is the only place on earth where atomic bombs have been dropped on human populations. It has also witnessed the testing of nuclear bombs a thousand times more powerful on the little atoll called “Bikini” in the Marshall Islands. So the Pacific has often been anything but pacific.
By President John S. TannerAugust 03, 2015
On Sunday Susan and I spoke in a fireside to the new students. We likened Book of Mormon scriptures about shipbuilding and sea voyages to them.
By President John S. TannerJuly 27, 2015
Today is my first day as president of BYU–Hawaii and my 65th birthday. I feel grateful today for those who have gone before me—for parents who gave me life, for family and friends who have strengthened and sustained me over the years, and especially for those who first envisioned and built BYU–Hawaii. I stand on their shoulders. I build on foundations they laid with such sacrifice and love.