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Pacific Ponderings

Kuleana for Campus and Community

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.

Kuleana for Campus and Community

On a recent morning run, I saw an empty plastic water bottle floating in the Kahawainui stream. It was a small blemish on an otherwise beautiful landscape. Nonetheless, it pained me to see this bottle beginning a journey out to sea, where I knew that it could take 500 years or more to decompose.

Will this bottle still be floating in the ocean during the Millennium, I wondered. Surely when the earth is restored to its paradisiacal glory it shall be cleansed from every sort of pollution, whether material or moral, including plastic trash like this that fouls both shore and sea. Perhaps we shall even play a role in this cleansing.

The Book of Mormon predicts that the gospel will come forth in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the earth (Mormon 8:31). No doubt the predicted pollution of the last days includes the physical as well as spiritual degradation of the earth.

In the Pearl of Great Price, the earth seems sentient of the filth that defiles it. Enoch heard a voice from the “bowels” of the earth crying, “Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary. . . . When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me?” (Moses 7:48).

We have a sacred stewardship for “the mother of men.” In Hawaiian this is called kuleana. The principle of kuleana for the earth antedates even ancient Hawaiian tradition. It dates back to Eden, when the Lord commanded our first parents to take good care of their garden home. The earth was given them as a glorious gift from God to be cherished. It remains a sacred stewardship for us today—our kuleana.

Like Adam and Eve, we, too, should take good care of whatever little remnant of Eden we are responsible for, including our home here in Hawaii. Living on an island reminds us daily of our interconnection with each other as well as with land and sea.

President McKay emphasized our kuleana for this place at the 1955 groundbreaking. He admonished the residents of Laie, “Keep your yards beautiful. Keep your streets clean and make it an attractive village, the best in the Hawaiian Islands.” Such beauty, he said, befits a town built “in the shadow of the House of God, standing out in beautiful white in the daytime and as an illuminated building at night.”

President McKay blessed the people, the school, and the land over and over again. He indicated that prophets had often blessed this land; he was merely consecrating it “again.” This is a sacred place—an ancient place of refuge, a historic place of gathering for Latter-day Saints, and a place graced by a House of God.

So let us heed a prophet’s admonition at our founding by being clean, morally and physically. Let us love and take good care of our little piece of paradise by practicing kuleana here. It grieves me to see litter on the campus, town, or beaches. When I see it, I stop, stoop, and pick it up. I invite you to do the same. As good stewards let us follow the simple motto, PAUSE & PICK UP. In this way, when the King comes again we, as His faithful stewards, can return the earth to its rightful owner, still shimmering with traces of its original paradisiacal glory.

John Tanner

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