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.
Nonetheless, students from this little school in the Pacific have a mission to make the world more pacific. I recently reflected on our mission to be peacemakers during a trip to South Korea and Japan that occurred on the 70th anniversary of the ending of WWII. I wrote three ponderings about this which I will share over the next few weeks. I offer these irenic (peaceful) essays in the hopes that they may promote reflections on the peaceable things of the Kingdom, for we have a prophetic mandate to establish peace.
“A Worldwide Religion”
After visiting Korea, we traveled to Japan. While attending Sunday School in Tokyo, I was again reminded of President McKay’s 1955 address at the groundbreaking. We read Acts 16 and 17 about Paul’s call to take the gospel to Europe and about his sermon in Athens on the Unknown God. These chapters touch on themes important to the mission of BYU-Hawaii—namely, the worldwide mission of the Church and the kinship of the human family.
Acts 16 is an important chapter in the story of the worldwide mission of the early Church. It tells of Paul’s vision of a man from Macedonia calling him to leave Asia Minor and take the gospel for the first time to Europe (16:9). David O. McKay cited this very scripture at the groundbreaking. He applied it to our taking the gospel to Asia. He said that there are millions of noble people in China, India, and Japan “calling today as the people’s voice in Macedonia called ‘Come over to us, come over to us.’”
This school was to be a beachhead to millions of God’s children in Asia, who were calling “come over to us, come over!” President McKay said, “You prepare to go carry that message”—the message of the gospel.
Note that President McKay included America’s former enemies among the “noble” races to whom the gospel must be preached. As I met with the wonderful Latter-day Saints in Japan, I felt their nobility. I also saw the worldwide Church in action as I sat in a Sunday School class surrounded by Latter-day Saints from many nations.
This is a “worldwide religion,” said President McKay. I wonder if any prophet had referred to Mormonism as a “worldwide religion” before President McKay did so at the groundbreaking here in Laie. His was a groundbreaking vision for the Church indeed!
For President McKay, the memory of a multi-ethnic group of students surrounding a flagpole in Laie, united in the brotherhood of the gospel became a symbol of the Church’s future: “What an example in this little place of the purpose of our Father in Heaven to unite all peoples by the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The mural on the McKay building recalls this revelatory moment when a prophet of God envisioned the future of Mormonism as a worldwide religion. The flag circle that greets visitors to campus today announces the international mission not only of this university, but of this Church.
May we prepare ourselves to answer the Lord’s call “Come over to us.” For some this may mean serving a mission or living abroad. For others it may mean returning to their homeland to build the international Church. For all it means sharing President McKay’s vision of Mormonism as a worldwide religion. We are the successors of those children who gathered around that flagpole!