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.
In 1955, President David O. McKay prophesied, “You mark my word . . . from this school . . . will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good toward the establishment of peace internationally.” I was reminded of this prophecy last week on a visit to South Korea.
Our visit coincided with the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. South Korean flags festooned the streets everywhere as the country celebrated independence from Japanese occupation. Most of you know that the Japanese occupation was a very painful episode in Korean history. Memories and feelings are often still raw.
I asked my Korean traveling companion, who is a graduate from BYU–Hawaii, if Latter-day Saints are able to transcend the history of hatred and hurt. “Yes,” he said, and told me a touching personal story to illustrate how.
While in the temple in Tokyo, a Japanese man approached him and said, “As a Korean, you hate us Japanese don’t you?” Such a question in the temple took my companion by surprise. But without hesitation he said “No. I do not hate you. You are my brother. I love you.” He repeated this several times until his Japanese brother believed him. Then they embraced.
There, in that sacred place, David O. McKay’s prophecy’s was partly fulfilled. One of our graduates exercised an influence for good in the establishment of peace internationally. He did so not by writing a treaty, nor by mediating some geo-political conflict, nor by lobbying for some grand human rights movement. He became an international peacemaker by reaching out in love to his Japanese brother. He knew that in the gospel we are related less by our national differences than by our spiritual kinship.
You, too, can become international peacemakers right here and now. There are opportunities all around to reach out, learn from, and embrace those from other countries. By so doing, you are fulfilling in small but important ways President McKay’s prophecy.
We become peacemakers by living the gospel. President McKay taught: “the gospel plan . . . is the only plan by which the world, by obedience to it, may obtain peace.” The gospel brings us peace as we follow the Prince of Peace. It also helps us bring peace to others by teaching us to embrace all people, even enemies, as our brothers and sisters.