1 of 15
Photo by Monique Saenz, BYU-Hawaii
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy, right, and BYU-Hawaii President John S. Tanner lead the procession of graduates prior to commencement exercises on June 8, 2017.

LAIE, Hawaii

“The golden pathway to happiness is one of selflessness and of giving love — the kind of love that has concern, interest and some measure of charity for every living soul,” Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy told graduates of Brigham Young University-Hawaii during commencement exercises on June 8.

During commencement exercises, BYU-Hawaii awarded graduates from 33 countries earning 343 degrees — 260 bachelor degrees and 83 associate degrees. As BYU-Hawaii is known for its high number of international students, the graduation brought visitors to the campus, as well as virtual supporters via online streaming, to celebrate the graduates' achievement.

In his keynote address, Elder Soares shared “paths of true happiness in life.”

“When we look around the world, it is very obvious that people everywhere are looking for something,” he said. “In their own way, what they are really looking for is happiness.”

True and lasting happiness, the Church leader said, is more than just a temporary pleasure. He warned listeners of being pleasure seekers — those who find delight in buying things, seeking honor and praise from the world through inappropriate behavior, or focusing on physical beauty and attractiveness.

Unlike happiness, pleasure is that which pleases or gives gratification for a short time. Happiness, Elder Soares taught, is found only along the straight path to eternal life.

“Recent research shows that happiness is not the result of bouncing from one experience to the next,” Elder Soares said. “Instead, achieving happiness typically involves a long-sustained effort for something more important in life. Happiness is determined by habits, behaviors and thought patterns that we can directly address with intentional action.”

Other studies suggest the most important determining factor in achieving true happiness is actually “under personal control,” he said.

Elder Soares shared five “paths for happiness” as taught in the scriptures and by modern prophets and apostles.

1. Virtue

“Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards; it encompasses chastity and moral purity that prequalifies you to enter the Lord’s holy temples,” Elder Soares said. “Virtuous people possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind, and it is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions each day.”

2. Uprightness

Sharing the words of Elder Richard G. Scott, Elder Soares said enduring happiness comes from “what you are, not what you have.”

Real happiness comes from righteous character built from a pattern of consistent righteous decisions.

“We need to make sure that our thoughts, our words, and actions are elevating us to the level of the divinity of our Heavenly Parents,” he said.

3. Faithfulness

“It is fundamental to understand that God blesses us according to our faith,” he said. “Faith is the source of living with divine purpose and eternal perspective. Faith is a practical principle that inspires diligence. It is a vital, living force manifest in our positive attitude and desire to willingly do everything that God and Jesus Christ ask of us.”

Faith motivates individuals to ask the Lord for guidance and encourages a person to act with confidence in achieving the things consistent with His will.

“Dear friends, as you go forward in your journey, you will go through a period of testing where you will be tested to see if you will do all things that the Lord your God shall command you,” he said. “This is part of the mortal life experience. This will require that you press forward with steadfast faith in Christ, being led by the Spirit and trusting that God will provide for your needs. Please remember that you will need to be steadfast and that you must not waver in your faith.

"As you do so, the Lord will increase your capacity to rise above the challenges of life. You will be enabled to subdue negative impulses, and you will develop the capacity to overcome even what appear to be overwhelming obstacles.”

4. Holiness

“Holiness is related to spiritual and moral perfection. Holiness indicates purity of a person’s heart and intent,” he said. “The question is how can we labor each day to feed ourselves spiritually to the point that we can develop such godly character?”

Daily striving for self-improvement and making and keeping covenants in the temple elevates a person to live beyond the limits of his or her own power and perspective.

“The key point of this path is that we should be very careful to develop spiritually and be morally pure,” he said.

5. Keeping the commandments of God

By living the commandments of God, a person’s life will be happier, more fulfilling and less complicated, the leader taught.

Drawing from the words of President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Soares quoted, “Our challenges and problems will be easier to bear, and we will receive [God’s] promised blessings. The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.”

BYU-Hawaii President John S. Tanner spoke about a “resume that is even more important than your professional resume.”

“While your academic resume that we celebrate today is important in the marketplace and something truly worth celebrating and strengthening, don’t confuse its temporal importance with the eternal importance of your real resume,” President Tanner said. “On the resumes read in heaven, worldly greatness will never [be] a substitute for personal goodness.”

President Tanner counseled the graduates, “To be good is to be great.”

“Just as your academic resume will open doors of opportunity in this life, you real resume will open the portals of Heaven, resulting in greater happiness in this life as well as blessings, honor, grace and glory beyond anything you can imagine in the life to come.”

Other speakers at the event included Mark Woodruff, assistant to the commissioner of the Church Educational System, and Jared Kib Lucenta, a graduate. Kaitlyn Bourne, a singer, performed a musical selection.

mholman@desnews.com @marianne_holman

The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.