On Thursday morning, the 14 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles laid their hands on Elder Patrick Kearon’s head and ordained him the 15th.
Then the newest apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints boarded a flight for Hawaii, where he delivered his first talk as an apostle early Friday morning to the fall graduating class of Brigham Young University-Hawaii in Laie.
It was just two hours after the church publicly announced his calling.
“As I prepared thoughts to share with you, of course I never imagined that I would be sharing them on the day when I would be named the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” he said. “It’s staggering to me even just to say that. This call ... came yesterday. I slept very little last night, as you can well imagine.”
BYU-Hawaii President John S.K. “Keoni” Kauwe shared the news of Elder Kearon’s calling with the graduates and said, “We are so blessed to have him and Sister Kearon spend this first exciting day of their new stewardship with us on campus.”
Elder Kearon, 62, was humble and hopeful for the future of BYU-Hawaii’s 234 graduates.
“I’m keenly aware that I will need to grow in every conceivable good way to become the servant the Savior needs me to be,” he said. “My inadequacies, weaknesses and lack are painfully clear to me, but I have faith in the patience of my Father, the grace of Jesus Christ and the tutoring of the Holy Ghost.”
He was struck, he said, that the remarks he prepared for the graduates also perfectly fit the moment for him.
He noted that to be an apostle is to be a special witness of Jesus Christ, and he testified of the light of Christ.
‘Put your hand into the Hand of God’
Elder Kearon, who is from England, structured his talk around the poem shared by King George VI during his message to the United Kingdom on the first Christmas of World War II in 1939.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
”Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
”Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day ...
— Minnie Louise Haskins
“Citizens at that time contemplated a new year that promised rationing, blackouts and air raids. Many already mourned the losses of loved ones, and the future seem to hold nothing for them but darkness,” Elder Kearon said.
“The future no doubt holds challenges and growth opportunities for us as well,” he added. “What the gospel promises us is that if we are led by God with our hand in his, we will be guided through life’s tests and struggles and into his ever-increasing light.”
His message recalled one of his past conference talks, when he taught that Jesus Christ is the great healer who can provide a complete peace.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with light that can and will assist us in finding the hand of God,” Elder Kearon said at BYU-Hawaii. “Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, is the transcendent source of light in our lives.
“And because of his light, we can really choose hope and joy in the midst of life’s confusing storms. If you have discovered this, you will know the miracle of his light that can penetrate any gloom.”
Let your mantra be, ‘Whom can I serve?’
Elder Kearon quoted each member of the First Presidency in his talk.
“Taking advantage of that beacon of light in our lives means discovering what President (Russell M.) Nelson has described as the joy of daily repentance. He has told us that repentance is a resplendent gift. It is a process never to be feared. It is a gift for us to receive with joy and to use, even embrace, day after day as we seek to become more like our Savior.”
He encouraged the BYU-Hawaii graduates to study scripture, make temple covenants with God, be peacemakers and lead and serve others after the pattern of “our exemplar, Jesus Christ, the greatest servant of all.”
“As you go out from this threshold into the unknown,” he said, “holding fast to pure sources of truth and light, let your mantra be, ‘Whom can I serve?’”
Elder Kearon said that despite turmoil and suffering and sadness, relying on faith can bring complete peace.
“As you put your hand into the hand of God, as you seek Christ, meaningfully studying the scriptures and make sacred covenants in the temple, the light of the breaking of day of that perfect day will gradually increase. Indeed, you will become part of that light yourself.”
Kelly Haws, secretary to the church board of education and assistant to the commissioner of Church Education, spoke tearfully of the Kearons.
“Elder and Sister Kearon, this morning may I try and quickly be voice for all of us in this auditorium,” he said. “We love you and we hope you deeply feel our hearts sustaining you.”
He encouraged the graduates to listen to Elder Kearon at the event and in the future.
“You’ll never forget this morning, and then in April and in conferences thereafter, wherever you are in the world, make sure that you are always present to sustain the Lord’s prophets and apostles.”
Watch the full commencement ceremony here.