News Release

BYU-Hawaii President Visits Church Schools in Samoa

John S. Tanner, tenth President of BYU-Hawaii and his wife, Susan W. Tanner, Todd and Rosita Jasper, and Robert and Michelle Smoot visited the schools owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Samoa. BYU-Hawaii’s target population includes the islands of the South Pacific and the Pacific Rim. President and Sister Tanner and others were visiting Samoa, Fiji and Tonga to better understand BYU-Hawaii’s target population and to identify ways of helping potential students in those areas to have a desire for higher education, qualify for admission and attend BYU-Hawaii.

During their visit, President and Sister Tanner and Rosita Jasper spoke at a devotional on Sunday, August 20, 2017, in Pesega, Apia, Samoa. In his remarks, President Tanner encouraged all in the audience to continue to pursue learning throughout their lives, saying “I love to learn. I feel alive when I am learning”.


President Tanner referenced President David O. McKay’s 12 February 1955 dedicatory prayer for the school where its twofold mission was identified: first, to build the faith and dedication of the students to the gospel of Jesus Christ and, second, to build people of strong, moral character. In his “Church College of Hawaii Groundbreaking Address and Prayer”, President McKay also said “… from this school … will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good toward the establishment of peace internationally.”

BYU-Hawaii is now an international school with students hailing from more than 70 nations of the world, including many students from the islands of the Pacific. He said the faculty of BYU-Hawaii help students as described in a song, “I am a Child of God,” the words of which were written by Naomi W. Randall: “lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.”

BYU-Hawaii offers an opportunity for students from the Pacific Islands to receive loans and/or grants to assist with the cost of their education. One such opportunity is called “IWORK”. Students accepted into the program are given jobs, education, and will have the opportunity to have their debt forgiven if they return to their homeland. After students return home, they have one-fourth of the debt forgiven each year for four years and they owe nothing.

President Tanner told the audience of his grandfather, William Gailey Sears, who served three missions to Samoa. He arrived in Samoa as a 20-year-old missionary in 1893. “… my grandfather came to love Samoa—its land, culture, language, and people.” He returned two additional times to serve as president of the Church’s mission. Once from 1899 to 1902 and the second time from 1934 to 1936. While serving he translated the Book of Mormon into Samoan. His missionary journal concludes: “This work of translating and printing has been the most satisfying labor in which I have ever engaged. May the Lord make this joy everlasting.”

Susan Winder Tanner, former General President of the Young Women’s organization of the Church, told a story illustrating that we all face challenges in life that cause us to doubt our ability to overcome them. Suggesting that some might feel that way about furthering their education, she said that in such cases we should turn to the Lord, “Ask (Him) to bless you with a desire for education.”


Susan pointed out that in modern-day revelation the Lord has said that we are to learn not only by study and but also by faith.

She said that one of her favourite things is to attend graduation ceremonies. There she sees students from many countries of the world who have prepared themselves for the future, learning by study and by faith “so they can go back to their countries and help to build the Kingdom of God.”

Rosita Jasper, a native Samoan who, with her husband, Todd, owns a distribution company in Salt Lake City, Utah, told the story of a Mormon pioneer, Mary Murray Murdoch. Mary, along with other pioneers, set out with handcarts to trek across Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming on their way to what is now Salt Lake City, Utah. Five hundred miles from reaching her goal, Mary could go no further. She laid down beside her handcart near Chimney Rock, Nebraska, and asked her travelling companions to tell her son, John, “I died with my face toward Zion.”


Rosita said that Mary has been an example of dedication and commitment to many members of the Church for over 150 years since she uttered those final words. “There are many challenges that may prevent you from attending university” Rosita said, (but) “… if you have a desire to go to college, you should seek after it.”

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.