"Be Not Afraid, Only Believe"
President Gordon B. Hinckley
President of the Church
CES Fireside for Young Adults
9 Sept 2001
My dear young friends, we are gathered tonight in
this great Conference Center and in numerous Church halls elsewhere. There
must be hundreds of thousands of you. It is a stimulating experience and
a tremendous challenge to be with you. It is a wonderful opportunity to
speak with you.
I may repeat tonight some things Ive said before. But Im not
going to give you the six "Bs" that I gave your younger
brothers and sisters a year ago, which have since been memorized by many
and even set to music. Maybe Ill get out a book someday on these
because I believe the youth of the whole nation could profit from their
observance. The difficulty I have in doing such things was expressed by
Madame Curie long ago. She said: "So little time. So much to do."
And thats your problem also: "So little time. So much to do."
I am told that you are eighteen to thirty years of age. Oh, to be eighteen
or twenty-five or thirty again! You can do anything when youre that
age. I am three times thirty, plus one. But I have not lost interest in
you, your problems, or your great opportunities.
No Fear Concerning the Future
The world is full of naysayers who think that people your age have lost
their way. I disagree. Let me say that I am very proud of you. I think
you are the finest generation this Church has ever produced. Because of
you, I have no fear concerning the future. You are ambitious. You are
trustworthy. You are loyal to the Church and its principles. You have
great confidence in one another. You work together with love and appreciation
and respect one for another. You are faithful, and you are true. You love
the Lord, and you pray.
Do you have problems? Of course you do. You have many problems. Many of
you worry about what to do with your lives, how you will earn a living.
Many of you worry about marriage, about having a good companion who will
love you and whom you will love. You will look forward to the time when
you will have children and hope within yourselves that you will be good
fathers and mothers.
You face problems that at times seem insurmountable.
You try to find a way out but only become frustrated. You pray about these
matters. But you dont seem to get the answers you seek.
You live in a world of loose moral standards. You have been taught one
thing by your parents and the Church, and you see another thing often
practiced by those who seem to succeed and do well.
Most of you have held to high standards. Possibly some few of you have
slipped. I would like to say that I assure you that even if this is the
case, you have not lost everything. With sincere repentance on your part,
the Lord will forgive, and those about you will forgive. I hope that you
will somehow come to forgive yourselves and put your trust and faith in
the Lord, who will be kind and gracious to you. Already youve paid
a terrible price for your mistakes. They have haunted you day and night.
They seem never to leave you.
Confess them if that is necessary and then get them behind you. Parents
and bishops stand ready to help. Your bishops have been ordained and set
apart and promised wisdom beyond their own in working with you and assisting
you. Isaiah said: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be
as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land"
Hold On to the Institute Program
Most of you are in school. Most of you are attending universities that
are not Church universities. While doing so, you attend institute.
Permit me to say that there is no way that all of you could be accommodated
at BYUProvo, BYUIdaho, BYUHawaii, or the LDS Business
College. I wish that this might be possible, but it cannot be. Please
do not feel left out. Grasp the opportunity of the moment wherever you
may be. Love the school of your choice. Make it your dear mother, your
alma mater. Take from it the very best it has to offer. And hold on to
the institute program. Gather with your peers in these far-flung facilities.
Listen to good and able teachers. Participate in
the social programs. Studies have shown that you are as likely to marry
in the temple if you do this as if you were at one of the Church-owned
schools. I pray that you will be blessed of the Lord, that you will receive
a good education, that you will find wonderful companionship, and that
you will look upon these days as among the most fruitful of your entire
I do not downgrade the Church schools. They are tremendous institutions.
I wish we could build and maintain many more. But we cannot. Theyre
terribly expensive. I am so glad that we have them, and I compliment those
of you who are attending these institutions. I myself did not attend Brigham
Young University. I attended the University of Utah and received there
my baccalaureate degree. I have no regrets. As chairman of the BYU Board
of Trustees, I am grateful for our Church institutions, but I am also grateful
that there are opportunities elsewhere, many of them. The institute program
represents a very serious attempt on the part of the Church Board of Education
to see that our students have opportunities for religious training and
Church association wherever they may be.
And so God bless you, my dear young friends, wherever you are. You are
doing that which the Lord would have you do. Said He, "Seek ye out
of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also
by faith" (D&C
Distinguish between Truth and Sophistry
You are engaged in an intense gathering of knowledge, the accumulated
wisdom of all of the ages of man. As members of this Church, ours must
be a ceaseless quest for truth. That truth must include both spiritual
and religious truth as well as secular.
Joseph F. Smith, who served seventeen years as President of the Church,
"We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer.
No sect or religious denomination in the world possesses a single principle
of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing
to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will
stand, truth will endure. No mans faith, no mans religion,
no religious organization in all the world, can ever rise above the truth"
(Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. ,1).
But you must distinguish between truth and sophistry. There can be a vast
difference between the two, and unless we are careful, we may find that
we are believing in the sophistry of man rather than the truth of God.
I read the newspapers. I read those who write syndicated columns. I occasionally
listen to the commentators on television and radio. These writers are
brilliant. They are men and women of incisive language, scintillating
in expression. They are masters of the written word. But for the most
part their attitude is negative. Regardless of whom they write about or
speak about they seem to look for their failings and weaknesses. They
are constantly criticizing, seldom praising. This spirit is not limited
to the columnists and the commentators. Read the letters to the editor.
Some of them are filled with venom, written by people who seem to find
no good in the world or in their associates.
Accentuate the Positive
Criticism, faultfinding, evil speakingthese are of the spirit of
the day. To hear tell, there is nowhere a man of integrity holding public
office. All businessmen are crooks. The utilities are out to rob you.
Even on campus there is heard so much the snide remark, the sarcastic
jibe, the cutting down of associatesthese, too often, are the essence
of our conversation. In our homes, wives weep and children finally give
up under the barrage of criticism leveled by abusive husbands and fathers.
Criticism is the forerunner of divorce, the cultivator of rebellion, sometimes
the catalyst that leads to failure. In the Church, it sows the seed of
inactivity and finally apostasy.
I come to you tonight with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms
and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through
life we try to "accentuate the positive." I am asking that we
look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult
and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. Now
I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction.
Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man or woman who can acknowledge
mistakes pointed out by others and change his or her course.
What I am suggesting is that you turn from the negativism that so permeates
our modern society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom
you associate, that we speak of one anothers virtues more than we
speak of one anothers faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that
our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak
critically, my wise father would say: "Cynics do not contribute.
Skeptics do not create. Doubters do not achieve."
We are experiencing a serious economic downturn. You read of thousands
of layoffs. This may be a difficult season for you. You worry much about
your personal affairs. You worry about money. You worry about marriage.
You worry about the future.
There may be some lean days ahead for some of you. There may be troubles.
None of us can avoid them all. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for
the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to
you. I finished the University of Utah in 1932. It was the very bottom
of the most serious depression of modern times. The unemployment rate
in Utah was then more than 30 percent. There was much of cynicism. It was
a time when men stood in soup lines, and some committed suicide in despair.
But somehow we managed to eat and keep going. Opportunities gradually
opened, first here and then there. In 1982, I spoke at the fiftieth anniversary
of my graduating class. I met there men and women who had become prominent
in many undertakings. They had begun almost in poverty. But they kept
climbing upward. They had become leaders. They had looked for the positive
in life, praying with faith and working with diligence.
No matter the circumstances, I encourage you to go forward with faith
and prayer, calling on the Lord. You may not receive any direct revelation.
But you will discover as the years pass that there has been a subtle guiding
of your footsteps in paths of progress and great purpose.
The growth of the Church gives us reason to be upbeat. In 1967 I received
the assignment to supervise the work in all of South America. I traveled
back and forth over that great continent many times. The work was weak
everywhere. There were perhaps a half dozen stakes in all of that part
of the world. Now in the nation of Brazil alone there are 188 stakes.
In Mexico there are 197 stakes. It is difficult to believe, but it is
We shall likely see from now until the 2002 Olympics are behind us a great
deal of writing concerning the Church. Much of it is likely to be negative.
Journalists may mock that which to us is sacred. They may belittle that
which we call divine. They may accuse us of being opposed to intellectualism.
They will in large measure overlook the glory and the wonder of this work.
But I want to tell you that what they write will not injure us. We may
be offended by it, but the work will go forward. With their negative attitudes
they will overlook the wonder of the spark that was kindled in Palmyra,
which is now lighting fires of faith across the earth, in many lands and
in many languages. They will have great difficulty understanding us, because
the Spirit of God is something that is foreign to them. With their humanistic
outlook, they will fail to realize that spiritual promptings, with recognition
of the influence of the Holy Ghost, are as potent and real a thing as
any other manifestation in this life.
George Santayana said:
O World, thou choosest not the better part!
It is not wisdom to be only wise,
And on the inward vision close the eyes,
But it is wisdom to believe the heart.
("O World Thou Choosest Not the Better Part," in Allen Mandelbaum
and Robert D. Richardson Jr., eds., Three Centuries of American Poetry:
16201923 , 434.)
Looking to our history, our critics may see little
of divinity in the great work of the Prophet Joseph Smith and those associated
with him. Were our forebears human? Of course they were. They doubtless
made some mistakes. Some of them acknowledged making mistakes. But the
mistakes were minor when compared with the marvelous work that they accomplished.
To highlight the mistakes and gloss over the greater good is to draw a
caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest.
A man may have a wart on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and
strength, but if the wart is emphasized unduly in relation to his other
features, the portrait is lacking in integrity.
These early leaders made no pretense at being perfect. They recognized
that there was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord
has used imperfect people in the process of building His perfect society.
If some of them occasionally stumbled, or if their characters were slightly
flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished
I wish to say a few words on intellectualismthat quality that some
say we deny in our work. A so-called scholar recently expressed the view
that the Church is an enemy of intellectualism. This strikes particularly
at you people in your present circumstances. If he meant by intellectualism
that branch of philosophy that teaches "the doctrine that knowledge
is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason" and "that reason
is the final principle of reality" (The Random House Dictionary
of the English Language , "intellectualism," 738),
then, yes, we are opposed to so narrow an interpretation as applicable
Such an interpretation excludes the power of the Holy Spirit in speaking
to and through man. Of course we believe in the cultivation of the mind.
The emphasis in the classes you are taking in your various courses demands
the cultivation of the mind and the use of its powers. But the intellect
is not the only source of knowledge. There is a promise, given under the
inspiration of the Almighty, set forth in these beautiful words: "God
shall give unto you knowledge by his holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable
gift of the Holy Ghost" (D&C
The humanists who criticize us, the so-called intellectuals who demean
us, speak only from ignorance of this manifestation. They have not heard
the voice of the Spirit. They have not heard it because they have not
sought after it and prepared themselves to be worthy of it. Then, supposing
that knowledge comes only of reasonings and of the workings of the mind,
they deny that which comes by the power of the Holy Ghost. The things
of God are understood by the Spirit of God. That Spirit is real. To those
who have experienced its workings, the knowledge so gained is as real
as that received through the operation of the five senses. I testify of
this. I am confident that each of you can testify of it. I urge you to
continue throughout your lives to cultivate a heart in tune with the Spirit.
If you do so, your lives will be enriched. You will feel a kinship with
God our Eternal Father. You will taste the sweetness of joy that can be
had in no other way.
Do not be trapped by the sophistry of the world, which for the most part
is negative and which seldom, if ever, bears good fruit. Do not be ensnared
by those clever ones whose self-appointed mission it is to demean that
which is sacred, to emphasize human weakness, and undermine faith, rather
than inspire strength. "Look to God and live" (Alma
Well did Jacob say long ago:
"O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties,
and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are
wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside,
supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness
and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
"But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God"
Walk with Faith
As you walk your various paths, walk with faith. Speak affirmatively and
cultivate an attitude of confidence. You have the capacity to do so. Your
strength will give strength to others. Do not partake of the spirit so
rife in our times. Rather, look for good and build upon it. There is so
much of the strong and the decent and the beautiful to build upon. You
are partakers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel means "good
news." The message of the Lord is one of hope and salvation. The
voice of the Lord is a voice of glad tidings. The work of the Lord is
a work of glorious accomplishment.
I am not suggesting that you simply put on rose-colored glasses to make
the world about you look better. I ask, rather, that you look above and
beyond the negative, the cynical, the critical, the doubtful, to the positive
and the affirmative.
Some years ago I clipped an article on Commander William Robert Anderson,
the man who first took a submarine under the North Pole from the waters
of the Pacific to the waters of the Atlantic. It was an untried and dangerous
mission. In his wallet he carried a tattered card with these words: "I
believe I am always divinely guided, I believe I will always take the
right road, I believe God will always make a way where there is no way"
(in Christopher S. Wren, "If Its 3-to-1 against Anderson: Can
a Congressman Afford a Conscience?" Look, 20 Apr. 1971, 48).
In a dark and troubled hour, Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid" (John
On one occasion the ruler of the synagogue came to Jesus pleading for
help for his dying daughter. While he yet spoke to the Master, those of
the rulers house came and said: "Thy daughter is dead: why
troublest thou the Master any further?
"As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the
ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe" (Mark
I commend those tremendous words to you. Be not afraid, only believe.
Believe in God our Eternal Father, He who is greatest of all, who stands
ever ready to help us and who has the power to do so. Believe in Jesus
Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of mankind, the worker of miracles,
the greatest who ever walked the earth, the Intercessor with our Father.
Believe in the power of the Holy Ghost to lead, to inspire, to comfort,
to protect. Believe in the Prophet Joseph, as an instrument in the hands
of the Almighty in ushering in this the dispensation of the fulness of
Believe in the sacred word of God, the Holy Bible, with its treasury of
inspiration and sacred truth; in the Book of Mormon as a testimony of
the living Christ. Believe in the Church as the organization that the
God of Heaven established for the blessing of His sons and daughters of
all generations of time.
Believe in yourselves as sons and daughters of Godmen and women
with unlimited potential to do good in the world. Believe in personal
virtue. There is no substitute for it anywhere under the heavens. Believe
in your power to discipline yourselves against the evils that could destroy
you. Believe in one another as the greatest generation ever yet to live
upon the earth.
I leave you my testimony of the truth of this work. I know it is true.
I know that it is the work of the Almighty. I bear witness of Him who
is our Father and our God, of Him who is our Lord and our Redeemer. I
bear witness of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph and of those
who have succeeded him in this high and holy office.
I pray the blessings of the Lord upon you, my beloved brothers and sisters.
How much I love you. I love you with all my heart. I pray for you. I plead
with the Lord to bless you with joy in your lives, with the strength to
be virtuous, with the will to do what is right, with capacity to learn
things both secular and spiritual, with answers to your prayers as you
walk in righteousness, and I do it all in the sacred name of our Redeemer,
even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.