Neal A. Maxwell, “These Are Your Days,” New Era, Jan 1985, 4
Look before you to a bright, clear future. You are in this time and circumstance by Divine appointment. God knows you and he knows what you have the capacity to achieve.
Wishing one had lived in another age, though sometimes understandable, is not usually helpful. One person in Book of Mormon times wrote, “Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy” (Hel. 7:8). Yet that leader came to see how God’s call to serve in a particular period of time is as much a part of His call as to perform certain duties during our days.
Thus, youth of the Church, by Divine appointment, these are your days! You will live in a time of prophecy in fulfillment, of history converging, of special promises, of stark contrasts, and of blessed reassurances.
As the rising generation, you will, in my opinion, avoid that failure of some young men and women anciently: “and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (Judg. 2:10).
And likewise, you will thus avoid that sad outcome experienced by another generation of whom we read: “for behold, they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away” (3 Ne. 1:29).
As a youth of 18, I went off almost directly from high school graduation to World War II, carrying with me a carbon copy of my patriarchal blessing, which got very smudged. I read it for consolation and reassurance as a young, frightened infantryman during the fighting on the Island of Okinawa. Just prior to that, high school, for me, had brought some crises in self-esteem. Raising pigs for a 4-H Club project did not, with some, enhance my place in the social pecking order; severe acne was no help either; and shortness of stature meant, among other things, not making the basketball team. All of these things had combined to produce personal disappointment just prior to my going off to war.
But as I left the home of loving and “goodly parents,” I knew who I was and there were some glimmerings of the future. I knew, too, that the Lord loved me. Otherwise, I was insecure and anxious.
Some of you in the rising LDS generation impress me as being further along, spiritually ,as having certain of the qualities of three young men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. These young disciples refused to fall down and worship the golden idol of King Nebuchadnezzar. When they faced the prospect of losing their lives by incineration, they issued one of the classic responses in all of human history. Their unconditional faith and trust was in the Lord … who might or might not save them; it didn’t matter.
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out thine hand, O king.
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Dan. 3:17–18, italics added).
The Lord will be with you in your fiery furnaces. And such experiences will come, as Peter counseled us:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Pet. 4:12).
Among my suggestions to you in these, your days, are the following:
1. Learn to develop righteous reflexes. These will save you from processing each new temptation afresh. Those who must agonize over every temptation, not only lose time, but they may lose their souls.
2. Learn to distinguish between joy and pleasure. For instance, do not be misled by the laughter of the world; it is merely a lonely crowd trying to reassure itself.
3. Keep the faith, and the faith will keep you.
4. Have clean fun, but learn to be serious about joy.
5. Be different from the world in order to make a difference in the world.
6. Learn to see drugs, alcohol, pornography, and immorality for what they really are—bold, frontal attacks on your personal freedom and on your chances for happiness. These things destroy body and mind; they scald the taste buds of the soul. Wrongly celebrating your capacity to feel will destroy your capacity to feel.
7. Don’t let your moods blitz your beliefs. What is written in the Book of Mormon is true regardless of what is written or not written in your social calendar.
8. The clock is running on you and your life, even though you are young. As you mature, weeks become days, and months weeks, and years months. Sooner or later you may say with Jacob, “our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream” (Jacob 7:26). Furthermore, time passes most quickly when we are happily and anxiously engaged: “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (Gen. 29:20).
9. You can know of yourselves that Jesus lives, that this is His Church, and that His gospel is true. But there is only one way, and there are no escalators or shortcuts: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
10. You won’t always be able to explain what is happening to you or around you. Hence the need for deep trust and faith in our Heavenly Father. You can learn to say with Nephi of old, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Ne. 11:17). This is all we can know at times. Yet it is enough!
You have been called by God, placed by God, in this time and circumstance. And He knows you better than you know yourself, knows what you have the capacity to do. However, God will not be content with you as you now are, fine as you may be, because He knows what you have the power to become!
There will be challenges aplenty. Your days will be like the days of Noah (see Matt. 24:37–42). But this will also be a time in which the Church will grow and its members will be scattered upon all the face of the earth (see 1 Ne. 14:14).
More and more stakes of the Church will be established as well as more and more temples.
Yes, you will live in a time in which peace will have been taken from the earth (D&C 1:35). But you can have the Lord’s peace in your hearts and homes—which peace surpasseth understanding (John 14:27; Philip. 4:7).
Yes, you will live in a time in which, because of iniquity, the love of many will wax cold (Matt. 24:12). But, you may still have love in your hearts and in your homes.
Yes, you will live in a time in which many because of iniquity will despair about the human circumstance (Moro. 10:22). But you can be among the people of God who will be “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in … great glory” (1 Ne. 14:14). The Lord will be in the midst of His people. He will lead them and guide you along.
“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours” (D&C 78:18).
“And great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve” (Moses 7:61).
Yes, you will live in a time in which many people will not be impressed by the holy scriptures (see Moses 1:41). But you will see how the scriptures—ancient and modern—grow together (see 2 Ne. 3:12), especially as you learn to use the new publications of the scriptures.
Yes, you will also live in a time in which more and more people will consider Jesus to be “a thing of naught” (1 Ne. 19:9); some will merely consider Jesus to be a man (see Mosiah 3:9), but you can have Jesus as your Shepherd and Model. Besides, His commandment to you is to become “even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).
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