Elder Cook Counsels LDS Young Adults to Feel Joy, Not Fear
Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor
- Seek righteous, worthwhile goals.
- Plan and work with grit and determination.
- Avoid inappropriate use of social media and the internet.
- Rely and focus on faith, repentance, saving ordinances, and the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.
During a time when “the world literally seems to be in commotion” and there is a “level of contention that is unprecedented,” Elder Quentin L. Cook told Latter-day Saint young adults across the globe to “fear not.”
“My message to you this evening is that we should not have fear even in a dangerous and troubled world,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The scriptures assure us that we can have complete joy because of the Savior” (see D&C 101:35–38).
Speaking during a worldwide devotional for young adults, Elder Cook delivered the address on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The meeting—which originated in the Washington D.C. Stake Center, adjacent the Washington D.C. Temple—was translated and broadcast across the globe. Elder Cook’s wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, also addressed the young adults.
Elder Cook began his remarks by speaking of his oldest son, who was living just three blocks from the World Trade Center in New York City on 9/11.
“My purpose this evening is not to have you dwell on terrible events from the past,” said Elder Cook, noting that he wanted to emphasize joyful events.
“But I also want to help you contemplate the trials, tribulations, and dangers that you either face or fear you will face in your individual lives,” he said. “Some may be events that affect large numbers of people, others will be personal to you. I have decided to address three types of events: those that involve physical dangers; those that involve special challenges, some of which are unique to your day; and finally those that involve spiritual dangers and challenges.”
Physical dangers or challenges
Elder Cook said physical dangers are the easiest to see and identify. “Regardless of how or where you access your daily news, physical dangers, violence, and tragedy are the first reported—particularly on television and the internet,” he said. “Violence and death, whether near or far away, capture our attention and can destroy our peace and tranquility.”
He spoke of the March 22 suicide bomb in the Brussels, Belgium, airport, which seriously injured four LDS missionaries. Elder Richard Norby, the senior missionary whose injuries were very serious, recently indicated that while life will never quite be the same, “he has chosen to rely on the Lord and not fear,” said Elder Cook.
In the premortal existence God’s children knew that agency and opposition were necessary in order to grow, develop, and ultimately receive exaltation, he added. Choices determine happiness or misery in this life and in the life to come.
“We cannot blame circumstances or others for a decision to act contrary to God’s commandments,” Elder Cook said. “We are all responsible and accountable to God for how we develop Christlike attributes, talents, and abilities, and we are responsible for how we utilize the time allotted to us in this existence.”
Church members knew in the premortal existence that the exercise of agency could result in opposition and conflict. They knew that in addition to war and violence there would be significant sinful conduct across the entire world. They also knew that Jesus Christ was willing to pay the price for these sins, he said.
“The Lord has also promised us that the reward of righteousness is peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come (see D&C 59:23). Thus the Savior’s Atonement allows us to have peace and tranquility even when there are physical dangers.”
“As young adults, in addition to physical challenges, you have special challenges, and some are unique to your day,” said Elder Cook. “You are concerned about decisions relating to education, employment, marriage, and family.”
Elder Cook spoke to the young adults about how they will plan and prepare to achieve worthwhile goals in today’s world and the impact of the internet and social media on their righteous goals.
“I am particularly concerned about how many young adults fail to set righteous goals or have a plan to achieve them. I am also concerned that many underestimate and devalue their own talents and capabilities. Resolving these two issues will bring much joy into your life.”
Elder Cook assured the young adults that with determination and direction, they can do hard things. “My challenge to you tonight is to examine your goals and determine which ones will allow you to fulfill family obligations and keep you on your covenant pathway and allow you to have the joy the Lord wants for you,” he said.
Elder Cook said the internet and social media contribute much good to modern society but can also distract people from accomplishing their true calling in mortal life.
“My earnest plea is that all of us will evaluate how and when we use the internet and social media,” he said. “The bright-line test should be: Does it assist our other worthy and important goals, or does it seriously impede our progress? Are we obsessed with social media for fear of missing out if we don’t check it constantly? Does the self-promotion of some social media cause us to have self-doubt and feel inadequate? Worse yet, does the internet lead us to images and content that is impure, inappropriate, or contains half-truths that destroy faith? Do we ever hide our identity and subject others to unkind comments or opinions? Does social media interfere with the time we would normally spend with religious observance in the home or quality family time? Is the amount of time spent on the internet with games and trivia preventing us from effectively pursuing serious goals? These are decisions I challenge each of us to contemplate, make adjustments, and repent where necessary to bless our lives.”
Elder Cook left the young adults with an additional thought on the subject. “We hear a lot about being authentic in social media,” he said. “Being sincerely Christlike is an even more important goal than being authentic.”
One of the most vital responsibilities in this life is to make and keep sacred covenants with God, said Elder Cook. “This requires that we examine unworthy desires and separate ourselves from them.”
Some seem to say, “‘Wouldn’t a loving Father in Heaven be satisfied if I am less than I ought to be? Would He really deny me blessings just because I like to drink alcohol and coffee?’
“Unfortunately,” said Elder Cook, “that is the wrong question and displays a lack of understanding of the Father’s plan. The real question is ‘How can I be the righteous, loving person my Father and the Savior would want me to be?’”
In a world where “rewards and trophies are often received for merely participating,” standards and expectations may seem unfair or even cruel, he said.
“Many justify sinful conduct and use as their defense ‘Jesus taught us to love everyone.’ This of course is true, but often those who advocate this position seem inclined to ignore His equally important admonition, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments,’” said Elder Cook. “It is not appropriate for us to negotiate the terms of our relationship with the Godhead.”
Challenges can be difficult, and some can even be unfair, said Elder Cook. “They cause our hearts to ache and our sympathies to be extended. …
“What is our response? We must be kind and compassionate and treat everyone with respect even when they choose a path that we know is not consistent with the Father’s plan and the Savior’s teachings. But if we really want to be kind, we must also teach repentance.”
Elder Cook said repentance is vital to the Father’s plan. “Please know that you can become clean. You can find the joy you desire in this life. No one should leave this devotional and assume you are beyond redemption. You are not. At your core, you are a child of God. You can have hope and joy. You can change your heart and repent. You can forgive and be forgiven.”
Concluding, Elder Cook promised the young adults: “You need not be afraid despite the dangers and challenges you will face. You will be blessed and protected when you seek righteous, worthwhile goals; plan and work with grit and determination; avoid inappropriate use of social media and the internet; and rely and focus on faith, repentance, saving ordinances, and the Savior’s atoning sacrifice as you endure to the end.”
During her remarks, Sister Cook told the young adults that the way they feel about themselves determines how successful they will be in their mortal journey. “Our self-esteem is enhanced when certain basic human needs are met,” she said. “I will mention three: the need to be loved, the need to be accepted, and the need to succeed or achieve.”
When these human needs are not met, she added, “We feel unloved, unaccepted, or unsuccessful.”
Many young people report that they deal with loneliness, she said.
“I think it is important to keep in mind that we are never truly alone,” she said. “The Savior has promised us comfort. … We can be alone, but we do not have to be lonely.”
She told the worldwide congregation: “Regardless of your situation at this present time, find joy in everyday life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up every morning and say: 'I feel loved, I feel accepted, and I feel successful'? We can all do this.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, participate in a worldwide devotional for young adults on September 11, 2016. The meeting, which originated in the Washington D.C. Stake Center, was translated and broadcast across the globe.