In his opening remarks at the October 2001 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: “Wonderful as this time is, it is fraught with peril. Evil is all about us. It is attractive and tempting and in so many cases successful. … We see today all of these evils, more commonly and generally, than they have ever been seen before. … We live in a season when fierce men do terrible and despicable things. We live in a season of war. We live in a season of arrogance. We live in a season of wickedness, pornography, immorality. All of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. Our young people have never faced a greater challenge. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil.”1
The scriptures contain great help for each of us in this troubled world of shifting values and tumultuous times. In Deuteronomy, Moses admonished Joshua to “be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. …
“And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee” (Deut. 31:6, 23).
After the death of Moses, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
“Be strong and of a good courage. …
“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, …
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Josh. 1:5–7, 9).
The following accounts are taken from the lives of faithful followers of Jesus Christ: one account from ancient days, the others from our time. These examples of courage illustrate steps others have taken to grow strong, examples from which we can learn much and achieve similar confidence and success as we too exercise courage.
The first example of strength and courage I wish to recount is found in the Book of Mormon in Alma. The 2,000 stripling sons of the people of Ammon are described as “exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; … they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20).
“And they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21).
The stripling sons indicated that “they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them” (Alma 56:47). I am sure we all remember how these young and noble warriors were protected by the hand of the Lord because of their great faith. These young men listened and obeyed and were blessed.
The second example is a modern-day warrior in the cause of truth. Amanda Jackson, a 15-year-old Mia Maid from Melbourne, Australia, attends an Anglican girls’ school where religious studies are important. During her weekly religious education class, different religions were discussed, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Amanda was asked to offer a presentation about her religion. After explaining the significance of the correct name of the Church, she discussed the commandments and standards by which she lives. The students were interested to learn that Amanda kept the law of chastity and the Word of Wisdom, and they asked many questions about her beliefs. Her fellow students showed great respect for Amanda, her church, and her standards.
Speaking of the experience, Amanda said: “As I answered their questions, I tried to relate experiences when temptation had been placed before me and I had the strength to say no and walk away. The experience was a great testimony to me of the gospel. I now have friends interested in coming to church to find out more.”
Brendon Evans of Brisbane, Australia, is another example of strength through obedience. On a statewide exam in high school, Brendon received an overall position score of 1; this high academic score placed him in the top 2 percent of graduating students for the whole state of Queensland and qualified him to enter any university in Australia. At a recent ceremony, Brendon was awarded the Caltex All-Rounder Award for recognition of his scholastic, sporting, and service contributions. He was also selected as the school captain in his senior year, a position held by the most trusted and outstanding student in the school.
Brendon attributes his success to his teachers at school, his parents, and his seminary teacher. He said, “Through my own experience I have found that living the gospel and the idea of choosing the right is not something which is just important at church, but it is actually what is best for me. For example, it is difficult to wake up and go early in the morning to seminary, but once you choose to commit yourself to it your testimony strengthens, your outlook is brighter, and even your day at school is enhanced. I feel that seminary has been an incredible advantage for me over the last four years. It is in the classroom at 6:30 A.M. every day where the Spirit is felt, knowledge is gained, and individual testimonies are discovered. In essence, I have discovered that standing up for what I believe in brings indescribable joy into my life!”
The last example of outstanding courage and strength I wish to share is Stephen Bailey, who was an outstanding husband, father, and Church leader in Perth, Australia. He served an honorable mission in New Zealand and had a strong “no fear” attitude in all things. He never tired of mentioning the gospel in his conversations and was a champion of gospel truths.
Late in 2001 Stephen was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS. This condition affected his muscles but not his diligence in serving the Lord nor his determination to serve others. In addition to his Church calling as regional welfare agent and previously as bishop, with the help of his family he taught institute every week. The young adults loved him. His lessons were well prepared and well presented and strengthened his students’ testimonies. As the disease progressed he lost the use of his arms, and then his voice deteriorated. He used a portable microphone and amplifier to help project the Lord’s message.
No obstacle was too great for him. He loved to teach the doctrines of the kingdom, particularly to the young people of the Church. He believed in enduring to the end. He departed this world on 30 January 2003. Among the last things he spoke about were his home teaching families, his tithing, and his Church callings.
Of today’s great generation of young Latter-day Saints, President Hinckley said: “This is the season when so many of our youth show such remarkable strength and capacity and resolve to do the right thing. How marvelous is the generation with which you deal. We have never had a generation its equal in all of the history of the Church. They are better educated. They are more familiar with the scriptures. I believe they pray with a greater measure of faith, have a greater desire to do the will of the Lord, are more active in the Church, go into the world as better prepared missionaries, and live to become better parents.”2
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22). The victory we are working toward is eternal life, the greatest of all God’s gifts (see D&C 14:7). All of us can achieve this gift, but it requires great strength, courage, endurance, and a commitment to our testimonies—a profound commitment like that of Helaman’s 2,000 stripling sons.