I have been wishing as I sat here and listened to these excellent sermons of these four Brethren tonight that all the boys in this world and every man in this world could hear sermons such as these to give them some concepts, some ideas, and some standards toward which to work. How fortunate are we, the men and boys of the Church, to be able to be so instructed and inspired in our personal lives and our Church work.
I should like to address a few words to our executive officers, particularly the bishops and stake presidents, who are the “common judges” in Israel.
I will read for you the words of the prophets and the President of the Church in an earlier century. President John Taylor is quoted as saying:
“Furthermore, I have heard of some Bishops who have been seeking to cover up the iniquities of men; I tell them, in the name of God, they will have to bear them themselves, and meet that judgment; and I tell you that any man who tampers with iniquity, he will have to bear that iniquity, and if any of you want to partake of the sins of men, or uphold them, you will have to bear them. Do you hear it, you Bishops and you Presidents? God will require it at your hands. You are not placed in position to tamper with principles of righteousness, nor to cover up the infamies and corruptions of men.” (Conference Report, April 1880, p. 78.)
I read further from George Q. Cannon, who was also in the First Presidency:
“The Spirit of God would undoubtedly be so grieved that it would forsake not only those who are guilty of these acts, but it would withdraw itself from those who would suffer them to be done in our midst unchecked and unrebuked; and from the President of the Church down, throughout the entire ranks of the Priesthood, there would be a loss of the Spirit of God, a withdrawal of His gifts and blessing and His power, because of their not taking the proper measures to check and to expose their iniquity.” (Journal of Discourses, 26:139.)
Now, brethren, we could quote many others of the Brethren in this same vein.
We are concerned that too many times the interviewing leader in his personal sympathies for the transgressor, and in his love perhaps for the family of the transgressor, is inclined to waive the discipline which that transgressor demands.
Too often a transgressor is forgiven and all penalties waived when that person should have been disfellowshipped or excommunicated. Too often a sinner is disfellowshipped when he or she should have been excommunicated.
Remember that President Taylor said you will have to carry that sin yourself. Are you willing to do it, brethren?
Do you remember what was said by the prophet Alma? “Now,” he said, “repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment.” (Alma 42:16.)
Ponder on that for a moment. Have you realized that? There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as is the soul.
One more thought: The president or the bishop makes the determination, and the counselors or the high council accept his determination or reject it. But they do not vote it in, as you would many ordinary things.
Please remember these things when somebody comes before you who has broken the laws of God.
It is so easy to let our sympathies carry us out of proportion; and when a man has committed sin, he must suffer. It is an absolute requirement—not by the bishop—but it is a requirement by nature and by the very part of a man. This discipline is especially applicable to adults and married people and more especially to those who have been to the temple. They must understand that they cannot tamper with the holy laws of God.
Another matter that came to my attention the other day is a partial quote from Wilford Woodruff about Joseph Smith. Sometimes we find members who have an overdose of false pride. They want their way or they will quit. Have you ever seen anybody leave the ward and never “darken the door” of the ward building again because of a little altercation perhaps with the bishop or with someone there?
“We have no chance to be lifted up in the pride of our hearts,” said the Prophet, “with regard to the position we occupy. If the President of the Church or either of his counselors or, if the apostles, or any other man, feels in his heart that God cannot do without him, and that he is especially important in order to carry on the work of the Lord, he stands upon slippery ground. I heard Joseph Smith say that Oliver Cowdery who was the second Apostle in this Church, said to him, ‘If I leave this church, it will fall.’ Said he, ‘Oliver, you try it.’ Oliver tried it. He fell; but the Kingdom of God did not. I have been acquainted with other Apostles in my day and time who felt that the Lord could not do without them, but the Lord got along with His work without them. I say to all men—Jew and Gentile, great and small, rich and poor—that the Lord Almighty has power within Himself and is not dependent upon any man to carry on His work, but when He does call men to do His work, they have to trust in Him.” (Wilford Woodruff, “Discourse,” Deseret Weekly, Apr. 6, 1890, 40:559–60.)
And now, my brethren of the priesthood, there is something very special about meeting together in this priesthood meeting time during each conference when the fathers and the sons are together and come from distances to hear the program of the conference.
I see among you many fine young men and it pleases me greatly to see the budding of those who will before long be the fathers and the leaders, the bishops and the stake presidents, and the missionaries as well, on their way up.
I realize that before me are hundreds of young men, many of whom are deacons. I remember when I was a deacon. (It has been a long time ago, however.) I thought it was a great honor to be a deacon. My father was always considerate of my responsibilities and always permitted me to take the buggy and horse to gather fast offerings. My responsibility included that part of the town in which I lived, but it was quite a long walk to the homes, and a sack of flour or a bottle of fruit or vegetables or bread became quite heavy as it accumulated. So the buggy was very comfortable and functional. We have changed to cash in later days, but it was commodities in my day. It was a very great honor to do this service for my Heavenly Father; and though times have changed, when money is given generally instead of commodities, it is still a great honor to perform this service.
I am a deacon. I am always proud that I am a deacon. When I see the Apostles march up to the stand in a solemn assembly to bless the sacrament, and others of the General Authorities step up to the sacrament tables to get the bread and the water and humbly pass it to all the people in the assembly and then return their emptied receptacles, I am very proud that I am a deacon, and a teacher, and a priest.
In our special meetings in the temple, when the Brethren of the General Authorities come up to the sacrament table to bless, then pass, the sacrament, then my heart beats more audibly again and I am grateful that I hold the sacred Aaronic Priesthood and have the privilege of taking care of the sacrament.
Then I remember it was Jesus Christ himself who broke the bread and blessed it and passed it to his Apostles. Then I am proud that I can do likewise. And I commend to you that which President Tanner has just said, and the other Brethren, about being worthy to pass the sacrament, and being reverent.
For you fathers I should like to quote from an article by Walter MacPeek: “Boys need lots of heroes like Lincoln and Washington. But they also need to have some heroes close by. They need to know some man of towering strength and basic integrity personally. They need to meet him on the street, to hike and camp with him, to see him close to home, every day, down-to-earth situations; to feel close enough to him to ask questions and to talk things over man-to-man with him.” (Source unknown.)
Now I hope that every father provides that kind of closeness to his son. I hope that every father provides a home evening for his family, an opportunity for all sons and daughters to express themselves, help plan the family life, offer the family prayers, and to take part in the family home evenings.
There is real purpose in life, boys. Your Heavenly Father has helped to provide a world for you and a life for you. It can be a notable one or it can be a casual one. That is up to you, and by the time you are 12 years of age or older, much is expected of you. You are not living in the life of luck; it is a life of pluck, a life of effort and planning. It is said that in the Jewish law a boy of 12 is given nearly adult status. I suppose that is the reason the Lord Jesus Christ remained at the temple when his family took him there, and he talked intelligently with the community leaders and the doctors and the leading people.
Now, with such a father who is devoted to his son, it is up to each son to begin to firm up a life that will be pleasing to his Heavenly Father, to his earthly father and mother, and to all the people with whom he comes in contact. In your growing up there are many calls for courage, as you have heard so eloquently tonight from President Romney.
“You’re young, with your life before you,” said the chaplain on a sinking ship. “Here, take this,” he said. And with these words the chaplain shoved his life preserver into the hands of an enlisted man, and a few moments later, went down with the ship.
“The date was February 3, 1943. The tragedy was the torpedoing of the American troop ship Dorchester. The chaplain was one of four, all of whom said in effect the same thing, gave up their life preservers, and sacrificed their lives: one was a Catholic; two were Protestants; one was Jewish.
“Their heroism was a dramatic example of chaplains’ action in an emergency and it has become known everywhere. But chaplains’ day-to-day service for the men in the armed forces is less well understood, and it is important to all of us.” (Source unknown)
Should any of you young men get into the military, I want you to know that we have LDS chaplains also in the armed services; and we hope you will stay close to them because generally they are men of power and strength.
It is not necessary to wait until one is legal age to begin to build his life. It should begin in his infancy and his childhood.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus, the Lord, was only 12 when he went to the temple, and only 33 when he was crucified. It is interesting to note that the Prophet Joseph Smith received his divine revelation at less than 15 years; he was only 18 years old when Moroni came to visit him and tell him of the plates. He was only 22 years of age when he received the gold plates and the great responsibility that came with them. He was only 24 years old when he published the Book of Mormon and a little over 24 when he organized the kingdom of God upon the earth according to revelation.
It’s also most interesting to know that his first apostles were young men, relatively young, from 29 to 36. It’s almost unbelievable how young and yet mature and strong and personable.
The making of a man out of a boy—you’ve all seen missionaries come and go, thousands, tens of thousands of them. Missionary work does this, if they will yield. How often have you said goodbye to a 19-year-old boy going into the mission field and two years later met a man returning, who stood tall and strong and high and purposeful.
The leader of a big concern in this country answered the question propounded to him: “How do you make a man of a boy?” The question was termed slightly differently: “What is it that makes a man a real man?” I liked his answer:
“There are many things, but perhaps the inner voice he listened to as a young boy was most important of all. That voice we call conscience, and it directs one’s thoughts. What one thinks may find expression in actions. Since repeated actions form habits, the thoughts you are thinking and the things you are doing at this moment tend to reveal the kind of a man you will be.
“Were I asked what a boy needs to do today in order to be a man worthy of the name tomorrow, I would say: Never lie and never cheat. A liar is a weakling. A cheat is both a weakling and a thief. In finding the courage to honor truth in all things, you are on the way to self-mastery.
“Work hard. Your mind is a storehouse and you stock the shelves. Stock them with quality goods. Remember that the habits of work and study you form today are the ones you will live with tomorrow.
“Have fun. Play active games which require stamina and sportsmanship. Abide by the rules yourself. Demand that others do likewise.
“Honor your Creator. God is the source of all good. The ideals on which the nation is founded stem from him who is the author of Liberty. You can express appreciation for your priceless heritage best by living according to the code of ‘Duty, Honor, Country, and God.’
“If you do these, and in all things do your best, the mind and heart and soul you develop will one day be those of a real man.” (J. Edgar Hoover, source unknown.)
It is the stance that counts. When one wants to be tall, he starts by stretching himself heavenward. If he wants to be noble, he puts on his noble garments. If he wants to fly, he must get wings. If one wants to be righteous, he needs to put on the cloak of righteousness.
There is the story told of Lord George Hall of an earlier time. It is a mythical story. Believe it or not, but at least take the lesson if you find one there. “Lord George had led an evil life. He had been a drunkard, a gambler, and a cheat in business, and his face reflected the life he had led. It was a very evil face.
“One day he fell in love with a simple country girl to whom he proposed marriage. Jenny Mere told him that she could never marry a man whose face was so repulsive and so evil-looking; and also that when she did marry, she wanted a man with a saintlike face, which was the mirror of true love.
“Following a custom of the day, Lord George went down to Mr. Aeneas in Bond Street, London. Aeneas made waxen masks for people, and his skill was so art-perfect that the person’s identity was completely hidden. As proof of his skill, it is said that many spendthrift debtors, equipped with his masks, could pass among their creditors unrecognized. Aeneas went to his storeroom, selected a mask, heated it over a lamp, fixed it to Lord George’s face; and when Lord George looked in the glass, he had the face of a saint who loved dearly. So altered was his appearance that Jenny Mere was soon wooed and won.
“He bought a little cottage in the country, almost hidden in an arbor of roses, with a tiny garden spot. From then on his entire life changed. He became interested in nature; he found ‘sermons in stones, books in brooks, and good in everything.’ Formerly he was blasé and life had no interest for him; now, he was engrossed in kindliness, and the world around him.
“He was not content with starting life anew, but tried to make amends for the past. Through a confidential solicitor he restored his ill-gotten gains to those whom he had cheated. Each day brought new refinements to his character, more beautiful thoughts to his soul.
“By accident, his former companions discovered his identity. They visited him in his garden, and urged him to return to his old evil life. When he refused, he was attacked, and the mask was torn from his face.
“He hung his head. Here was the end of all; here was the end of his newfound life and his love dream. As he stood with bowed head, with the mask at his feet on the grass, his wife rushed across the garden and threw herself on her knees in front of him. When she looked up at him, what do you suppose she found? Lo! Line for line, feature for feature, the face was the same as that of the mask. Lines of beauty—regular features.” (Source unknown.)
There is no doubt that the life one leads, and the thoughts one thinks are registered plainly in his face.
Perhaps I have time to read a few lines here from an article which I thought might be of interest to you.
Brethren, I wonder if any of you have ever sung in a male chorus as beautiful as the one this night of 212 male voices. It’s been wonderful to meet with you. It’s glorious to serve the Lord in this capacity. How privileged we are to hold this precious priesthood, which is greater than that held by kings and emperors. How wonderful it is for every boy to have this privilege with his brothers and father. May God bless you all that the things which have been said this night in this meeting may sink deep into our hearts and that all of us may profit by them.
This is the work of the Lord. I want you boys and you men to know. This is the work of the Lord, and I know it, and I want you to know that I know it. And I think you know it, and together we will go forward to meet our great destiny. God bless you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.