There has never been a better time to live on the earth than this. These are “days never to be forgotten.”1 These are your days, and they are amazing. You are amazing! As I look into your eyes and see your shining faces, I marvel that you can be so good, so strong, and so pure in a world that is so challenging. I am reminded of a poem my grandfather used to say to me when I was about your age. He said:
You don’t have to tell how you live each day;
You don’t have to tell if you work or play;
A tried and true barometer stands in its place—
You don’t have to tell, it will show in your face. …
If you live close to God and His infinite grace—
You won’t have to tell, it will show in your face.2
I have never forgotten that simple poem, and I have always tried to live in such a way that it would show in my face. I can see that you are doing that also. The light in your countenance comes because you have made and kept covenants with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and you have made choices which qualify you to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I express my admiration for each one of you.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said of you, “You are … the finest [and strongest] generation of young people ever in the history of this Church.”3 I believe you have been prepared and reserved to be on the earth at this time when the challenges and opportunities are the greatest. I believe that the Lord is counting on you to be a leader for righteousness and to stand as a witness “at all times and in all things, and in all places.”4 Indeed, it can be said of you that you are the “bright shining hope” of the future.5
I believe that you are included in those spoken of by the Apostle Peter when he said, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”6
That light is the Savior’s light. It is the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. By the way you live the gospel, you reflect His light. Your example will have a powerful effect for good on the earth. “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations”7 is a call to each of you. It is a call to move to higher ground. It is a call to leadership—to lead out in decency, purity, modesty, and holiness. It is a call to share this light with others. It is time to “arise and shine forth.”
Can one righteous young woman change the world? The answer is a resounding “yes!” You have the Holy Ghost as your guide, and He “will show … you all things … [you] should do.”8 It is the daily consistent things you do that will strengthen you to be a leader and an example—daily prayer, daily scripture study, daily obedience, daily service to others. As you do these things, you will grow closer to the Savior and become more and more like Him. Like Moses and Abinadi and other faithful leaders,9 your face will glow with the fire of your faith. “Have ye received his image in your countenances?”10 “Arise and shine forth.”
In 1856, at age 13, Mary joined the Church with her family in England, traveled to America, and joined the Martin handcart company. In her personal history she recounts the difficulty of the journey—the loss of her baby brother and older brother, the freezing of her own feet, and finally the death of an infant sister and her mother. When she arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, the doctor amputated her toes, but she was promised by the prophet, Brigham Young, that she would not have to have any more of her feet cut off. She recounts: “One day I sat … crying. My feet were hurting me so—when a little old woman knocked at the door. She said she had felt someone needed her there for a number of days. … I showed her my feet. … She said, ‘Yes, and with the help of the Lord we will save them yet.’ She made a poultice and put on my feet and every day after the doctor had gone she would come and change the poultice. At the end of three months my feet were well.”11
But Mary had sat in her chair so long that the cords of her legs had become stiff and she could not straighten them. When her father saw her condition, he cried. He rubbed her legs with oil and tried to straighten them, but it was of no use. One day he said, “Mary I have thought of a plan to help you. I will nail a shelf on the wall and while I am away to work you try to reach it.” She said that she tried all day for several days and at last she could reach the shelf. Then her father put the shelf a little higher. This went on for another three months, and through her daily diligence her legs were straightened and she learned to walk again.12
I believe that you are learning, like Mary Goble, to reach just a little higher to the shelf our leaders have raised for us, and that if you will reach higher as those ideals are raised, you will become able to walk into the future with confidence.
The faces of the young women in West Africa shine with the radiant light of the Holy Ghost. They live the standards in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, they are guided by the Spirit, and they are preparing to be leaders. They love the Lord and are grateful for His light in their lives. Some of these young women walked three hours to share their testimonies with me. Because of them, I will never be the same.
When I was in South America, the young women and their leaders sang, “I’m Trying to Be like Jesus.”13 They not only sang the words, but they meant it. In Asia and India, young women are examples of faith, modest dress, and purity. Their eyes shine and they are happy. The young women in England, Ireland, and Wales are standing for truth and righteousness in their schools. In an ever-darkening world, they are making a difference. Some of you are the only members in your family or your school. You are making a difference. You are leading in righteous ways.
Not so long ago, I hiked with a group of youth to the top of Ensign Peak. There we looked at the city of Salt Lake and the temple and talked of the sacrifice so many had made for the gospel. Then each of the youth unfurled a banner. On their banners they had drawn symbols of their message to the world—what they wanted to stand for in these latter days. It was thrilling to hear the commitment and testimony of each one. Then we sang “High on the Mountain Top”14 and the youth cheered together, “Hurrah for Israel!”15 I echo those words today. Hurrah for you! I hope you will never hesitate to “let your light so shine … that [others will] see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”16 I hope you too will raise your banners high. I know that as you lead in righteousness, this scripture in Isaiah will be fulfilled: “For, behold, … the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.”17 It will be discernable, and “the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”18
I can see a day when the world will look to you and say: “Who are you? Who are these young women who radiate this light? Why are you so happy? Why do you know your direction in such a confusing world?” And you will arise and stand on your feet and say with conviction: “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will ‘stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.’”19
My call to you is the same as Moroni’s call: “Awake, and arise …, O daughter[s] of Zion.”20 He saw you. He saw this day. These are your days! It is up to you to decide that you will “arise and shine forth.” I believe that as you awake and arise, your light will be a standard to the nations, but I also believe your standards will be a light to the nations. You are set apart. You distinguished yourselves in the premortal existence. Your lineage carries with it a covenant and promises. You have inherited the spiritual attributes of the faithful—even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Your very nature reflects your divine heritage and destiny. The fact that you were born a girl is not by chance. Your divine characteristics will be magnified as you lead others and arise to your divine potential. Draw close to the Savior. He lives! He is the light, life, and hope of the world. He will lead you and give you courage to share your light. As my grandfather taught me, “When you live close to God and His infinite grace, you won’t have to tell, it will show in your face.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.