One of the most encouraging and inspiring experiences I have is to meet young men and young women who have truly found themselves—those who make the decision as to the kind of person they are going to be and then display the courage to rise above the pressures of society to be the kind of child of God with whom He would be pleased. Meeting such young people strengthens my testimony and increases my confidence and faith in the future.
I once met a young sailor who was a member of the crew of an atomic submarine based in Scotland. He was the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the crew. The submarine would go on long trips taking many weeks. As this young Church member was assigned to his station on his first cruise, he found that other crewmen had covered the walls in his area with improper pictures of women with very little clothing on. This offended him. He took all the pictures down and destroyed them. He was conscious of the probable reaction of the other men but, nevertheless, had the courage to do what he thought he should. Not one picture was put up again. As a matter of fact, on that first cruise, he began to teach a Sunday School class attended by two or three of the other men. He learned an important lesson—generally speaking, others will show respect for one who has the courage of his or her convictions and isn’t afraid to do what he feels is right.
On another occasion, I met a young man 14 years of age who was a superb tennis player. He had won all of the tennis tournaments in his class in an area that included several states. He had reached the semifinals of a very important tournament that was to take place in a distant city. As he arrived there, he found that he was scheduled to participate on Sunday. He went to the officials and told them he didn’t play tennis on Sunday; whereupon he was informed that if he wanted to play in this tournament, he would play on Sunday. He again indicated he would not play on Sunday, knowing that not to do so would mean he would forfeit the match. As it happened, the matches were rained out on Sunday. He played on Monday and won.
He then went by bus with the other finalists to another major city to compete in the championship matches that covered the entire Atlantic coastal region of the United States. They arrived on Sunday. The coach instructed the contestants to get out on the tennis courts and practice immediately upon arrival. This young man did not go to the tennis courts. The coach asked him why he wasn’t practicing. He said, “I don’t play tennis on Sunday.” The coach asked him why. His response was, “I am a Mormon.”
I suppose he wanted to win the championship for his age group more than anything else, and yet he himself had made the decision that keeping the Sabbath day holy was more important than being a champion in tennis. You see, he had found himself and had the courage and integrity to live his life according to the principles he had been taught, and he had made his decision regardless of social pressures.
In another instance, a Laurel class president determined that she was going to fulfill her responsibility to activate a girl even though her leaders felt the situation was almost hopeless. Her bishop told her that because of some problems in the home and for other reasons, there was very little chance this girl would ever come to church. The other class members laughed when they learned helping this girl come back to church was to be one of the goals of their class president.
Nevertheless, she was determined to become friends with this girl and asked for and got the help of a neighbor girl as well. They began by saying “Hi” whenever they saw her and always stopping to talk to her for a minute. Then they started finding reasons to visit her. She was selected to be a member of the Booster Club (an organization whose purpose is to boost the morale of the team) for her high school wrestling team. The Laurel class president took her a flower and a note expressing congratulations. This process went on for three or four months. Finally, one Sunday the girl accepted an invitation to come to Sunday School. The next week she was there again, and that week she also attended Mutual. Because of her courage and faith, a young Laurel influenced a girl of her own age to take the first step toward activity in the Church.
Wisdom, courage, and faith are exemplified in the life of another young woman from another country. She had achieved outstanding success in her profession. She was slightly older than what is usually considered the marriageable age. She had made the decision at a young age that if she were to marry, she would marry only in the temple. In her area single young men who were members of the Church were almost non-existent. I suppose she despaired of ever being married. However, one day she met a young man. Although he was not a member of the Church, she dated him. They fell in love. He proposed. She told him she would marry him but would do it only in the temple. He agreed to take the missionary lessons and was converted and baptized. They waited a year and kept themselves worthy for temple marriage. I met her on her wedding day. I think I have never seen a more lovely, happy bride. She had determined years before the eternal blessings she was willing to live for and on this day realized the wonderful feeling of having achieved this most important, eternal goal, in spite of almost impossible obstacles.
The world today is confused with contradictions everywhere. The person either young or old who has purpose and direction for his or her life is most fortunate indeed. These are just a few examples of what young people can do when they understand who they really are. They literally become a light on a hill to all about them. It is my hope and prayer that every young Latter-day Saint will study and pray to gain a testimony of his or her true relationship with the Savior and a testimony of the gospel. As this happens, the youth of the Church will become an even more powerful influence for good in the world and will at the same time achieve that internal peace that comes only from our Heavenly Father—the “peace … which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7).