I would like to address the young people of this magnificent generation the Lord is raising up to fulfill his purposes. You are at the threshold of some of life’s key discoveries and decisions. These include discovering yourself and your potential, deciding to serve a mission, making decisions concerning school and career, choosing your future employment, and finding an eternal companion and marrying in the temple. I would like to tell you about four true experiences that bear directly on these key discoveries and decisions.
How do you discover your potential? The mind of man is limitless. You are a son or daughter of God. We were all made in the image of our Father.
Some years ago a young man I’ll call Jim was in the seventh grade. He was a little taller than the other boys and was doing quite well in basketball and track. However, as the year progressed, the coach of the basketball team began saying to him, “Jim, stay seated. You’re no ball player. You’re too clumsy!” At one game he said, “No, we don’t need you. You stay right there. You can’t run. You can’t shoot the ball. You’re not fast enough.” This continued for a number of months. Finally, Jim began to believe what he was being told about himself. He stopped playing basketball, both at Church and at school. He stopped running. Throughout high school he avoided sports as much as possible. In his first year of college, some athletics were required, but he did as little as possible.
At nineteen, he found himself on a mission in a distant land. There he found that the buses did not stop to let people get on or off. So the missionaries had to learn to do that on the run.
One afternoon Jim and his companion were a block or two from the bus stop when they saw the bus coming. One of them said, “Run, Elder, or we’ll miss our next appointment.” To Jim’s great surprise, he beat his companion to the bus stop. Later that afternoon, Jim purposely arranged a few runs for the bus. He beat his companion each time.
He was amazed, almost disbelieving, because he knew that his companion had received a number of awards for being the fastest runner in his home state. Jim was overcome. Could it be so? They ran again. He won.
Suddenly came the terrible realization to Jim that he had wasted his athletic ability. He could have excelled in athletics, but he had come to believe someone else’s opinion of him. Jim began to seriously question other negative attitudes he had about himself. Perhaps, they, too, were false.
I hope you are in that same process now. Has someone convinced you that you are no good at music or mathematics, or that you’ll always be overweight? Reevaluate your attitudes. Each of us has great gifts, but many of us severely limit ourselves with negative attitudes about our potential.
The Lord said, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7.) And again, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23.) You cannot rise higher than your own beliefs and thoughts about yourself.
Trust the Lord to help you unlock the door to the gifts you have just begun to recognize and use. There is literally genius locked inside each of us. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!
You will recall that Jim discovered his real self in the mission field. Didn’t the Lord teach us that whosoever sought his own life would lose it, and he that lost his life in the service of others would find it? (See Matt. 16:25.) Discover yourself! If you have not yet gone, go on a mission. As you seek to serve the Lord, you, too, will find yourself.
“And now this calling and commandment give I unto you concerning all men … [ye] shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations—crying repentance.” (D&C 36:4–6.)
May I tell you about an experience of another young man, whom I will call Bill. At eighteen, he was in his first year at the university. He was on scholarship and was anxious to maintain a good grade point average. So he signed up for a speech class that he supposed would be easy.
One day the teacher said, “Students, in my last twenty-five years of teaching, I’ve given only five A’s, the top grade.” Bill was very disappointed. He tried to transfer from the class, but it was too late to do so. Over the months he received B’s, B-minuses, and once in a while, a B-plus, but never an A. He was discouraged.
Then came the last talk of the semester which would determine half of the final grade. The assignment was to speak for twenty-five minutes, defending a stand on a controversial subject. The class would be allowed to critique the talk orally, and each class member would give a written critique.
As the day he was to speak approached, Bill could not seem to decide on a topic. He prayed about it. Then an impression came to him: “If you’re looking for a controversial subject, choose the Book of Mormon.”
Bill was fearful, knowing that he was the only member of the Church in the class. His teacher, an active member of a Protestant church, had quoted from the Bible throughout the semester and made it clear that she considered the Bible the only revelation from God to man.
The day of his presentation, as Bill announced his subject, the class became very silent. Hoping not to offend anyone—especially his teacher—he began talking about the Book of Mormon within an historical and academic framework. Then, about halfway through, the Spirit came upon him. “I can’t just tell them historically about this book,” he thought. “I don’t care what they think of me, or what happens to my grade. The Book of Mormon is true, and they all ought to know it.”
He began teaching as he had learned to teach investigators while he was a stake missionary. He bore his testimony frequently and even concluded in the name of Jesus Christ.
He waited for the attack. To his astonishment, not a word came from the students. The teacher encouraged them to attack, but they would not. Not one word was spoken. Finally, in frustration, the teacher said, “Be seated, Bill.”
The written student reviews were all positive. Four or five wrote, “You have almost convinced me of the truth of what you said.” One student, who had been particularly critical of the other students’ presentations, wrote, “I really would like to know more about your church.” To Bill’s delight, he received an A in that class. But even if he had failed the class, he still would have been blessed for his efforts to follow the Spirit’s promptings. The Lord has commanded all of us “to stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places that you may be in.” (Mosiah 18:9.) Truly he blesses those who, in faith, are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” (Rom. 1:16.)
If you have not already, you will face the world, just as this young man did. How much faith will you have? All your decisions, especially the big ones—marriage, mission, school, careers—will be easier to make if you pray in faith, truly trusting the Lord, and then follow the promptings of the Spirit.
We must always be sure to make decisions in harmony with the commandments. To obey requires that we trust the Lord’s wisdom and love for us. The story of another young man, whom we will call Fred, illustrates: When Fred was eleven, he got a job delivering newspapers door-to-door and really began to prosper. He was still delivering papers at age sixteen. One day the manager of the newspaper, an inactive member of the Church, said, “Fred, you have been so loyal and done so well in selling subscriptions that I’m going to appoint you assistant manager of circulation of this newspaper. You’ll supervise the other delivery boys and teach them how to sell subscriptions. After school, upon finishing your route, you’ll be able to come to the office to work two or three hours. You’ll be able to do some homework while you’re waiting to answer customer telephone calls. All in all, it will be a great job for you. And by the way, your pay will be tripled.”
Fred was delighted. He was saving money for a mission. This was an ideal job, at a time when many teenagers had no work.
He said to himself over and over again, “The Lord truly does bless those who keep the commandments.” He knew he had always paid his tithing, kept the Sabbath day holy, and honored his priesthood.
After a successful year and a half, George, the newspaper manager, approached him with another opportunity. “You know, Fred, one week from now we’re going to begin delivering the Sunday paper. You will not only have a Sunday route to deliver in the morning, but you’ll have to stay in the office from about 7:00 A.M. to 2:00 in the afternoon. You’ll also receive a 30 percent increase in pay.”
When Fred didn’t look too happy at the news, the manager quickly added, “I know you’re a Mormon, and you may be thinking of not accepting this extra responsibility. But if you don’t take the job, you’ll lose your paper route and be fired from your weekday job as well. Many of my other paper boys would do anything to have your job.”
As Fred rode home on his bicycle that day, he was despondent. He prayed over and over, “How could this be, Heavenly Father? I have kept the commandments. I’ve tried to do what is right. I’ve paid my tithing. I’m trying to go on a mission. Now I may lose my job. Shall I work this added job on Sunday or not?”
He explained the problem to his father, who wisely responded, “I don’t know the answer, but I know someone above who does.” Fred talked to his bishop, who told him much the same thing his father had told him. For two full days Fred prayed and struggled. He knew that he could attend sacrament meetings in another ward later in the afternoon.
When his boss asked for a decision, Fred replied, “I like my job and my newspaper delivery route, but I cannot work on Sunday. It’s not right.”
“You’re fired!” said George angrily. “Come in Saturday to pick up your last paycheck. You’re a very ungrateful young man!”
For the next several days, the manager hardly spoke to Fred. But whenever Fred wondered if he had decided correctly, the answer seemed to be the same: “There may be some who have to work on Sunday, but you don’t have to, and you should not.”
When Fred went to pick up his last paycheck, he found George waiting for him. “Fred, please forgive me,” he said. “I was wrong. I ought not to have tried to make you go against your beliefs. I have found a young man of another faith who is willing to do the extra work on Sunday. You can keep your job. Will you?”
With a thankful heart, Fred answered, “Yes.”
The manager then added, “You’ll find the extra 30 percent I was going to pay you for the work on Sunday included in your paychecks from now on.”
What great joy Fred felt in his heart as he went home that afternoon. “It is worth it to keep the commandments of the Lord,” he said to himself. Of course, it would have been worth it even without the reward of the pay increase. A year later, when he gave his final talk before leaving for his mission, Fred was overjoyed to see his manager in the congregation. He felt even greater joy when, a few months ago, he learned that, after twenty-six years of inactivity, George is now a faithful high priest group leader in his ward.
Decisions concerning employment, missions, marriage, and careers truly are difficult ones. But when you rely on the Lord and keep his commandments, He truly will cause all things to “work together for your good” (D&C 90:24). Be careful that you never compromise the principles that you believe in. Remember to always trust in the Lord.
Let me tell you of one last example of another young man. We’ll call him John. John became quite ill as he was serving his mission in a distant land. He had such serious digestive problems that his mission president was considering sending him home. Then one day while he was out walking, he felt a pain in his foot so severe that he couldn’t even walk to the discussion he and his companion had scheduled.
The doctor decided that John had arthritis caused by the damp weather and suggested he stay off his foot for a few days.
The young missionary did so. He also had a priesthood blessing, but nothing happened. John was a district mission leader at the time, and his district missionaries had just begun to baptize in a city where there had not been baptisms for some time. He could not understand how the Lord could allow him to waste such valuable time when his district was just beginning to have success.
A week went by, two weeks, three weeks, a month with no improvement. Finally he was taken to the capital city, where there were better medical facilities. An X-ray revealed that a bone in his foot had been fractured and then grown back together incorrectly. The doctors tried giving him special electrical treatments that were supposed to fuse the bone correctly, but the treatments didn’t help. This problem, along with his other medical problems had him somewhat discouraged. Again, the consideration came to send him home.
One morning, after nearly three months, he stepped out of bed to find absolutely no pain in his foot. He stepped on the foot gently, then stamped on it, then ran with his companion for a kilometer, totally healed. With great joy he returned immediately to the mission district to work.
Two more weeks went by. Then a letter arrived from home. “Dear son,” it began, and then followed a paragraph or two of chastisement for not having told his family about his ailments. They had learned of his problems from another missionary, a friend of his, who had written home. In great love they wrote, “As a family, we have begun a fast and constant prayer for you. We have also placed your name on the temple prayer list and hope that it might be of help to you.”
As he tearfully read the letter and examined his journal, he found that the day that he had arisen from his bed healed was the same day the letter had been written, the very day his family began praying and exercising faith for their distant son.
How could that be across some eleven thousand kilometers? I suppose no one knows, but the reality of the power of faith cannot be denied. In the face of all opposition, trust in the Lord. Even if the opposition continues almost beyond endurance, continue to trust in the Lord.
Life is a struggle. But the promises of the Lord are sure. Major problems and decisions face all of you. But they all can be solved if you will rely on the Lord.
The Lord really is the answer to it all. He’s the one who can open up your potential and teach you who you are and what you ought to do.
In conclusion, may I make these few suggestions that will help you stay close to and trust in the Lord:
1. Pray to Him, continually seeking revelation throughout the day. (See 2 Ne. 9:52.)
2. Read His scriptures daily, even if only for a few minutes. They will give you direction in this world and teach you of the world to come.
3. Exercise faith and keep the things of the Spirit as the first priority in your life, then all else will be appropriately added.
4. Seek to do His will, not your own, humbling yourself and repenting or changing your life as needed.
5. Love others; serve them. Feed the Lord’s flock.
6. Keep the commandments with exactness.
Remember, the Lord will ultimately prosper those who keep His commandments. He said: “And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them.” (1 Ne. 17:3; italics added.)
I bear testimony of the fact that if you keep the commandments, He nourishes you, strengthens you, and provides you means for accomplishing all things necessary to faithfully finish your divine mission here on earth. May the Lord bless you in your decisions at this important time in your lives.