I have a great and compelling sense of gratitude and optimism about the youth of the Church. In saying this, I do not wish to imply that all is well with all of them. There are many who have troubles, and many who live far beneath the high expectations we have concerning them.
But even considering these, I have great confidence in our young people as a whole. I regard you as the finest generation in the history of the Church. I compliment you, and I have in my heart a great feeling of love and respect and appreciation for you.
Peter of old made a great and prophetic statement: “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” (1 Pet. 2:9).
I know of no other statement which more aptly describes you, nor which sets before you a higher ideal by which to shape and guide your lives.
Some time ago I read a letter to a newspaper editor which was highly critical of the Church. It included a question something like this: “When are the Mormons going to stop being different and become part of mainstream America?”
About this same time there came to my desk a copy of an address given by Senator Dan Coats of Indiana. He spoke of a report dealing with the problems of American youth. That report concluded:
“Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents. … More than a million teenage girls get pregnant each year. Eighty-five percent of teenage boys who impregnate teenage girls eventually abandon them.
“… Homicide is now the leading cause of death among fifteen-to nineteen-year-old minority youth. …
“Every year substance abuse claims younger victims with harder drugs. A third of high school seniors get drunk once a week.”
The report reached a shocking conclusion. It said: “The most basic cause of suffering … is profoundly self-destructive behavior. Drinking. Drugs. Violence. Promiscuity. A crisis of behavior and belief. A crisis of character” (Imprimis, September 1991, page 1).
When I read those statements, I said to myself, If that is the mainstream of American youth, then I want to do all in my power to persuade and encourage our young people to stay away from it.
Now I know that there are millions of young people in every nation who live wholesome, good lives. But no one can blink at the fact that across the world there is an epidemic affecting millions of youth. It is a sickness that comes of a loss of values, of an abandonment of moral absolutes.
I return to Peter’s great statement as I make a plea and offer a challenge: “Ye are a chosen generation.” [1 Pet. 2:9] How very true that is. Notwithstanding all of the problems that we have, this, I believe, is the greatest age in the history of the world. And you young people of this generation are a part of it. You are the beneficiaries of it. Its fruits are here to bless your lives if you will grasp them and live worthy of them.
We today enjoy more comfort, more opportunity, more blessings of science and research than any generation in the history of the earth. I do not know why I have been so blessed as to have been born in this favored season. But I am profoundly grateful. I hope you are also.
On top of this flowering of knowledge has come the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There has been restored to the earth all of the principles, powers, blessings, and keys of all previous dispensations. By clear revelation has come knowledge of the reality of God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Savior and Redeemer.
John the Baptist has come to earth and conferred the priesthood of Aaron with “the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (D&C 13:1).
Peter, James, and John have restored to earth the divine power given by Jesus Himself when He said to them in the flesh, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).
As a part of this great unfolding of knowledge and light and truth, there has come the Book of Mormon, a declaration of the living reality of the Son of God.
Truly, you are a chosen generation. I hope there will grow in your hearts an overpowering gratitude to God, who has made it possible for you to come upon the earth in this marvelous season of the world’s history.
You young men are a royal priesthood. You have received that same priesthood exercised by John who baptized Jesus of Nazareth. With worthiness, you may enjoy the comforting, protecting, guiding influence of ministering angels. No earthly royalty has a blessing as great. Live for it. Be worthy of it.
Peter speaks of “an holy nation,” a vast congregation of the Saints of God, men and women who walk in holiness before Him and who look to Jesus Christ as their Savior and King. What a treasured privilege to have citizenship in this holy nation. Never belittle its rights, privileges, and responsibilities.
Peter’s final description—“a peculiar people.”
Of course you are peculiar. If the world continues its present trend, and if you walk in obedience to the doctrines and principles of this church, you may become even more peculiar in the eyes of others.
As Latter-day Saints, you have been taught values of divine origin. These values are based on the commandments the Lord wrote upon the tablets of stone when Moses spoke with Jehovah upon the mountain. You know them.
The values you have been taught likewise are based upon the beatitudes which Jesus spoke to the multitude. These with others of His divine teachings constitute a code of ethics, a code of values, a code of divine doctrine familiar to you and binding upon you.
To these have been added the precepts and commandments of modern revelation.
Combined together, these basic, divinely given principles, laws, and commandments must constitute your value system. If you will shape your lives according to their pattern, I promise that you will know peace and happiness, growth and achievement. To the degree that you fail to observe them, the fruits will be disappointment, sadness, misery, and even tragedy.
You cannot with impunity follow practices out of harmony with values you have been taught. I challenge you to rise above the sordid elements of the world about you.
You cannot afford to drink beer and other liquors which can rob you of self-control. You cannot use tobacco and live up to the values which the Lord has set for your guidance. The partaking or distribution of illegal drugs is to be shunned as you would shun a terrible disease.
You cannot afford in any degree to become involved with pornography, whatever its form. You simply cannot afford to become involved in immoral practices—or to let down the bars of sexual restraint. The emotions that stir within you which make boys attractive to girls and girls attractive to boys are part of a divine plan, but they must be restrained, subdued, and kept under control, or they will destroy you and make you unworthy of many of the great blessings which the Lord has in store for you.
You cannot afford to cheat in school or to shoplift or steal or do anything of the kind.
You cannot afford to do any of those things which do not square with the precepts, the teachings, the principles which the God of heaven has set down because of His love for you and His desire that your lives be rich and full and purposeful.
Nor can you afford to idle away your time in long hours watching the frivolous and damaging programming of which much of television is comprised. There are better things for you to do. The world into which you will move will be terribly competitive. You need to increase your education, to refine your skills, to hone your abilities so that you may fill responsibilities of consequence in the society of which you will become a part.
I invite you to think for a moment upon why you are here under the divine plan of your Father in Heaven and of your tremendous potential to do good during the life that He has given you. Please know that we love you. We appreciate you. We have a confidence in you, knowing that it will only be a short time until you must take over the leadership of this church and of other great responsibilities which may be yours in the world in which you live.
Although specifically addressed to the youth, President Hinckley’s counsel applies to all Latter-day Saints: Basic, divinely given principles, laws, and commandments must constitute our value system.
This is the greatest age in the history of the world, and its youth are a chosen generation.
We enjoy today a great unfolding of knowledge and light and truth through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
To enjoy peace and happiness, growth and achievement, we must rise above the sordid elements of the world and not follow practices out of harmony with the values we have been taught.
God has given us principles to live by because He loves us and desires that our lives be rich and full and purposeful.
In addressing the youth of the Church, President Hinckley says, “Please know that we love you. We appreciate you. We have confidence in you.”