It is my purpose to explain to the youth and young adults, and to their parents, why we hold so rigidly to high standards of moral conduct; why we avoid addictive drugs and tea, coffee, alcohol, and tobacco; why we teach standards of modesty in dress, grooming, and speech. 1 You need to know where our standards came from and why we cannot loosen up and follow what the world does.
You have agency—“moral agency.” 2 You are free to choose your standards.
You will understand better if I speak of scripture and doctrine rather than about behavior.
Following the Crucifixion of Christ an apostasy occurred. Leaders began to “teach for doctrines the commandments of men.” 4 They lost the keys of authority and closed themselves off from the channels of revelation. That lost authority could not just be repossessed. It had to be restored by those who held the keys of authority anciently. 5
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a remodeled version of another church. It is not an adjustment or a correction or a protest against any other church. They have their “form of godliness” 6 and their goodness and value.
John the Baptist returned through the veil to confer the Aaronic Priesthood, “which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” 7 A companion ordinance, confirmation and the conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost, required a greater authority. 8
The Restoration did not come all at once. In a series of visitations, other prophets came to restore the keys of the priesthood. 11
With the authority restored, the organization was revealed. Apostles were ordained, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency were organized as they had been anciently. 12 The ordinances were revealed and authority given to perform them.
Other revelations were published—the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. From those books of scripture, we learned why the earth was created and who created it. 14 There was opened to the early leaders of the Church the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the standards He requires of His disciples.
We learned about the plan of redemption—“the great plan of happiness.” 15 We came to earth to be tested and to gain experience, with a promise that “through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” 16
Before we came into mortal life, we lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven. 17 “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each [of you] is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, [you have] a divine nature and destiny. Gender [male and female] is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” 18
The great plan of happiness enables family relationships to last beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants, available only in the temple, make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally. Marriage, the family, and the home are the foundation of the Church. 19 Nothing is more important to the Church and to civilization itself than the family!
For some all is not complete in mortal life, for marriage and a family of their own have passed them by. But the great plan of happiness and the laws which govern it continue after death. Watched over by a kind and loving Heavenly Father, they will not, in the eternal pattern of things, be denied blessings necessary for their exaltation, including marriage and family. And it will be sweeter still because of the waiting and the longing.
We learned from the revelations that we do not have to tell you young people what is right and what is wrong with regard to morality and marriage. The prophet Lehi taught his youthful children that “men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.” 20
Because the power to create a mortal body is essential to our happiness and exaltation, the Lord has decreed severe penalties against the immoral use of that power to beget life. 21
Satan knows that if he can corrupt the process of mating and cause men and women to degrade it in immoral acts, he will, to that degree, for them disrupt the plan of happiness.
Paul taught, “God … will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 22
I do not wish to offend the delicate feelings of you wonderful young people, but in your world awash with iniquity, you must be on guard.
There are words we would rather not say. They describe things that we would rather not think about. But you are inescapably exposed to temptations in connection with fornication, adultery, pornography, prostitution, perversion, lust, abuse, the unnatural, and all that grows from them.
Only with difficulty can you escape the degrading profanity and wicked, joking humor that accompanies them. It is all paraded before you in unworthy entertainment—music, print, drama, film, television, and, of course, the Internet.
Remember the First Vision when young Joseph knelt in the grove. Immediately thick darkness gathered around him. He was seized by the power of the enemy, an actual being from the unseen world. He did what every one of you can do. He called upon God, and the evil power left him. 23
There is great power in prayer. As a son or a daughter of God, you can, as Joseph did, pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ for strength. 24
Satan, with his angels, will try to capture your thoughts and control what you do. If he can, he will corrupt anything that is good. 25 To him the Internet is just that—a net to ensnare you into wicked addiction with pornography. Unhappiness will follow. 26
Some work through political, social, and legal channels to redefine morality and marriage into something unrestrained, unnatural, and forbidden. But they never can change the design which has governed human life and happiness from the beginning. The deceiver preys upon some passion or tendency or weakness. He convinces them that the condition cannot be changed and recruits them for activities for which they never would volunteer.
But sooner or later that spark of divinity in each of them will ignite. They can assert their agency as sons and daughters created in the image of God 27 and renounce the destroyer. That which they had been led to believe could not be changed, will be changed, and they will feel the power of the redemption of Christ. 28 Their burden will be lifted and the pain healed up. 29 That is what the Atonement of Christ is all about.
They can claim their inheritance as children of heavenly parents and, despite the tortured, agonizing test of mortal life, know that they are not lost.
In the Church, one is not condemned for tendencies or temptations. One is held accountable for transgression. 30 If you do not act on unworthy persuasions, you will neither be condemned nor be subject to Church discipline.
We do not set the standards, but we are commanded to teach them and maintain them. The standard remains abstinence before marriage and total fidelity in marriage. However out of step we may seem, however much the standards are belittled, however much others yield, we will not yield, we cannot yield. Obedience to the moral standard and observance of the Word of Wisdom will remain as requirements for ordination to the priesthood, for a mission, and for a temple recommend.
You had conferred upon you the gift of the Holy Ghost. There will be whisperings of approval or warning when you have decisions to make. 31 The Holy Ghost can guide you away from evil and bring you back if you have wandered and lost your path. Never forget that you are sons and daughters of God. Satan cannot forever imprison you. You always hold the key of repentance to unlock the prison door.
If you, our youth, feel alone, remember there are millions of you in the Church now. Tens of thousands of you at this moment serve missions. You are a visible example, a testimony of the Restoration, even to those who will not listen to your message. Wherever you are—in school, at work or play, in the military—you are never alone.
Now words can be used as weapons against you. If they throw the word diversity at you, grab hold of it and say, “I am already diverse, and I intend to stay diverse.” If the word is tolerance, grab that one, too, saying, “I expect you to be tolerant of my lifestyle—obedience, integrity, abstinence, repentance.” If the word is choice, tell them you choose good, old-fashioned morality. You choose to be a worthy husband or wife, a worthy parent.
The whole Church may stand alone in defense of these standards. But we are not the first. Moroni, the last of his people, said: “I even remain alone. … I fulfil the commandment of my father.” 32 Do not be afraid. 33
When I was young and very new in my calling, I was sent east to meet with powerful, prominent officials who were blocking our work. As I left for the airport, I stopped to see President Harold B. Lee and asked, “Do you have any parting counsel?”
“Yes,” he said, “just remember this isn’t 1830, and there aren’t just six of us.”
That erased fear. I pled our cause. The problem was resolved.
Society is on a course that has caused the destruction of civilizations and is now ripening in iniquity. Civilization itself is at stake. You, our wonderful youth, are an example to untold millions of good people worldwide.
I think of the joy and happiness that await you in this life and the work you are to do, and I cannot be discouraged.
Peter, the Apostle who stood next to the Lord, said of you, “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.” 34
Remember this great prophecy:
“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” 35
When we were young we used to often sing these words:
God bless you millions of youth in our Church who worthily follow the patterns of the gospel and have within you a deep testimony—the testimony that all of us share and bear. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
See For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God (pamphlet, 2001).
See D&C 115:4.
See D&C 27:12–13.
See D&C 110.
See Moses 1:30–39.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 1998, 24; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.
See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 1998, 24; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.
See JS—H 1:15–16.
See James 4:7.
See Alma 41:10.
See 2 Ne. 2:1–6.
See Alma 7:11–12.
Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:540.
“True to the Faith,” Hymns, no. 254.