Up to the Challenge


Tokyo teens talk about how they handle tough temptations.

After school one day Yuriya Kitahara’s friends wanted to show her a new comic book. It took only a moment for Yuriya, a Laurel, to realize that there was nothing funny about these comics—the book was pornographic.

Around the same time, Junko Saijo, a Mia Maid, was with her friends when one of them lit a cigarette and offered it to Junko.

Not long after, a group of students at Sho Watanabe’s school was arrested for selling drugs to other students.

Fortunately, Yuriya dropped the comic book. Junko refused the cigarette. And Sho, a priest, has tried to be careful in choosing his friends.

Though the Church is growing in Japan, these teens still have to face the temptations of the world every day. That’s part of the test we came to earth to take. The question is: are we up to the challenge? And if we aren’t, how can we be?

Living with Temptation

Breaking the Word of Wisdom is a common temptation in Tokyo, according to a group of young members from different stakes who have gotten together to talk about the challenges they face.

Several of the youth were faced with the temptation of tobacco as soon as they were teenagers. Others are lucky enough to have avoided it altogether so far. Not everyone faces the same temptations. But tobacco is a common trap for Tokyo teens.

“It’s so easy to buy tobacco here; it’s difficult for some not to buy it,” says Hikaru Watanabe, a deacon and Sho’s younger brother.

Alcohol is another problem presented early on to many youth.

“After a school activity ends, all the students usually go somewhere to have a party,” says Yuriya. “Sometimes my friends ask me to go. They don’t say they’re going to drink, but to many teens, going to a party means going to drink. They don’t think that’s bad.” The other youth all nod in agreement—they’ve been in similar situations.

The teens also agree that pornography and immorality are running rampant among their peers.

“Music is getting bad too,” says Keiko Saijo, a Laurel and Junko’s older sister. “The lyrics are just awful.”

These are temptations and challenges Latter-day Saint teens are facing all around the world. What are they doing about it? They are learning that through the gospel, they can find the strength they need to overcome all their challenges.

Finding the Strength

The youth agree that to overcome the temptations thrown at them every day, they need the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

“It’s not just my own strength, but relying on the Lord that gets me through,” says priest Yuuya Kitahara, Yuriya’s younger brother. “Coming closer to the Lord helps us avoid the temptations and overcome them.”

That is a valuable lesson. “If we don’t do things to be closer to the Spirit, we would probably end up just like many youth outside of the Church, smoking, watching pornography, and worse,” says Yuriya.

It’s a lesson taught several times in the Book of Mormon. Without the Spirit of the Lord, the Nephites became “weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites” (Helaman 4:24; see also Mosiah 1:13; Mormon 2:26).

“When I feel the Spirit, I feel like the temptations just go away,” says Hikaru. “That strength comes from the Spirit.”

Yuuya says praying morning and night helps bring the Spirit. Yuriya feels closer to the Holy Ghost by studying the scriptures every day. Yuuya’s twin brother, Yuuki, mentions youth activities and seminary. And Junko says going to church and family home evening have not only helped her feel the Spirit but have taught her ways to overcome temptations.

And each says attending the temple has made a big difference. “I feel a special power when I come to the temple of the Lord,” says Sho. He says he can resist temptations better when he goes to the temple regularly.

For the past few years, Sho and Hikaru have tried to go to the temple every Thursday to perform baptisms for the dead. Keiko and Junko, and Yuriya and her brothers try to attend every Friday.

“Coming to the temple strengthens me,” Keiko says.

For the Strength of Youth

And then during their conversation, someone mentions the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and half of them pull out the wallet-sized version.

“This is written for us,” says Yuuya. “It’s easy to understand and easy to apply. When I apply the principles taught in this pamphlet, it helps protect me from temptation.”

The others agree. Most of them refer to it regularly. “We read from it almost every week in Young Women,” says Junko.

Hikaru says it helps him overcome temptation. Church leaders, he says, “tell us that when we are struggling with a temptation, we should think of a scripture. But sometimes it’s hard to carry the scriptures with you. I can keep this card with me all the time, and it helps.”

For many of the youth, the pamphlet has helped them learn how to apply the gospel to how they live and the choices they make.

“The gospel isn’t about just knowing what’s right, but doing what’s right,” says Yuuki. “When I read For the Strength of Youth, I learned what to do. It tells you how to apply the gospel to your life.”

“Before the pamphlet came out, our leaders would talk about Church standards, but we can’t remember everything,” Sho says. “For the Strength of Youth is so easy to understand. It helps explain how the scriptures apply to us. And I can carry it with me.”

“I’m not a great reader,” Keiko says. “But the pamphlet is easy. When I concentrate on its words, I feel this really is right. I think God prepared this for our day.”

The pamphlet was prepared for our day, and so were the youth of this generation.

“You have been told often, and I will say it again: You are a chosen generation,” said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “You have been raised up by the Lord to carry His Church and kingdom into the 21st century. You have been chosen by the Lord to come forth on the earth when wickedness and evil are very powerful. But you are up to the challenge” (“Growing into the Priesthood,” Liahona, Jan. 2000, 48–49; Ensign, Nov. 1999, 41).

What does it take to be up to the challenge? A willingness to stay close to the Spirit and follow the counsel of the Lord.

What to Do When the Tempter Is a Friend

Whom you choose as friends makes a difference. “If you choose bad friends, many temptations will follow,” says Sho Watanabe.

The first time you stand up to someone can be the hardest, but it’s usually easier after that. “Cigarettes aren’t good for you,” Junko Saijo told a friend after the girl offered her a cigarette. “My friend didn’t stop smoking, but she has left me alone about it since then.”

Standing up doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to leave the situation. “When my friends start talking about bad things, I try to change the topic,” says Yuuki Kitahara. “If they don’t stop, I walk away.”

In many cases you can handle situations politely. Once, Keiko Saijo’s friend was listening to music on her headphones. “She offered it to me, but the music made me feel bad inside. I said, ‘Nice music but not for me,’ and gave the headphones back.”

Your Example Can Help Others

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“God bless you, my dear young friends. You are the best generation we have ever had. You know the gospel better. You are more faithful in your duties. You are stronger to face the temptations which come your way. Live by your standards. Pray for the guidance and protection of the Lord. He will never leave you alone. He will comfort you. He will sustain you. He will bless and magnify you and make your reward sweet and beautiful. And you will discover that your example will attract others who will take courage from your strength.” President Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2003, 84.

[photos] Photographs by Adam C. Olson and © Corbis Images