I have thought a great deal about what to say in this important message to you. I think I can say it better if I recount a few personal experiences. Most of them happened some years back; but even though they are from another period and time, they have something in common with experiences and temptations you are now facing. I hope you know how important these truths are for you in your life.
When I was a boy, we had a horse named Junie. She was one of the most intelligent animals I ever saw. She seemed almost human in her ability. I couldn’t keep her locked in the barn because she would continually undo the strap on the door of her stall. I used to put the strap connected to the half-door of the stall over the top of the post, but she would simply lift it off with her nose and teeth. Then she would go out in the yard.
There was a water tap in the yard used for filling the water trough for our animals. Junie would turn this on with her teeth and then leave the water running. My father would get after me because I couldn’t keep that horse in the barn. She never ran away; she just turned on the water and then walked around the yard or over the lawn or through the garden. In the middle of the night, I would hear the water running and then I would have to get up and shut if off and lock Junie up again.
My father suggested that the horse seemed smarter than I was. One day he decided that he would lock her in so that she couldn’t get out. He took the strap that usually looped over the top of the post and buckled it around the post and under a crossbar, and then he said, “Young lady, let’s see you get out of there now!” My father and I left the barn and started to walk back to the house; and before we reached it, Junie was at our side. She then went over and turned the water on again.
I suggested that now, perhaps, she was about as smart as either one of us. We just couldn’t keep Junie from getting out of her stall. But that doesn’t mean she was bad, because she wasn’t. Father wasn’t about to sell or trade her, because she had so many other good qualities that made up for this one little fault.
The horse was as reliable and dependable at pulling our buggy as she was adept at getting out of the stall. And this was important, because Mother was a licensed midwife. When she would get called to a confinement somewhere in the valley, usually in the middle of the night, I would have to get up, take a lantern out to the barn, and hitch Junie up to the buggy.
I was only about ten or eleven years old at the time; and that horse had to be gentle and yet strong enough to take me and Mother all over the valley, in all kinds of weather. One thing I never could understand, however, was why most of the babies had to be born at night and so many of them in winter.
Often I would wait in the buggy for Mother, and then it was nice to have the company of gentle old Junie. This experience with this horse was very good for me, because early in life I had to learn to love and appreciate her for herself. She was a wonderful horse with only a couple of bad habits. People are a lot the same way. None of us is perfect; yet each of us is trying to become perfect, even as our Father in heaven. We need to appreciate and love people for themselves.
Maybe you need to remember this when you evaluate your parents or teachers or ward and stake leaders or friends—or brothers and sisters. This lesson has always stayed with me—to see the good in people even though we are trying to help them overcome one or two bad habits.
Later on I realized how hard it frequently is for some people to give up something they really love and enjoy. I have always loved sports and particularly enjoyed playing handball with my brother David. One day I came off a handball court perspiring heavily and with my face flushed. A nonmember friend of mine, Dr. Plummer, was standing near my locker. He looked at me and said, “Brother Joseph, if you don’t stop that, one of these days you will drop dead on the floor, just as So-and-so did.”
It was hard for me. Every day I wanted to play some handball. Whenever I would look out my office window, I’d see the Deseret Gym next door and want to go and play. But I kept my resolve. I visited Dr. Plummer a short time later, and he said, “Brother Joseph, are you still playing handball?”
I said, “Doctor, when you told me to quit, I quit, and I have never been back on the court.” That seemed to please him very much, but my teammates were very upset. They came to me and said, “We need you. You are breaking up our foursome.”
“I am sorry,” I said, “but I am through.” I enjoyed that game more than I can say. I almost hungered to play, but I had learned that it was not good for me at my age. At that time I gained a little more perspective on how difficult it is for converts to give up some activity or habit they may have enjoyed for many years prior to baptism.
I’ve learned from my own experience that when you want to change, really want to change, you can do it. Our conscience and the scriptures tell us what to live by—and they tell us what habits we should change for our eternal welfare and progress.
Isaiah, one of the great prophets of early times, saw our day and described the conditions that would prevail in these latter days. Now, in this modern day, Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled.
As I walk along the streets on my way to or from the Church Office Building, I see both young and older women, many of them “daughters of Zion,” who are immodestly dressed. I realize that times and fashions do change. Still, this reminds me of a time when I was a youth attending the Salt Lake Stake Academy and later the Latter-day Saints University.
The girls were dressed neatly from head to foot in shirtwaists and full skirts down to their ankles. I recall an incident that happened when a group of students—young girls and boys—took a short trip up City Creek Canyon. While doing a little hiking, one of the girls slipped and caught her dress on a limb, exposing her leg to the knee. She was so embarrassed that she wanted to withdraw from the group and return home. It took some persuasion by the other girls to have her remain and try to forget the incident.
It is a lot more common nowadays to see a knee than it was back then, and I’m not saying that a girl who wears a dress exposing the knees is bad. I’m trying to relay a feeling that we should have.
The principle of modesty and propriety is still the same today as it was then. The standards expressed by the General Authorities of the Church are that women, as well as men, should dress modestly. They are taught proper deportment and modesty at all times.
It is, in my judgment, a sad reflection on the “daughters of Zion” when they dress immodestly. Moreover, this remark pertains to the men as well as to the women. The Lord gave commandments to ancient Israel that both men and women should cover their bodies and observe the law of chastity at all times.
I am making a plea for modesty and chastity and for all the members of the Church, male and female alike, to be chaste, clean in their lives, and obedient to the covenants and commandments the Lord has given us.
From each of these little incidents in my life I have learned some principle of truth, some expression of the Lord’s wisdom that is useful as we proceed on the way to perfection. The object of our being here is to do the will of the Father as it is done in heaven, to work righteousness in the earth, to subdue wickedness, to rise above imperfections, and thus become the saints and servants of the Lord in the earth.
I learned early in life to love and not to judge others, trying always to overcome my own faults. Then I also learned, when I had to give up handball, to appreciate others’ struggles in breaking long-established habits.
Just as Junie’s bad habit detracted some from her value, so does the wearing of immodest clothing, which may seem like a small matter, take something away from our young women or young men in the Church. It simply makes it more difficult to keep those eternal principles by which we all have to live if we are to return to the presence of our Father in heaven.
I bear my testimony to you. I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son in the flesh of our Father. I have perfect faith in the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith and those who have succeeded him.
I know that we have the truth of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, just as well as I know that I live. If I did not know it, I wouldn’t want to be here or have anything to do with this work. But I know it in every fiber of my body. God has revealed it to me. May the Lord bless us all, I humbly pray.
Somewhere I read a statement that the function of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comforted. In some respects, I think, this is what the Church is all about—to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comforted. We are to care for the needy, the fatherless, the widows. In the words of the Savior, we are to care for those who are “an hungred,” “thirsty,” “a stranger,” “naked,” “sick,” and “in prison.”
It is easy to see that we are to care for the physical, social, emotional, and mental needs of each other. But the reverse of this statement about a publication is also true. There are those who are too comforted and too much at ease and too unresponsive to their responsibilities and opportunities. Some persons need to share with others their material blessings of the earth. Some persons are too comforted and too much at ease in their life style—and they need to become dissatisfied enough to change for the better.
There are some who are too much at ease in their prejudices and ideas—and they need to humble themselves before the spirit of brotherhood and the principles of the gospel. In other words, many persons need a call to repentance. Thus you see what I mean when I say that in some respects the function of the Church is something like that of the newspaper: to comfort the afflicted and to afflict those who are too comforted.
—President Harold B. Lee
First Counselor in the First Presidency and President of the Council of the Twelve
I often ask young people what they want out of life. It is so important for you to decide now what you will do with your life, and how you can live so as to be happy and successful. In order to do this, you must set goals and then make up your mind that nothing will keep you from reaching them.
What kind of parents do you want your children to have? They deserve the very best. Give them a good name—one of which they can be proud. What kind of children do you want? The choice is yours. They will be what you expect them to be, and will do what you expect them to do. They will honor and respect you if you live worthy of their honor and respect. The parents you should honor most are the parents of your children-to-be.
You should be preparing yourselves through study and prayer and through living clean, wholesome lives for the task of teaching your children and influencing others to have faith in God, to realize that they are the spirit children of their Father in heaven, that he loves them and wants them to be happy, and that he stands ready to answer their prayers. This knowledge and assurance is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.
—President Nathan Eldon Tanner
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
You Latter-day Saint young people are the finest in the world. There is no group anywhere that can even compare with you. I believe practically all our boys and girls grow up with a desire to be righteous. I think you are fundamentally good. And yet, there are too many misfortunes among you. Life gives to all the choice. You can satisfy yourself with mediocrity if you wish. You can be common, ordinary, dull, colorless; or you can channel your life so that it will be clean, vibrant, progressive, useful, colorful, rich.
You can soil your record, defile your soul, trample underfoot virtue, honor, and goodness, and thus forfeit an exaltation in the kingdom of God. Or you can be righteous, commanding the respect and admiration of your associates in all walks of life, and enjoying the love of the Lord. Your destiny is in your hands, and your all-important decisions are your own to make.
—Acting President Spencer W. Kimball
of the Council of the Twelve