How grateful I am that a wise and loving Heavenly Father has given us free agency! In the very beginning, after pointing out the trees from which Adam might freely eat, the Lord directed Adam’s attention to one tree and advised him that he should not partake of the fruit thereof. He then added, “… nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee. …” (Moses 3:17.)
As God blessed Adam and Eve, so he blesses you of a later generation—blesses you with the gift of free agency, the right to choose and determine your destiny.
In this significant preparatory period of your lives you seek a map to uncharted seas, a formula to insure your success, a guide to guarantee achievement. Where will you look? How will you seek? To whom will you turn for help? Your decision is vital. Your day of decision is now.
To you, a chosen generation, I ask: Turn your hearts and direct your thoughts to Him who declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. …” (John 14:6.) His word is an unfailing compass to safely chart a true course through the storms of life. He taught faith, love, charity, and hope. He spoke of devotion, courage, example, and fidelity. His life reflected his teachings.
To Peter, to Philip, to Matthew he said, “Come, follow me.” To you his inviting voice repeats that same call, “Come, follow me.” By so doing, your generation will not fall victim to the evil one’s cunning and to temptation’s snare.
Your generation will not be that generation “that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother,” that generation “that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” (Prov. 30:11–12.) Nor shall you be that “perverse and crooked generation” (Deut. 32:5), a “generation of vipers.”
Rather, you can qualify as 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.)
You ask: “Are there codes of conduct to insure our success? How may we continue to qualify as a chosen generation?”
Since this is a day of the ready reference, the condensed version, the handy guide, may I offer brief suggestions—even steps—for your pathway to the abundant life:
Step 1. Labor to learn.
Step 2. Strive to serve.
Step 3. Think to thank.
Step 4. Pause to pray.
You, the youth of the Church, are the sons and daughters of Almighty God. You have a destiny to fulfill, a life to live, a contribution to make, a goal to achieve. The future of the kingdom of God upon the earth will, in part, depend upon your devotion.
When this perspective is kept firmly in mind, you can appreciate the absolute necessity of diligence in this, your period of preparation. Neglect to prepare and you will mortgage your future.
I chose the phrase “labor to learn” since these challenging times will require your finest efforts. A halfhearted effort will not suffice. You must labor with your might. During the last half century, there has been in this country a gradual but continual retreat from standards of excellence in many phases of our life. We observe business without morality, science without conscience, politics without principle, and wealth without works.
Perhaps the renowned author Charles Dickens, without really realizing his prophetic powers, described our day when he spoke of a period two centuries ago. His classic Tale of Two Cities begins,
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us. …”
This is your world. Whether you like it or not, you are engaged in the race of your life. At stake is eternal life—yours. What shall be the outcome? Will you be a leader of men and a servant of God? Or will you be a servant of sin and follower of Satan? Decisions determine destiny. Decide now that you will pursue your education with determination. This is the day of unskilled labor, untrained minds, unpledged hearts.
In the quiet of your study, surrounded by books written by the finest minds, listen for and hearken to the Master’s invitation: “… learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:29.) Such learning transcends the classroom; it endures beyond graduation; it meets the test of experience.
Alma, the prophet, could have been speaking to you when he counseled, “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” (Alma 37:35.)
Thomas Huxley advised: “The end of life is not knowledge, but action.” When our testimonies are reflected by our service, they shine with unequaled brilliance. Unfortunately, there are those among your group who, turning to their academic pursuits, turn their back on God. You have heard their comment: “I will serve the Lord later—now I must study.” To such a one I would answer, “Thou fool.”
I am reminded of a highly successful business executive in Salt Lake City who served as a counselor in his ward bishopric while at the same time earning his master’s degree. During the hectic period preceding finals, the bishop asked him, “Lynn, I know you are facing a crisis in your schooling. Let us relieve you of your meeting schedule and some of the details of your assignments during the next two weeks.” Lynn answered, “Bishop, I would ask that rather than relieving me of responsibility, let me assume additional duties. I want to go to the Lord and ask his help by right, not by grace.” He never slackened. He graduated among the highest in his class.
In these three words you have the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, a formula for enduring friendships, and a pattern for personal happiness.
In our hectic, humdrum, frantic race for progress, we can fall victim to the sin of ingratitude.
Do you think to thank your mother, your father, who have given you life and who rejoice in your accomplishments? Your gratitude should be expressed personally, but, in addition, it should be mirrored by your life.
An appropriate tribute of gratitude was made by a young Latter-day Saint girl attending a Denver, Colorado, high school. The students in her class had been asked to prepare a letter to be written to a great man of their choice. Many addressed their letters to sports heroes, some to the leaders of their nation, while others addressed their letters to persons of reknown. This young lady, however, addressed her letter to her father, and in the letter she stated: “I have decided to write this letter to you, Dad, because you are the greatest man that I have ever known. The overwhelming desire of my heart is that I will so live that I might have the privilege of being beside you and Mother and other members of the family in the celestial kingdom.” That father has never received a more cherished letter.
Many of you will be entering military service and will have special need to be close to God. I testify as one who knows that he will not forsake you.
During the final phases of World War II, I turned eighteen and was ordained an elder one week before I departed for active duty with the navy. A member of my ward bishopric was at the train station to bid me farewell. Just before train time, he placed two books into my hands. One was a popular satire in which I took interest. The other was entitled The Missionary Handbook.
I laughed and commented, “I’m not going on a mission.”
He answered, “Take it anyway—it may come in handy.”
It did. In basic training the company commander instructed us concerning how we might best pack our clothing in a large sea bag. He advised: “If you have some hard, rectangular object you can place in the bottom, your clothes will stay more firm.”
I suddenly remembered just the right rectangular object—The Missionary Handbook. Thus it served for sixteen weeks.
The night before our Christmas leave, our thoughts were, as always, on home. The quarters were quiet. Suddenly I became aware that my buddy in the adjoining bunk, a Mormon boy, Leland Merrill, was moaning in pain. I asked, “What’s the matter, Merrill?”
He replied, “I’m sick. I’m really sick!”
I advised him to go to the base dispensary, but he knowingly answered that such a course would prevent him from being home for Christmas.
The hours lengthened. His groans grew louder. Suddenly he whispered, “Monson, Monson, aren’t you an elder?” I acknowledged this to be so, whereupon he asked, “Give me a blessing.”
Suddenly I became very much aware that I had never given a blessing, I had never received such a blessing, and I had never witnessed a blessing being given. My prayer to God was a plea for help. The answer came: “Look in the bottom of the sea bag.” Thus, at two o’clock in the morning I spilled the contents of the bag on the deck, took the book to the night light, and read how one blesses the sick. With about seventy curious sailors looking on, I gave the shakiest blessing I’ve ever given. Before I could stow my gear, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child.
The next morning Merrill smilingly turned to me and said, “Monson, I’m glad you hold the priesthood.” His gladness was surpassed only by my joy.
To you, representatives of the most chosen generation ever to grace this glorious earth, I counsel: labor to learn; strive to serve; think to thank; pause to pray.
By so doing you will find that pathway which leads to life eternal. To you I bear a personal witness and testimony that God lives, that he hears the prayers of humble hearts. His son, our Savior and Redeemer, speaks to each of you this day.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him. …” (Rev. 3:20.)
Will you listen for that knock? Will you hear and heed that voice? Will you open that door to the Lord? I pray that you will.