There are many side roads in life, and they are being so enticingly described that young people, particularly bearers of the priesthood of God, need to fully commit themselves to eternal goals if they are to avoid being misled. As life in our times becomes more complex, the temptation to follow blindly the paths others are pursuing will become greater and greater.
We are going to continue to hear a lot of philosophies and new movements extolling all types of diabolical social and political schemes. Such movements are ofttimes justified in the name of academic freedom or for the promotion of noteworthy objectives, such as the eradication of poverty or the providing of equal justice and opportunity.
Before giving our interest and support to one of these movements, let us examine it carefully. Let us ask ourselves: Who is really sponsoring the movement? What will be the ultimate result of such a philosophy? Does it enhance or repress the freedom of the individual? How does this philosophy compare with the revealed truths of the gospel? Let us always utilize the gospel as the measuring rod of our decisions.
Ours is the responsibility to be leaders, to be a light to guide the rest of the world. In the past, nations have turned for guidance to men of spiritual wisdom and stability. Today, in the face of such rapid change, our society desperately needs leaders who can make judgments from the eternal perspective. Our understanding and commitment to the gospel puts us peculiarly in this position of leadership.
We are considered a peculiar people because of our Word of Wisdom, the welfare plan, and our great youth program. We are peculiar in our belief in a personal God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, a God who speaks to his prophets today as he did anciently.
Jesus is the authority on life. He wants all youth to know how things really are, how they came to be as they are, how they will be in the future. True Latter-day Saints need not be misled. We have the Bible. We have the Book of Mormon. We have the books of modern revelation known as the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. We have a living prophet who receives revelation from God in this day to guide us in our fast-moving world. We have dedicated men serving as bishops and in other leadership positions, men whose main concern and responsibility is to guide and counsel the youth.
Let us not be ashamed of the gospel. I want to say that you never have to apologize in business or in industry for what the standards of the Church are. I know. I have been through it. I spent twenty years in the livestock business, and there were national conventions, business conventions, and local conventions where the first item of business was the cocktail hour, designated on the schedule as the “reception” or the “social hour.” These conventions were held in hotels or public meeting places, and there was a great deal of pressure to participate in the social drinking. But you do not need to participate; and I testify that when you withstand these pressures, people admire you for having the strength to live up to your principles. You know, as I know, that we do not need such stimulants, and you can refuse them as I refused them. And people will tell you as they told me, “I respect you for it, and I wish I could do the same.”
I know it is important to live up to what we believe, and I know what it means to others when we are able to tell them that we can be trusted. In the final analysis no factor in life is more vital than the realization that we are our own creators in the sense that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7.) This principle is often referred to as the law of the harvest.
Bernard Baruch said it this way: “The only freedom man can ever have is the freedom to discipline himself. That is what we are fighting for, to maintain the right to self-discipline instead of having the discipline of slavery and tyranny thrust upon us by a conquering enemy.”
The conquering enemy of all mankind is Satan, who would enslave us with vile and harmful habits that conquer us completely and that will, unless overcome, prevent us from fulfilling our true mission in life and in eternity.
God has faith in the youth of his church. He has called the young men to his ministry and trusts them to do their duty and to set the proper example to the young women with whom they associate. He has given us his power on earth—that same power by which this earth and other worlds were created; that same power by which the waters of the Red Sea were parted; that same power by which Elijah sealed the heavens so that no rain fell; that same power by which Jesus gave sight to the blind, legs to the lame, and new life to the dead.
Our young men who hold this power should prepare themselves to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations of the earth. They should prepare themselves to be missionaries at home among their associates by the way they live. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” (John 8:31.)
The Aaronic Priesthood is more than a youth program. It is given to young men to prepare them for greater things to come, even the responsibility of the higher priesthood. It signifies that our Heavenly Father is interested in their progress and concerned with their ability to lead his children.
No young man can receive the priesthood and diligently participate therein without becoming a better and a stronger person. The priesthood is character building. It teaches a young man to have proper concepts and values. As he magnifies his duties in the priesthood, he experiences the challenge and growth that emanate from eternal principles. This challenge prompted the inspired words given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” (D&C 121:36.)
It is upon the principles of righteousness, of living the gospel as we know it, fully and proudly, that all Latter-day Saints can come to know God and his plan of eternal life and receive the strength of faith that will lead us to the joy of celestial exaltation.