My dear young sisters, this may well be the largest gathering of Latter-day Saint young women ever to assemble. The responsibility to address you is overwhelming and humbling. I pray for divine help, that I may be made equal to such an opportunity.
You happen to be a much more attractive audience than the usual priesthood meeting throng, where dark suits, white shirts and bald heads predominate. As I look at you, to my mind come the words of an almost forgotten verse:
Backward, turn backward, O time, in your flight,
Make me a [boy] again just for to-night!
(Hazel Felleman, comp., The Best Loved Poems of the American People, Garden City, New York: Garden City Pub. Co., 1936, p. 371)
Twenty years ago almost all of you had not yet commenced your journey through mortality. Your abode was a heavenly home. We know relatively little concerning the details of our existence there—only that we were among those who loved us and were concerned for our eternal well-being. Then there arrived the period where earth life became necessary to our progress. Farewells were no doubt spoken, expressions of confidence given, and graduation to mortality achieved.
What a commencement service awaited each of us! Loving parents joyously welcomed us to our earthly home. Tender care, affectionate embrace attended our every whim. Someone described our babyhood:
A sweet, new blossom of Humanity,
Fresh fallen from God’s own home to flower on earth.”
(Gerald Massey, “Wooed and Won,” in Burton Stevenson, ed., The Home Book of Quotations, New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1956, p. 121)
William Wordsworth, the revered poet, captured in verse a glimpse of this glorious plan and entitled his classic “Ode to Immortality”:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
(The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, London: MacMillan and Co., Limited, 1924, pp. 357–59)
Those first years were precious, special years. Satan had no power to tempt us. We had not yet become accountable but were innocent before God. They were learning years.
Soon we entered that period some have labeled “the terrible teens.” I prefer “the terrific teens.” What a time of opportunity, a season of growth, a semester of development, marked by the acquisition of knowledge and the quest for truth.
No one has described these years as being easy. Indeed, they have become increasingly more difficult. The world seems to have slipped from the moorings of safety and drifted from the harbor of peace.
Permissiveness, immorality, pornography, and the power of peer pressure cause many to be tossed about on a sea of sin and crushed on the jagged reefs of lost opportunities, forfeited blessings, and shattered dreams.
Anxiously you ask: Is there a way to safety? Can someone guide me? Is there an escape from threatened destruction? The answer is a resounding yes! I counsel you: Look for the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon light can rescue. It beckons through the storms of life. It calls: This way to safety. This way to home. The lighthouse of the Lord sends forth signals readily recognized and never failing. There are many such signals. I name but three. Note them carefully; exaltation may depend upon them—yours and mine:
Prayer provides peace.
Faith precedes the miracle.
Honesty is the best policy.
For a few moments let us discuss each of these special signals. First, Prayer provides peace.
Adam prayed. Joseph prayed. Jesus prayed. We know the outcome of their prayers. He who notes the fall of a sparrow surely hears the gentle pleadings of our hearts. Remember the promise: “If any of you lack wisdom … ask of God, that giveth to all … liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given” (James 1:5). What a divine pledge. Happy will be the girl who prays always, that she enters not into temptation.
Many a girl in her teens has come to a bishop, or a parent, and in tearful confusion exclaimed: “I have so many problems, such real concerns. I’m overwhelmed. What can I do?” May I offer this specific suggestion: Seek heavenly guidance one day at a time. “Life by the yard is hard; by the inch it’s a cinch!” (see Maxwell Drake, ed., The Christian Reader’s Golden Treasury, Indianapolis: Drake House, 1955, p. 312). Each of us can be true for just one day—and then the next day. The formula works. Prove it by your own experience. The help you need may not come just as you envision, but it will come. When we remember that each of us is literally a child of God, we will not find it difficult to approach him.
Consider Sister Hansen, the faithful teacher of a Laurel class of lovely young girls in a small mission branch in Canada. How she prayed for inspiration that she might teach well the precious girls in her class. Particularly did she pray for Julie, one who had been subjected to great stress and temptation to leave the pathway of truth and follow the detour of sin. Through the constant persuasions of her classmates at school, Julie had agreed to follow such a detour. The plan was designed: she would attend opening exercises of Mutual, even the first portion of the class, that she might appear on the roll as being present; and then there would be the sound of an automobile horn to announce to her that her girl friend and their dates, who were older and far more experienced than Julie, were at hand and the night of the carefully arranged escapade of sin would begin. Then she would be one of the inner circle.
Before calling the roll that night, this humble, loving teacher announced to the class that a shipment from Church headquarters had arrived at her home that very day. She had opened the packages and found copies of a pamphlet by Elder Mark E. Petersen. Its subject, chastity. Sister Hansen said: “I feel impressed to leave for another week our lesson scheduled for tonight and want rather to review with you the inspiration of this pamphlet. We will each read a paragraph or two aloud, that all might participate.” Sister Hansen looked at each of her precious girls and then said, “Julie, will you begin?” Julie looked at the clock—just two minutes before the scheduled rendezvous. She began to read; her heart was touched, her conscience awakened, her determination renewed. She scarcely heard the repeated sound of the automobile horn. She remained throughout the class. The temptation to detour from God’s approved way had been averted. Satan had been frustrated. A soul had been saved. A prayer had been answered.
I know not by what method rare,
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that He has given His Word,
Which tells me prayer is always heard,
And will be answered, soon or late.
And so I pray and calmly wait.
I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought;
But leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own,
Assured that He will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blessed.
(Eliza M. Hickok in The Best Loved Religious Poems, comp., James Gilchrist Lawson, New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., p. 160)
Next, Faith precedes the miracle. It has ever been so and shall ever be. It was not raining when Noah was commanded to build an ark. Two Heavenly Personages were not yet seen when Joseph knelt and prayed. There was no visible ram in the thicket when Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. First came the test of faith, and then the miracle.
Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. Cast out doubt. Cultivate faith. Strive always to retain that childlike faith which can move mountains and bring heaven closer to heart and home.
This very Tabernacle was the scene for such a faith-inspired miracle. It occurred several years ago at general conference time. During the session when I was assigned to speak, my attention was drawn constantly to a little blond-haired girl seated on the first row in the balcony. The more I looked at her, the less I felt inclined to present the formal message I had prepared. I yielded to the inspiration 1 felt and spoke rather about the faith of a girl in far away Louisiana, Christian Methvin. I directed my remarks to my young friend in the balcony.
Upon returning to my office, I found waiting for me this same young lady and also her grandmother. The young girl’s name, Misti White. Her home, California. Here is her story. She began: “I have had a problem, Brother Monson, but not any longer. A person very dear to me told me to wait until I was 18 to be baptized. My grandmother said I should be baptized now. I prayed for an answer and said to grandmother, ‘Take me with you to conference. There Jesus will help me.’”
To conference they came, and so did divine help. Eagerly Misti took my hand and exclaimed, “You helped Him answer my prayer. Thank you.”
Upon returning to California, Misti sent me a treasured letter, with this beautiful ending: “Brother Monson, I was baptized on November 29th. I am now very happy. Love, Misti.” Faith does precede the miracle.
Long years ago the psalmist wrote: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man:
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (Ps. 118:8–9.)
Finally, may we remember, Honesty is the best policy.
Be honest with your mother and your father. They would not knowingly misdirect you. They will not lead you in the way of sin. Rather, they will direct you to the light of truth. One reflection of such honesty with parents is to communicate with them. Avoid the silent treatment. The clock ticks more loudly, its hands move more slowly when the night is dark, the hour is late, and a precious daughter has not yet come home. Then the telephone call: “Mom, we’re okay. Just stopped for something to eat. Don’t worry; we’re fine. Be home soon.”
Be honest with yourself. Don’t be cheated; seek the best in life. “Too low they build, who build beneath the stars” (Edward Young, “Night Thoughts” in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1968, p. 399).
Maintain an eternal perspective. Let there be a temple marriage in your future. There is no scene so sweet, no time so sacred as that very special day of your marriage. Then and there you glimpse celestial joy. Be alert; do not permit temptation to rob you of this blessing.
In the delightful musical Camelot, as the plot thickened and Queen Guinevere became infatuated with Lancelot, her husband, King Arthur, pleaded with her—and in reality with each of us—“We must not let our passions destroy our dreams.”
Precious young women, make every decision you contemplate pass this test: What does it do to me? What does it do for me? And let your code of conduct emphasize not, “What will others think?” but rather, “What will I think of myself?” Be influenced by that still, small voice. Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head at the time of your confirmation and said, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. As the prophet Isaiah promised, “Thine ears shall hear a word … saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” ()Isa. 30:21).
The tenor of our time is permissiveness. A most popular feature of one of the leading newspaper Sunday supplements portrays the idols of the movie screen, the heroes of the athletic field—those whom many young people long to emulate—as flouting the laws of God and rationalizing away sinful practices, seemingly with no ill effect. Don’t you believe it! There is a time of reckoning, even a balancing of the ledger. Every Cinderella has her midnight. It’s called judgment day, even the big exam of life. Are we prepared? Are we pleased with our own performances?
I like the words of Louisa May Alcott, author of that all-time classic Little Women, who wrote:
I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win;
Nor try to conquer any world
Except the one within.
(“My Kingdom” in Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed. James Dalton Morrison, New York: Harper and Brothers Pub., 1948, p. 274)
Help is available to you. “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 109:7).
President Harold B. Lee presented to his daughters in their teenage years their personal copies of the triple combination. On the flyleaf of one he wrote:
To My Beloved Daughter,
That you may have a constant measure by which to judge between truth and the errors of man’s philosophies, and thus grow in spirituality as you increase in knowledge, I give you this sacred book to read frequently and cherish throughout your life.
Lovingly your father,
Harold B. Lee
(Thomas S. Monson in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 98)
Other help can come through your patriarchal blessing. Such a blessing contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities. Read your blessing frequently. Study it carefully. Be guided by its cautions. Live to merit its promises.
If any has stumbled in her journey, there is a way back. The process is called repentance. Our Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift. Though the path is difficult, the promise is real: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18). “And I [will] remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
Honesty is the best policy.
Tonight, as you leave this tabernacle and the many chapels where you are assembled, remember that our Heavenly Father loves you, we love you and are proud of you—the finest generation of young women ever to grace this earth.
Thomas Wolfe, in a brilliantly written treatise, pointed out the impossibility of reliving past experiences. He indicated, “You can’t go home again.” Thomas Wolfe did not understand the gospel of Christ. We know and we testify that we can indeed “go home again”—even to that heavenly home, the celestial kingdom of our God. The lighthouse of the Lord beckons us to safety and eternal joy as we are guided by its never-failing signals:
Prayer provides peace.
Faith precedes the miracle.
Honesty is the best policy.
Then the storms of our lives will be calmed, the turbulence of our times will be stilled, and our souls will be saved.
Of these truths I testify and leave you my personal witness that God our Father does live, that Jesus, his Son, is our personal Savior, that we today are guided by a prophet of God, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.