When John the Baptist was eight days old, he “was ordained by the angel of God … to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord” (D&C 84:28).
Zacharias, who was the father of John the Baptist, did not ordain his son, because John received certain keys of authority which his father Zacharias did not possess; therefore, this special authority had to be conferred by a Heavenly Messenger who was duly authorized to confer it.
The Savior said of John: “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. … For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:26, 28). His ministry was a monumental one.
In response to a prayer on the banks of the Susquehanna River on May 15, 1829, this great forerunner prophet, of whom Jesus paid such high tribute, appeared in a glorious manner. He laid his hands upon Joseph and Oliver and declared:
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (D&C 13).
Then at the direction of the heavenly messenger these two young men baptized each other in the nearby Susquehanna River.
Gospel means message from the Lord, or God’s message, or good news from God. The gospel of repentance means, then, good news or God’s message regarding repentance. Imagine the beauty of this concept: those who believe in Christ and do his will can be baptized and washed free of every sin. Consider the sadness and darkness of this world if repentance were not possible. To be able to repent is glorious news to a sad and sin-filled world.
Worthy young men at the age of 12 receive the holy priesthood. It is vital that young men remain pure, clean, and steadfast as they use their priesthood to bless others, including young women, who play a vital part in helping young men reach these goals.
It is equally critical that young women remain sweet and clean and pure in their sacred roles and as they should prepare for motherhood. Young women have a softening, refining, ennobling influence on young men of the priesthood.
It is under divine direction that the young men and young women are brought together in class, service, and activity settings. Alone and singly, we can never reach our ultimate destiny to become like our Heavenly Father. It requires, in due time, the finding of a mate and companion—sealed in the holy temple of God.
To the young men of the Church I would like to issue a “call to arms.”
Moroni, the chief commander of the Nephite armies (see Alma 46:11), “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.
“And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land. …
“And … Moroni … went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:
“Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them” (Alma 46:12–13, 19–20).
In this day, we again issue the call to you, our beloved young men of the Aaronic Priesthood. You are the band of Christians. This is a rallying call. Come forth; the battle is at hand. Never has enlistment in the Lord’s cause been so important.
The standard for you has been erected. The trump has sounded clear and terrible. The battle lines have been drawn. The evening is at hand. Lucifer’s army is marshalled in ranks of evil and satanic forces. The darkness obscures the sun and is descending over the land. Evil abounds on every side. Their battle cry is fearful, and they give no quarter. Their cause is destruction, sin, death, and hell. They have only one cause, and all the powers of evil on earth and in hell are combining against “the band of Christians.” Lucifer’s army serves the devil and lists to do his will. Their soldiers are myriad, and they form in terrible ranks of darkness and evil.
But the Lord has sent forth the greatest and mightiest leaders of all time, and he counsels us, “But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations” (D&C 105:31). This is a time of choice—“Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve” (Alma 30:8). Christ is at our head. Our commander-in-chief is the President of this church. The Lord has called his generals and captains from among the good and holy men of the kingdom, men of sound understanding and of truth and soberness, men of integrity and loyalty, men who will fight for the cause of the Master. These men are filled with justice and mercy. They are filled with light, and they trust in the Lord their God and know he will deliver us.
We call you, our young people, to join the ranks. As young David challenged, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Sam. 17:27). Oh, my beloved youth, there is a cause and it is glorious beyond description. We are waging war for the souls of the children of men. Our message is peace, charity, purity, and obedience. Our generation is expected to go forth as the “children of light” in meekness and humility with the power of God. At our leaders’ direction, we must penetrate every nation, visit every clime, and sound in every ear, remembering that no unhallowed hand can stop the Lord’s work from progressing.
It is time for Zion to put on her beautiful garments as a contrast to the evil army which is clothed in dark, evil, and loathsome attire. We will become fair as the sun and clear as the moon. Purge and purify your lives. Live every commandment. Cease to be idle. Learn to work. Live the Word of Wisdom. Ensnare yourselves not in the lusts of the flesh. Discipline your lives. Avoid compromises in music, dance, and dress. Seek to become pure in heart and to be obedient in all things. Remove every particle of rebellion (which comes from Satan) from your souls. Honor your fathers and mothers.
Learn of the Lord and his strategy for his army. Study the scriptures daily. Read the Book of Mormon with a prayerful heart. Pray in secret and with your families. Learn to have absolute and complete trust in the Lord.
When we do this, Satan cannot prevail. Let us swell the ranks of God. Let us go out after those who have not enlisted who may be deceived, who are in no-man’s-land spiritually—those who may have wounded spirits and who are being enticed by the evil one. Let us here resolve that every particle of energy and every possible method shall be devised to swell our ranks with hosts of soldiers who are the now unknown inactive and who need a cause greater than the present compromising position in which they find themselves.
Let us go in search of them. Let us start with the Primary and challenge every Primary president to activate boys and girls this year. Let us challenge every deacons, teachers, and priests quorum to activate at least one quorum member this year. Let us ordain additional priests to the office of elder, and let the sisters likewise reach out to the ranks of the Young Women.
Brethren, this strategy will swell the ranks of the Aaronic Priesthood with over one quarter of a million modern soldiers of God, and within three years we will have 50,000 missionaries. “Is there not a cause?”
A Roman general, Lucius Aemilius Paulus, surnamed Macedonicus, said:
“Commanders should be counselled chiefly by persons of known talent, by those who have made the art of war their particular study, and whose knowledge is derived from experience, by those who are present at the scene of the action, who see the enemy, who see the advantages that occasions offer, and who, like people embarked in the same ship, are sharers of the danger.
“If, therefore, anyone thinks himself qualified to give advice respecting the war which I am about to conduct, let him not refuse his assistance to the state, but let him come with me into Macedonia.
“He shall be furnished with a ship, a tent, even his travelling charges will be defrayed, but if he thinks this too much trouble, and prefers the repose of a city life to the toils of war, let him not on land assume the office of a pilot. The city in itself furnishes abundance of topics for conversation; let it confine its passion for talking to its own precincts and rest assured that we shall pay no attention to any counsel but such as shall be framed within our camp.”
I have seen the enemy. He is real, and I have been at the scene of action. We need young men who can stand the heat. The refiner’s fire is celestial heat. It will require self-mastery, discipline, and control of our appetites. It will require sacrifice. When an athlete makes a decision to play high school ball or compete in any way in athletics, he commits to certain rules and disciplines. When you join the Lord’s army, there are disciplines and sacrifices. Always remember that the rewards and blessings come to those who participate.
Come, my beloved young brothers and sisters, let us rise and shine forth as fair as the sun and clear as the moon. Let the Lord’s army become very great; then let us move forward with a power never known in the history of the world. We will carry the title of liberty and the gospel of Jesus Christ with great honor. The band of Christians will swell and become the mighty army of God, and this day the Lord will deliver the enemy into our hands. We will win, and the victory will be sweet. We will hold to the iron rod, and we will partake of the fruit of the tree of life.
Listen. Can you hear it off in the distance? The trumpet is sounding. Can you hear the clarion call? Can you hear the pounding steps of the marching armies of God? They are coming. Rise up, give a battle shout, and join their ranks.
We declare with Joseph Smith: “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).