Life in the 1990s has a number of challenges. You may be feeling you have more than your share of problems. These concerns may be global difficulties, such as the famine in Somalia, or the incessant sound of war in Yugoslavia, or so many other locations. Unfortunately some of these wars have religious or ethnic overtones and that makes them even more tragic, if that is possible.
These last few years we have seen economic difficulties and recession in every nation. Sometimes those economic challenges get translated into very immediate problems for students and those trying to earn a living.
Years ago there was a popular music group formed at BYU that went on to considerable local stardom, a group named the Three D’s. They took the name from their three singers, Duane Hyatt, Richard (Dick) Davis, and Denis Sorenson. My fear is that if in the ’90s you were to form a popular singing group, you might still call yourselves the Three D’s, but that could be for Despair, Doom, and Discouragement.
I want to tell you that despair, doom, and discouragement are not an acceptable view of life for a Latter-day Saint, however high they are on the charts of contemporary news. We must not walk on our lower lip every time a few difficult moments confront us.
I have seen a bit more of life than you. I want you to know that there have always been difficulties in mortal life and there will always be. But knowing what we know, and living as we are supposed to live, there really is no place, no excuse, for pessimism and despair.
In my lifetime I have seen two world wars, plus Korea, plus Vietnam and all that you are currently witnessing. I have worked my way through the Depression and managed to go to school while starting a young family. I have seen stock markets and world economies go crazy, and seen a few despots and tyrants go crazy, all of which causes quite a bit of trouble around the world.
I hope you won’t believe all the world’s difficulties have been wedged into your decade. I reassure you that things have been worse and they will always get better—especially when we live the gospel of Jesus Christ and give it a chance to flourish in our lives.
Here are some actual comments passed on to me in recent months:
From a returned missionary: “Why should I date and get serious with a girl? I am not sure I even want to marry and bring a family into this kind of world. I am not sure about my own future. How can I take the responsibility for the future of others whom I would love and care about and want to be happy?”
From a high school student: “I hope I die before all these terrible things happen that people are talking about. I don’t want to be on the earth when there is so much trouble.”
From a recent college graduate: “I am doing the best I can, but I wonder if there is much reason to even plan for the future, let alone retirement. The world probably won’t last that long anyway.”
Well, my, my, my. Isn’t that a fine view of things? Sounds like we all ought to go eat a big plate of worms.
I want to say to all that you have every reason to be happy, optimistic, and confident. Every generation since time began has had things to overcome and problems to work out. Furthermore, every individual person has a set of challenges which sometimes seem to be earmarked for him individually. We understood that in our premortal existence.
When these experiences humble, refine, and teach us, they make us better people, more grateful, loving, and considerate of other people in their own times of difficulty.
Even in the most severe of times, problems and prophecies were never intended to do anything but bless the righteous and help those who are less righteous move toward repentance. God loves us, and the scriptures tell us he “gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16–17).
The scriptures also indicate that there will be times when the whole world will have some difficulty. We know that in our dispensation unrighteousness will, unfortunately, be quite evident and it will bring its inevitable difficulties and pain and punishment. At some point, in his own due time, God will cut short that unrighteousness. Our task is to live fully and faithfully and not worry ourselves sick about the woes of the world or when it will end. Our task is to have the gospel in our lives and to be a bright light, a city set on the hill, which reflects the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the joy and happiness that will always come to every people in every age who keep the commandments.
In this last dispensation there will be great tribulation (see Matt. 24:21). We know this from the scriptures. Inevitably the natural result of some of these kinds of prophecies is fear, and that is not fear limited to a younger generation. It is fear shared by those of any age who don’t understand what we understand.
But I want to stress that these feelings are not necessary for faithful Latter-day Saints, and they do not come from God. Fear is a principal weapon which Satan uses to make mankind unhappy. He who fears loses strength for the combat of life, in the fight against evil. Therefore the evil one always tries to generate fear in human hearts. In every age and in every era fear has faced mankind.
As children of God we must seek to dispel fear from among people. A timid, fearing people cannot do their work well, and they cannot do God’s work at all. Latter-day Saints have a divinely assigned mission to fulfill which simply must not be dissipated in fear and anxiety.
To you, our marvelous generation in modern Israel, the Lord has said: “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. … Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:34, 36).
In light of such wonderful counsel, I think we should rejoice a little more and despair a little less, give thanks for what we have and for the magnitude of God’s blessings to us, and talk a little less about what we may not have or what anxiety may accompany difficult times in this or any generation.
For Latter-day Saints this is a time of great hope and excitement—one of the greatest eras in the Restoration and therefore one of the greatest eras in any dispensation.
I promise you in the name of the Lord, whose servant I am, that God will always protect and care for his people. We will have our difficulties the way every generation and people have had difficulties. Your life in the 1990s is no different than any young person’s life has been in any age of time. But with the gospel of Jesus Christ you have every hope, promise, and reassurance. The Lord has power over his Saints and will always prepare places of peace, defense and safety for his people. The prophet Ether taught anciently (and he knew something about troubles): “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4).
The Prophet Joseph Smith faced immense difficulties in his life and paid the ultimate price for his victory. But he was victorious, and he was a happy, robust, optimistic man. Those who knew him felt his strength and courage, even in the darkest of time. He did not sag in spirits or long remain in any despondency.
He said about our time—yours and mine—that ours is the moment “upon which prophets, priests and kings [in ages past] have dwelt with peculiar delight; [all these ancient witnesses for God] have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day. … we are the favored people that God has [chosen] to bring about the Latter-day glory” (History of the Church, 4:609–10).
The ancient prophets saw us as “favored people” upon whom God would shower his full and complete latter-day glory, and I testify that is our destiny. What a privilege! What an honor! What a responsibility! And what joy! We have every reason to give thanks for the quality of our lives and the promises we have been given.