Ours is a world characterized by change and transition—a time of waning faith and increasing uncertainty. Many young Canadians are optimistic about the future. It is marvelous to be alive in this day and time, particularly as a Latter-day Saint!
This is the greatest age in the history of mankind. More scientific discoveries and advancements have been made in my lifetime than during all the remainder of the history of the world put together! The opportunities to learn, to serve, and to contribute to our community and nation are greater than ever before.
But with these opportunities comes the need to make wise choices. That, indeed, is the substance of our lives: making choices. If we make them wisely, we will be blessed; but if we choose unwisely, listening to the seductive whisperings of the adversary and his legion of dupes and devils, we throw away our futures.
I hope that one of the wise choices young Canadians, and young Latter-day Saints everywhere, will make will be to get as much education as possible. Take every advantage of opportunities to learn. Make learning a lifelong habit. Prepare yourselves both temporally and spiritually for tomorrow. You cannot contribute effectively if you lack the skills and knowledge to do so. Preparation, however, cannot occur in the absence of work. What the world mistakes for genius is, as Thomas A. Edison pointed out, 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration.
It matters little what course of studies you follow so long as it provides a means of honest service. Certainly that is true in an eternal perspective. The world needs all kinds of people trained in all sorts of fields. Oh, of course there are more jobs for computer programmers than for experts in the history of Assyrian kings, but most of you will find it necessary to change your employment and your field of specialization several times during your life, so it’s highly unlikely that your first job will be the same you finish up your career in. Cultivate a flexibility of attitude, a willingness to change, a constant yearning for learning.
If I may be permitted a personal comment, the chance to learn is to me one of the great privileges of life, and one of the great attractions and fascinations of the restored gospel. Indeed, two doctrines of the Church attracted me more than 40 years ago as a young university student in Edmonton: eternal marriage and eternal progression. I remain grateful for them and perhaps more knowledgeable about their importance now than when I was a young and very inexperienced investigator.
As you learn, seek to get your educational priorities straight. Put the highest priority on learning that you are a child of God and that He expects great things of you. Choose the right, as President Gordon B. Hinckley often reminds us. As you do so, you will come to understand that God’s hand is in this wondrous latter-day work. Ponder these words of President Joseph F. Smith: “The hand of the Lord may not be visible to all. There may be many who cannot discern the workings of God in the progress and development of this great latter-day work, but there are those who see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of the Church, from its beginnings until now, the overruling almighty hand of Him who sent His only begotten Son to the world to become a sacrifice for the sin of the world” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1904, p. 21; italics added).
As you gain in wisdom and understanding of who you are and what God expects of you, remember that virtue and its companion courage are found in the everyday decisions and actions of ordinary life. The employee who gives a full and honest day’s work; the employer who rewards loyalty and service; the craftsman who takes pride in the work of his hands; the father who cherishes his relationship with his children above entrance to the executive suite; the mother who sees herself as a partner with God who is privileged to participate in the most difficult and noblest of all human tasks; the spouses who are loyal and true to each other through the joys and sorrows of life; the professional who places integrity, honor, and service above the making of money; the corporate executive who sees himself as a steward—these are the real heroes of life.
Other heroes bring the gospel message to people around the world. Canada has been blessed with such heroes throughout its history. Missionary work in what was then called British North America began soon after the Church was organized in 1830. During the next 15 years, missionaries labored successfully in Upper Canada and the Maritime Provinces. The Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley and Orson Pratt, and others visited and preached in Upper Canada during those early years. The harvest was rich: in a single missionary journey to Upper Canada in 1836, Parley P. Pratt baptized John Taylor, an English immigrant to Canada who became the third president of the Church; Joseph Fielding; and his sister Mary, who became the wife to the prophet’s brother Hyrum. Mary was also the mother of Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of the Church, and grandmother of Joseph Fielding Smith, the eleventh president of the Church.
Nearly all of the faithful early Canadian converts migrated to join the Saints in Kirtland or Nauvoo and later made the long journey to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Indeed, the 1861 census showed only 74 Latter-day Saints in all of Upper Canada.
The second great wave of the restored gospel into Canada occurred half a century later and 2,500 miles farther west. President John Taylor sent Charles Ora Card to what is now southern Alberta to establish a colony of Latter-day Saints there. In 1887, Card and his group settled on Lee’s Creek, forming what is now the city of Cardston. Other towns soon sprang up—including Raymond in 1890, and Sterling and McGrath in 1898. The Alberta Stake, organized in 1895 with Charles O. Card as its president, was the first stake outside of the United States; and the Alberta Temple, located in Cardston and dedicated in 1923, was the first temple in this dispensation built outside of the United States, after the arrival of the pioneers in southern Alberta. Now, a century later, Church units are found in every part of Canada, from Victoria on the west to Saint John’s on the east.
The tasks of heroes—whether they be the great missionaries and settlers of Canada’s past or the strong youth of today—are best accomplished if we walk with God, gaining strength from Him. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philip. 4:13). I testify to you that “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).
My dear young friends in Canada and throughout the Church, the choice is clear: If you, too, want to soar as on eagles’ wings to the outermost limits of your eternal potential, you must pay the price. The price is an amalgam of discipline and desire, lightened by hope and love, bound together by the steel hoops of work, tempered in adversity, undergirded by faith in Jesus Christ, and overlaid with courage. This is your challenge, and I send you forth to accept it.