You, the youth of the Church, are a glorious group, a chosen generation. You bring to mind the words penned by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams
With its illusions, aspirations, dreams!
Book of Beginnings, Story without End,
Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend!
Just 20 years ago, many 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 and affectionate embraces awaited our every whim. Someone described a newborn child as “a sweet, new blossom of Humanity, fresh fallen from God’s own home to flower on earth” (Gerald Massey, in The Home Book of Quotations, sel. Burton Stevenson, 1934, 121).
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 we ask, “Is there a way to safety? Can someone guide us? Is there an escape from threatened destruction?”
The answer is a resounding yes! I counsel you: Look to 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 calls, “This way to safety; this way to home.”
The lighthouse of the Lord sends forth signals readily recognized and never failing. May I suggest three such signals which—if heeded—will help guide us through the storms of life:
Choose your friends with caution.
Plan your future with purpose.
Frame your life with faith.
In a survey which was made in selected wards and stakes of the Church some years ago, we learned a most significant fact. Those persons whose friends married in the temple usually married in the temple, while those persons whose friends did not marry in the temple usually did not marry in the temple. The influence of one’s friends appeared to be equal to parental urging and more influential than classroom instruction or proximity to a temple.
We tend to become like those whom we admire. Just as in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic account “The Great Stone Face,” we adopt the mannerisms, the attitudes, even the conduct of those whom we admire—and they are usually our friends. Associate with those who, like you, are planning not for temporary convenience, shallow goals, or narrow ambition, but rather for those things that matter most—even eternal objectives.
Not only will your circle of friends greatly influence your thinking and behavior, but you will also influence theirs. Many nonmembers have come into the Church through friends who have involved them in Church activities. I share with you a treasured family experience which had its beginning back in 1959, when I was called to preside over the Canadian Mission, headquartered in Toronto.
Our daughter, Ann, turned five shortly after we arrived in Canada. She saw the missionaries going about their work, and she, too, wanted to be a missionary. My wife demonstrated understanding by permitting Ann to take to class a few copies of the Children’s Friend. That wasn’t sufficient for Ann. She also wanted to take with her a copy of the Book of Mormon so that she might talk to her teacher, Miss Pepper, about the Church. I think it rather thrilling that just a few years ago, long years after our return from Toronto, we came home from a vacation and found in our mailbox a note from Miss Pepper which read:
“Think back many years ago. I was your schoolteacher in Toronto, Canada. I was impressed by the copies of the Children’s Friend which you brought to school. I was impressed by your dedication to a book called the Book of Mormon.
“I made a commitment that one day I would come to Salt Lake City and see why you talked as you did and why you believed in the manner you believed. Today I had the privilege of going through your visitors’ center on Temple Square. Thanks to a five-year-old girl who had an understanding of that which she believed, I now have a better understanding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Miss Pepper died not too long after that visit. How happy our daughter, Ann, was when she attended the Jordan River Utah Temple and performed the temple work for her beloved teacher whom she had friendshipped long ago.
In Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice finds herself coming to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. She is confronted by the Cheshire Cat, of whom Alice asks, “Which path shall I take?”
The cat answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t really matter which path you take” (1992, 89).
Unlike Alice, each of us knows where he or she wants to go. It does matter which way we go, for the path we follow in this life surely leads to the path we shall follow in the next.
I plead with you, my young brothers and sisters, to remember who you are. You are sons and daughters of Almighty God. You have a destiny to fulfill, a life to live, a contribution to make, a goal to achieve. The future of the kingdom of God upon the earth will, in part, be aided by your devotion.
Let us remember that the wisdom of God may appear as foolishness to men, but the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and we obey, we will always be right. Some foolish persons turn their backs on the wisdom of God and follow the allurement of fickle fashion, the attraction of false popularity, and the thrill of the moment. Their course of conduct so resembles the disastrous experience of Esau, who exchanged his birthright for a mess of pottage (see Gen. 25:29–34).
And what are the results of such action? I testify to you that turning away from God brings broken covenants, shattered dreams, vanished ambitions, evaporated plans, unfulfilled expectations, crushed hopes, misused drives, warped character, and wrecked lives.
Such a quagmire of quicksand I plead with you to avoid. You are of a noble birthright. Exaltation in the celestial kingdom is your goal.
Such a goal is not achieved in one glorious attempt but rather is the result of a lifetime of righteousness, an accumulation of wise choices, even a constancy of purpose. Like the coveted A grade on the report card, the reward of eternal life requires effort. The A grade is the result of each theme, each quiz, each class, each examination, each library project, each term paper. So each lesson in church, each prayer, each date, each friend, each dance all precede the goal of temple marriage—that giant step toward an A grade on the report card of life.
Our goal is to achieve, to excel, to strive for perfection. Remember, however, that our business in life is not to get ahead of others but to get ahead of ourselves. To break our own record, to outstrip our yesterdays by today, to bear our trials more beautifully than we ever dreamed we could, to give as we never have given, to do our work with more force and a finer finish than ever—this is the true objective. And to accomplish this task, our attitude is reflected in a determination to make the most of our opportunities. We turn from the tempting allurement and eventual snare so cunningly and carefully offered us by “old man procrastination.” Two centuries ago, Edward Young said that “procrastination is the thief of time” (in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 14th ed., 1968, 399). Actually, procrastination is much more. It is the thief of our self-respect. It nags at us and spoils our fun. It deprives us of the fullest realization of our ambitions and hopes. Knowing this, we jar ourselves back to reality with the sure knowledge that “this is my day of opportunity. I will not waste it.”
Perhaps the Apostle Paul had our day and age in mind when he taught the Corinthian Saints that life is very much like a race. He said: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Cor. 9:24).
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes also wrote of this subject: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” but to those who endure to the end (see Eccl. 9:11).
The race of life is not optional. We are on the track and running, whether we like it or not. Some see dimly the goal ahead and take costly detours which lead to disappointment and frustration. Others view clearly the prize for running well and remain steadfast in pursuit. This prize, this lofty and desirable goal, is none other than eternal life in the presence of God.
Unlocked for you will be the treasure chest of knowledge and inspiration as you plan with purpose your future.
Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives.
By seeking Heavenly Father in personal and family prayer, we and our loved ones will develop the fulfillment of what the great English statesman William E. Gladstone described as the world’s greatest need: “A living faith in a personal God.” Such faith will illuminate our way as the lighthouse of the Lord.
When you have an abiding faith in the living God, when your outward actions reflect your inner convictions, you have the composite strength of exposed and hidden virtues. They combine to give safe passage through whatever rough seas might arise.
Wherever we may be, our Heavenly Father can hear and answer the prayer offered in faith.
Many years ago, on my first visit to the fabled village of Sauniatu in Samoa, so loved by President David O. McKay, my wife and I met with a large gathering of small children—nearly 200 in number. At the conclusion of our messages to these shy yet beautiful youngsters, I suggested to the native Samoan teacher that we go forward with the closing exercises. As he announced the final hymn, I suddenly felt compelled to greet personally each of these children. My watch revealed that the time was too short for such a privilege, for we were scheduled on a flight out of the country, so I discounted the impression. Before the benediction was to be spoken, I again felt that I should shake the hand of each child. I made the desire known to the instructor, who displayed a broad and beautiful Samoan smile. In Samoan, he announced this to the children. They beamed their approval.
The instructor then revealed to me the reason for his and their joy. He said, “When we learned that a member of the Council of the Twelve was to visit us here in Samoa, so far away from Church headquarters, I told the children if they would earnestly and sincerely pray and exert faith like the Bible accounts of old, that the Apostle would visit our tiny village at Sauniatu and through their faith he would be impressed to greet each child with a personal handclasp.” Tears could not be restrained as the precious boys and girls walked shyly by and whispered softly to us the sweet Samoan greeting “talofa lava.” A profound expression of faith had been evidenced.
Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.
Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: “I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts, to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.”
May you ever frame your life with faith.
When you, my dear young friends, choose your friends with caution, plan your future with purpose, and frame your life with faith, you will merit the companionship of the Holy Spirit. You will have “a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Ne. 31:20). You will testify through your own experience to the truth of the Lord’s promise: “I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory” (D&C 76:5–6).
The lighthouse of the Lord provides the unfailing way. May we follow the guiding signals it sends to you and to me, that we may find our way safely home.