Carry the Torch


Adapted from an October 1999 general conference address.
As the world moves deeper into spiritual darkness, be grateful for the light we have, and be ready to carry it forward.
Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone

When I was a boy, my mother had to go to work at Garfield Smelter to help support her seven children. She worked the graveyard shift as much as she could, I’m sure, to be with us during the day. I don’t know when the poor woman slept. One Saturday morning, she got off work about 7:00 or 8:00 A.M. She went to bed for a couple of hours and then got up. She had invited all her relatives to dinner. There must have been 35 or 40. She decorated the tables and arranged the chairs and put all the dishes and silverware out. She cooked and baked all day long. The dirty pots and pans and dishes stacked up.

Everyone came to dinner, and after dinner all the dirty dishes were brought into the kitchen. The food was cleared and stacked on the table and cupboards; then the kitchen door was closed, and the family began to visit. It was about 8:00 P.M.

I remember standing all alone in the kitchen. In my young mind, I thought, Mother worked all night; she has worked all day to get this dinner. When everyone leaves, she will have to do the dishes and put the food away. It will take two or three hours, and that’s not fair. Then I thought, I will do them.

I washed the dishes. We didn’t have an electric dishwasher; ours was a manual dishwasher, and that night I was manual. I used a half-dozen dish towels. I was drenched from head to foot. I put the food away, cleaned off the table and drainboards; then I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the floor. It took about three hours.

Then I heard the chairs shuffling, and everyone left. The front door closed, and I heard my mother coming to the kitchen. I was pleased and thought she would be. The door swung open, and even at the age of 11, I recognized that she was startled. She looked around the kitchen, looked at me, and then there was a look I didn’t recognize at the time. I do now. It was something like “Thanks. I am tired. I think you understand, and I love you.” And she came over and hugged me. There was a light in her eye and a warmth in my heart. I learned it is a wonderful feeling to turn on the lights in our parents’ eyes.

Prayer of thanksgiving

Another time—it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, about 1943—I went to priesthood meeting where a member of the bishopric said: “This Thursday is Thanksgiving. We ought to all have family prayer in our homes.” Then he said, “Let’s put on the blackboard the things we are grateful for.” We did, and he said, “Include these things in your Thanksgiving prayer.” I got sick to my stomach, as we never had a prayer or blessing.

That night at 6:30 we went to sacrament meeting. At the end of the meeting, the bishop stood up and was very tender. He told about the young men from our ward who had been killed and wounded in World War II. He talked about our liberty, our freedom, our flag, and this great country, and our blessings. Then he said, “I’d hope every single family would kneel and have family prayer on Thanksgiving Day and thank God for His blessings.”

My heart ached. I thought, How can we have family prayer? I wanted to be obedient. I wanted to have a prayer for Thanksgiving. I even thought I would say it if someone asked me, but I was too shy to volunteer. I worried all day Monday, and all day Tuesday, and Wednesday at school.

Thursday we all got up. There were five boys and two sisters. We skipped breakfast so we would have a real appetite for Thanksgiving dinner. I kept thinking, Please, Heavenly Father, let us have a prayer.

Finally at 2:30, my mother called us to come and eat. We cleaned up and sat at the table. Somehow Mom had managed to have a turkey with all the trimmings. She put all the food on the table, including the turkey. I thought my heart would burst. Time was running out. I looked at my father, then my mother. I thought, Please, now, someone, anyone, please can’t we have a prayer? I was almost panicky; then all of a sudden everyone started to eat. I had worked hard all morning and afternoon to work up an appetite, but I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t want to eat. I wanted to pray more than anything else in this world, and it was too late.

Beloved youth, be grateful for parents who have prayer and read the scriptures. Prize family home evening. Be grateful for those who teach and train you.

Lighting the way

Doesn’t it make you deeply grateful to belong to a church with apostles and prophets at the head—knowing that one link will always hold, one light will never go out? As the world moves deeper and deeper into sin, this wonderful Church stands like a giant granite boulder.

Aren’t you proud that the Church teaches us the truth? We don’t have to wonder about earrings for boys and men, tattoos, spiked hair, the four-letter words, and obscene gestures. We have prophets who model the standards. They teach that the Ten Commandments are not outdated. The word of the Lord has thundered down through the generations: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7). Profaning God’s name is a great offense to the Spirit, and to do so is Satan’s great ploy to mock our God.

Jehovah also declared, “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). Stealing is an affront to God. This commandment is only one of ten. Cheating, lying, bearing false witness are all types of stealing.

Aren’t you thankful to God that the apostles and prophets never waver on sin? No matter how strong the winds of public opinion may blow, the Church is immovable. “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

Those who espouse perverse principles and deviant behavior are living in sin. Consenting adults that teach contrary to the gospel are wrong even if the majority accepts them. Sin is sin, and that is God’s truth.

Pornography is evil. It has companions it travels with: drinking, smoking, and drugs. It uses some types of music, dancing, the Internet, and television. Those who produce it are godless and have no conscience. They know the consequences, but they don’t care. Like those who peddle drugs, they will never be around to pick up the pieces when you’re all broken up. But we will—your parents, bishops, and leaders.

Do not feel oppressed by obedience. Obedience is a wonderful and great privilege. Abraham 4:18 [Abr. 4:18] states, “And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.” What if the elements had not obeyed? They would have been damned or held back. So it is with us. Obedience to God is truly the only way to really be free and exercise our agency. Satan teaches the opposite and, with each wrong choice we make, he binds us with chains. I promise you, obedience is a wonderful privilege.

Young men and young women, raise the standard; carry the torch for your generation. We have absolute confidence you will.

I thank God for the one link that still holds, the one light that will not go out. Remember how blessed you are to have prayer in your homes. And always try to put lights in your mothers’ eyes. That’s the least we can all do for them.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh