25948_000_014From a youth devotional given on May 12, 2004, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
When my counselors and I met with the First Presidency, President Hinckley said, “We know our youth are faced with horrible, terrible temptations that would lead them astray. We must do everything we can to not only help them be prepared to overcome those temptations, but to help them understand that exercising right choices brings joy and freedom now and in the future.”
Making choices is not always easy, especially with ever-increasing temptations. But, more than ever before, many positive options are now available to us—if we are willing to choose them.
For Your Strength
As we face temptations and challenges, we are not left alone. Our Heavenly Father has given us many things to help us to overcome those temptations that would draw us down. May I mention just a few.
1. The plan of salvation. Before we came here, we were with a kind Heavenly Father who loves us very much. His plan, the plan of salvation, gives us our agency. On the other hand, Lucifer said he would guarantee that we would all come back to our Heavenly Father, but there would be no agency. How grateful I am for this wonderful opportunity to have agency.
There was a war in heaven between those who followed the Savior and those who followed the devil. The war between good and evil continues today. With regard to that war, the First Presidency has warned:
“You are choice spirits who have come forth in this day when the responsibilities and opportunities, as well as the temptations, are the greatest. You are at the beginning of your journey through this mortal life. Your Heavenly Father wants your life to be joyful and to lead you back into His presence. The decisions you make now will determine much of what will follow during your life and throughout eternity” (For the Strength of Youth , 2).
You and I stand in the middle of this fray, needing to make decisions that will have significant eternal consequences.
2. The scriptures. I hope that you would not only read the scriptures every day, but that you would use them in solving problems. If you haven’t learned already, there is an answer in the scriptures for every problem.
When I was a mission president in Hamburg, Germany, a number of years ago, I had a thorny problem I was dealing with and didn’t know what to do. I was reading the scriptures when I came to 1 Nephi 18 [1 Ne. 18], where Nephi is building a ship. He says, “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore it was not after the manner of men” (1 Ne. 18:2).
And then this great verse, “And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Ne. 18:3).
As I read that, a wonderful feeling came over me. I knew I had to go to the mount if I was to receive the answer to that prayer. The problem was, there are no mountains in northern Germany. But the feeling was so strong I knew I needed to go someplace, so I went to the sea.
For two days I walked along the beach of the North Sea, even though it was late in the fall, and it was cold, rainy, and windy. I prayed and pondered, and because I went to the mount, the Lord whispered. I have a firm witness that the answers are in the scriptures if we take time to listen.
3. The gift of the Holy Ghost. We live in a noisy world. With cell phones and with beepers going off all the time, and with temptations almost shouting for our attention, it’s interesting that the most important voice we can ever hear is a still, small voice.
When I was a stake president, there was a women’s conference by satellite broadcast. As it started, we had the video, but all we could hear was Korean.
And so, as a stake president, I pondered what we should do. As I thought about it, I noticed that under the Korean voice, there was a quiet English voice in the background. So I went to the pulpit and said, “Until we solve the problem, if you will listen carefully for the quiet English voice, you will be able to understand the conference talks. If you get distracted even for a minute, you will lose the message.” For 10 or 15 minutes, until we solved the technical problem, we were able to enjoy that message by listening to the quiet voice.
When all the world seeks for peace, there is a wonderful answer to the question “Where can I turn for peace?” It’s important to remember, “Be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16).
4. For the Strength of Youth. This pamphlet helps us define what is right and wrong. I fear that many of us take it for granted. I carry the small version in my wallet. I challenge you to make sure that you never go anyplace without the For the Strength of Youth card. It is translated in 56 languages because it’s so important that this message go all over the world.
With this message comes a wonderful promise from the First Presidency: “We promise that as you keep these standards and live by the truths in the scriptures, you will be able to do your life’s work with greater wisdom and skill and bear trials with greater courage. You will have the help of the Holy Ghost. You will feel good about yourself and will be a positive influence in the lives of others. You will be worthy to go to the temple to receive holy ordinances. These blessings and many more can be yours” (For the Strength of Youth , 2–3).
These standards encompass the challenges that plague youth today: dating, language, sexual purity, agency and accountability, dress and appearance, entertainment and media, making the right choices, just to name a few.
As we live the standards in For the Strength of Youth, we feel joy. That’s what Heavenly Father wants for each of us—that we feel joy and happiness.
When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, my friend and I wanted to go to the senior all-night party. It seemed like everybody else was going, so we asked his father, who was our stake president, if we could go.
He said, “Absolutely not. The Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight.” Now, he knows the Holy Ghost doesn’t go to bed at midnight, but he also knows what tends to happen after midnight. Then he said something I will never forget: “Find something positive to do that you’ll be able to think of in years to come.”
We put our heads together and organized a progressive dinner. We went from one house to the next and had a wonderful evening. With planning and a well-placed suggestion from a caring priesthood leader, we were able to stay in holy places while our friends were in jeopardy of being subject to temptations.
Sometimes even with planning you’re still not able to avoid uncomfortable situations. On these occasions, it’s important to already have fixed in your mind what’s in the scriptures and in For the Strength of Youth. Someone once said, “Five minutes before the dance is no time to learn the fox-trot.” And that’s true with regards to standards.
Remember the story of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, and Potiphar’s wife? When Potiphar’s wife tempted him, Joseph fled, even though it must have been a very difficult situation. He said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).
I remember the story of one young woman who was put in a similar situation. She was out on a date with a young man. He went out to a remote area, parked the car, turned the key off, and began to move over to the passenger side.
She said, “Stop where you are. I am not that kind of a girl. You take me home, or I will walk.” She was seven or eight miles away from her home. Later, she said, “I was never more frightened in my life when I made the decision, as well as when he took me home, because we were going 90 miles an hour down that country road.” And yet she had already made her decision.
My Challenge to You
I challenge you to look for and prepare positive activities that will allow you to celebrate these wonderful days and yet allow you to stand in holy places, being with good friends with similar standards and avoiding late hours and places that would tempt.
Do as I do and carry the small version of For the Strength of Youth with you. Read it and reread it. Commit it to memory. And then let it go deep in your heart, that you might be prepared, just as Joseph was and just as that young woman was.
Thank you for your goodness, for standing true and faithful. May you feel the joy that comes from living the gospel. May God bless you to feel the love of a kind Heavenly Father. He knows you by name. He hears your prayers. Even when you feel alone, you are not alone.