One evening, I put on a record, turned down the lights, and listened to Beethoven’s Concerto for the Violin. As I sat there in the semidarkness, I marveled that such a thing could come of the mind of a man, a man who, in most respects, was as I am. I do not know how tall he was or how broad he was or how much hair he had, but I guess he looked very much like the rest of us. He became hungry, he felt pain, he had most of the problems we have and maybe some we do not have. But out of the genius of that inspired mind came the creation of a masterpiece which has entertained the world through all of these many years.
I marvel at the miracle of the human mind and body. Have you ever contemplated the wonders of yourself, the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the voice with which you speak? No camera ever built can compare with the human eye. No method of communication ever devised can compare with the voice and the ear. No pump ever built will run as long or as efficiently as the human heart. No computer or other creation of science can equal the human brain. What a remarkable thing you are. You can think by day and dream by night. You can speak and hear and smell. Look at your finger. The most skillful attempt to reproduce it mechanically has resulted in only a crude approximation. The next time you use your finger, watch it, look at it, and sense the wonder of it.
You are a child of God, His crowning creation. After He had formed the earth, separated the darkness from the light, divided the waters, created the plant and animal kingdoms—after all this He created man and then woman.1
Respect your bodies. The Lord has described them as temples. So many these days disfigure their bodies with tattoos. How shortsighted. These markings last for life. Once in place, they cannot be removed except through a difficult and costly process. I cannot understand why any girl or boy would subject herself or himself to such a thing. I plead with you to avoid disfigurement of this kind.2
May I mention earrings and rings placed in other parts of the body. These are not manly. They are not attractive. You young men look better without them, and I believe you will feel better without them. As for the young women, you do not need to drape rings up and down your ears. One modest pair of earrings is sufficient.
I mention these things because again they concern your bodies.3
The Lord himself said, “Be ye clean” (D&C 38:42). I speak particularly of moral cleanliness. There is no substitute under the heavens for personal virtue.
We live in a time when the world considers virtue lightly. You young men and women of the Church cannot consider it lightly. For a Latter-day Saint, loss of virtue inevitably means loss of self-respect, loss of respect for her with whom he transgresses, loss of discipline in managing one’s mind and body, and loss of integrity as a holder of the priesthood. Of course there is repentance, and of course there is forgiveness. But there will also be heartache and regret and disappointment. There may likewise be cast a cloud upon your opportunity for future service in the Church.
I am not asking you to be prudish. I am asking you to be virtuous, and I think there is a vast difference between the two.
Watch what you read. No good and much harm can come of reading pornographic magazines and other such literature. They will only stimulate within you thoughts that will weaken your discipline of yourself. No good will come of going to movies that are designed to take from you your money and give you in exchange only weakened wills and base desires.4
For your own sakes, for your happiness now and in all the years to come, and for the happiness of the generations who come after you, avoid sexual transgression as you would a plague.
Prove your strength, show your independence, by saying no when enticement from peers comes your way. Your own strength will add strength to those who are weak. Your own example will give determination to others.6
How truly beautiful is a well-groomed young woman who is clean in body and mind. She is a daughter of God in whom her Eternal Father can take pride. How handsome is a young man who is well groomed. He is a son of God, deemed worthy of holding the holy priesthood of God.7
Young men, be clean in dress and manner. I do not expect you to look like missionaries all of the time. But let me say that the clean and conservative dress and grooming of our missionaries has become as a badge of honor recognized wherever they go. The age in which we are living now has become an age of sloppy dress and sloppy manners. But I am not so concerned about what you wear as I am that it be clean. Whenever you administer to or pass the sacrament, look your very best. Be sure of your personal cleanliness.8
Young women, modesty in dress and manner will assist in protecting against temptation. It may be difficult to find modest clothing, but it can be found with enough effort. I do not hesitate to say that you can be attractive without being immodest. You can be refreshing and buoyant and beautiful in your dress and in your behavior. Your appeal to others will come of your personality, which is the sum of your individual characteristics.9
Is observance of the Word of Wisdom necessary? The Brethren have long felt that it certainly must be. Observance of the Word of Wisdom is concerned with the care of one’s body, which, the Lord has assured, is of itself a temple, a tabernacle of the spirit. He has said, “Yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple” (D&C 93:35).
I recall a bishop telling me of a woman who came to get a recommend. When asked if she observed the Word of Wisdom, she said that she occasionally drank a cup of coffee. She said, “Now, bishop, you’re not going to let that keep me from going to the temple, are you?” To which he replied, “Sister, surely you will not let a cup of coffee stand between you and the House of the Lord.”10
The body is sacred. It was created in the image of God. It is something to be cared for and used for good purposes. It ought to be taken care of, and this thing which we call the Word of Wisdom, which is a code of health, is most helpful in doing that.11
The Lord would have you stay away from drugs, my young brethren and sisters. You and I cannot afford, under any circumstances, to indulge in the use of illegal drugs. They will absolutely destroy you. They will take away your self-control. They will cause you to do dishonest things to get money to buy them. Stay away from those things proscribed in the Word of Wisdom—no alcohol, no beer, no tobacco. What a blessing! What a blessing is the Word of Wisdom, that the Lord would set before His Church a pattern of living which would bless our lives.12
I give thanks to our Creator for revealing unto His Prophet what we call the Word of Wisdom. I do not hesitate to say that in this brief but inclusive statement of the Lord is found counsel, given with a promise, which, if more widely observed, would save untold pain and suffering and lead not only to increased physical well-being but also to great and satisfying “treasures of knowledge” of the things of God.13