My wife, Wendy, and I are very grateful to be with you. From the Cannon Activities Center on the campus of BYU–Hawaii, we are broadcasting to congregations of young adults throughout the entire world. We extend a special welcome to those who are attending a CES devotional for the first time. As you enroll in institutions of higher learning, you will want to participate in institute classes and these devotionals to maintain a spiritual balance to your secular learning. And if you are soon headed for a mission, we are most grateful. You will be in the Lord’s service full time.
I bring greetings and love from President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and my beloved associates in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I also bring greetings from the Board of Trustees of the Church Educational System and from Elder Paul V. Johnson, Commissioner of the Church Educational System.
We have had three previous speakers at our CES devotionals this year. Do you remember them? President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk was entitled “What Is Truth?” He taught us how to find real truth in an age when so much information is available, much of which is not true. The title of Elder David A. Bednar’s talk was “That We Might ‘Not … Shrink’ (D&C 19:18).” He strengthened our spirits as he taught us how to increase our faith through a powerful question that helped a young couple as the husband battled cancer. The question posed by Elder Bednar was, “Do you have the faith not to be healed?” Elder William R. Walker strengthened our testimonies about the ministry and matchless example of our beloved President, Thomas S. Monson.
Today, the title of my message is “Youth of the Noble Birthright1: What Will You Choose?”
You, as youth of the noble birthright, are literally sons and daughters of God, born at this particular time in the world’s history for a most sacred purpose. Although the moral and religious values of society seem to be weakening across the globe, youth of this Church are to be standard bearers of the Lord and beacons of light to attract others to Him. Your identity and purpose are unique.
What is your identity? You are children of the covenant. What covenant? That which God made with Father Abraham when Abraham was promised that “in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”2 You are also children of the promised day,3 this period of world history when the gospel will be broadly proclaimed across the entire planet.
What is your purpose? You brethren were foreordained in a premortal realm to bear the priesthood.4 Think of that! And you, dear sisters, were chosen before the foundation of the world to bear and care for God’s children, and in doing so, you glorify God.5 Have you sisters considered what it really means to be cocreators with God?
Each of you young men and young women was commissioned by your Heavenly Father to build up the kingdom of God on earth right now and prepare a people to receive the Savior when He will rule and reign as the Millennial Messiah. Your noble birthright, identity, purpose, and divine commission set you apart from all others.
But neither your birthright nor your premortal ordinations and commissions can save or exalt you. That you will do through your individual decisions and as you choose to access the power of the Lord’s Atonement in your lives. You know that “ev’ry soul is free / To choose his life and what he’ll be.”6 That great eternal principle of agency is vital to our Father’s plan. So, you youth of the noble birthright, what will you choose?
Will you choose to increase in learning?
Education is yours to obtain. No one else can gain it for you. Wherever you are, develop a deep desire to learn. For us as Latter-day Saints, gaining an education is not just a privilege, it is a religious responsibility. The glory of God is intelligence.7 Indeed, our education is for the eternities.
“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
“And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life … , he [or she] will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”8
Such a long-range perspective will help you make good choices about learning. I remember a conversation many years ago with a very bright 16-year-old high school student. He was uncertain about his religious commitment and undecided about his career. He wondered about the possibility of becoming a doctor of medicine. He asked me a simple question: “How many years did it take for you to become a heart surgeon?”
I quickly made the calculations: “From the time I graduated from high school until I first collected a fee for service as a surgeon, it took me 14 years.”
“Wow!” he replied. “That’s too long for me!”
Then I asked, “How old will you be 14 years from now if you don’t become a heart surgeon?”
“Just the same,” he replied. “Just the same!”
I had a special interest in this young man. On occasion I took him in my car on his early-morning route to deliver newspapers. Over the years his faith became strong. He was a powerful missionary. He decided to pursue his educational goal. First, he married his sweetheart in the temple. Then, while he studied medicine and surgery, they became the parents of four wonderful children. Now he is fully board certified as a heart surgeon—after intensive education and training over a period of 14 years.
Brothers and sisters, don’t be afraid to pursue your goals—even your dreams! There is no shortcut to excellence and competence. Education is the difference between wishing you could help other people and being able to help them.
Here is another question: What manner of living will you choose?
You, as youth of the noble birthright, are expected to live differently than others. You know what Paul said to young Timothy: “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”9 Choose to think and act differently than those of the world. Choose to look different and see what an influence for good you will become. As Sister Ardeth G. Kapp once said, “You can’t be a life saver if you look like all the other swimmers on the beach.”10
As youth of the noble birthright, you have a great start in life. But you also have an additional responsibility. “For of him [or her] unto whom much is given much is required.”11 Part of that requirement is to be a recruit. Have you ever thought of yourself as an army recruit? When you were baptized, you were actually reenlisted in the Lord’s army.12 Premortally, you stood by Jesus Christ during the War in Heaven. And now the conflict between the forces of good and evil continues here on earth. It is real! That conflict in which we are now engaged is still between the forces of good and the forces of evil.13 On God’s side is Jesus Christ, foreordained to be the Savior of the world.14 On the other side is Satan—a rebel, a destroyer of agency.15
God’s plan allows the adversary to tempt you so that you, now in this mortal world, can exercise your agency to choose good over evil, to choose to repent, to choose to come unto Jesus Christ and believe His teachings and follow His example. What a huge responsibility and a huge trust!
Your freedom to choose is clearly explained in the Book of Mormon: “Men are free according to the flesh. … They are free to choose liberty and eternal life … or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”16 What will you choose?
Another verse reveals that “wickedness never was happiness.”17 Many youth have tried to challenge that truth and have failed every time.
Your freedom to act for yourself is so central to your eternal progress and happiness that the adversary exerts extraordinary efforts to undermine it.18 Satan truly is an incorrigible insomniac, which means he never sleeps. Many of you have already experienced that!
Here is another question: Will you establish priorities to help you make your choices in life?
Your choices will not all be between good and evil. Many will be choices between two good options. Not all truths are created equal, so you will need to establish priorities. In your pursuit of knowledge, know that the most important truth you can learn comes from the Lord. In His Intercessory Prayer to His Father, the Savior Himself confirmed this. He said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”19 Above everything else you are seeking to learn, seek to know God, your Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Come to know Them and love Them, as I do.
Another priority scripture that has helped me throughout my life is this one: “Seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”20
More than anything else in this world, you want to make choices that lead to the ultimate and glorious destiny of eternal life. That is God’s great glory for you.21 Choose eternal life as your highest priority! Study the scriptures, such as sections 76 and 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, in order to understand more about the different blessings awaiting those who choose eternal life and those who don’t. Choose eternal life as your highest priority and notice how other choices fall into place.
Another question: With whom will you choose to associate?
As youth of the noble birthright, you will mingle with many good people who also believe in God. Whether they be Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim, believers know that there actually is absolute truth. In President Uchtdorf’s earlier message, he stressed that there really is right and wrong, and the willful breaking of one of God’s commandments really is sin. Believers in God also have a conscience. Believers obey civil and divine law voluntarily, even laws that might otherwise be unenforceable.
With your commitment to obey civil and divine law, you stop for a red light, even if no other traffic is in sight. You, as a child of God, know that even if the police don’t catch you, that if you were to steal, murder, or commit adultery, these acts are wrong, and God will ultimately hold you accountable. You know that the consequences for not playing by the rules are not only temporal but eternal.
As you move along life’s journey, you will also become acquainted with people who do not believe in God. Many of them have not yet found divine truth and don’t know where to look for it. But you youth of the noble birthright are coming to their rescue. In great numbers, you are rallying to the call of God’s prophet for more missionaries. We are deeply grateful for each one! Many of you have already served; others are preparing to go.
As you mingle with nonbelievers, be aware that there may be a few who do not have your best interest at heart.22 As soon as you make that judgment—as soon as you discern that—flee from them quickly and permanently.23
Sadly, you will meet people whose desperate search for something that seems to them like happiness takes them down the slippery slopes of sin. Beware of that slimy slide! Any pleasure in sin is only fleeting, and haunting memories are smeared by gnawing and grinding guilt. The sinful warping of the embrace divinely designed to unite husband and wife is but a hollow counterfeit. Each unlawful experience is stripped of deep meaning and sweet memory.
One more question: Will you choose freedom or bondage?
Godless forces are all around. You are literally living in enemy-occupied territory.24 A plague of poisonous pornography abounds. It ensnares all who yield to its insidious grasp.
This was foreseen by the Lord, who said, “And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process of time, and ye knew it not.”25 Then He added a second warning: “And again, I say unto you that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives.”26
Consider how many people, in however many secret chambers, are seeking to destroy your life and happiness! If you brothers and sisters are viewing pornography, stop it right now! Stop it absolutely! It is as destructive as leprosy, as addictive as meth, and as corrosive as lye.
Carnal temptation is not new. The Apostle Peter warned of this same snare when he wrote:
“They allure through the lusts of the flesh … those that were clean. …
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”27
Avoid that bondage, my beloved brothers and sisters. If you are presently viewing pornography, stop it! And stop it now! Seek help from your bishop. None are smart enough to outwit the adversary on their own once they have been poisoned by pornography.
Now let me move to another serious question: Will you choose to follow the Lord or the philosophies of men?
For example, arguments swirl around that the earth is dangerously overpopulated and that couples should restrict the number of their children. Have you heard that one? However, at the fifth World Congress of Families, in 2009, Sister Nelson and I heard a scholar present a paper in which he made a stunning statement. He said that if each man, woman, and child now living upon the earth were allotted a quarter of an acre of land, all 6.8 billion people would fit in the country of Brazil, with 20 percent of Brazil still left unoccupied.28 Does that sound like the earth is overcrowded?
I checked that calculation. It is correct. I adjure you to believe the Lord, who said that “the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.”29
Another reality is that you live at a time when unemployment is high and financial markets throughout the world are jittery. Again, a worldly solution is to look at alternatives to God’s plan. But we know that strong marriages and families actually help the economy to thrive. And we are not alone in those feelings.
The scholar Dr. Patrick F. Fagan30 wrote: “The indispensable building block upon which the fortunes of the economy depends [is] the married-parent household—especially the child-rich family that worships weekly. …
“… Every marriage creates a new household, an independent economic unit that generates income, spends, saves, and invests.”31
Dr. Fagan added that “the married mother at home exerts a more far-reaching impact on the economy than [does] the married father in the workplace. … While the husband contributes to the present economy, the mother contributes to both present and future economy.”32
Dr. Fagan’s report confirms concepts expressed years ago by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” I hope that each of you has a copy. Study it carefully. While the family is under attack across the entire world, the truths of the family proclamation will fortify you.
You wonderful youth of the noble birthright, you need to understand the far-reaching consequences of society’s current skirmish over the very definition of marriage. The present debate involves the question of whether two people of the same gender can be married. If you have a question about the position of the Church on this or any other important issue, prayerfully ponder it, and then heed the prophetic messages at this forthcoming October general conference of the Church. Those inspired addresses, plus inspiration from the Holy Ghost, will bring to your mind a fuller and truer understanding.
The marriage debate is but one of the many controversies that will challenge you in the future. Against the strident voices of the adversary, you, as youth of the noble birthright, will choose to stand for the Lord and His truth. Remember the words of the following hymn. Repeat them. Memorize them. This hymn is all about you:
Shall the youth of Zion falter
In defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth,
Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command,
Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.33
The Apostle Paul prophesied about the plight of our day. His description sounds like our 10:00 nightly news broadcast. Listen!
“In the last days perilous times shall come.
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
“Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”34
That’s the end of his warning.
Paul’s accurate vision of the spiritual devastation of our day was followed by his reassuring conclusion, telling us how to stay safe: “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”35
To his advice I would add my own: Keep studying the scriptures. Keep doing the things that build your faith in Jesus Christ. And then notice the wise choices you are naturally drawn to make.
Your faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel will give you the courage to marry and to bring children into your family while you are young and able to have them. When you are my age, you will prize your children, your grandchildren, and their children above any fame or fortune that otherwise might have come.
Now for a question I pray that you will consider on a daily basis: How will you prepare for your personal interview with the Savior?
You youth of the noble birthright are not perfect yet. None of us are. So, you, along with the rest of us, are very grateful for the Atonement of the Savior, which provides full forgiveness as you truly repent. You also know that your stay here in mortality is relatively brief. (And the older you get, the more you realize that.) In time, each of you will graduate from this frail existence and move on to the next world.
Judgment day awaits each one of us. I don’t know whether the heavenly gate is pearly or not, but I do know, as do all students of the Book of Mormon, that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employ[s] no servant there; … for the Lord God is his name.”36 Yes, each one of us will have a personal interview with Jesus Christ.
Each day on earth gives you time and opportunity to prepare for that interview. Please know this: As you choose to live on the Lord’s side, you are never alone. God has given you access to His help while you move along through mortality’s perilous pathway. As you diligently, earnestly pour out your heart to Him in daily prayer, He will send His angels to help you.37 He has given you the Holy Ghost to be by your side as you live worthily. He has given you scriptures so that you can fully feast upon the words of Jesus Christ.38 He has given you words to heed from living prophets.
He has given you an opportunity to receive a patriarchal blessing. It will provide insight about your connection to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the covenant made with them for their posterity. Your patriarchal blessing also provides insight about your potential in life here and hereafter. Each of these and other divine aids will help you to choose well so that you may look forward to your meeting, face to face, with our Lord and Savior.
My last question: In whom will you put your trust?
You youth of the noble birthright know that God is your Father. He loves you. He wants you to be happy. Put your trust in Him.39 Maintain your focus on His holy temple. Be worthy to receive your endowment and sealing ordinances. Remain faithful to those covenants, and return frequently to the temple. Remember, your loftiest goal is to gain the greatest of all the blessings of God, that of eternal life.40 Ordinances of the temple are essential for that blessing.41
I invite you to study prayerfully the scriptural statement of your identity, purpose, and blessing, as recorded in section 86 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is about you. Listen!
“Thus saith the Lord unto you [youth of the noble birthright], with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers—
“For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God—
“Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began.
“Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel.”42
Yes, you truly are youth of the noble birthright, created in God’s image. You are the lawful heirs, to be tried and tested. You may choose to be a light to the world, to help save God’s children, to have joy, and ultimately to earn the blessing of eternal life.
Now, to assist you in these critical choices before you, I would like to bestow a blessing upon you. Invoking the keys of the holy apostleship vested in me, I bless you that you may feast upon the words of Jesus Christ and apply His teachings into your lives. I bless you with the power to live as He would have you live and, through your example of righteousness, become worthy of emulation as a member of the Church that bears His holy name. I bless you with success in your educational and occupational pursuits, to the end that you can render service of worth to your fellow human beings. I bless you with health and strength needed to fulfill the divine destiny that God has in store for each of you, that His will may be done by you and through you.
I so bless you and bear my testimony that God lives! Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church. He directs it through His prophets and apostles. We love and sustain Thomas S. Monson as President of the Lord’s Church today. This testimony and blessing I leave with you, my beloved brothers and sisters, with my sincere expression of love for each one of you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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