“Four B’s for Boys,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 40
The Brethren have asked that I now speak to you. This has been a wonderful meeting. I hope that we long remember what we have heard.
As I consider some of the problems people cause themselves by failing to look ahead, I think of a letter I clipped a long time ago from a newspaper. It was first published in England. I hope you will pardon a bit of humor. I use it only to set the stage for what I wish to say.
It appears that an English company owned a property in the West Indies. A violent storm damaged one of the buildings, and a man was sent to make repairs. Of his experience, he wrote the manager as follows:
“When I got to the building, I found that the hurricane had knocked some bricks off the top. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a couple of barrels full of bricks. When I had fixed the building, there was a lot of bricks left over.
“I hoisted the barrel back up again and secured the line at the bottom, and then went up and filled the barrel with extra bricks. Then I went to the bottom and cast off the line.
“Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was heavier than I was, and before I knew what was happening the barrel started down, jerking me off the ground. I decided to hang on, and halfway up I met the barrel coming down and received a severe blow on the shoulder.
“I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my finger jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground, it bursted its bottom, allowing all the bricks to spill out.
“I was now heavier than the barrel and so started down again at high speed. Halfway down, I met the barrel coming up and received severe injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground, I landed on the bricks, getting several painful cuts from the sharp edges.
“At this point I must have lost my presence of mind, because I let go of the line. The barrel then came down, giving me another heavy blow on the head and putting me in the hospital.
“I respectfully request sick leave.”
After hearing that, you may wonder how anyone could be so thoughtless and shortsighted. And yet every day we see people whose lives become entangled and who are bumped and bruised because they fail to plan, to think, to consult with others, to follow the teachings of the gospel. I appreciate what has been said tonight to the boys of the Aaronic Priesthood. And since they constitute a very substantial part of this vast congregation, boys whose lives are largely ahead of them, I should like to speak to them, to help save them from some of the bumps and bruises of life.
I should like to offer what I have chosen to call “Four Bs for Boys.” They are: (1) Be Smart, (2) Be Fair, (3) Be Clean, and (4) Be True.
1. Be smart.
By this I do not mean be smart-alecky or anything of that nature. I mean be wise. Be smart about training your minds and hands for the future. Each of you is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each of you is a son of God. You have an obligation to make the most of your life. Plan now for all the education you can get, and then work to bring to pass a fulfillment of that plan.
You live in a complex age. The world needs men and women of ability and training. Do not short-circuit your education.
I am not suggesting that all of you should become professional men. What I am suggesting is this: whatever you choose to do, train for it. Qualify yourselves. Take advantage of the experience and learning of those who have gone before you in whatever field you choose. Education is a shortcut to proficiency. It makes it possible to leapfrog over the mistakes of the past. Regardless of the vocation you choose, you can speed your journey in getting there through education.
The Lord himself has said to all of us: “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.)
Over the years the Church has put vast sums of money into education, secular as well as religious. From the beginning of this work, our leaders have taught us the importance of training.
Be smart. Do not forfeit the schooling that will enhance your future in order to satisfy your desire for immediate, fleeting pleasure. Cultivate the long view of your life. Most of you are going to be around for a good while.
Be smart—in your appearance, in your deportment, in your manners. I am not suggesting that you go about dressed as a fashion plate. I am suggesting that you be clean and neat in your appearance, that you be gentle in your speech, that you be courteous and respectful in your manner. Each of you is a Mormon boy. Whether you think it or not, you will reflect good or ill on the Church by reason of your behavior.
Be smart. Do not be so shortsighted as to indulge in the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. It simply is not smart to do so. It is stupid, if you will pardon that harsh word, to use cocaine, marijuana, or any of the other drugs that rob you of control of your mind. After every drug-induced “high,” there is a reactionary “low.” Why spend money on that which can only harm you? Why become enslaved to a habit that can only hinder and short-circuit your future?
Beer and other forms of alcohol will do you no good. Their use will be expensive, will dull your conscience, and could lead to the disease called alcoholism, which is humiliating, dangerous, and even deadly. Tobacco will shorten your life. Studies show that it will enslave you, weaken your lungs, and statistically that it will shorten your life seven minutes for each cigarette smoked.
Be smart. Take the Lord at his word. His is the wonderful promise that those Saints who follow his counsel in these matters “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:19–20.)
Young men, do you wish to run and not be weary and to walk and not faint and to grow in knowledge and understanding? Then be smart in shunning those things which inevitably will shackle you, adversely affect your health, cloud your minds, and shorten your lives.
2. Be fair.
We hear complaints that in high schools where Latter-day Saints are in the majority, those not of our faith feel discriminated against. Most of you will go on missions, we hope all of you. You will learn the importance of friendshipping and fellowshipping. Now is the time to practice these principles, to reach out with appreciation and kindness to others. Many a young man has come into this Church because of the friendship of a high school associate. I earnestly hope that no boy within the sound of my voice will ever do anything to prejudice an associate against the Church or its people.
I should like to add that I feel that there is no real basis for such charges of discrimination. But, be they true or not, I want to suggest that we develop an outreaching attitude to help those who are not of us, to encourage them, to lead them in a gracious and kindly way toward those associations which could expose them to the wonderful programs of the Church.
I think of Edwin Markham’s poem:
He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
(“Outwitted,” in The Best Loved Poems of the American People, sel. Hazel Felleman, New York: Doubleday, 1936, p. 67.)
Now, in saying this I am not suggesting that LDS boys date non-LDS girls, or vice versa. Your chances for a happy and lasting marriage will be far greater if you will date those who are active and faithful in the Church. Such dating is most likely to lead to marriage in the House of the Lord.
What I am speaking against is any attitude whatever that demeans, that downgrades, that leads to evil speaking of another.
In athletic contests there is no occasion for booing and catcalls. Of course mistakes are made by umpires and referees. Of course players do things outside the rules. But the score will not be changed by all the booing in the world.
Be fair. As you move onward in your lives, in your university studies and beyond, avoid shady and unfair practices. Clean competition is wholesome; but immoral, dishonest, or unfair practices are reprehensible, and particularly on the part of a Latter-day Saint.
Be fair. The best rule ever given concerning standards of fairness was spoken by the Lord when he said, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” (Matt. 7:12.)
3. Be clean.
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 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.
Be clean. 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. Finally, be true.
You are youth of the noble birthright. You may not at this time know what that means. It means that behind you are great men and women who did wonderful and brave things. They made decisions that were not easy to make, and in many cases they paid a terrible price for those decisions, some of them even giving their lives rather than forsake the truth they had embraced.
In 1897, when President Wilford Woodruff was ninety years of age, a great gathering of children and youth assembled in this Tabernacle. This elderly man, who had known so much of sorrow and trouble, as well as love for the Lord and His great work, stood before that congregation and said in measured words:
“I cannot expect to tarry a great while longer with you, but I want to give you a few words of counsel. You occupy a position in the Church and Kingdom of God and have received the power of the holy priesthood. The God of heaven has appointed you and called you forth in this day and generation. I want you to look at this. Young men, listen to the counsel of your brethren. Live near to God; pray while young; learn to pray; learn to cultivate the Holy Spirit of God; link it to you and it will become a spirit of revelation unto you, inasmuch as you nourish it.” (Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, sel. Matthias F. Cowley, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964, pp. 602–3.)
I should like to tell you of three eighteen-year-old boys. In 1856 more than a thousand of our people, some of them perhaps your forebears, found themselves in serious trouble while crossing the plains to this valley. Because of a series of unfortunate circumstances, they were late in getting started. They ran into snow and bitter cold in the highlands of Wyoming. Their situation was desperate, with deaths occurring every day.
President Young learned of their condition as the October general conference was about to begin. He immediately called for teams, wagons, drivers, and supplies to leave to rescue the bereft Saints. When the first rescue team reached the Martin Company, there were too few wagons to carry the suffering people. The rescuers had to insist that the carts keep moving.
When they reached the Sweetwater River on November 3, chunks of ice were floating in the freezing water. After all these people had been through, and in their weakened condition, that river seemed impossible to cross. It looked like stepping into death itself to move into the freezing stream. Men who once had been strong sat on the frozen ground and wept, as did the women and children. Many simply could not face that ordeal.
And now I quote from the record: “Three eighteen-year-old boys belonging to the relief party came to the rescue, and to the astonishment of all who saw, carried nearly every member of the ill-fated handcart company across the snowbound stream. The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all the boys died from the effects of it. When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act, he wept like a child, and later declared publicly, ‘that act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.’” (Solomon F. Kimball, Improvement Era, Feb. 1914, p. 288.)
Mark you, these boys were eighteen years of age at the time. And, because of the program then in effect, they likely were holders of the Aaronic Priesthood. Great was their heroism, sacred the sacrifice they made of health and eventually of life itself to save the lives of those they helped.
They are part of the heritage that lies behind you of the Aaronic Priesthood. Be true, my young brethren, be true to that great inheritance.
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.
(“Shall the Youth of Zion Falter?” Hymns, no. 157.)
And so, there are my “Four Bs for Boys”: Be Smart, Be Fair, Be Clean, Be True. God has given you his holy priesthood. May you walk as young men so endowed, I humbly pray, in the name Jesus Christ, amen.