“For the Strength of Youth,” Liahona, May 2004, 49–51
My dear brethren of the priesthood, how honored I am to be with you this evening. Four of my grandsons are in the Conference Center tonight—Craig, Brent, Kendall, and Michael. I would like to speak to them and all Aaronic Priesthood bearers and invite others to listen.
In a message from the First Presidency, included in the For the Strength of Youth booklet, we read:
“Our beloved young men … , we have great confidence in you. 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.”1
You live in a world of great uncertainty. There are many voices. There are many paths. Not all lead to our Heavenly Father. How will you know to whom to listen or where to go?
The prophet Jacob answered these questions in the following scripture: “The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be.”2
But what are “things as they really are” as referred to by Jacob? Elder Neal A. Maxwell, addressing this subject, has said:
“Without the obedient response to ‘things as they really are,’ there are the endless detours and the empty searches for another course of life. … A course of life that is wrong now cannot and will not be proven right later on. …
“The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ gives us many truths … —that there really is the living God; there really is the living Church; there really are living prophets; there really are living scriptures; and there really will be a resurrection with a judgment.”3
There are certain truths, certain “things as they really are,” that are enforced by standards—many of which can be measured. Let’s look at several examples in athletics.
The cover of the March 2004 New Era shows a picture of Moroni Rubio of Mexico. Two years ago, at age 16, he took first place at the Central American Junior Championships in the 100-meter sprint. His current best time is 10.46 seconds.4 He would be timed by a stopwatch, which measures performance.
The men’s world record for high jump is held by a Cuban athlete who jumped approximately 8 feet (2.4 m). Can you imagine jumping that high? High jumpers leap over a horizontal bar resting on two vertical poles. This bar represents a standard, a measure to meet or exceed.
Imagine holding a track meet where the runners are not measured by a stopwatch or where the high jumpers do not have a horizontal bar to measure their jumps.
In life, as in athletics, there are standards, or measured behavior. There are rights and wrongs. As priesthood holders, we do not high jump without a horizontal bar.
Unfortunately, we are seeing the removal of traditional standards of morality and behavior in today’s world. The vernacular of today is “anything goes.” The world views time-honored standards as old-fashioned or out-of-date.
We belong to a church where adhering to standards is expected. Things that have always been wrong in the past are still wrong today. The Church does not modify standards of morality by adapting to changing customs or to the mores of the societies in which we live.
President Gordon B. Hinckley tells of an experience he had as a boy lying in the bed of an old farm wagon at night with his brother Sherman. They “looked at the myriads of stars in the heavens, and took turns picking out familiar stars and tracing the Big Dipper, the handle and the cup, to find the North Star.” President Hinckley said he was fascinated by the North Star. Regardless of the earth’s rotation, the North Star maintained its position in the heavens and never moved. He said: “I recognized it as a constant in the midst of change. It was something that could always be counted on, something that was dependable, an anchor in what otherwise appeared to be a moving and unstable firmament.”5
Noting the unwavering, absolute position of the North Star, one writer told the contrasting story of a young boy who became lost on a camping trip. When his father finally found him, his father asked if he had remembered to pick out something in the landscape that he could always see. This, his father said, would have helped him to fix a steady position. The boy said, “I did.”
“What was it?” the father asked.
“That rabbit over there,” the boy said.6
Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, fix your gaze on the unchanging standards of the gospel and not on the moving rabbit.
In the For the Strength of Youth booklet, the following standards, among others, are like a North Star to you: choose friends with high standards, do not disfigure your body with tattoos or body piercings, avoid pornography, do not listen to music that contains offensive language, do not use profanity, date only those who have high standards, remain sexually pure, repent as necessary, be honest, keep the Sabbath day holy, pay tithing, keep the Word of Wisdom.7
A dozen years ago, in one of the countries of Africa, we had faithful members of the Church who had been meeting in their homes for several years. I went to that country to see if we could receive permission from the government to bring in missionaries and establish the Church. I met with a high-ranking government minister. He gave me 20 minutes to explain our position.
When I finished he said, “I do not see where anything you have told me is any different from what is currently available in our country. I see no reason to approve your request to bring missionaries into our country.”
He stood up to usher me out of his office. I was panic-stricken. I had failed. In a moment our meeting would be over. What could I do? I offered a silent prayer.
Then I had an inspired thought. I said to the minister, “Sir, if you will give me five more minutes, I would like to share one other thought with you. Then I will leave.” He kindly consented.
I reached for my wallet and removed this small For the Strength of Youth booklet, which I have always carried.
I said, “This is a little booklet of standards we give all of the youth in our Church.”
I then read some of the standards I have mentioned tonight. When I finished he said, “You mean to tell me you expect the youth of your church to live these standards?”
“Yes,” I replied, “and they do.”
“That is amazing,” he said. “Could you send me some of these booklets so that I could distribute them to the youth of my church?”
I replied, “Yes,” and I did.
Several months later we received official approval from the government of that country to come and establish the Church.
Young men, these standards you are privileged to keep are truly a pearl of great price. The world does not understand them. Many good people seek them. You have them.
The Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation that establishes how we may know today which voices to listen to—what standards to follow. In this revelation, our time, or generation, was referred to as a time when men would “see an overflowing scourge” and “a desolating sickness [would] cover the land.”8
The Lord then gave the standard of safety that will protect faithful followers. He said, “But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.”9
The Brethren of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are disciples who stand in holy places. They are not moved or swayed by changing times from what has been established as true in all prior generations. The standards of the Church are firm and true. They are for your safety and eternal security. When you commit to live them, you are measured against time-proven standards that are approved by God.
Now, my grandsons and dear brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood, you are in a race for life. It is not a brief sprint. It is more like a marathon.
You will be tested and proven against God’s established standards. You will be guided by the Spirit to help you know what to do.
We are almost the only organization left that has established, time-honored standards. Most others have succumbed to the culture of our world. How blessed we are to have living prophets.
May you be blessed as you keep the standards of the Church. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.