Last fall, I celebrated my 80th birthday. This gives me a very long perspective on what is essential to provide us with protection.
When my wife, Mary, and I were still in our 20s in the 1960s, the turbulence, anger, and social unrest were similar to what we have experienced recently. We lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, USA. The combination of racial unrest, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the unpopular Vietnam War, and a destabilizing drug culture resulted in demonstrations that included rioting, looting, and the occupation by dissidents of administrative offices of major universities.
In the face of this chaos, we were blessed to receive counsel from President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973), who was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time. His counsel was for both families and individuals. We appreciated his counsel then and cherish it now.
In addition to counseling members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to follow the prophet, President Lee gave three other principles of protection:
Build Zion in your hearts and homes.
Be a light on the hill and an example in your community.
Focus your vision and goals on the ordinances and principles taught in the temple.
President Lee promised that we could live anywhere in the world and still be protected if we followed these principles. In my view, these principles are as relevant today as they were more than 50 years ago, and they apply to you today.
First, as you strive to build Zion in your hearts and homes, please understand that the eternal institution of the family is the foundation for happiness.
We are all members of families. We are children of God and part of His family. We are also part of the family into which we are born. Accordingly, a major goal is to commit to the eternal institution of the family. I counsel you to find a righteous spouse whom you admire and who will be your best friend. Marriage in this life is a sacred part of this eternal plan.
In the world at large, many are choosing not to get married or are delaying marriage. The family is an eternal institution ordained of God1 from before the foundation of the world.
I assure you that the joy, love, and fulfillment experienced in loving, righteous families produce the greatest possible happiness we can achieve, especially if we make our “home into a sanctuary of faith.”2 It is also the foundation for a successful society.
Seeking marriage and having that as a righteous desire of your heart should be your goal. However, righteousness is its own reward and does not depend on having marriage and children in our lives. We may not be married or blessed with children or have other desired blessings now. But the Lord has promised that the righteous who are faithful “may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness” (Mosiah 2:41).3
President Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901) taught, “There is no Latter-day Saint who dies after having lived a faithful life who will lose anything because of having failed to … [marry] when opportunities were not furnished him or her.”4
Second, be a light on the hill and an example in your community. As you continue your education and then embark on your various occupations and responsibilities, you can be a powerful force for good. A significant challenge will be to adhere to the scriptural injunction to live in the world but “not of the world” (John 15:19).5
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972), when he was an Apostle, taught that “while we are … in the world, we are not of the world in the sense that we are under any necessity to partake of … evil customs, … fashions, … follies, false doctrines and theories.”6
In addition, your positive contributions to the place in which you live is part of your challenge if you are to be an example, be a light on the hill, share the gospel, and live in accordance with the teachings you have received as Latter-day Saints.
Third, focus your vision and goals on the ordinances and principles taught in the temple. Despite the lack of righteousness in the world today, we live in a sacred, holy time. The Lord has prepared President Russell M. Nelson, our prophet, through many years of temple-related assignments to preside over the Church at a time when temples will truly dot the earth in unprecedented numbers.7
President Nelson commenced his service as our prophet by addressing us from the Salt Lake Temple. He asked us “to begin with the end in mind” and made it clear that “the ordinances of the temple” and the covenant pathway should be our primary goal.8 He has counseled us “to gather scattered Israel … on both sides of the veil.”9
My challenge to you is to learn what is essential when the world is in commotion so that you can be protected, blessed, and provided with the happiness, peace, and success you desire. Please avoid detours and stumbling blocks that diminish this protection.
Our great expectation for you is that you will love, serve, and worship the Savior and that you will bless the world like no other generation. Be determined to continue on the covenant path and to be righteous.