“Ten Ways to Make a Difference,” New Era, Nov. 2004, 4
My dear young sisters, you are an indispensable part of what the Church and the world will be. As I have traveled to Church assignments in various parts of the world, I have met some of you and have been impressed by your steadfastness.
I can say without hesitation that you can have “a perfect brightness of hope” for your future and endless joy if you “press forward” as righteous daughters of God (see 2 Ne. 31:20). You are young women of virtue and of great promise. May I encourage you to strengthen the virtues you have already acquired and resolve to develop many others.
I would like to speak of some of those virtues. Many people do not fully understand the meaning of virtue. Virtue encompasses all traits of righteousness that help us form our character. An old sampler found in a museum in Newfoundland, stitched in 1813, reads: “Virtue is the chiefest beauty of the mind, the noblest ornament of humankind. Virtue is our safeguard and our guiding star that stirs up reason when our senses err.”
May I suggest 10 virtues that each of you can pursue in your quest for excellence and happiness:
1. Exercise Faith
I list the virtue of faith first because it is the most important. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is “the foundation of all righteousness.”1 I promise you sweet young ladies if you will strive to live the commandments, your faith will continue to grow. In exercising faith, we become cheerful and optimistic, charitable and courageous, because faith is the moving cause of all of these virtues.
2. Be Honest with Yourself
A young woman on a university volleyball team tells of the time when she and her friend Muki were playing together in a championship match:
“I remember it being a close game. … Gracie [on our opponents’ team] rounded her approach, jumped, and smacked the ball as hard as she could. … The line judges signaled out, and the head official raised his finger to show a point for [our team]. We began giving our usual high fives when we noticed that Muki was hand-motioning to the official that she touched the ball on her block. Muki was calling her own touch.
“The quiet, withdrawn Muki had showed an act of integrity and honesty like I had never seen before. Gracie was so impressed that she talked with Muki after the match. … Muki later gave Gracie a Book of Mormon. I don’t know if Gracie has read the book … , but I do know that Gracie was touched by Muki’s example, as we all were.”2
You cannot be honest with others unless you are honest with yourself.
3. Be Chaste
In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” we read, “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”3 Furthermore, the Lord says in the Book of Mormon, “I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women” (Jacob 2:28). Intimate relationships between men and women outside the bounds the Lord has set bring great misery, shame, degradation, and unhappiness to those involved.
In contrast, when these sacred gifts are exercised as the Lord intended within the bounds of a temple marriage, they bring us our greatest joy and happiness. We become co-creators with God in having family and posterity. Chastity before marriage followed by fidelity after marriage is a sacred passport to self-respect and happiness for everyone. I refer you to the excellent counsel on sexual purity contained in the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth.
4. Be Humble
Humility is all about keeping one’s balance. For example, when you receive a compliment, receive it graciously, but don’t let it go to your head. You young ladies have learned much, but you have more to learn. A person who is humble is teachable. Indeed, the Lord has promised, “For my Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite” (D&C 136:33).
5. Develop Self-Discipline
You must have the strength to discipline yourselves so that you can accomplish your goals and enhance your natural strengths. Habits of self-discipline formed while you are young will become part of the makeup of your character for the rest of your lives. The character thus formed from self-discipline will rise with you in the Resurrection (see D&C 130:18). The principle of work is part of self-discipline.
6. Be Fair
We need to be fair and compassionate in our dealings with other human beings. The Savior gave us the parable of the unjust servant who owed a large sum of money. His master forgave him the debt, but that same servant went out and had a fellow servant put into prison for a much smaller debt. Their master rebuked him for not showing the same compassion that he had himself received, and then sent him to the same fate as his fellow servant (see Matt. 18:23–34). If you will be fair to other people, they will more likely be fair to you.
7. Strive for Moderation
Part of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom is moderation in all things, except those things specifically forbidden by the Lord. It is well to avoid extremes in dress, hairstyles, makeup, conduct, speech, and music. Extremes may attract the attention of some, but they are more likely to turn off those you really want to impress.
When I was a young man, my friends and I went to an amusement park, where we rode the flying saucer. It was shaped something like an upside-down plate that went round and round. Most of us tried to get to the middle so we wouldn’t be thrown off by the centrifugal force as the saucer picked up speed. Sometimes those on the edge would grab a friend who was closer to the middle, but that would pull them both completely off the saucer. I soon recognized that the centrifugal force was far less powerful in the middle. I was quite safe in the center even though the saucer was still spinning. But it was risky when someone on the fringe latched on to me. I learned that safety comes from staying close to the center.
8. Be Clean
President Gordon B. Hinckley gave some excellent counsel when he said: “Be clean in dress and manner. … 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. … Be sure of your personal cleanliness.”4 Remember that you and the Church will be judged in part by your cleanliness and neatness in appearance.
9. Live with Courage
You precious young ladies will need a lot of courage—courage to stand up to peer pressure, to resist temptation, to withstand ridicule or ostracism, to stand up for the truth. You will also need courage to face the challenges of life. One young woman who was a cross-country runner wrote: “I am often tempted to give up and quit during a race. During my first race this year, when I was just about to be overpowered and stop running, the words to the third verse of ‘How Firm a Foundation’ (Hymns, no. 85) filled my mind. The words gave me the courage to finish the race.”5
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
10. Grow in Grace
We are told in the Doctrine and Covenants that we are to “grow in grace” (D&C 50:40). Grace is a God-given virtue. It is a disposition to be kind and to do good. It is a charming trait or accomplishment, “a pleasingly graceful appearance.”6 Charm is attractiveness that comes from a feeling of personal dignity, an inner beauty that comes from a feeling of self-worth. It has been said that your expression is the most important thing you can wear. A fine young single man I know has a list of qualities he is looking for in his future wife. Cheerfulness is at the top of the list.
We frequently find that the influence of good women is underrated. It is an influence that is often subtle but yet has tremendous consequences. One woman can make a great difference for a whole nation.
Esther, a Jewess in the Old Testament, saved her people. When the Jews were in captivity, Esther was married to King Ahasuerus. The king signed a decree that all Jews were to be put to death. Esther’s cousin Mordecai urged her to intercede with the king on behalf of her people by saying to her, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14). Esther, at the peril of her own life, pled with the king that her people should be spared. The king listened to her entreaty, and they were saved. One woman can make a great difference, even for a nation.
These are challenging times. I believe your spirits may have been reserved for these latter days; that you, like Esther, have come to earth “for such a time as this.” It may be that your most significant, everlasting achievements will be your righteous influence on others.
I testify that if you practice these virtues, you will be able to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men” (2 Ne. 31:20).