We find examples of this so often where a person, forgetting who he is, wants to be popular with his peers and wants their praise. So often athletes get so carried away with their success and desire for praise that they forget their duty to God and the importance of his approval and as a result lose their way. This applies equally to politicians, members of fraternal organizations, professions, and business. This craving for praise and popularity too often controls actions, and as they succumb they find themselves bending their character when they think they are only taking a bow. Someone said to me the other day when we were talking about this that those who constantly love the praise of men more than the praise of God are faint reflections of another—meaning Satan, of course—who in the preexistence wanted to save all mankind, but with one condition attached—that the honor and glory go to him, not to God. He was more concerned with credit than with results; glory and praise were the end in themselves. My friend went on to say that on the crucial issues, if individuals are more concerned with pleasing men than pleasing God, then they suffer from the same virus Satan had, for there are many situations where seeking the praise of men will clearly result in their hurting, not helping, mankind for they will do expedient and temporary things instead of those which are lasting and beneficial. How much more satisfying it is when we receive the praise of God, knowing that it is fully justified and that his love and respect for us will persist, when usually the praise of men is fleeting and most disappointing.
The first part of the statement is a self-assured, unapologetic declaration: “I’m a Mormon.” Just as the young woman I met in the grocery store was not afraid to let the world know she was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I hope we will never be afraid or reluctant to acknowledge, “I’m a Mormon.” . . . The next part of the statement affirms, “I know it.” In today’s world, there are a multitude of activities, subjects, and interests vying for every minute of our attention. With so many distractions, do we have the strength, discipline, and commitment to remain focused on what matters most? Are we as well versed in gospel truths as we are in our studies, careers, hobbies, sports, or our texts and tweets? Do we actively seek to find answers to our questions by feasting on the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets? Do we seek the confirmation of the Spirit? The importance of gaining knowledge is an eternal principle. The Prophet Joseph Smith “loved knowledge for its righteous power.” He said: “Knowledge is necessary to life and godliness. … Hear, all ye brethren, this grand key: knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.” All truth and knowledge is important, but amidst the constant distractions of our daily lives, we must especially pay attention to increasing our gospel knowledge so we can understand how to apply gospel principles to our lives. As our gospel knowledge increases, we will begin to feel confident in our testimonies and be able to state, “I know it.” Next is the statement, “I live it.” The scriptures teach that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” We live the gospel and become “doers of the word” by exercising faith, being obedient, lovingly serving others, and following our Savior’s example. We act with integrity and do what we know is right “at all times and in all things, and in all places” no matter who may or may not be watching.
Lately I have reflected on many of the wonderful experiences I’ve had in my life. As I have expressed gratitude to my Heavenly Father for these marvelous blessings and opportunities, I have realized, perhaps more than ever before, how critical the formative years of my life were. Many of the most important and life-changing moments of my life occurred when I was a young man. The lessons I learned then formed my character and shaped my destiny. Without them, I would be a very different man and in a very different place than I am today. This evening, I would like to talk for a few minutes about some of these experiences and what I learned from them. I’ll never forget one high school football game against a rival school. . . He reached up, but the ball sailed through his hands. I jumped high, never taking my eye off the ball; stabbed at it; and pulled it down for the game-winning touchdown. I don’t remember much about the celebration after, but I do remember the look on Coach Oswald’s face. “Way to keep your eye on the ball,” he said. I think I smiled for a week. I have known many great men and women. Although they have different backgrounds, talents, and perspectives, they all have this in common: they work diligently and persistently towards achieving their goals. It’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on the things that are most important in life. I’ve tried to remember the lessons I learned from Coach Oswald and prioritize values that are important to me so that I can keep my eye focused on things that really matter. I urge you to examine your life. Determine where you are and what you need to do to be the kind of person you want to be. Create inspiring, noble, and righteous goals that fire your imagination and create excitement in your heart. And then keep your eye on them. Work consistently towards achieving them. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” In other words, never take your eye off the ball.
As we follow the Savior, without question there will be challenges that confront us. Approached with faith, these refining experiences bring a deeper conversion of the Savior’s reality. Approached in a worldly way, these same experiences cloud our view and weaken our resolve. Some we love and admire slip from the strait and narrow path and “[walk] no more with him.” . . How do we remain true to the Savior, His gospel, and the ordinances of His priesthood? How do we develop the faith and strength to never leave Him? Jesus said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We need the believing heart of a child. Through the power of His Atonement, we are to become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.” This is the mighty change of heart. We soon see why a change of heart is necessary. Two words signal danger ahead: the words are offended and ashamed.
We all long for peace. Peace is not just safety or lack of war, violence, conflict, and contention. Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies. . . The Savior is the source of true peace. Even with the trials of life, because of the Savior’s Atonement and His grace, righteous living will be rewarded with personal peace. In the intimate setting of the Passover chamber, the Savior promised His Apostles that they would be blessed with the “Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost” and then uttered these important words: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”Then just before His Intercessory Prayer: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Let us realize that God is mightier than all the earth. Let us realize that if we are faithful in keeping the commandments of God His promises will be fulfilled to the very letter. For He has said that not one jot or tittle shall fall to the ground unfulfilled. The trouble is, the adversary of men’s souls blinds their minds. He throws dust, so to speak, in their eyes, and they are blinded with the things of this world. Men do not lay up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust corrupt not, where thieves do not break through and steal, but they set their hearts upon the things of this world. and the adversary obtains power over them. I say to you, Latter-day Saints, that the pearl of great price is life eternal. God has told us that the greatest of all the gifts He can bestow upon man is life eternal. We are laboring for that great gift, and it will be ours if we keep the commandments of God. But it will not profit us to merely make professions and to proclaim to the ends of the earth that this is the Gospel, but it will profit us if we do the will of God.
I am now old in years—90 plus. I have lived a long time, and I have lived with great love for the young men and young women of this Church. What a truly wonderful group you are. You speak various languages. You are all part of a great family. But you are also individuals, each with his or her problems, each wishing for answers to the things that perplex you and worry you. How we love you and pray constantly for the genius to help you. Your lives are filled with difficult decisions and with dreams and hopes and longings to find that which will bring you peace and happiness. . . Now, here you are on the threshold of your mature lives. You too worry about school. You worry about marriage. You worry about many things. I make you a promise that God will not forsake you if you will walk in His paths with the guidance of His commandments. . . Of course you face challenges. Every generation that has ever walked the earth has faced challenges. We could spend the entire evening talking about them. But of all the challenges that have been faced in the past, the ones we have today, I believe, are most easily handled. I say that because they are manageable. They largely involve individual behavioral decisions, but those decisions can be made and followed. And when that happens, the challenge is behind us. I suppose that most of you are in school. I am pleased that you have that opportunity and that desire. I hope that you are studying diligently and that your great ambition is to get A grades in your various courses. I hope your teachers will be generous toward you and that your studies will yield top grades and an excellent education. I could wish nothing better for you in your schoolwork. Tonight I am going to let your teachers give you the A’s that I hope you earn. I want to talk about some B’s. You get the A’s; I will give you the B’s. 1. Be grateful. 2. Be smart. 3. Be clean. 4. Be true. 5. Be humble. 6. Be prayerful.
Enduring to the end is a hallmark of true discipleship and is essential to eternal life. But when trials and challenges come our way, we are often told to simply “hang in there.” Let me be clear: to “hang in there” is not a principle of the gospel. Enduring to the end means constantly coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him. If enduring to the end is essential to eternal life, why do we struggle to be faithful? We struggle when we are caught between competing priorities. Casual obedience and lukewarm commitment weaken faith. Enduring to the end requires total commitment to the Savior and to our covenants. Lehi’s vision of the tree of life is a powerful parable on enduring to the end. Please prayerfully study and ponder Lehi’s dream; then liken it unto yourself. As you do, carefully consider six important principles that help us endure to the end. . . Once we enter into covenants with God, there is no going back. Giving in, giving up, and giving out are not options. In the kingdom of God, there is a standard of excellence for exaltation. It requires valiant discipleship! There is no room for average or complacent disciples. Average is the enemy of excellence, and average commitment will prevent you from enduring to the end. If you are struggling, confused, or spiritually lost, I urge you to do the one thing I know will get you back on track. Begin again to prayerfully study the Book of Mormon and live its teachings every day, every day, every day! I testify of the profound power in the Book of Mormon that will change your life and strengthen your resolve to follow Christ. The Holy Ghost will change your heart and help you see “things as they really are.” He will show you what you need to do next.
Now, consider how your pathway to eternal life is similar to these athletes’ “four-minute performance.” You are an eternal being. Before you were born, you existed as a spirit. In the presence of a loving Heavenly Father, you trained and prepared to come to earth for a brief moment and, well, perform. This life is your four minutes. While you are here, your actions will determine whether you win the prize of eternal life. The prophet Amulek described, “This life is the time … to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day … to perform [your] labors.” In a sense, your four minutes have already begun. The clock is ticking. The words of the Apostle Paul seem so fitting: to run the race, that you may obtain the prize. In the same way that certain steps are essential in the very brief performance of an Olympic athlete—jumps or maneuvers for ice skaters and snowboarders, negotiating the turns of a bobsled run, or carving through the gates of a downhill slalom course—so it is in our lives, where certain things are absolutely essential—checkpoints which move us through our spiritual performance on earth. These spiritual markers are the essential God-given ordinances of the gospel: baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordinations, temple ordinances, and partaking of the sacrament each week. “In the[se] ordinances … , the power of godliness is manifest.” And in the same way that the discipline of training prepares an athlete to perform elements in his or her sport at the highest level, keeping the commandments will qualify you to receive these saving ordinances. Do you sense the urgency?