Youth - be your best self

You've heard it before, young people, haven't you?

Advice from adults who, of course, were once young themselves.But before you file this with those "I used to walk 10 miles to school uphill through the snow" stories (that your father used to tell you), look at it a little more closely.

Yes, this friendly advice does begin with, "Though you may find this difficult to believe, we were once teenagers. . . ." But please just take a minute and review these tried and true ideas. If you do so in the proper spirit, you'll find great treasures.

It really is funny how time affects us. When we're 16 years old, being 40 seems like a million years away. When we're 40 years old, being 16 seems like yesterday.

Which brings us to one of secrets of a successful life: learning the lessons of yesteryear.

If we can simply learn from those who have already traveled some of life's roads, we begin with a monumental head start. So, here are a few of those lessons. And while there's nothing necessarily new, you'll likely find it very valuable.

Lesson one: Dreams. Keep some of your dreams flexible; keep others absolutely unchangeable.

Knowing which can and which can't change is, in the context of the gospel, relatively simple - but of the utmost importance.

Matters that deal with our Heavenly Father and His gospel - things like living worthy of the ordinances we've received; making, keeping and renewing sacred covenants; keeping all the commandments (with special emphasis on being morally clean and living the Word of Wisdom); serving a mission and being married in the temple - are not subject to negotiation, rationalization or selective obedience. They are eternal and everlasting and lead one along the only path to joy.

Matters like what college to attend or what occupation to pursue of necessity need to be flexible. Such decisions are important, but are appropriately subject to change as circumstances and inspiration of the Spirit require.

Lesson two: Friendship. Few, if any, have greater influence on you than your friends. Friends can lift and inspire; or they can drag you to literal destruction.

And, while there are some, for obvious reasons, with whom we should not associate, there are many who deserve our kindness and interest. Following the example of the Savior, much good can come to this world if we will be a friend to those whom the world often ignores. We needn't judge, we needn't set ourselves above. The Savior told the Prophet Joseph that we should "let (our) love abound unto all men." (D&C 112:11) We need simply to follow our hearts.

Lesson three: Surroundings. Everyone needs a place where he can seek quiet solitude, meditate, read the word of God, and talk directly and honestly to our Heavenly Father.

The Savior taught that we should pray in "a closet." Perhaps your most likely "closet" will be your bedroom. Whether or not you share it with siblings, your bedroom can be a place designated for spiritual development.

You can little imagine the heart-felt joy of a mother when, late in the evening, she opens her teenager's bedroom door and sees her son quietly reading the Book of Mormon.

And, for now at least, you can little imagine a father's heart-felt joy of recalling the personal spiritual experience he had in the privacy of his teenage bedroom.

To that end, perhaps we should include in our bedroom decor only those things that will allow the spirit to attend. Some popular icons of our society are, perhaps, counter to that effort.

Lesson four: Perseverance. Do well those things you should do - and don't quit. As Alma taught his son and the Lord taught Joseph Smith (Alma 37:34, D&C 64:33), you should never tire of doing the right thing.

Mortality doesn't afford us the luxury of knowing beforehand the consequences of all our decisions. But you may rest completely assured that, ultimately, doing the right thing will bring the desired result. (See D&C 100:15.)

"I the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10)

Lesson five: Righteousness. Righteousness is, quite literally, its own reward. Alma, again to one of his sons, was explicit in declaring that wickedness is not now, nor ever will be, happiness. (See Alma 41:10.)

Being yourself is certainly OK. But do as King Benjamin taught and yield to the holy spirit's enticings so that you can overcome the natural, and ungodly, desires of mortality. (See Mosiah 3:19.) In other words, be yourself, but be your best self.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed