'Prepare for opportunities, challenges'

"We cannot hold the ground or win more for the cause of the Lord if we are not men and women of faith who trust and serve the Lord Jesus Christ," Elder M. Russell Ballard said Sunday, May 15.

Elder Ballard of the Council of the Twelve was the keynote speaker at the Institute Student Council Announcement Fireside, attended by more than 5,000 institute of religion students and young single adults from throughout the Salt Lake Valley. The annual fireside includes the announcement of the next school year's leaders at the five institutes of religion within the valley.Also attending the gathering in the Tabernacle on Temple Square was Elder John E. Fowler of the Seventy, president of the Utah Central Area, who bore his testimony and briefly paid tribute to the young people gathered as future leaders of the Church and country.

Music was provided by an 80-member choir from the institute adjacent to the University of Utah.

Throughout his address, Elder Ballard shared a variety of faith-promoting experiences from the lives of early pioneers, discussing the severe trials they overcame through their faith in the Lord and commitment to the kingdom.

"These early members succeeded in the face of all opposition because they had the unwavering faith to open their mouths and declare the truth and because they took with them the mighty sword of the Lord's Spirit," said Elder Ballard. "They remembered the baptismal covenant to `stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places . . . even until death.'

" . . . Why do the leaders of the Church plead with the youth to be clean and pure? Why the constant call for chastity, virtue, honesty, integrity and righteousness? The reason is clear. The Church will need men and women in the future who have the same kind of faith and the same deep commitment that the founders of the Church had."

As he spoke, Elder Ballard noted that his objective for the evening was to help those in attendance to "prepare for new opportunities and challenges that will be in your future. Some of you will soon serve a mission, continue with your education, marry and have a family, or will pursue an advanced degree or enter the work force. I pray that . . . the Spirit of the Lord may touch your minds to help you know how you can best prepare for your future."

He quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith, who spoke in April 1844 of the importance of starting out with a correct understanding of the character and designs of God: " `If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong we may go wrong, and it will be a hard matter to get right.' "

Continuing, Elder Ballard said, "As you consider what is ahead for yourself, your family, your country, and for the Church, I ask you, do you fully comprehend the designs of God for your life?"

He noted the increasing challenges within society of uncertain and sometimes unstable employment opportunities, the spread of terrorism, an explosion of gangs and crime, and ethnic hatred causing literally the disintegration of nations. Other powerful forces in society are "attacking gospel values and demolishing families," he added, noting that 30 percent of all births last year in the United States (1.2 million) were out of wedlock.

"Young adults in the Church can certainly anticipate some exciting and wonderful opportunities to help turn around the trends of America, and even the world, in the years ahead. In the future, it will be more and more difficult to remain a committed follower of Jesus Christ. I believe future followers of Christ will more intensely face adversity, social collapse, and persecution for religious beliefs than anything we see today.

"Now I ask each one of you, what course will you set? What will be your compass in the midst of the storms of life? What will be your anchor to keep you from drifting off the course that leads to eternal life?"

He referred to Joseph Smith and others who laid the foundation of the Church for examples to follow.

"On June 27 we will reach the sesquicentennial day of the martyrdom of Joseph and his faithful brother, Hyrum, in Carthage Jail. From their lives we can learn how to face our own trials in future years. We can learn from their perseverance in the face of incredible hardships and opposition the power of faith in God and the power of testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Elder Ballard then questioned: "Now, may I ask you young adults, have you such a testimony of the Restoration? Can you stand firm for the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is your faith in the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith strong enough that regardless of any opposition you will be `determined to endure tribulations as good soldiers unto the end?'

"If you have such faith, then the work of the Lord will continue to roll forth in the future as it has in the past."

As he concluded his remarks, Elder Ballard left a strong challenge and testimony with the congregation.

"You must always remember what a great blessing it is to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You must never take lightly nor ever forget the price that our forefathers willingly paid for the establishment of the only true Church upon the earth.

"You will soon go into a world that desperately needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. Your unwavering testimony and lifetime of willing service to build the kingdom of God upon the earth will serve you and your family eternally. But also, the world needs the gospel, and very soon many of you will be called upon to carry the banner of the restored gospel in your stakes, wards, quorums and families. Are you ready? Are you preparing now for your place in history? Do any of you need to repent? If the answer is yes, then in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call upon you to repent tonight so you can prepare for your day of service to the Church in the future.

"Now, some may ask how can I in this day and age make any significant contribution to help rescue a sick world and to strengthen the Church? From my experience, I know that if your testimonies of the gospel and your service to your fellowmen and to the Lord can follow the life and service of the founders of the Church, then our tomorrows will be more secure and our world will be a safer place."

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