'Strengthen belief in God and self,' prophet counsels

President Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged more than 4,200 youth and young adults to strengthen their belief in God and in themselves during three firesides here March 23-24.

In what is becoming a signature of his ministry, the president took time to meet with young people from 16 stakes in two Saturday gatherings and one on Sunday. During recent travels to regional conferences and on other Church business, he has, where possible, made time for youth firesides in the various cities he has visited.While in San Diego, the prophet was accompanied by his wife, Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley; and by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Ruby. The three all spoke or shared testimonies at the meetings prior to President Hinckley addressing each congregation. The president noted that he and Elder Haight are the two oldest General Authorities at ages 85 and 89, respectively, the "elderly of the elders" in his words. He said they both wanted to spend time with the youth to bless and encourage them.

First of the three firesides was conducted early evening Saturday in the Vista California Stake center, located an hour north of downtown San Diego, for 1,800 youth ages 14-18 from eight stakes. Another 1,100 youth from eight stakes in southern San Diego heard the prophet later that evening at the San Diego East Stake center. On Sunday evening, 1,350 young adults from 16 stakes in and around San Diego met at the San Diego East Stake center for the third fireside. Choirs of more than 100 voices each provided music at all sessions.

There was an outpouring of love expressed for the prophet throughout the weekend. As he entered each meeting, the youth and young adults stood and sang, "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet," with much emotion. Farewells and goodbyes at the conclusion of each fireside were likewise poignant.

"It's good to be with you, and I add my thanks for your coming tonight," President Hinckley told the young adults Sunday night. "You're such promising people. . . . You are sons and daughters of God. You have a tremendous potential for good. . . . You know what life is for, what it's about, that you're part of an eternal plan, that you lived with purpose before you came to this life, that this life is a mission and not just a career, and that we will step over the veil someday but keep on going and growing. I don't know of anybody in the world who has the concept of the meaning of life that we have as a result of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

The prophet went on to relate the account of Thomas, the Lord's apostle who doubted the account of the Savior's resurrection until he was a personal eyewitness of the risen Christ. "Be not faithless, but believing," were the Lord's words to Thomas. (John 20:27.)

" Be not faithless, but believing.' I'd like to leave that one line with you tonight," said President Hinckley. "Be not faithless, but believing.' Believe in yourselves. Believe in your capacity to do some good in this world. God sent us here for a purpose, and that was to improve the world in which we live. The wonderful thing is that we can do it. We can do it. That brings with it the opportunity and the challenge to educate our minds and our hands. I congratulate you - every one of you who is trying to do that."

He recounted many of the choices and challenges facing youth and young adults, including their concerns about education, jobs, marriage, finances and other matters.

"These are days of worry and concern for you. But they are days of such tremendous opportunity. Be not faithless, but believing.' Trust in the Lord. Pray about it. Ask for His help and His direction. He has said,Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' (Matt. 7:7.) I believe that! With all my heart, I believe that. `Be not faithless, but believing' in your capacity to do good things."

President Hinckley noted that despite the challenges of the current generation, this is a thrilling time to be alive. "There has never been a time quite like this time," he emphasized, recounting advances in science, medicine and other fields of endeavor.

"And on top of all of that is the great crowning gem of everything that we have - the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope every one of us is thankful for the privilege of being alive in this great season of the world and that you recognize that in spite of all the troubles that we have, this is a time of great opportunity for each of us."

He reminded the youth of the importance of living pure, virtuous lives, of living honestly and of treating others with kindness.

"Honesty is still the best policy," he said. " . . . We believe in being honest, you and I. You cannot cheat in school and do the right thing. It does not work in the long run. Can you imagine undergoing surgery on your head, for instance, by a man who cheated in medical school? How would you like that? No, you would not want it, would you. Be honest. . . . Be honest with one another. Be honest with your parents. Be honest with yourselves."

In speaking of honesty and kindness, President Hinckley discouraged the practice of speaking evil of others.

"Do not do it," he said. "It does injury. It hurts. Think of the Golden Rule: Whatsoever one should do unto you, do ye even so unto them. . . . Never, never, never run down another."

He also spoke candidly concerning morality, avoiding profane language and shunning drugs, gangs and graffiti.

Morality - "Do not sell yourselves cheap, any of you. Do not do it. Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.' (Isa. 52:11.) . . . The commandment:Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.' The blessing: `Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; thy Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth.' " (D&C 121:45-46.) President Hinckley challenged the youth to make the determination right then to be morally clean. "Now is the time when you can make that decision, that you will never be involved in . . . immorality of any kind. Make that decision and you will never have to make it again."

Profane language - "You know all about it, don't you. You hear it in high school. You hear it in junior high. Filthy, dirty language. . . . Rise above it. . . . I hope you never use the name of Deity in a profane way and swear it. . . . Do not use dirty, filthy talk."

Drug abuse - "I hope there is not a young man or woman in this hall who takes or uses illegal drugs. . . . You cannot afford it. You are moving into a competitive world. You are going to need all the wits that you have, all the brain capacity that you can possibly marshal, and all the skills you can develop if you are going to be successful in life. Do not, for goodness sake, take illegal drugs."

Gangs - "You know all about gangs in California. We know about them in Salt Lake now. Terrible. . . . There is no future in it. It does not leave you anything but failure."

Graffiti - "I hope there is not an individual in this hall, an LDS young man or young woman, who would deface a wall with graffiti. I first ran into it many years ago, 30 years ago in South America. Every wall splashed with graffiti. I said to myself, `What a terrible thing. Why would we destroy the property of others.' "

President Hinckley noted that the greatest safety in life lies in living true to one's membership in the Church. "Cling to the Church and live its principles, and I do not hesitate to promise you that your lives will be happy, that your accomplishments will be significant, and that you will have reason to get on you knees and thank the Lord for all He has done for you in giving to you the marvelous and wonderful opportunities that you have."

He added that following the leadership of the General Authorities is an important step in staying close to the Church.

"I want to make you a promise," he said. "I know it's true. The Lord will never let the General Authorities of this Church lead it astray. It won't happen. . . . We have a presidency of three. We have a Council of Twelve Apostles. We meet together in the temple every Thursday. We pray together, we discuss together, we seek the inspiration of the Almighty, and it's my testimony that it comes."

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