Just like the ugly duckling who turned out to be a beautiful swan in Hans Christian Andersen's story, young men and women need to know who they are, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said during the Church Educational Fireside on Sunday, Nov. 1.
In an address to young adults originating at BYU's Marriott Center and broadcast via Internet and satellite to many parts of the world, President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, said, "Discovering who we really are is part of this great adventure called life."
He said that beginning to understand the answers to the questions where did we come from, why are we here and what happens after we die helps people to, like the ugly-duckling-turned swan, discover who they are.
Questions about life "that reach into spiritual things require spiritual answers," he continued. "Those who reject revelation and insist on tangible evidence can only speculate or deny that there is life before or after this mortal sphere. Consequently, they may never understand who they really are or what true purpose life has."
President Uchtdorf told his listeners that he is aware of the challenges they face in life, adding, "Today, I hope to impress upon your mind and heart how a knowledge of who you really are can help you to successfully conquer the most difficult issues of life."
To help them, he offered answers to questions he has been asked by young adults.
"I'm unhappy and depressed. Sometimes it seems like the world would be a better place if I weren't in it. Why should I go on living?"
President Uchtdorf acknowledged that severe depression and thoughts of suicide are serious matters and those who suffer from them, or know someone who is suffering, should see that help is sought from professionals and Church leaders.
But he reminded the young adults that God's purpose for them is that they should be happy.
He said, "It is my earnest prayer that the knowledge of who you are and what you may become will fill your souls with the peaceable love of God and that this will ignite within you a happiness worthy of your true heritage, for in truth you are princes and princesses, kings and queens."
"I'm so lonely. Will I ever find my soul mate?"
President Uchtdorf said, "I know this may disappoint some, but I don't believe there is only one right person for you."
He said he fell in love with his wife, Harriet, who was with him at the fireside, the first time he saw her when they were youth in Germany.
"Nevertheless, had she decided to marry someone else, I believe I would have met and fallen in love with someone else," he said. "I am eternally grateful that this didn't happen, but I don't believe she was my one chance at happiness in this life, nor was I hers."
The important thing, he said, is to avoid looking for perfection, but to find someone to marry and then work together to build a strong marriage.
"Once you commit to being married, your spouse becomes your soul mate, and it is your duty and responsibility to work every day to keep it that way," he said. "Once you have committed, the search for a soul mate is over. Our thoughts and actions turn from looking to creating."
He told those despairing about ever finding an eternal companion to not give up.
President Uchtdorf connected warmly with the congregation by sharing some personal experiences.
"Rejection," he said, "is one of the most painful things we can experience. Trust me, I know how this feels. I fell in love with Harriet long before she fell in love with me."
He spoke of searching for ways to be in the same place she was, even making a special effort in sacrament meeting, as an Aaronic Priesthood holder, to pass the sacrament to her family.
"But I think she found me just a little immature," he said.
Then, after he had joined the air force and returned from fighter-pilot training in the United States, he recalled seeing Harriet again. "This beautiful young woman looked at me and said those magical words I had been longing to hear. She said, 'You have matured since the last time I saw you.'
"When I heard this, I moved quickly and within a few months, I married the woman I had loved for a long, long time.
"So don't give up, brothers and sisters. Just because you have been rejected a time or two — or three or four or a couple hundred times — don't despair."
To the men he said, "The secret to finding the girl of your dreams is to get to know many and, when you fall in love and it feels right, ask her to marry you. If she says no, you continue to search and to pray until finally you will arrive with that young woman at the altar of the temple."
To the women he said, "Now, sisters, be gentle. It's all right if you turn down requests for dates or proposals for marriage. But please do it gently."
Back to the men, he said, "Please start asking."
"Can I remain faithful?"
President Uchtdorf told of how airline pilots, though possibly fascinated by the sight of billowing storm clouds flashing with lightning, avoid them and the danger they present to their airplane.
"Isn't the same principle true when you see things that could cause spiritual harm?" he asked. "Temptation wouldn't be temptation if it didn't appear attractive, fascinating or fun. But, like the pilot approaching a storm, you need to learn to avoid it, no matter how beautiful or intriguing it may appear."
He specifically mentioned pornography as a dangerous temptation that should be avoided.
As he was concluding, he told members of his young adult congregation that there are always voices that will insist that they are ugly ducklings who cannot be anything else.
"But you know better," he said. "Because of the revealed word of a merciful God, you have seen your true reflection in the water and have glimpsed the eternal glory of that divine spirit within you. You are no ordinary beings, my beloved friends. You are glorious and eternal."