Sunday, Sept. 9, 2001
"Be not afraid; only believe"
My dear young friends,
We are gathered tonight in this great Conference Center and in numerous Church halls elsewhere. There must be hundreds of thousands of you. It is a stimulating experience and a tremendous challenge to be with you. It is a wonderful opportunity to speak with you.
I may repeat tonight some things I have said before. But I am not going to give you the six "B's" that I gave your younger brothers and sisters a year ago, which have since been memorized by many and even set to music. Maybe I will get out a book someday on these because I believe the youth of the whole nation could profit from their observance. The difficulty I have in doing such things was expressed by Madame Curie long ago. She said, "So little time. So much to do." And that is your problem also — "So little time. So much to do."
I am told that you are 18 to 30 years of age. Oh, to be 18 or 25 or 30 again! You can do anything when you are that age. I am three times 30, plus one. But I have not lost my interest in you, your problems, or your great opportunities.
The world is full of nay-sayers who think that people your age have lost their way. I disagree. Let me say that I am very proud of you. I think you are the finest generation this Church has ever produced. Because of you, I have no fear concerning the future. You are ambitious. You are trustworthy. You are loyal to the Church and its principles. You have great confidence in one another. You work together with love and appreciation and respect one for another. You are faithful and you are true. You love the Lord and you pray.
Do you have problems? Of course you do. You have many problems. Many of you worry about what to do with your lives, how you will earn a living. Many of you worry about marriage, about having a good companion who will love you and whom you will love. You look forward to the time when you will have children and hope within yourselves that you will be good fathers and mothers.
You face problems that at times seem insurmountable. You try to find a way out, but only become frustrated. You pray about these matters. But you don't seem to get the answers you seek.
You live in a world of loose moral standards. You have been taught one thing by your parents and the Church, and you see another thing often practiced by those who seem to succeed and do well.
Most of you have held to high standards. Possibly some few of you have slipped. To you I would like to say that I assure you that even if this is the case, you have not lost everything. With sincere repentance on your part, the Lord will forgive and those about you will forgive. I hope that you will somehow come to forgive yourselves and put your trust and faith in the Lord who will be kind and gracious to you.
Already you have paid a terrible price for your mistakes. They have haunted you day and night. They seem never to leave you.
Confess them, if that is necessary and then get them behind you. Parents and bishops stand ready to help. Your bishops have been ordained and set apart and promised wisdom beyond their own in working with you and assisting you. Isaiah said, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land" (Isaiah 1: 18-19).
Most of you are in school. Most of you are attending universities which are not Church universities. While doing so, you attend Institute.
Permit me to say that there is no way that all of you could be accommodated at BYU-Provo, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, or the LDS Business College. I wish that this might be possible, but it cannot be. Please do not feel left out. Grasp the opportunity of the moment wherever you may be. Love the school of your choice. Make it your dear mother, your alma mater. Take from it the very best it has to offer. And hold on to the Institute program. Gather with your peers in these far-flung facilities. Listen to good and able teachers. Participate in the social programs. Studies have shown that you are as likely to marry in the temple if you do this as if you were at one of the Church-owned schools. I pray that you will be blessed of the Lord, that you will receive a good education, that you will find wonderful companionship, that you will look upon these days as among the most fruitful of your entire lives.
I do not downgrade the Church schools. They are tremendous institutions. I wish we could build and maintain many more. But we cannot. They are terribly expensive. I am so glad that we have them, and I compliment those of you who are attending these institutions. I myself did not attend BYU. I attended the University of Utah and received there my baccalaureate degree. I have no regrets. As chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees I am grateful for our Church institutions, but I am also grateful that there are opportunities elsewhere, many of them, and that the Institute program represents a very serious attempt on the part of the Church Board of Education to see that our students have opportunities for religious training and Church association wherever they may be.
And so, God bless you my dear young friends wherever you are. You are doing that which the Lord would have you do. Said He, "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek leaming, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118).
You are engaged in an intense gathering of knowledge, the accumulated wisdom of all of the ages of man. As members of this Church, ours must be a ceaseless quest for truth. That truth must include both spiritual and religious truth, as well as secular.
Joseph F. Smith, who served 17 years as President of the Church, declared:
"We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. No sect or religious denomination in the world possesses a single principle of truth that we do not accept or that we will reject. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth … will endure. No man's faith, no man's religion, no religious organization in all the world can ever rise above the truth" (Smith, Joseph F., Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1978, p. 1).
But you must distinguish between truth and sophistry. There can be a vast difference between the two, and unless we are careful we may find that we are believing in the sophistry of man rather than the truth of God.
I read the newspapers. I read those who write syndicated columns. I occasionally listen to the commentators on television and radio. These writers are brilliant. They are men and women of incisive language, scintillating in expression. They are masters of the written word. But for the most part their attitude is negative. Regardless of whom they write about or speak about they seem to look for his or her failings and weaknesses. They are constantly criticizing, seldom praising. This spirit is not limited to the columnists and the commentators. Read the letters to the editor. Some of them are filled with venom, written by people who seem to find no good in the world or in their associates. Criticism, fault-finding, evil speaking-these are of the spirit of the day. To hear tell, there is nowhere a man of integrity holding public office. All businessmen are crooks. The utilities are out to rob you. Even on campus there is heard so much the snide remark, the sarcastic jibe, the cutting down of associates — these, too often, are of the essence of our conversation. In our homes, wives weep and children finally give up under the barrage of criticism leveled by abusive husbands and fathers. Criticism is the forerunner of divorce, the cultivator of rebellion, sometimes the catalyst that leads to failure. In the Church, it sows the seed of inactivity and finally apostasy.
I come to you tonight with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life that we try to "accentuate the positive." I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man or woman who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his or her course.
What I am suggesting is that you turn from the negativism that so permeates our modem society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom you associate, that we speak of one another's virtues more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically my wise father would say: "Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve."
We are experiencing a serious economic downturn. You read of thousands of layoffs. This may be a difficult season for you. You worry much about your personal affairs. You worry about money. You worry about marriage. You worry about the future. There may be some lean days ahead for some of you. There may be troubles. None of us can avoid them all. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. I finished the University of Utah in 1932. It was the very bottom of the most serious depression of modem times. The unemployment rate in Utah was then more than 30 percent. There was much of cynicism. It was a time when men stood in soup lines and some committed suicide in despair. But somehow we managed to eat and keep going. Opportunities gradually opened, first here and then there. In 1982, I spoke at the 50th anniversary of my graduating class. I met there men and women who had become prominent in many undertakings. They had begun almost in poverty. But they kept climbing upwards. They had become leaders. They had looked for the positive in life, praying with faith, and working with diligence.
No matter the circumstances, I encourage you to go forward with faith and prayer, calling on the Lord. You may not receive any direct revelation. But you will discover, as the years pass, that there has been a subtle guiding of your footsteps in paths of progress and great purpose.
The growth of the Church gives us reason to be upbeat. In 1967, I received the assignment to supervise the work in all of South America. I traveled back and forth over that great continent many times. The work was weak everywhere. There were perhaps a half dozen stakes in all of that part of the world. Now, in the nation of Brazil alone, there are 188 stakes. In Mexico, there are 197 stakes. It is difficult to believe, but it is a fact.
We shall likely see from now until the 2002 Olympics are behind us a great deal of writing concerning the Church. Much of it is likely to be negative. Journalists may mock that which to us is sacred. They may belittle that which we call divine. They may accuse us of being opposed to intellectualism. They will in large measure overlook the glory and the wonder of this work.
But I want to tell you that what they write will not injure us. We may be offended by it, but the work will go forward. With their negative attitudes they will overlook the wonder of the spark that was kindled in Palmyra which is now lighting fires of faith across the earth, in many lands and in many languages. They will have great difficulty understanding us, because the Spirit of God is something that is foreign to them. With their humanistic outlook they will fail to realize that spiritual promptings, with recognition of the influence of the Holy Ghost, are as potent and real a thing as any other manifestation in this life.
George Santayana said:
"Oh World, thou choosest not the better part!
It is not wisdom to be only wise,
And on the inward vision close the eyes;
But it is wisdom to believe the heart" (0 World Thou Chooset Not, 1894).
Looking to our history our critics may see little of divinity in the great work of the Prophet Joseph and those associated with him. Were our forebears human? Of course they were. They doubtless made some mistakes. Some of them acknowledged making mistakes. But the mistakes were minor, when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight the mistakes and gloss over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a wart on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the wart is emphasized unduly in relation to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity.
These early leaders made no pretense at being perfect. They recognized that there was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building His perfect society. If some of them occasionally stumbled, or if their characters were slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished so much.
I wish to say a few words on intellectualism, that quality which some say we deny in our work. A so-called scholar recently expressed the view that the Church is an enemy of intellectualism. This strikes particularly at you people in your present circumstances. If he meant by intellectualism that branch of philosophy which teaches "the doctrine that knowledge is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason" and "that reason is the final principle of reality," then, yes, we are opposed to so narrow an interpretation as applicable to religion. (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, p. 738).
Such an interpretation excludes the power of the Holy Spirit in speaking to and through man. Of course we believe in the cultivation of the mind. The emphasis in the classes you are taking in your various courses demands the cultivation of the mind and the use of its powers. But the intellect is not the only source of knowledge. There is a promise, given under the inspiration of the Almighty, set forth in these beautiful words: "God shall give unto you knowledge by his holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost" (D&C 121:26).
The humanists who criticize us, the so-called intellectuals who demean us, speak only from ignorance of this manifestation. They have not heard the voice of the Spirit. They have not heard it because they have not sought after it and prepared themselves to be worthy of it. Then, supposing that knowledge comes only of reasoning and of the workings of the mind, they deny that which comes by the power of the Holy Ghost. The things of God are understood by the Spirit of God. That Spirit is real. To those who have experienced its workings, the knowledge so gained is as real as that received through the operation of the five senses. I testify of this. I am confident that each of you can testify of it. I urge you to continue throughout your lives to cultivate a heart in tune with the Spirit. If you do so, your lives will be enriched. You will feel a kinship with God our Eternal Father. You will taste the sweetness of joy that can be had in no other way.
Do not be trapped by the sophistry of the world which for the most part is negative and which seldom, if ever, bears good fruit. Do not be ensnared by those clever ones whose selfappointed mission it is to demean that which is sacred, to emphasize human weakness and to undermine faith, rather than inspire strength. "Look to God and live" (Alma 37:47).
Well did Jacob say long ago:
"0 that cunning plan of the evil one! 0 the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
"But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God" (2 Nephi 9:28-29).
As you walk your various paths, walk with faith. Speak affirmatively and cultivate an attitude of confidence. You have the capacity to do so. Your strength will give strength to others. Do not partake of the spirit so rife in our times. Rather look for good and build upon it. There is so much of the strong and the decent and the beautiful to build upon. You are partakers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel means "good news." The message of the Lord is one of hope and salvation. The voice of the Lord is a voice of glad tidings. The work of the Lord is a work of glorious accomplishment.
I am not suggesting that you simply put on rose-colored glasses to make the world about you look better. I ask, rather, that you look above and beyond the negative, the cynical, the critical, the doubtful, to the positive and the affirmative.
Some years ago I clipped an article on Commander William Robert Anderson, the man who first took a submarine under the North Pole from the waters of the Pacific to the waters of the Atlantic. It was an untried and dangerous mission. In his wallet he carried a tattered card with these words: "I believe I am always divinely guided. I believe I will always take the right road. I believe God will always make a way where there is no way" (Quoted in Look magazine, 20 April 197 1, page 48).
In a dark and troubled hour Jesus said: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
On one occasion the ruler of the synagogue came to Jesus pleading for help for his dying daughter. While he yet spoke to the Master, those of the ruler's house came and said, "Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?"
"As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe" (Mark 5:35-36).
I commend those tremendous words to you. Be not afraid, only believe.
Believe in God our Eternal Father, He who is greatest of all, who stands ever ready to help us and who has the power to do so. Believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of mankind, the worker of miracles, the greatest who ever walked the earth, the intercessor with our Father. Believe in the power of the Holy Ghost to lead, to inspire, to comfort, to protect. Believe in the Prophet Joseph, as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in ushering in this the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Believe in the sacred word of God, the Holy Bible, with its treasury of inspiration and sacred truth; in the Book of Mormon as a testimony of the living Christ. Believe in the Church as the organization which the God of Heaven established for the blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations of time.
Believe in yourselves as sons and daughters of God, men and women with unlimited potential to do good in the world. Believe in personal virtue. There is no substitute for it anywhere under the. heavens. Believe in your power to discipline yourselves against the evils which could destroy you. Believe in one another as the greatest generation ever yet to live upon the earth.
I leave you my testimony of the truth of this work. I know it is true. I know that it is the work of the Almighty. I bear witness of Him who is our Father and our God, of Him who is our Lord and our Redeemer. I bear witness of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph and of those who have succeeded him in this high and holy office.
I pray the blessings of the Lord upon you, my beloved brothers and sisters. How much I love you. I love you with all my heart. I pray for you. I plead with the Lord to bless you with joy in your lives, with the strength to be virtuous, with the will to do what is right, with capacity to learn things both secular and spiritual, with answers to your prayers as you walk in righteousness, and I do it all in the sacred name of our Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.