When teens graduate from high school and leave home to taste independence, they enter the dangerous decade of young adulthood. In the thrill of freedom, they often explore forbidden paths which lead to destructive behaviors, habits, and detours. By contrast, what parent could want more than to hear the following words from a son or daughter during these critical years? Here is a short extract from a long list of lessons learned from our oldest grandchild who recently returned from her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was hard work. She said she is not the same person that she was 18 months ago.
- I have learned why we need opposition and the trial of our faith.
- I have learned the important role of the Holy Ghost, and why I never want to live without the guidance of the Spirit.
- I have learned the importance of family and what I want my future family to be.
- I have learned what it means to truly love people.
- I have learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and intimate.
- I have learned what Heavenly Father can accomplish through 19 and 20 year- old men and women.
- I think the greatest change in me is that I can say with confidence that I know the truths of the gospel for myself.
- There is a certain peace and joy that comes when you know the truth. It comes from the Savior. That is what continually motivated me to wake up every day with excitement to share it with others.
- I have learned that I have great reason to rejoice!
It is inspiration from God to send missionaries of young adult age to spread the good news of the gospel worldwide. In the process of blessing others, these young adults are shaped in magnificent ways. I am a grandmother with great Reasons to Rejoice!
Our son took a lovely young woman out on a date. It was the first date and the last, because a few mildly coarse words peppered her speech. It was a deal breaker for our son. I’ve been thinking lately about the need for refinement of speech. The selection of words spewing from our mouths reveals what we are inside. That is what the Savior Jesus Christ taught: “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” (Matthew 15:18). And consider this statement: “Language most shows a man. Speak, that I may see thee” (Ben Jonson). How we speak reflects our true selves. Though I would not swear or use the Lord’s name in vain, I want to avoid even using alliterative, substitute words for the Lord’s sacred name. Also, I don’t want to use coarse or crude words—in surprise or exclamation, or in reference to body parts—even though these words are commonplace. How easy it is to become desensitized from hearing coarse and crude language in school, in the media, and in public everywhere. But this is no excuse to lower one’s personal standard. “Refinement of speech is reflected not only in our choice of words, but also in the things we talk about. Refinement of speech is more than polished elocution. It results from purity of thought and sincerity of expression” (Douglas Callister). When in doubt about the appropriateness of using certain words, I will remember the message of this simple child’s hymn: “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say…if I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me?”
The underground subway system in London, called the tube, posts frequent warning signs of dangers that might be encountered. One example is a sign reminding people of the gap between the train and the station platform. The sign reads, “Mind the Gap.” The purpose of this warning is to alert passengers of the need to step carefully onto the train, thus avoiding injury or lost objects. But to be protected, the passenger must obey the sign. I’m moving now to the analogy: “Mind the gap” can mean heeding God’s protective commandments to keep us from pain and injury. There is a difference between what we know and what we actually do. Merely reading the sign, “Mind the Gap” does not insure safety. I must obey it. Possessing knowledge of God’s commandments does not protect me if I don’t obey them. “If you keep your covenants, then your covenants will keep you through time and eternity” (Neal A. Maxwell). As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I want to become valiant in testimony and conversion by heeding the warning signs and obeying God’s commandments.
I will never forget the time I wanted to stoke my wood-burning fireplace with a lump of coal to extend the flame. Being in a hurry and not wanting to take time to change out of my white sweater dress, I decided to just be very careful retrieving the coal. (Silly me!) I went to the garage and gingerly opened the bag while slowly extracting a lump. Holding it out in front of me with extended arms, I walked back into the house and slid the lump of coal on top of the fire. I smiled smugly at my family for this amazing feat before rushing out the door to my meeting. But as I was about to make my presentation, I was horrified to notice a black smear of soot on my sleeve. Here is the lesson I learned that day: It is pride to think I can deviate even a little from the covenantal path without getting smudged in some way. I can’t tango with sin without its dirt rubbing off on me. The smear may not be immediately discernable but it is there all the same—and will bring me down. The Lord gives commandments to protect, not restrict us. He is a loving God—not a punitive God. I trust Him. “The discipline contained in daily obedience…builds an armor of protection and safety from the temptations that beset you as you proceed through mortality” (L. Tom Perry). This I believe with all my heart.
I’m trying to practice the attributes exemplified by Jesus Christ. The following incident helped me see an area I need to improve—patience! The other night I grumbled impatiently as I waited for another driver to slowly direct his vehicle into a parking space. But when I was able to see the driver, I was ashamed because it was a dear friend of mine. As I looked inside the car, my feelings changed. This experience demonstrates the need to look beyond the exterior appearance of things to develop patience. I need to look inside the heart of others to better understand why they behave as they do. I want to practice patience with people as well as trusting God’s timetable in answering prayers. Patience interlinks with fellow virtues of forgiveness, tolerance, and faith. Elder Neal A. Maxwell linked patience with faith when he taught: “Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His.” I can grow in faith when I am willing to wait patiently for God’s purposes to unfold. And I can learn patience with His timetable. I can also grow in patience with people when I take time to look inside with empathy.
How can I get out of a situation that doesn’t feel right to my soul? The answer can be really simple, especially if I decide beforehand how I will handle it. “If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step—so watch your step” (Jeffrey R. Holland). A wise leader once said that in her early teens she wrote a list of things that she would do in her life, and another list of things that she would never do. Over many years, she has remained true to that list. Deciding beforehand what actions I will take in a variety of circumstances will provide courage to make difficult choices in a moment of wavering. For example, I have already decided that while watching a film, if an inappropriate scene appears or crude language batters my ears, I will immediately switch channels or walk out of a theater. The decision is made in advance so that there is no need to weigh pros and cons in the moment.
Here’s a good question to ask yourself: What sacrifices have I been asked to make in my religion? I believe that a religion that does not require effort and sacrifice—doesn’t produce faith, refinement, and spiritual growth in its members. We understand this principle in other areas. For example, if I work hard and save money to pay for my college tuition, I will apply myself with greater diligence and appreciation. And how absurd it would be to ask a physical trainer to help me develop bulging biceps and total body fitness without performing strenuous exercise? The principle of sacrifice and reward has application in every dimension of our lives. It applies to religion too. If it doesn’t pinch, it isn’t a sacrifice. Here are some sacrifices I’m striving to make. I am imperfect, but I will never give up trying.
- Resist forbidden things.
- Study scriptures daily.
- Pray morning and night (and in between).
- Obey commandments.
- Minister and serve others, even when it’s inconvenient.
- Prioritize marriage and family as number one—to love, teach and minister.
- Cherish the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Fast and pay tithing.
- Repent when I make mistakes and strive to improve.
- Stand as a witness for truth.
- Treat others kindly even when mistreated. Forgive freely.
- Learn to love with compassion and courtesy.
Note the ACTION WORDS: Resist, study, pray, obey, minister, serve, prioritize, cherish, repent, stand, learn, love, forgive.