President Thomas S. Monson: 'Dare to Stand Alone'
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President Thomas S. Monson began his priesthood session address by declaring, "What a wonderful gift we have been given — to hold the priesthood, which is 'inseparably connected with the powers of heaven' (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36). This precious gift, however, brings with it not only special blessings but also solemn responsibilities. We must conduct our lives so that we are ever worthy of the priesthood we bear. We live in a time when we are surrounded by much that is intended to entice us into paths which may lead to our destruction. To avoid such paths requires determination and courage."
He cited the results of a poll published in the New York Times in which young people were interviewed and the majority seemed "not to have been given the resources — by schools, institutions or families — to cultivate their moral intuitions."
"Brethren, none within the sound of my voice should be in any doubt concerning what is moral and what is not, nor should any be in doubt about what is expected of us as holders of the priesthood of God," President Monson declared. "We have been and continue to be taught God's laws. Despite what you may see or hear elsewhere, these laws are unchanging."
The Church president observed that it is almost inevitable in day-to-day living that Church members will find their faith challenged.
"We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not," he said. "Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone? As holders of the priesthood of God it is essential that we are able to face — with courage — whatever challenges come our way."
Increasingly, he said, some celebrities and others in the public eye tend to ridicule religion in general and, at times, the Church in particular.
"If our testimonies are not firmly enough rooted, such criticisms can cause us to doubt our own beliefs or to waver in our resolves," he warned, citing Lehi's vision of the tree of life in 1 Nephi 8, in which residents of the "great and spacious building" were seen mocking those who had partaken of the fruit, which is the love of God. Some of those mocked were ashamed and fell away into forbidden paths.
"What a powerful tool of the adversary is ridicule and mockery!" he exclaimed.
President Monson told of his first experience in having the courage of his convictions. It took place while he was in navy boot camp. On a Sunday, the chief petty officer sent the sailors off to the respective Catholic, Jewish or Protestant services.
"Instantly there flashed through my mind the thought, 'Monson, you are not Catholic; you are not a Jew; you are not a Protestant. You are are a Mormon, so you just stand here!' And I am glad I am still alive. I can assure you that I felt completely alone. Courageous and determined, yes — but alone."
To his amazement, he found he was not the only one who remained; there were other Church members there as well. The officer told them to go find somewhere to meet.
"Although the experience turned out differently from what I had expected, I had been willing to stand alone, had such been necessary," he remarked.
President Monson said, "Wherever we go, our priesthood goes with us," and asked, "Are we standing in holy places?"
He pleaded, "Before you put yourself and your priesthood in jeopardy by venturing into places or participating in activities which are not worthy of you or of that priesthood, pause to consider the consequences."
For any who have stumbled, he declared that there is a way back. "The process is called repentance. Our Savior gave His life to provide you and me that blessed gift. Despite the fact that the repentance path is not easy, the promises are real. We have been told, 'Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.' 'And I will remember [them] no more.'"
Some may think they can do fine without living all of the commandments, President Monson observed. He shared a letter from a man who once thought he could have it both ways but has since brought his life into compliance with gospel principles and commandments.
"'In the end, I had all of the emptiness, darkness and loneliness that Satan provides to those who believe his deceptions, illusions and lies,'" President Monson quoted from what the man had written.
President Monson said an individual testimony is necessary to be strong enough "to withstand all the forces pulling us in the wrong direction or all the voices encouraging us to take the wrong path."
"Whether you are 12 or 112 — or anywhere in between — you can know for yourself that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Read the Book of Mormon. Ponder its teachings. Ask heavenly Father if it is true."
Once one gains a testimony, it is incumbent upon that person to share it with others, President Monson said. "Many of you brethren have served as missionaries throughout the world. Many of you young men will yet serve. Prepare yourselves now for that opportunity. Make certain you are worthy to serve."
He added, "If we are prepared to share the gospel, we are ready to respond to the counsel of the apostle Peter, who urged, 'Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you'" (1 Peter 3:15).
Such an opportunity, he said, came to him in 1957 when he worked in the publishing business and addressed a convention in Dallas, Texas.
After the convention, he took a sightseeing ride through the city's suburbs. The bus driver pointed out buildings for different religious faiths and then, pointing to a beautiful red brick building on a hill, said it was where the Mormons meet.
The driver was unable to respond to a request to tell more about the Mormons. He asked if anyone on the bus could respond.
"I realized it was up to me to do as the apostle Peter suggested," President Monson recounted. "For the next 15 or so minutes, I had the privilege of sharing with those on the bus my testimony concerning the Church and our beliefs. I was grateful for my testimony and grateful that I was prepared to share it."
President Monson declared, "With all my heart and soul, I pray that every man, and I am looking at many, who hold the priesthood will honor that priesthood and be true to the trust which was conveyed when it was conferred. May each of us who holds the priesthood of God know what he believes. May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven."