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Church activities help teens meet challenges

Seminary students living in the Salt Lake area say temptations to swear, cheat, be immoral, listen to inappropriate music, and use drugs or cigarettes are their biggest challenges today.

They add, however, that attending firesides, seminary and Church, reading the scriptures, and praying daily gives them strength to overcome these temptations. Some say they avoid places and associations that may tempt them.Their seminary teacher, Greg Robbins, said outside influences - such as peers, advertising and the desire to be accepted - are pulling young people away from the gospel. He called it a concern to know that some youth "are willing to give up more important things for more immediate gratification."

However, he was optimistic about the majority of his students. Through seminary, he explained, students are learning to overcome challenges by applying the lessons taught in the scriptures to their daily lives. Brother Robbins said students can also learn from Church leaders - especially the prophet.

President Gordon B. Hinckley talked about the current state of the world at the General Relief Society Meeting in September.

"I need not remind you that the world we are in is a world of turmoil, of shifting values," he said. "Shrill voices call out for one thing or another in betrayal of time-tested standards of behavior. The moral moorings of our society have been badly shaken. So many of the youth of the world, and likewise so many of their elders, listen only to the seductive voice of self-gratification."

One 15-year-old student said it is very hard to keep his thought centered on the gospel. "Whenever I get these bad thoughts I look at my CTR ring," he said. "I'm usually OK, but it's very hard to keep these thoughts out." Another student said she tries to center her thoughts on what is right for her, not the world.

President Hinckley told the youth in the April 1995 general conference that scripture reading can help them overcome their biggest challenges.

"I look back to my own youth," he said. "Neither young men nor young women were doing much scripture reading at that time. What a marvelous change has been wrought. A new generation is arising who are familiar with the word of the Lord."

Brother Robbins said there is no question that immorality is one of the biggest problems plaguing youth today. In a Skyline High School seminary fireside, President Hinckley also addressed the issue of morality.

"One day years ago when I had charge of the missionary program, a young man and a young woman came to see me one morning," President Hinckley said. "He had been called on a mission. He had come to say that he couldn't go. He and his girlfriend had been acting improperly and the result was that she was going to have a baby. He couldn't go. Of course he couldn't.

"They sat across the desk from me and cried like two little babies, just weeping their hearts out. . . . You boys and girls, be careful. You can't afford to get into that kind of guilt. It isn't necessary and it won't happen if you know what is right and exercise a little self-discipline and behave yourselves. And if you don't, circumstances can be absolutely tragic."

One seminary student said he overcomes the temptation to be immoral and to break the Word of Wisdom by thinking about the things he wants for his future. "I tell myself, `I need to go to college and I don't need my body to go bad,' " he explained. Another student said she "prays to Heavenly Father for help" and reads her scriptures daily because "I know that this will give me peace."

President Hinckley counseled the youth, during a Parowan Youth Fireside in January, to simply be happy and choose the right.

"Now, have fun. I don't want you to go around with tears rolling down your cheeks all the time, mourning over the condition of the world. No. You're young. Be happy. Be alive. Be alert. Enjoy life. Have a good time. Have a lot of fun. Laugh and play and dance, whatever. But there is line in the sand which you cannot cross ever. There's a line in the sand which you cannot cross that pertains to morality, to honesty, to diligence. . . . Choose the right," he said.

Brother Robbins said there are "great kids" growing up today. He believes the youth are doing "just fine." President Hinckley has also expressed appreciation for the youth on several occasions, calling them "the greatest in the history of the Church."

"Now, go forward with your lives," he said at the 1995 West High Seminary Graduation. "The best lies ahead. I believe that with all my heart. If you will stay on the straight and narrow, the best lies ahead."