This is a torch that carried the Olympic flame on part of its journey from Greece to Salt Lake City last February. It is symbolic of excellence and hope. It was lit for the first time in Greece at the birth of the Olympics so long ago.
This is the Young Women torch. It is symbolic of the light of the gospel, which comes from our Heavenly Father. This light had its beginning in heaven before you were born. There you were taught the great plan of happiness, and because you accepted this plan, you have the honor of being a torchbearer!
The Savior taught us to "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." The divine light which you carry within your soul is inherited from God because you are His daughter. Part of the light which makes you so magnificent is the blessing of womanhood. What a wonderful thing it is for you to know that your female, feminine characteristics are an endowment from God. Our latter-day prophets teach that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."2 It is a holy blessing to be born with the exquisite qualities of a daughter of God. Women of God, both old and young, are spiritual and sensitive, tender and gentle. They have a kind, nurturing nature. This is your inheritance. Never belittle the gifts God has given to you. Develop the divinity that is within you. Don't dull the brightness of the spirit you came with from heaven. The Lord needs your goodness and your influence in this world.
And so tonight I'd just like to talk to you from my heart about simply being good and the advantages of being good. It's about holding that torch high.
The world will try to make you think that being good is outdated and old-fashioned and that popularity comes from breaking the rules and lowering your standards. Don't buy into that way of thinking. As you watch TV or read magazines, you might be made to feel abnormal when, really, you are the one who has it figured out.
You may know that I am the mother of seven sons. I know boys. It has been an exciting life at our house! I've learned a lot from them and from their friends, both boys and girls, and I could tell you a few of their secrets. Maybe I could just share one and hope that I won't get in trouble. This is it: boys hate to be embarrassed. I remember the time a young man I know had a date for the prom. He brought her to our house before the dance so we could take pictures. When they got there he came into the kitchen, where I was looking for the camera, and said: "Wait until you see my date's dress. She looks so beautiful!" This boy had never said anything like that before so I could hardly wait to see what he meant.
When I saw her I understood; she was lovely. The dress she was wearing was beautiful; I learned that she and her mother had searched everywhere for it. When they finally found this dress, they knew it would be perfect with some added fabric and finishing touches to meet their high standards.
All their efforts were rewarded because she was absolutely radiant this night, but it was more than the dress that made her shine. It was her quiet confidence. As I looked at her, I was reminded of the scripture, "Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong." Where did this confidence that she had come from? I noticed that this young woman could focus on others because she was not worried about how she looked. She had taken care of that detail weeks before. The young man she was with felt comfortable and safe and happy when he was with her because her dress was not revealing. It was modest in every way, and this made her confident and happy. And that's appealing. He wasn't embarrassed by her; he was proud of her.
The kind of young woman who can be a terrific torchbearer has high standards all the time, not just in her prom dress, but every, ordinary day. There are so many of you who are like that, and I salute you tonight. You have made modesty your way of life. It is more than how you dress. It includes at least six things that I can think of: (1) your behavior is decent and modest, and yet you are very fun to be with; (2) your language is never crude but happy and interesting; (3) you are well groomed, and that is appealing; (4) you are focused on developing your talents and achieving your goals, not piercing and tattooing and flaunting your body; (5) you play sports with gusto but never lose control; (6) you don't seem to care about what the latest pop star wears or does because you have a certain style of your own. In summary, you do not imitate the world's standards because you know a higher standard. You know who you are, and that puts you at a real advantage. You know that you really are a daughter of Heavenly Father. You know that He knows you and that He loves you; you want to please Him and honor His love for you. You know that even if you make foolish mistakes, He will help you if you turn to Him.
You act like you have memorized For the Strength of Youth! Isn't that a great little guide? Sometimes I like to call it "helps for happiness" because living these standards can be your secret weapon for attracting good people to you and keeping you on the right track. When you live the high standards of the Church every day, you hold high the torch.
A girl I will call Liz is an example of what I am talking about. She was a student in a math class with a girl I will call Lindsay, who noticed that there was just something about Liz that "glowed," as she put it. Lindsay admitted that she really didn't think Liz knew her, but she still made her feel good. She really stood up for what she believed, and she always made others feel good and included. For several weeks Lindsay observed Liz. Then one day, Liz didn't show up at school. Then another and then another passed. Lindsay finally learned that Liz was very ill with life-threatening meningitis.
She came home from school and just sat at the table crying. It wasn't like she and Liz were close friends, but she said to her mom that they just had to do something to help her. Lindsay suggested that perhaps their whole family could fast and pray for Liz. What a shock it was for the mother to hear that coming from one of her own children, because fasting and prayer had not been mentioned in their home for years. When Lindsay and her mom talked with the rest of the family about it that night at supper, there was some resistance, but Lindsay pleaded with them and finally they all agreed to fast and pray for Liz, a stranger. The most wonderful thing happened. It wasn't long before Liz returned to school appearing healthy and happy as ever. But even more important than this, the experience brought the most remarkable spirit of hope into Lindsay's home. Because of it, some serious changes have taken place in their family. They are now having family prayer together, something that had not happened for years.
Liz's goodness glowed, and it was catching. Liz, if you are here tonight, I would just like to say, "Thank you! By your goodness you have blessed at least one whole family whom you probably do not even know. And who knows how many others have been guided as you held high your torch."
Being good makes you feel good, and it also makes others feel good! Can I just tell you thisit is so much easier to do what is right than it is to do what is wrong. Life is so much less complicated when you are good.
The greatest advantage of being good is that it will lead you to the temple, the most beautiful and sacred of all the places on this earth. The temple is the place the Savior could visit because it is His holy house here on earth.
President Lorenzo Snow's granddaughter was in the temple with him on one occasion when President Snow said to her, " 'Allie[,] I want to tell you something. . . . It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me.' [Grandfather] put his right hand on [my] head and said, 'Now granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the temple, and talked with him face to face.' "4
Can you imagine the reverence you would feel to walk the same halls the Savior walked? Do you picture yourself there, pure and clean, a daughter of God, prepared to receive His finest blessings?
Personal Progress will help you in your preparation for the temple. It is inspired of heaven. What a beautiful little treasure it is. It will help you draw closer to the Savior, and it will help you magnify the divine gifts of womanhood of which we have spoken. It is designed just for you at this very important period of preparation, for the patterns you set and the choices you make now will affect the rest of your life. It is our prayer that as you complete your Personal Progress, your light will shine so brightly that it will be an influence for good on generations to come. For these reasons and more, the First Presidency has said: "We desire all young women to strive to earn the Young Womanhood Recognition. As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and the Lord."5 The beautiful new Young Womanhood medallion depicts temple spires reminding you that you are preparing to receive the ordinances of the temple, for it is through the temple that we come to Christ.
We are especially thinking of Christ on this Easter eve. More than 2,000 years ago on this eve, as His body was in the tomb, some believed that the light had gone out. But we know that on the morning of the third day, which we call Easter, He arose to be our salvation, our Savior, our eternal light that will never fail us. I testify that Christ is the light and the life of the world.
Dear young women, let your light shine so brightly before all of your family and friends that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. It is a privilege to carry the torch. It is our prayer that His light will shine on your path every step along your way and that your goodness will qualify you to one day receive the ordinances of the temple, for it is in that holy place that you will find the greatest light of all, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
5. First Presidency letter on strengthening youth, 28 Sept. 2001.