President Thomas S. Monson admonished his listeners during the priesthood session of general conference to “be strong and of good courage.”
“We are here upon this earth at a remarkable period in its history,” the Church president observed during his Saturday evening message. “Our opportunities are almost limitless, and yet we also face a multitude of challenges, some of them unique to our time.
"We live in a world where moral values have, in great measure, been tossed aside, where sin is flagrantly on display, and where temptations to stray from the straight and narrow path surround us. We are faced with persistent pressures and insidious influences tearing down what is decent and attempting to substitute the shallow philosophies and practices of a secular society.
"Because of these and other challenges, decisions are constantly before us which can determine our destiny. In order to make the corrections, courage is needed — the courage to say ‘No’ when we should, the courage to say ‘Yes’ when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right.”
President Monson told the priesthood brethren, "We can help ourselves in our desire to do what is right if we put ourselves in places and participate in activities where our thoughts are influenced for good, and where the Spirit of the Lord will be comfortable."
He recalled reading some time ago the counsel a father gave to his son when he went away to school: "'If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out!’ I offer to each of you the same advice.”
Courage comes in many forms, President Monson noted. He added that inner courage “includes doing the right thing even though we may be afraid, defending our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed and maintaining those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or social status. He who stands steadfastly for that which is right must risk becoming at times disapproved and unpopular.”
President Monson said when he served in the U.S. Navy, he learned of brave deeds, instances of valor and examples of courage. One was "an 18-year-old seaman – not of our faith – who was not too proud to pray. Of 250 men in the company, he was the only one who each night knelt down by the side of his bunk, at times amidst the jeers of bullies and the jests of unbelievers. With bowed head, he prayed to God. He never wavered. He never faltered. He had courage.”
President Monson also gave an example of one who seemed to lack such inner courage. A friend told him that she and her husband attended an inspiring sacrament meeting in which a young man who held the office of priest in the Aaronic Priesthood spoke of gospel truths and the joys of keeping the commandments. Dressed in a clean and neat white shirt and tie, he bore a fervent, touching testimony from the pulpit. Later the woman and her husband, as they drove out of the neighborhood, saw the same young man dressed in scruffy clothes and smoking a cigarette.
“My friend and her husband were not only greatly disappointed and saddened, but they were also confused by how he could be so convincingly one person in sacrament meeting and then so quickly seem to be someone else entirely,” President Monson related.
“Brethren, are you the same person wherever you are and whatever you are doing – the person our Heavenly Father wants you to be and the person you know you should be?” he asked.
He told of Jabari Parker, an NCAA basketball player and a member of the Church, who shared advice his father had given him: “Just be the same person you are in the dark that you are in the light.”
President Monson said the scriptures are filled with examples of courage. He cited the accounts of Daniel, Abinadi, the stripling sons of Helaman, and Moroni.
“Throughout his life, the Prophet Joseph Smith provided countless examples of courage,” President Monson reflected. “One of the most dramatic occurred as he and other brethren were chained together and held in an unfinished cabin next to the courthouse in Richmond, Mo.”
He then quoted the words of Parley P. Pratt, who was among those held captive with the Prophet. Elder Pratt recounted that the guards were boasting and jesting with horrid oaths and blasphemies about the atrocities they had committed against the Latter-day Saints.
“Continued Elder Pratt, ‘I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but I had said nothing to Joseph or anyone else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden, he arose to his feet and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words: “Silence!
In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die this instant.'"
President Monson said, "Joseph stood erect in terrible majesty, as described by Elder Pratt. He was chained, without a weapon and yet he was calm and dignified. He looked down upon the quailing guards who were shrinking into a corner or crouching at his feet. These seemingly incorrigible men begged his pardon and remained quiet.”
President Monson declared, “It is impossible to stand upright when one plants his roots in the shifting sands of popular opinion and approval. Needed is the courage of a Daniel, an Abinadi, a Moroni, or a Joseph Smith in order for us to hold strong and fast to that which we know is right.”
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