PROVO A world darkened by terrorism has many teenage and twenty-something members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints questioning whether a happy future is possible for them, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve said Sunday.
One day after the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Elder Holland addressed about 20,000 college-age students at Brigham Young University's Marriott Center and urged them to hold to hope.
"Since 9/11, I have heard dismal opinions from some in your age group," he said. Those opinions include wondering whether the attacks portend the end of the world and whether it is worth it to pursue higher education, plan on serving church missions, marrying or having children.
"In some ways, those kinds of attitudes worry me more than al-Qaida does," said Elder Holland, who was speaking at a Church Education System fireside broadcast via satellite to an estimated 80,000 church members in various parts of the world.
Elder Holland countered those pessimistic outlooks by saying young adults enjoy more blessings today than at any time in history and that prophets and followers of Jesus Christ have for millennia looked forward to this time. He said ancient eras always ended in apostasy and destruction, and he pointed out the travails of Adam, Moses, Noah and Book of Mormon prophets like Mormon and Moroni.
"My theory is that these great men and women, the leaders of ages past, were able to keep going, were able to keep testifying, were able to do their best," he said, "not because they knew they would succeed but because they knew you would."
Elder Holland stressed the term "saints" in the church's name and said members need not fear the future if they are faithful.
"If you will keep your hearts pure, you and your children and your grandchildren will sing songs of everlasting joy, and you will not be moved out of your place."
He urged those listening to avoid being paralyzed by reports of terrorism and instead to embrace, shape, dream about and love their futures, futures he said are brightened by advances in education, science, technology, communications, transportation, economic fortunes, nutrition and revelation.
With those "unprecedented blessings," however, comes the need to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, he said, an event past prophets did not live to see.
"You're going into battle in the last days representing Alma and Nephi, representing Peter and Paul," Elder Holland said. "If you can't get excited about being part of that element of history, you can't get excited."
Saints should live with confidence, optimism, faith and devotion, he added.
"God is in charge. He knows your name. He knows your need."
Elder Holland said his talk stemmed in part from a conversation he had with a missionary shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. The young man asked him if these are the last days.
Hoping to lighten his mood, Elder Holland hugged the missionary and said, "I may not be the brightest man alive, but even I know the name of the church."
The concern expressed by that missionary resonated with BYU student Tom Evans, who said he has seen the pessimism Elder Holland mentioned among some in his generation.
"I think his message was uplifting because it reminds us we can be optimistic no matter what," Evans said.
Indeed, Elder Holland closed with a promise that the students can look forward with a bright hope.
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