The following is what I have written down for my notes. I just thought I would share.
D&C 101: 78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral aagency which I have given unto him, that every man may be baccountable for his own sins in the day of cjudgment.
We were all given our agency. We are able to make our own choices, weather good or bad; great or small. We can choose to come to church or stay home and watch the football game, we can choose to pay for an item we want or steal it. We can choose to eat our dessert first or after our meal. We can choose to wear white socks, black socks or even polka dotted socks. All of our choices will have consequences and we will be held accountable for them. While the choice of our sock color won’t hold eternal consequences, many of our choices do.
We talk in Young Womens a lot about making choices and decisions way before the need arrives. For example, if a young woman has made the decision to dress modestly when she’s young, And while shopping finds a very cute, but short skirt or top, its much easier to put it back on the rack if she’s made the decision ahead of time. However, a choice like that can be difficult to talk yourself out of, if that decision hasn’t already been made.
Or, I’m sure, many of you have been offered a drink of coffee or even alchol, at one point in your life. Sometimes I take it for granted that I’ve never really had to think about that response. That choice has been made for years and I never have felt the pressure to appease that person who offered it to me. A simple “No Thank you” has always worked. I can imagine that offering of something that goes against the word of wisdom being a hard choice to make, if you’ve never thought about it before hand.
As many of you know, when asked to give a talk in this ward, we are often given a talk or an article from the ensign from a general authority to base our remarks on. Today, my remarks are based on a talk by D. Todd Christofferson, from the 2009 November Conference Ensign issue. After reading this article, I felt like I could paraphrase it in about 3 sentences.
- Behave yourself.
- Behave yourself even when its hard.
- If you don’t behave yourself, it will affect way more than just yourself.
He talks about Moral Discipline. Moral discipline meaning – self-discipline based on moral standards. “Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. It rejects the self-absorbed life in favor of developing character worthy of respect and true greatness through Christlike service.”
He also relates a story that was originally told by President James E. FaustDuring World War II, President Faust, was a young enlisted man in the United States Army, applied for officer candidate school.
He appeared before a board of inquiry composed of what he described as “hard-bitten career soldier[s].” After a while their questions turned to matters of religion. The final questions were these:
“In times of war should not the moral code be relaxed? Does not the stress of battle justify men in doing things that they would not do when at home under normal situations?”
President Faust relates:
“I recognized that here was a chance perhaps to make some points and look broad-minded. I knew perfectly well that the men who were asking me this question did not live by the standards that I had been taught. The thought flashed through my mind that perhaps I could say that I had my own beliefs but did not wish to impose them on others. But there seemed to flash before my mind the faces of the many people to whom I had taught the law of chastity as a missionary. In the end I simply said, ‘I do not believe there is a double standard of morality.’
“I left the hearing resigned to the fact that [they] would not like the answers I had given … and would surely score me very low. A few days later when the scores were posted, to my astonishment I had passed. I was in the first group taken for officer’s candidate school! …
President Faust recognized that we all possess the God-given gift of moral agency—the right to make choices and the obligation to account for those choices. He also understood and demonstrated that, for positive outcomes, moral agency must be accompanied by moral discipline.
Our society today does not make it easy to promote and respect moral discipline. It has been taught that “truth is relative” and that everyone decides for him or herself what is right. Concepts such as sins and wrong have been deemed merely “value judgements”. As a consequence, Self discipline has eroded. Our society is left to try and maintain order by complulsion. When individuals lack self control it is left to the government to create laws and maintain control for the safety of the whole.
For example I want you to think about a toddler. Now a toddler, hasn’t yet really learned all about self control or self discipline yet. That is left up to the parent. You’re small child asks for one piece of candy. Harmless, sure, you agree. 5 minutes later, she asks for another, and then another, and then another. If you don’t use your self discipline, and limit the intake of sugar, you will be left with a child who might a little wild, a little crazy and within a little while, her tummy will most likely not feel very good. You will be faced to deal with the consequence of trying to calm a upset child by complulsion, because you HAVE to you have no other choice. While, if you had used self control, and stopped her at 1, even if it was hard to listen to the whining and pleading, in my expericnece that doesn’t last nearly as long as an upset child with an upset stomach.
Even with all of the laws and police, it will never be enough to replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior. Teaching right and wrong and making good choices is far better than waiting for someone to make bad choices and then punishing them for it. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society.
Moral discipline is learned in the home. While we cannot control what others may or may not do, we can certainly stand with those who demonstrate virtue in their own lives and teach virtue to the youth, weather they are our own children or not.
Here is a story that I’m sure all of the primary kids know.
Remember from Book of Mormon history the young men who were key to the Nephite victory in a long war. The sons of the people of Ammon. Their land was in danger and their fathers had promised the Lord to never pick up their weapons of war again. Instead of letting their fathers break their sacred promise they chose to go to battle themselves. Their character and discipline were described in these words: These scriptures all come from the book of Alma chapters 53-57.
“They were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
“Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20–21).
“Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them” (Alma 56:47).
“Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually” (Alma 57:27).
This is a standard for what should happen in our homes and in the Church. Our teaching should draw upon our own faith and focus instilling faith in God in the rising generation, in OUR CHILDREN. We must make it known that it is essential to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before Him with reverence. Each child or youth must be persuaded that service and sacrifice for the well-being and happiness of others are far superior to making one’s own comfort and possessions the highest priority.
To teach our child to be like these young men, it requires more than just sending them to Sunday school once a week. It requires more than the occasional reference to one gospel principal or another. There must be CONSTANT teaching, mostly by example.
(Now, a side note. Have you ever heard that the one giving the talk often learns more than those hearing it. Well, if I had to pick the one phrase that I’m sure our Heavenly Father wanted me to hear, that was it. I, as a parent, need to do a better job of constantly teaching my children. If I do not, the consequences will not only lie upon me, but upon my children. If I don’t teach my children the gospel, what is right and wrong and how to use their own moral discipline to make good and righteous choices, it will affect them both temporally and spiritually. I can’t leave that up to others to do for me. Sure others can and should help, but in the end its our responsibility as parents to make sure our children know the truth of the gospel and right from wrong.
President Henry B. Eyring expressed the vision we strive to attain:
“The pure gospel of Jesus Christ must go down into the hearts of [our children] by the power of the Holy Ghost. It will not be enough for them to have had a spiritual witness of the truth and to want good things later. It will not be enough for them to hope for some future cleansing and strengthening. Our aim must be for them to become truly converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ while they are with us. …
“Then they will have gained a strength from what they are, not only from what they know. They will become disciples of Christ.”6
I have heard a few parents state that they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are.
D&C 93:24 And atruth is bknowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
Without that truth, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the choices that come before them. Parents should consider how the adversary approaches their children. He and his followers are not promoting objectivity but are vigorous advocates of sin and selfishness.
Trying to be neutral about the gospel is, in reality, to reject the existence of God and His authority. We must, rather, acknowledge Him if we want our children to see life’s choices clearly and be able to think for themselves. They should not have to learn by sad experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).
As part of a mom’s group I’m a part of, we watched a video of a very popular Christian speaker from another church. Now, I don’t remember what her main focus of her address was. One phrase truly stuck out to me. She was asked by a member in the audiance, “as a mother of teenagers, how do you get your kids to go to church?” She looked at her quizzically and asked, “what do you mean, ‘how do I get my kids to church?’ I PUT THEM IN THE CAR AND I TAKE THEM” I admire this woman for that. Our kids, weather they are small or teenagers, or even adults need to know the truth of the gospel before they can decide if they want to make the choice to follow it.
When it is time to teach a specific gospel principal or how to make good choices, “put your kids in the car and take them.” It is that simple We need to teach them what they need to know. We need to teach them the truth of the gospel. We need to teach them of right and wrong and of the consequences
Again “the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are.”
Perhaps our moral discipline, if we will cultivate it, will have an influence for good and inspire others to pursue the same course. We may have an impact on future trends and events. At a minimum, moral discipline will be of immense help to us as we deal with whatever stresses and challenges may come in a disintegrating society.
Brothers and sisters, I know our Heavenly Father loves us. He gave us our agency to use. With that agency comes the responsibility to use it wisely. And to teach others, especially our children, that we must use our moral discipline to make our choices, especially when it’s hard.
In the Name of Jesus Christ.