In October 2011, Thomas Monson, the prophet for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke about the times when we stand alone for our beliefs. Members of this church are sometimes nicknamed Mormons.
President Monson told of a study done in which teens were asked to describe a time when they faced a moral dilemma. Most of them could not remember such a time or they talked about situations that didn’t involve morality at all. It appeared to the researchers no one had ever bothered to teach these teens how to make moral decisions—or even that some situations involve morality. If this is the case, it also appears no one has bothered to give the teens moral values from which to draw.
When we fail to teach our teens to have values and to recognize moral dilemmas, we fail to prepare them for adulthood. It is essential that teenagers go into the world with a firm set of standards they will not violate. They might choose to raise their standards, but they should never be willing to lower them.
While some teach that children should be free to set their own standards, we know that is impossible. They need a foundation for their moral decisions and children and teens do not often have the skills to evaluate the morality of the world around them, particularly in a time of moral relativism. Too many people preach that anything is okay as long as it makes us “happy” without bothering to explain the disastrous consequences of being so “me” centered.
When we don’t give children moral values, we also deprive them of the opportunity to stand up for what is right. Standing alone requires courage and when teens learn at a young age to stand for what is right even if they are the only one, it gives them confidence and self-assurance that will benefit them all their lives. This centers them and helps them know more than ever who they really are. It allows them to reach beyond their own small world into the larger one that encompasses not just their own needs, but the needs and well-being of others.
President Monson related a story found in the Book of Mormon, which Mormons use in addition to the Bible. A Book of Mormon prophet who lived in ancient times had a vision in which he saw a wonderful tree with rich fruit. It represented the love of God.
There was a path that took people to the tree and many people followed it. However, some got distracted by a large and spacious building off to the side. It was filled with people in fancy clothing mocking those who were trying to do the right thing. Some people had the courage to ignore the mockers, but others became embarrassed at doing the right thing. They felt that pleasing the well-dressed crowd was more important than making eternally significant choices. They left the path and joined the mocking crowd, anxious to fit in with the “in-crowd.” In the process they traded eternity and true joy for a few years of popularity.
President Monson shared several stories of times when he had to make a choice about blending in or standing up for his faith. In the military, his commanding officer instructed everyone to meet together by religion for services. He called the Catholics, the Jewish people, and the Protestants, one group at a time, to come forward and sent them off to meet. President Monson wondered what he should do. Mormons do not consider themselves part of any of these religious groups. He decided to stand firm and not go with them, regardless of whatever the consequences might be. A moment later he was surprised to discover there were several other Mormons behind him, all of whom had made the same choice. It was certainly easier when there were also others, but he had been prepared to stand alone if he’d needed to.
In today’s world, there are many opportunities to decide whether to hide our faith or to stand for it. The best time to decide what you will do is before you have to do it. Your choice will demonstrate just who you really are.
Read Dare to Stand Alone.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.