Recently, I was told something of the sights and sounds of the modern high school. Not a school in the inner city, but a suburban school just a few miles from my house attended by the relative of a relative. It was astonishing to hear how much worse things have become since my own high school graduation eight years ago. The perversions children and teens see in their schools each day are the same abominations that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, worse than those that brought Noah’s flood and comparable to any dark corner of the world.
The leaders of the Church see and have foreseen the severe tests that face our youth. In 2001, Elder Henry B. Eyring taught religious educators that “the world in which our students choose spiritual life or death is changing rapidly… The spiritual strength sufficient for our youth to stand firm just a few years ago will soon not be enough. Many of them are remarkable in their spiritual maturity and in their faith. But even the best of them are sorely tested. And the testing will become more severe.”
This is an ominous prediction for the future generations. Thankfully, prophetic leaders like Elder Eyring have also taught us how to shore up the spiritual strength of our youth-- and ourselves-- against the severe tests that “will become a torrent of sounds and sights and sensations that invite temptation and offend the spirit of God.” The place to begin, he explains, is with our “vision of what we seek” in the lives of our youth.
“We must raise our sights… The pure gospel of Jesus Christ must go down into the hearts of students 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 to do 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…
“What we seek for our students is that change… True conversion depends on a student seeking freely in faith, with great effort and some pain. Then it is the Lord who can grant, in His time, the miracle of cleansing and change. Each person starts from a different place, with a different set of experiences, and so a different need for cleansing and for change. The Lord knows that place and so only He can set the course.”
Members of the Church, particularly our youth, can protect ourselves against the difficult world around us by becoming converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As parents or in our callings, we can help strengthen our families and wards by teaching the pure gospel in plain simplicity. Pure and simple gospel teaching requires more of us—we must know the scriptures better and be more worthy of the Holy Ghost-- but the gospel will be relayed more powerfully as we teach with plainness. The Holy Ghost will carry the truth down into the hearts of our youth.
“But there is more. We can raise our sights by adding greater faith that the change promised by the Lord will come to our students… Faith is not simply to know God could do something. Faith is to know He will.”
The Lord will change the hearts of all those who diligently seek Him. He has intentionally given us experiences and relationships that will help us come to a converted conclusion. We must take advantage of the opportunities He gives us to build our faith, and we must be careful to fulfill our role in the conversion of those around us, particularly the youth of the Church.
Yes, the world is getting tougher. But we can help those coming after us to face it. We need only raise our sights.