Elder Mark E. Petersen
Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles
Mark E. Petersen, Conference Report October 1960, pp. 78-83
I am very grateful, my brethren, for the marvelous opportunity of addressing you this evening, and I sincerely and humbly pray that the Lord will guide me and inspire me because I, with my Brethren, have learned long since that I can do nothing of myself. I have memorized and said over and over again so many times that scripture wherein the Lord said, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5), and I pray earnestly tonight that he will guide me and help me, because it is a tremendous responsibility to address so many men. It is a tremendous responsibility to represent this Church.
But I glory in this Church. I am so thankful for it. I pray God that I, with Brother Romney, may be faithful even to the end. I have been so grateful for the Servicemen whom I have seen in this Conference. I was glad for the telegram President McKay read. I am sure that you Servicemen and you parents of Servicemen will be very glad to know, and on behalf of our Servicemen’s Committee which is headed by our wonderful chairman, Brother Lee, we would like to report to President McKay and the First Presidency that all of the stake presidents of the Church reported to us today that they have now taken out subscriptions to the Improvement Era and the Church Section of the Deseret News for every person in the military service of this Church. That was completed today, President McKay, and we are so thrilled with it. Under Brother Lee’s wonderful direction we have been working on this, and now we can report to you that the stake presidents have reported one hundred percent accomplishment of that wonderful assignment.
So, brethren, we wish to thank you, and we hope that you will continue with the program. Brother Lee asks that I mention the rest of the program in addition to the publications. Be sure, bishops, to carry on your interviews. Bishops and quorum people, will you remember to continue to write to these Servicemen and encourage them. They need your help, and they will be the stronger for it and so will you, if you cooperate with this program.
I desire to address my remarks tonight to the young men of the Church, to the boys of the Aaronic Priesthood, and to the younger men in the Melchizedek Priesthood. When President James prayed here tonight, opening this meeting, he thanked the Lord that we were born at this time, and it is surely something to be thankful for because it is a marvelous time in which to live. But it is also a very troublous time, and many of our young men are very discouraged about the prospects which confront them. Many of our young men are quite frustrated, in fact, not knowing now to plan their lives nor what to do about them. Some ask themselves,
“Shall I go to school, or shall I just wait until I am drafted? Shall I enlist and get the military obligation over with? Shall I prepare for a mission, or shall I just drift along?”
They know, of course, that just drifting does not get them anywhere. If we are to be successful in life we must plan our lives. But some of the boys say, “How can we plan? Our lives are planned for us. There is nothing we can do about it. We can go to school for awhile, and then we will have to go into the Army. We will have other obligations too. We cannot plan our own lives,” some boys have told me.
A couple of weeks ago I was down near Ft. Ord, California, and talked to quite a number of our young Servicemen there. They were very disturbed as to what the future holds for them. I have told the young men, as well as the young women of this Church, that they are born to a great destiny, a divine destiny. They are in very deed the children of God.
But there are some who do not believe in God. I remember one young man who came to me and wanted to argue about this after I had given a discussion in a meeting, and he said, “I have learned in school that there isn’t any God, and I have been fully convinced. I no longer believe that there is a God.”
I begin to wonder about young men and about people in general who do not believe in God. There are lots of them. Do you know that about 75 million Americans do not even belong to any church? Do you know that about 25 million more who do belong to churches take no part whatever in them, making a total of about 100 million Americans who, for some reason or another, have almost completely excluded God from their lives?
When I talk with young people about such a situation, I always like to ask them to consider the fruits of godlessness. What does it do to you to be without God? What does it do to you to be without religion? Can it benefit you, or can it hurt you? I ask them to look around and see what kind of people the godless people are. I read a very interesting discussion the other day by one of our great Americans, Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, a man whom I respect highly. He pointed out in this discussion that one of the outstanding fruits of godlessness in the world right now is Communism. Communism, he says, is a direct result of godlessness. Men who do not believe in God, who fight God, who put God out of their lives, and try to eliminate him from the lives of everybody else are the ones who produced Communism.
Is Communism something that you would like to take into your life? It is one of the fruits of godlessness. Do you want to have within you the fruits—or rather I should say the seeds of Communism? Do you realize that the seeds of Communism are sprouting even now from godlessness?
You know what Communism has done to the world. You know how it has spread. You remember Hungary, don’t you? And you remember Poland? Do you want to have anything like that in your life? Do you want the fruits of godlessness to become a part of you and your future?
Is there any real reason to disbelieve in God? There are some who say, “Well, I learned in school that there is no God. I have learned that there are other reasons for creation.” I was very interested the other day to read a speech by one of the great scientists of the world. He, with many others of his intellectual attainment, have reached the conclusion that all of the arguments in times past to the effect that science has abolished God are false. One of the great writers of America has said that rather than science abolishing God, science is now virtually abolishing atheism.
The present day attitude of top scientists was expressed recently by Dr. Joseph W. Barker, president and chairman of the Research Corporation of America, and formerly Dean of the Engineering School at Columbia University. He explained that scientists of the nineteenth century were misled by certain of their observations, and as a result came to conclusions which were definitely atheistic. “But now,” said Dr. Barker, “even the most pragmatic materialist in the face of present day scientific knowledge is led to the inevitable conclusion that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows of his handiwork.”
Dr. Barker’s concluding remarks on that occasion were these: “As the children of Israel foreswore the worship of the golden calf and returned to the faith of Jehovah, so we have foresworn the crass mechanistic materialism and returned to the faith in God of which the Psalmist of old sang, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is.'”
The day is past, my young brethren, when we have to be shaken in our faith by the pseudo teachings of certain men. The day is past when we need to doubt that God lives. The great minds of the world today now teach there is a God. He does live. They teach that he is a great mathematician. They teach that he is the Creator of the universe, and they say that this great Deity who made the universe must be a person because they see purpose in all creation, and you cannot have purpose without a person. Therefore, they say, God, the Creator, is a person.
But we do not take our faith from science, do we? We receive our faith in God from revelation, and we who live now, in the words of President James who offered the opening prayer, may well be thankful that we live now because God has appeared in modern times, in modern United States of America. He has appeared to modern men, and modern men have seen him, seen his face and figure, and have written descriptions of him. They have talked with him face to face. They are competent witnesses.
There need be no doubt in anybody’s mind now about God. He lives. He has been in the United States in modern times, and these competent witnesses leave you their testimony, and we leave you our testimony that we know that he lives because he has been seen and heard in America, in these, the last days. We are his children, and because we are his children we may become like him. Because we are his children he has raised us up at this time of the world’s history to do a particular work, and the accomplishment of that work is the great destiny to which you and I have been born.
We have been placed in the earth now to fulfill that destiny. Our destiny is that as his servants we shall prepare the way for his coming in glory in the future, not too far distant.
Are you willing, young people, to accept that destiny? Are you willing to so live that you may fill this destiny? Are you going to catch the picture of your own identity and know that you are a child of God, and that you are not a descendant of some monkey or some ape, but that you are actually the descendant of God Almighty on High, and that you are of the race of divinity?
Are you willing to accept that doctrine? Isn’t it far better to accept the doctrine that you are a child of God than that you are a descendant of some lower form of life not even as high as you?
Yes, we have our destiny, and the destiny is divine. It is that you and I must live and work in this Kingdom, and as his servants accomplish the great work that he has given us. We were born with a purpose. We must fulfill that purpose.
But sometimes we allow other things to interfere with our destiny. Are you willing to allow anything to interfere with yours? Are you willing to allow selfishness, convenience, or so-called popularity to interfere? Are you willing to give up your right to fulfill a great divine destiny because you want to be popular with a given crowd at school, or because you want to make an impression, because you want to make a “grandstand play?” Is a “grandstand play” worth the loss of your birthright? Is popularity with a questionable crowd worth it?
This discussion of Mr. Hoover, to which I referred, was most interesting. He said there are two great enemies of America today. They are twin enemies, he said. One is Communism. The other is crime. He said that both of them sprout from Godlessness. As Communism is a threat to America, so is crime. But they both grow out of Godlessness. Mr. Hoover appealed to all Americans to restore their faith in God as a safeguard to our nation. He actually gave us a warning that either the faith of our fathers will triumph, or this country will be dominated and controlled by either Communism or crime, or both.
Well, young people, Communism to you seems very remote, doesn’t it? And so does crime. I know that. But in the last few weeks hasn’t Mr. Khrushchev brought Communism very close to you? Don’t you see in him a personal antagonist, your own personal antagonist? Wouldn’t he like to destroy you if he could? Wouldn’t he like to enslave you? Communism does seem remote to you, but remember that it can come awfully close. With one word from Khrushchev he could cast you into war. You must give consideration to him. You cannot ignore him. He is more than a name in the world news.
And crime seems rather remote to most of you. Why do we talk about crime? We talk about it because crime, like Communism and much else begins with the small things. Every little thing that you do wrong might lead to a criminal tendency. It may seem very small at first. It may be cheating in school. It may be lying to your parents. It may be that you take some property that doesn’t belong to you. It may be that you go out on a petting party. It may be that it would be as terrible as stealing the virtue of some lovely girl. Is that crime?
I would like you to know that so far as I am concerned, I think it is worse to steal the virtue of a girl than it is to rob a bank. Crime—how does it start? Are you going to let these things—a lie here, a petting party there—interfere with the great destiny that you have? Are you going to let your personal convenience now interfere with your whole plan of life for the future? Or are you willing to sit down and plan your life? If you don’t plan you will fail.
Somebody once said that to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. That is true with our schooling, it is true with our work, it is true with our dating, it is true with every phase of our lives. Young people, as the children of God, will you plan for success? You do not need to be frightened about the world conditions, because if you are true and faithful God will protect you, and he will bless you.
May I read to you one of the great promises that the Lord has given? I put a lot of confidence in this promise. It is found in the last chapter of First Nephi. This is why I say I don’t fear the conditions of the world too much.
If we will do our part, and if we will fulfill our destiny we will achieve exactly what the Lord has for us, and we will be protected in doing it. I would like you to know that in these, the last days, the Lord has predicted that there shall be two simultaneous movements. One of these movements is the great tribulation that shall come upon the world. The wicked will destroy the wicked.
The other great movement which will be going forward simultaneously is that there shall be a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and it shall roll forth and eventually fill the whole earth. The Church to which you and I belong is that stone. It has been cut out of the mountain without hands, and your destiny and mine is to help roll it forth.
Now do you suppose for one moment that the judgments of God are going to interfere with the progress of his work? He is consistent, isn’t he? Although he will pour out his tribulations upon the wicked, he nevertheless will carry forward his work, and his people, under divine protection, will roll forth that stone until eventually it fills the whole earth.
And so, says the Book of Mormon: “For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.
“Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire” (1 Ne. 22:16-17).
I believe that. In the midst of all these tribulations God will send fire from heaven, if necessary, to destroy our enemies while we carry forward our work and push that stone until it fills the whole earth!
Your destiny is to do that very thing, and this is the kind of protection you will have. You do not need to fear about world conditions. You do not need to fear about anybody. Just serve the Lord and keep his commandments and build the Kingdom, and as you do so you will be protected in these last days. God will have his hand over you, and you can plan your lives in confidence. Every one of you can plan a wonderful life, a wonderful success, but you must plan.
Now what shall we plan for? We must plan to stay with the Church first, last, and always. We will plan to understand the doctrines of the Church and the proceedings of the Church so that we will understand our true destiny. We will study the gospel and be informed. We cannot leave ourselves in darkness or ignorance about our principal assignment in life. We will plan also to go to school and make the most of our educational opportunities, but we will not allow worldly theories to upset our faith.
We will dedicate ourselves to the living of the clean life. We will never allow sin to disqualify us for our destiny. We will choose good friends, clean and faithful like ourselves. They will help us on to our destiny. We will be a help to them. We will consider a most important step in fulfilling our destiny the acceptance of a full time mission for the Church, and looking toward that acceptance we will plan for it over the years. A mission is a must in the planning of our lives. We must not at any time allow unwholesome acts to interfere with that planning. It will be our first great step in helping to build the Kingdom of God.
We will plan for a temple marriage. We can never fulfill our destiny without it. That means we will date LDS girls—girls as clean as ourselves, as full of faith as ourselves. We will never let our dating practices put any roadblocks in our way as we move on the road to destiny. We will be honest with all other people. We will be honest with ourselves and never try to kid ourselves into thinking that we can get away with evil and still make the grade, if you will excuse that slang.
We will be true. We will be true to our loved ones, true to our country, true to ourselves, and true to our God. We will live up to the best that is in us. We will live up to our trust in God and the trust he places in us, for we know that he lives. We know that he is our Father. We know that we can become like him. We know that the Priesthood we have received is authority to be his servants in these, the last days, to help build the Kingdom, to strengthen others, and to prepare for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Young people, you are a people of destiny. You were not born to fail. You were born to succeed. You were born to accomplish a great work here and now. You were not born to be blinded by the sophistries of men. You were born to be bright and intelligent and have your eyes open, remembering that as the glory of God is intelligence D&C 93:36 so it is the glory of every one of us. It is intelligent to believe in God. It is intelligent to serve him. It is intelligent to declare our allegiance to him. It is intelligent to take the responsibility upon ourselves and move forward in the great assignment that he has given.
Be honest with yourselves. Live up to the best that is in you. Do not sell your birthright for a mess of pottage (Gen. 25:34). Be true to the faith and God will be true to you no matter what the future may hold.
This is my testimony to you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.