I know many young adults who have either left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or have become inactive in it. I am confident that some of them drifted into inactivity without even thinking about it. Once one misses a Sunday or two, it becomes easier to stay home and eventually stop attending Sunday meetings. The same applies to personal and family prayer, individual and family scripture study, or any other righteous action.
I know that some of these young people have chosen to leave the Church over doctrine or historical occurrences. Some of them have listened to anti-Mormon messages and thrown away everything they knew about the Church. Some have even rebelled against Christ’s teachings.
I feel great concern for these young adults – some of whom are now reaching middle age. Some of them are members of my own family. Others are the children of dear friends. Still others are former students. All of them are dearly loved by me and by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ even though they are not valiant in their testimonies of Jesus Christ. They are often in my thoughts and prayers.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about remaining valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ. “Eternal life is the greatest gift of God and is bestowed on those who `keep [God’s] commandments and endure to the end’ (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). On the other hand, eternal life with our Heavenly Father is denied those `who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus’ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:79). There are a number of stumbling blocks to our valor that can prevent us from reaching the goal of eternal life.”
Stating that “stumbling blocks can be complex” Elder Cook shared a personal experience to illustrate his point. His father built a small cabin on the ranch where he was reared. Elder Cook visited his father after the cabin was framed. He looked out the window at the “exceptional” and “magnificent” vistas that could be seen. Right in the middle of the view was a power pole. Elder Cook thought the pole ruined the view and spoke to his father about it. His father explained, “Quentin, that power pole is the most beautiful thing to me on the entire ranch! … When I look at that pole, I realize that, unlike when I grew up here, I will not have to carry water in containers from the spring up to the house to cook, wash my hands, or bathe. I will not have to light candles or oil lamps at night to read. I want to see that power pole right in the middle of the view window.” The father had a different perspective than the son. To one it meant an improved life, and to the other it was “a stumbling block to a magnificent vista.”
Elder Cook explained that a “stumbling block is `an impediment to belief or understanding’ or `an obstacle to progress.’ To stumble spiritually is `to fall into sin or waywardness.’ A stumbling block can be anything that distracts us from achieving righteous goals.”
After stating that we “cannot afford to have our testimonies of the Father and the Son become confused and complicated by stumbling blocks,” Elder Cook proceeds to share “some of the stumbling blocks that confuse and complicate our pure and simple testimony of the Father and the Son and keep us from being valiant in that testimony.”
The first stumbling block Elder Cook speaks about is “the philosophies of men.” “We are committed to knowledge of every kind and believe `the glory of God is intelligence.’ But we also know that the preferred strategy of the adversary is to lead people away from God and cause them to stumble by emphasizing the philosophies of men over the Savior and His teachings….
“We know the Apostasy occurred in part because the philosophies of men were elevated over Christ’s basic, essential doctrine. Instead of the simplicity of the Savior’s message being taught, many plain and precious truths were changed or lost….
“At the dawn of the Restoration, many at least professed to follow the Savior’s teachings. Many countries considered themselves Christian nations. But even then there was prophecy of a more difficult time for our day.”
Elder Cook quoted Heber C. Kimball who was called as an apostle at the time of Joseph Smith. Elder Kimball warned: “The time is coming when … it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then … look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall.’ He concluded that there is `a TEST coming.”
Explaining that Christianity is decreasing in many nations, Elder Cook continues. “Unfortunately, this also happens with some members of the Church who lose their bearings and become influenced by the cause of the moment – many of which are clearly not righteous.” He then adds the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell in 1982: “Much sifting will occur because of lapses in righteous behavior which go unrepented of. A few will give up instead of holding out to the end. A few will be deceived by defectors. Likewise, others will be offended, for sufficient unto each dispensation are the stumbling blocks thereof!”
Elder Cook’s second stumbling block is “Refusing to see sin in its true light.” Many people today are committing great sins but refuse to recognize them as sins. “They have no remorse or willingness to acknowledge their conduct as being morally wrong. Even some who profess a belief in the Father and the Son wrongfully take the position that a loving Father in Heaven should exact no consequences for conduct that is contrary to His commandments.” To these people, Elder Cook recommends repentance. “The remarkable and celestial blessing of the Savior’s Atonement is that through repentance, sinful conduct is blotted out….”
Elder Cook’s third stumbling block is “Looking beyond the mark.” “While there are many examples of looking beyond the mark, a significant one in our day is extremism. Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders. One example is when one advocates for additions, changes, or primary emphasis to one part of the Word of Wisdom. Another is expensive preparation for end-of-days scenarios. In both examples, others are encouraged to accept private interpretations….”
Concluding his address Elder Cook states, “If we are to be valiant in our testimony of Jesus, we must avoid the stumbling blocks that entrap and impede the progress of many otherwise honorable men and women. Let us determine to always be in His service. While seeking knowledge, we need to avoid the philosophies of men that lessen our commitment to the Savior. We must see sin in its true light and accept the Savior’s Atonement through repentance. We need to avoid looking beyond the mark and focus on Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, and follow His doctrine.”
What some people see as a stumbling block, others see as a stepping stone – just as Elder Cook and his father had different opinions of the power pole. We can be sure that “being valiant in our testimony of Jesus is a stepping-stone toward qualifying for the Savior’s grace and the celestial kingdom.”
It is my hope and my prayer that I will stay valiant in my testimony of Jesus Christ and then hold up His light to all my family and friends. I especially hope that all my young adult and not so young friends and family members will see it and follow that light into the Celestial Kingdom.