Choose to Live a Virtuous Life

(This post comes from a talk that I shared with the Young Men and Young Women, ages 12-18 in my Church congregation, on 13 October 2013 to encourage them to live the standards that Heavenly Father has revealed in our day)

We are all on a journey.  We lived with our Heavenly Father before coming to this Earth and when the appropriate time came He sent us here in order for us to learn and grow in ways that we could not when we were with Him.  He provided a way for us to experience this life and overcome the challenges that beset us here as we turn to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for assistance (see Mosiah 3:19), forgiveness (see Isaiah 1:18; D&C 19:16-19), and strength (see Ether 12:27).  Ultimately, however, we all hope to live again with our Father in Heaven and this life is just one stage of this journey to perfection and eternal life.

As we all know this world is filled with evil and wickedness.  Heavenly Father knew that we would pass through temptations, confusing influences, sorrow, weaknesses of the flesh, and unrighteousness, and so He established certain patterns of behavior, or standards, that would help us to make good decisions and keep us unsullied from worldly influences.  Many in the world would tell us that these standards are restricting and limit our ability to have fun.  I feel like these standards were given for our protection and to enable us to have fun and to be happy as we complete our journey.  Just as caution signs, guard rails, and seat belts along a mountain road enable us to complete our trip safely and enjoy the drive through the mountain, standards keep us safe and enable us to find true happiness rather than fleeting elation.  We can choose to ignore the caution signs and drive recklessly as we twist our way down a mountain pass but we may end up injured or dead, or we can choose to keep to the limits and arrive safely at our destination.  So it is with standards, and let us choose the virtuous life.

A picture of a winding mountain road with guard rails

Yes, the happiest in this life, and the ones who find their true destination and return to live with Heavenly Father to enjoy eternal life, are the ones who choose the virtuous life and choose to follow the standards.  In The Book of Mormon we read often about the source of true happiness, for example:

“Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10)

“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.” (Mosiah 2:41)

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27)

I have seen the fulfillment of these words in my life wherein I have witnessed the sorrow and heart-ache that comes from disobedience and I have experienced the joy and blessings that come from a virtuous life.  I know that the only true way to find lasting happiness in this life is to follow the patterns and commandments that Heavenly Father has given us.  I also know of the captivity and distress that comes from choosing not to obey.  So I say again, let us choose a virtuous life.

Sister Elaine Dalton said this about living a virtuous life:

Your personal purity is one of your greatest sources of power. When you came to the earth, you were given the precious gift of a body. Your body is the instrument of your mind and a divine gift with which you exercise your agency. This is a gift that Satan was denied, and thus he directs nearly all of his attacks on your body. He wants you to disdain, misuse, and abuse your body. Immodesty, pornography, immorality, tattoos and piercings, drug abuse, and addictions of all kinds are all efforts to take possession of this precious gift—your body—and to make it difficult for you to exercise your agency…[be] worthy to make and keep sacred covenants. The covenant you make at baptism will tether you to the path of virtue and happiness…As you keep your baptismal covenant, you will look different, dress different, and act different from the world. Keeping this covenant will enable you to be guided by the Holy Ghost. Stand in holy places, and do not even go near those environments or music, media, or associations that might cause you to lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. (“Be Not Moved!” 2013 General Young Women Meeting)

I like how she points out that our virtue is a source of power and shares a multitude of ways in which we could violate the standards and thereby limit ourselves.  It is really a blessing to be different as we keep our standards because we are on the path of righteousness and can find true happiness.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about finding true happiness and following God’s plan:

We all search for happiness, and we all try to find our own “happily ever after.” The truth is, God knows how to get there! And He has created a map for you; He knows the way. He is your beloved Heavenly Father, who seeks your good, your happiness. He desires with all the love of a perfect and pure Father that you reach your supernal destination. The map is available to all. It gives explicit directions of what to do and where to go to everyone who is striving to come unto Christ…All you have to do is trust your Heavenly Father. Trust Him enough to follow His plan. (“Your Happily Ever After” 2010 General Young Women Meeting)

That map is the Plan Of Salvation that teaches us to follow God’s commandments in order to return home to live with Him  The standards, as found in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet for example, are the safety devices and caution signs that allow us to follow God’s plan.  We need to trust in God enough to follow His plan and choose a virtuous life.  Some people may mock our standards or suggest they are outdated.  This is especially true in the area of modesty.  The truth is that the modesty standard, as well as the other standards, come from a loving Heavenly Father who knows the perils along the way and has given us guidance to overcome them:

Modesty is not just cultural. Modesty is a gospel principle that applies to people of all cultures and ages. In fact, modesty is fundamental to being worthy of the Spirit…When we recognize our bodies as the gifts they are and when we understand the missions they help us fulfill, we protect and honor them by how we act and dress…Honoring our covenants, starting with baptism, affects who we are and what we do, including the kinds of things we say, the music we listen to, and the clothing we wear. When we make and keep covenants, we are coming out of the world and into the kingdom of God. Our appearance should reflect that. (Elder Robert D. Hales, “Modesty: Reverence for the Lord,” August 2008 Liahona)

Nephites fighting with armor against Lamanites fighting without

When it comes to keeping the standards of the Church and choosing a virtuous life, I love the example of Captain Moroni.  He was chosen at the age of 25 to lead the whole Nephite army (the good guys in The Book of Mormon) and he worked hard to help them to be safe from the Lamanites.  He not only taught them how to defend themselves but he taught them to follow God’s plan.  He first noticed that his people needed individual protection from the weapons of their enemies and so he outfitted them with armor, which became especially useful when the Lamanites invaded the Nephite territory in order to enslave them:

And when the armies of the Lamanites saw that the people of Nephi, or that Moroni, had prepared his people with breastplates and with arm-shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing…But they were not armed with breastplates, nor shields—therefore, they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites because of their armor, notwithstanding their number being so much greater than the Nephites. (Alma 43:19,21)

And the work of death commenced on both sides, but it was more dreadful on the part of the Lamanites, for their nakedness was exposed to the heavy blows of the Nephites with their swords and their cimeters, which brought death almost at every stroke.  While on the other hand, there was now and then a ma

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