Dr. D. Kelly Ogden is a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.
During a recent year the theme for Young Men/Young Women was Mosiah 5:15: “be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life.”
I like the words “steadfast and immovable.” They remind me of our Israel study abroad field trip into the Judean Desert, where I would quote to the students a few passages from the Old Testament about rock and stone images then ask them for a definition:
2 Samuel 22:2, 3, The Lord is my rock…in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn
32, 33 of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge…who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power…
Psalm 27:5 in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
Psalm 31:2, 3 be thou my strong rock, for an house of defense to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress
Psalm 62:6 He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved
From those verses it is clear that “rock” and “stone” represent something solid, firm, immovable (dependable, trustworthy). Then, as they thought about that definition, I quoted them a few other passages:
Isaiah 28:16 [of Jesus Christ:] Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation
Daniel 2:34, 45 a stone is cut out without hands [that would roll forth and fill the whole earth, and never be destroyed, but would stand forever]
Matthew 7:24, 25 whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock [Greek: the rock]
Matthew 16:18 upon this rock I will build my church [revelation: stability, strength]
So – be a rock! Don’t be wishy-washy/flakey/flip-floppy . . . not promoting the attitude, “well, it depends . . .” No, there are still some absolutes in this world. Our God is telling us to be steadfast and immovable.
Speaking of rock, some of us live in the Rocky Mountains, and we sing several mountain songs: “For the Strength of the Hills,” “Our Mountain Home so dear,” “High on a Mountain Top,” and “O ye Mountains High.” In that last-mentioned song (#34), “O ye Mountains High,” one verse begins:
“In thy mountain retreat,
God will strengthen thy feet . . .”
Our mission doctors tell us that of all physical problems the missionaries encounter, there are probably more with the feet than any other part of the body. Feet are essential to the work of all missions. In all our lives, our feet carry us forward in the straight and narrow path, a path that is not easy. Leona Gates wrote:
The road is rough, dear Lord, I said.
There are stones that hurt me so.
And He said, dear child
I understand, I walked it long ago.
But there is a cool green path, I said.
Let me walk there for a time.
No, child, he gently answered me,
The green road does not climb.
My burden, I said, is far too great.
How can I bear it so?
My child, said He, I remember its weight.
I carried my cross, you know.
But, I said, I wish there were friends with me,
Who would make my way their own.
Ah, yes, He said, Gethsemane
Was hard to face alone.
And so I climbed the stony path,
Content at last to know
That where my Master had not gone
I would not need to go.
And strangely then I found new friends
The burden grew less sore.
As I remembered long ago
He walked this way before.
It is important that we walk this stony path of mortality, and while doing so our Lord expects us to be steadfast and immovable. To be firm and solid we need to feel safe in these last days. And how can we feel safe and secure?
I have been fascinated with two of the most secure places on earth. In July of 2008, while at our family reunion in Colorado Springs, we resided temporarily near Cheyenne Mountain, the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which features (according to their Internet site) “the most sophisticated defense system the world has ever known.” NORAD has housed the U.S. Strategic Command, the U.S. Air Force Space Command, and the U.S. Northern Command. The main tunnel is almost a mile through solid granite into the heart of the mountain. Two 25-ton blast doors and fifteen separate buildings, 1-3 stories high, are designed to withstand nuclear bombs and earthquakes. The facilities are self-sufficient or self-sustaining for brief periods (including a 1.5 million gallon capacity water supply and six giant back-up generators).
I have also learned about the Church’s Granite Mountain Storage Vault, “one of the most impregnable structures created by man,” located a mile from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, twenty miles southeast of downtown Salt Lake City.
The Granite Mountain Storage Vault was completed and opened in 1966, and is positioned 600 feet into the north side of the canyon. It is carved out of solid granite (the same granite used to build the Salt Lake Temple and the Conference Center façade) and is protected from earthquakes, floods, fires, and man-made disasters. There are six humidity and temperature-controlled chambers 190 feet long x 25 feet wide x 25 feet high, with nuclear-blast proof doors weighing 14 tons (outer) and 9 tons (inner).
The chambers contain 3-4 million rolls of microfilm and microfiche, about three billion pages of family history records (that is six million 300-page books), with approximately 40,000 rolls added annually. Within ten years, the Church recently announced, all of that will be available online, for everyone in the world to use!
What I learned about those two very secure sites made me think. We also want to feel secure in these terribly turbulent times. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have God’s promise, His guarantee of safety in this dangerous world?
Well, here is the promised security:
“Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them” (1 Nephi 15:24, italics added).
So we mortals are all dart boards, and Satan is a professional dart thrower! The fiery darts he is hurling at us these days are pornographic Internet sites, substance abuse, immoral and violent movies, worldly music, crude and vulgar language, and much more. But the Lord’s promise is that the adversary cannot overpower us if we will hold tight to His words, His teachings. “Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37).
Here is another promise: “It is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea . . . when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down .
. . because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12, italics added; see also D&C 50:44; 33:13; 6:34).
That is security; there is no better!
Now, about the Lord’s expectations of us. One teenager wrote:
My parents say I must not smoke,
Nor listen to a naughty joke,
They make it clear that I must not wink at pretty girls,
Or ever think about intoxicating drinks,
To tease or flirt is wrong, so I don’t;
I kiss no girl, not even one – I don’t even know how
it is done.
You wouldn’t think I had much fun,
Parents and leaders are interesting people. When we are young they impose a lot of “rules” over us—for our good, as they say. For more than forty years the Church has issued a brochure or pamphlet with guiding principles to prevent the devil’s fiery darts from having any effect in our lives. It is called For the Strength of Youth. Following are some very interesting, contrasting excerpts from the 1965 and 2008 editions (the 1st and 8th).
From the 1965 For the Strength of Youth (the year I graduated from high school—and do try to refrain from bursting out laughing as you read some of this counsel from a generation ago):
“Clothes should be comfortable and attractive without calling attention to a person’s body; for example, skirts should be long enough to cover the kneecap, and they should not be too tight fitting. Dresses should not be cut extremely low at the top. Strapless dresses and spaghetti straps are not acceptable either on sun dresses or evening dresses. Few girls or women ever look well in backless or strapless dresses. Such styles often make the figure look ungainly and large, or they show the bony structures of the body.
“Pants for young women are not desirable attire for shopping, at school, in the library, in cafeterias or restaurants.
“Young men should always dress appropriately for the place and occasion. For special school or church dances, they should wear a suit with dress shirt and tie, but never tennis shoes or “T” shirts.
“Girls should always try to look feminine in their dress. They should not dress like boys. . . . “Grubbies” are inappropriate in public for everyone. A ‘real lady’ does not go out in public, to the market, or to shops with her hair in curlers.
“Not only should clothes be clean, but nails, skin, and hair should have the glow of health that bespeaks meticulous care in grooming.
“Youth should never litter rest rooms, public buildings, or highways with papers, food, or refuse. They should express appreciation for all services wherever or whenever received—for restaurant service, service station help, etc. It is not polite to run in and out of motel or hotel rooms late at night, making a disturbance which keeps other guests awake. It is poor taste to display in public affections for a girl friend or a boy friend. A young lady and a young gentleman will not indulge in loud talk, profanity, or rowdy behavior since it detracts from an otherwise wholesome appearance.
“There should be no dating before the age of sixteen. . . . Steady dating during the early dating years should not be practiced.
“Necking, petting, intimacies, and improprieties of every kind should not be indulged in at any time in dating or in courtship. Love and affection are precious, and virtue must never be placed in jeopardy.
“Church standards prohibit dancing that is suggestive or sensual in any way. The dance should not be a grotesque contortion of the body such as shoulder or hip shaking or excessive body jerking.
“When dancing, young people should avoid crouching, slumping over, trying to do a backbend, or having too close a body contact. . . . Members of the Church should be good dancers and not contortionists. Extreme body movements should be avoided, and emphasis should be placed more on styling and clever footwork.
“”The youth of the Church are the finest on the face of the earth. They must live up to their responsibilities as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by being kind, clean, thoughtful, refined, dignified, and obedient.”
From For the Strength of Youth, available in 2005 (forty years after the original—and notice how serious and specific the counsel has become):
“Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.
“Pornography in all its forms is especially dangerous and addictive. What may begin as a curious indulgence can become a destructive habit that takes control of your life. It can lead you to sexual transgression and even criminal behavior. Pornography is a poison that weakens your self-control, changes the way you see others, causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit, and can even affect your ability to have a normal relationship with your future spouse.
“Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another.
“Have the courage to walk out of a movie or video party, turn off a computer or television, change a radio station, or put down a magazine if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards.
“Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”
Were young people so innocent or naïve back in those days? Have things changed so dramatically in one generation to necessitate such pointed and specific counsel and warnings from our leaders?
Our rock-solid leaders continue to counsel and guide us. Following are a few excerpts from recent general conferences.
“The Church stands like a giant granite boulder . . . solid, immovable
“As the world moves deeper and deeper into sin, this wonderful Church stands like a giant granite boulder.
“Aren’t you proud that the Church teaches us the truth? We don’t have to wonder about earrings for boys and men, tattoos, spiked hair, the four-letter words, and obscene gestures. We have prophets who model the standards.
“Aren’t you thankful to God that the apostles and prophets never waver on sin? No matter how strong the winds of public opinion may blow, the Church is immovable. (Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, General Conference Oct. 1999)”
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