We live in stressful times. For some, the stresses are financial: loss of employment or home or financial security. For others, the stresses are associated with painful separations from those we love, or with war or natural disasters or other threats to personal security. In addition, we have the challenges of living in a godless and increasingly amoral generation. More and more publicized voices deny or doubt the existence of God. More and more support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses, each person being free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong.
The result of these stresses is fear. But since faith is the opposite of fear, the answer to the fear caused by all of these stresses is the hope and assurance that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our faith causes us to trust in its Author. His strength is sufficient to sustain us, and His promises are sure. We go forward in faith—“faith in every footstep,” to use the words of a great song written on this campus. You are marvelous examples of that faith. And you are daughters of a Heavenly Father who
loves you, who shares your concerns, who listens to your prayers, and
who honors your service.
The Lord prepared us for this godless and amoral day by giving us the account in the thirtieth chapter of Alma. Here we read of Korihor, who taught that “every man prospered [in this life and] . . . conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17). Under that philosophy—which is currently pervasive in the media, in educational systems, and in peer pressure—many believe that there are no absolute laws or standards to govern personal behavior.
Elder Bruce D. Porter spoke of this in his impressive talk last month at the BYU “Stand for the Family” symposium. He referred to a book by a noted historian of culture, James Lincoln Collier, titled The Rise of Selfishness in America. That title describes an obvious trend and a major concern in this country.
Elaborating on this, Elder Porter discussed what he called “the American worship of individualism.” He described this as “an individualism so extreme that every person is considered the fount of their own moral law, unconnected from larger social ends. Modern society glories, even worships, the idea of self: of the wholly autonomous individual unconnected with social or moral obligations, free to pursue whatever ends they choose so long as it does not cause direct physical harm to other aggrandizing selves.”
No one has expressed these ideas of individualism and self-definition of morality more seductively than Frank Sinatra in his popular song, “My Way,” written by Paul Anka. Singing as one whose “end is near,” who faces “the final curtain,” Sinatra sings his case, of which he’s “certain.” As one who’s “traveled each and every highway,” he declares proudly, even defiantly, “I did it my way.”
The scriptures warn against such ideas. Isaiah declared, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil . . . ! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20–21).
A prophet who recorded one of the many decreases in faith and righteousness in the Book of Mormon said that their wicked rising generation was led away by lying and flattering words and “became for themselves” (3 Nephi 1:29–30). The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthian Saints not to be among those who “commend themselves: . . . measuring themselves by themselves” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Our “measure,” he added, should be “the rule which God hath distributed to us” (v. 13). Earlier, Paul reminded the Saints of “the love of Christ” who “died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15).
Living unto ourselves rather than for Christ is always the tool of Satan and something that prophets warn against. We all need to be vigilant that we hold fast to the eternal definitions of right and wrong and that we set our course by reference to the voice of God, not the voice of the world. Elder Porter well states the reason: “The reality is that there are no individually unique pathways to heaven in the gospel plan. The popular song, ‘I did it my way,’ will be sung only in the telestial kingdom. Those who inherit eternal life and eternal family in the celestial kingdom will have attained this status because they did it God’s way.”