Staying on Course

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "Staying on Course" in the book A Return to Virtue.)

Once, after I had given a talk on the Christlike attribute of virtue to a mixed audience of youth, young adults, and families, a young woman approached me afterwards and said, “Sister Dalton, you talk of virtue, but don’t you realize that being virtuous is not possible or realistic in today’s world?” As I looked into her eyes, I saw her sincerity and also her pain. In response to her question, I asked another: “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” When she responded that she did, I shared my testimony that because of Him, it is possible to be virtuous. And if one has not been virtuous, because of Him it is possible to return to virtue. I explained that the Savior has shown us the way by setting a perfect example for us to follow. And He has given each of us the invitation to follow His example and to become like Him. He came to the earth to make it possible for each one of us to return to live with God again. When we make a mistake, it is possible to repent because of His infinite Atonement. And although repentance is not easy, it is possible because of Him. I suggested that she begin reading the Book of Mormon and note what the Redeemer and those who followed Him did to live virtuous lives. I asked her to liken the scriptures to her life and circumstances. I told her that I felt that as we learn of Him and incorporate His attributes into our lives, we can be an influence for good in the world. I then shared with her that I believe that one virtuous young woman or young man, led by the Spirit, can change the world.

For example, a young man I know well was elected to be the student body president at a large university. The university sent him to a leadership seminar where student leaders from across the United States gathered in Chicago, Illinois, to be trained and educated. They participated in an initial game outdoors on the college campus so that they could become acquainted with each other. The students were presented with current issues facing today’s youth and were asked to take a position. In response to the issue presented, they were directed to run to several trees in the grassy area marked “strongly agree,” “partially agree,” “strongly disagree,” or “mildly disagree.”

Toward the end of this exercise, the leader asked, “Do you believe in premarital sex?” Without hesitation, this young man ran to the tree marked “strongly disagree.” To his amazement, he was the only one there! All the other student leaders were laughing and pointing at him and saying, “Oh, Jess, you are so funny. We all know you’re not really serious.” At that moment Jess said he knew exactly what he must do and so he loudly declared, “I’m not funny. I’m serious!” There was a stunned silence, and then the group dispersed, leaving Jess standing alone by the tree. He felt out of place and yes, weird. But he wasn’t weird. He was right. And he was not alone. During the week, many of the student leaders came to him privately and said that they wished they had known years earlier what he knew. Jess later said, “It was easy because I knew that I represented not only the university but my family, the Church, and the Savior.”

Is it possible to stay on the path of virtue in today’s world, even considering all that we are faced with? I testify that it is.

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