Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son, whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee -- and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. And, after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the weakness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain."
4. Closely related to this example is the person who has a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but unwisely extends that strength to the point of desiring to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances where they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances where the choices are trivial or w here either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it, and upon our best judgment if we do not. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of false revelation. Revelation from God is a sacred reality, but like other sacred things it must be cherished and used properly so that a great strength does not become a disabling weakness.
Prayers and feasting upon the word of God are two elements of a heavenward attitude that will also enhance your work ethic and your willingness to serve and lift others. It will help you to carry Church responsibilities with the willingness to magnify your callings without trying to magnify yourself. With this divine attitude you will be more concerned about how you serve rather than where you serve. King Benjamin taught, "I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" (Mosiah 2:17). And we do this by "lift[ing] up the hands which hang down" (Hebrews 12:12).
"The constant exercise of our faith by lofty thinking, prayer, devotion, and acts of righteousness is just as essential to spiritual health as physical exercise is to the health of the body. Like all priceless things, faith, if lost, is hard to regain. Eternal vigilance is the price of our faith. In order to retain our faith we must keep ourselves in tune with our Heavenly Father by living in accordance with the principles and ordinances of the gospel."
Not all lessons will be learned in the classroom. The most important ones will be learned as you are on your knees. Some will distill in your mind and heart as you seek to use this experience as one of establishing the right balance in your life. Here you will set the priorities of life. Will they be primarily material or spiritual? Do they continue to center on service, or are they drifting toward selfishness?
One of the most powerful sources of personal development will come through the urgent prayers you offer in faith for a foundation of righteousness. You will learn much as feelings distill in your mind and heart. Avoid prayers that appear to be a set of instructions to the Lord--do this, bless that, change this, help me with that. Rather, be a compliant student to the Ultimate Teacher. He wants you to succeed even more than you do yourself.
This is a time to set your course for life, a time to establish fundamental priorities. One of the challenges of your learning experience here is to be able to differentiate among the smorgasbord of good and bad things that can be done and to select those that are righteous and truly essential.
Ponder deeply and diligently in the scriptures and in the words of living prophets. Persist in prayer for the Holy Ghost to reveal to you the nature of God the Father and His Beloved Son. Plead that the Spirit will show you what the Lord wants you to do. Plan to do it. Promise Him to obey. Act with determination until you have done what He asked. And then pray to give thanks for the opportunity to serve and to know what you might do next.
Spiritual strength frequently comes through selfless service. Some years ago I visited what was then called the California Mission, where I interviewed a young missionary from Georgia. I recall saying to him, “Do you send a letter home to your parents every week?”
He replied, “Yes, Brother Monson.”
Then I asked, “Do you enjoy receiving letters from home?”
He didn’t answer. At length I inquired, “When was the last time you had a letter from home?”
With a quavering voice, he responded, “I’ve never had a letter from home. Father’s just a deacon, and Mother’s not a member of the Church. They pleaded with me not to come. They said that if I left on a mission, they would not be writing to me. What shall I do, Brother Monson?”
I offered a silent prayer to my Heavenly Father: “What should I tell this young servant of Thine, who has sacrificed everything to serve Thee?” And the inspiration came. I said, “Elder, you send a letter home to your mother and father every week of your mission. Tell them what you are doing. Tell them how much you love them and then bear your testimony to them.”
He asked, “Will they then write to me?”
I responded, “Then they will write to you.”
We parted and I went on my way. Months later I was attending a stake conference in Southern California when a young missionary came up to me and said, “Brother Monson, do you remember me? I’m the missionary who had not received a letter from my mother or my father during my first nine months in the mission field. You told me, ‘Send a letter home every week, Elder, and your parents will write to you.’ “ Then he asked, “Do you remember that promise, Elder Monson?”
I remembered. I inquired, “Have you heard from your parents?”
He reached into his pocket and took out a sheaf of letters with an elastic band around them, took a letter from the top of the stack, and said, “Have I heard from my parents! Listen to this letter from my mother: ‘Son, we so much enjoy your letters. We’re proud of you, our missionary. Guess what? Dad has been ordained a priest. He’s preparing to baptize me. I’m meeting with the missionaries; and one year from now we want to come to California as you complete your mission, for we, with you, would like to become a forever family by entering the temple of the Lord.’ ” This young missionary asked, “Brother Monson, does Heavenly Father always answer prayers and fulfill Apostles’ promises?”
I replied, “When one has faith as you have demonstrated, our Heavenly Father hears such prayers and answers in His own way.”
Clean hands, a pure heart, and a willing mind had touched heaven. A blessing, heaven-sent, had answered the fervent prayer of a missionary’s humble heart.
When you were confirmed a member of the Church, you received the right to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. He can help you make good choices. When challenged or tempted, you do not need to feel alone. Remember that prayer is the passport to spiritual power.
I understand that, at times, some may wonder why they attend Church meetings or why it is so important to read the scriptures regularly or pray to our Heavenly Father daily. Here is my answer: You do these things because they are part of God’s path for you. And that path will take you to your “happily ever after” destination.
“Happily ever after” is not something found only in fairy tales. You can have it! It is available for you! But you must follow your Heavenly Father’s map.
Sisters, please embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ! Learn to love your Heavenly Father with all your heart, might, and mind. Fill your souls with virtue, and love goodness. Always strive to bring out the best in yourself and others.
Learn to accept and act upon the Young Women values. Live the standards in For the Strength of Youth. These standards guide and direct you to your “happily ever after.” Living these standards will prepare you to make sacred covenants in the temple and establish your own legacy of goodness in your individual circumstances. “Stand . . . in holy places, and be not moved,” regardless of temptations or difficulties. I promise you that future generations will be grateful for you and praise your name for your courage and faithfulness during this crucial time of your life.
My dear young sisters—you who stand for truth and righteousness, you who seek goodness, you who have entered the waters of baptism and walk in the ways of the Lord—our Father in Heaven has promised that you will “mount up with wings as eagles; [you] shall run, and not be weary; and [you] shall walk, and not faint.” You “shall not be deceived.” God will bless and prosper you. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against you; . . . and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.”
Sisters, we love you. We pray for you. Be strong and of good courage. You are truly royal spirit daughters of Almighty God. You are princesses, destined to become queens. Your own wondrous story has already begun. Your “once upon a time” is now.