Benjamin Franklin once said, “It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and prejudices; …in youth the private and public character is determined; …life ought to begin well from youth.”
Even though the newspapers, networks, and other media seem to pound on the notion that our entire society is going down the drain, I beg to differ. Not that our culture makes it easier to live the gospel — it doesn’t. Not that our youth of today are stellar in every respect, and have the ability and understanding to make all the right choices — they don’t.
But we do have children growing into adulthood with commitment, character, and courage to do what they perceive to be righteous.
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent … if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (Thirteenth Article of Faith)
How do good habits get planted?
- Parents teach righteous principles.
- Scriptures and prayers are offered to encourage heavenly communication.
- Children follow the example of those they watch so carefully.
- Parents encourage their children in the good choices.
- Parents do not overreact when children make a “poor” choice, knowing that theirs is the mortal walk of learning for themselves.
- Children see that their parents love without bounds- and without prejudice.
- Families and friends encourage and create opportunities to do good things.
- Leaders offer up — by example, by program, and by projects — opportunities to realize the blessings of good habits.
- The value of work is engrained. As people work on an ongoing basis, they learn the value of their labors.
I am sure there are other ways to plant good character. And sometimes the best planting of seeds takes a long while before the harvest of goodness shows itself. But show itself, it will. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6.)
More than ever before, it is necessary for our youth to encapsulate the kind of character that will allow leadership and trust. We are living in a world where You Tube can blast the most embarrassing mistake for millions to see, or the media will dig mercilessly into the past of a prominent person in order to find a blemish.
Although none of us get through life without blemishes and bloopers, it is wise to remember that we are building character every hour of every day. And those days pass quickly.
Even my children make comments about how fast the time passes by. We blink, as adults, and the two-year-old is a twenty-year-old. They blink, and the carefree days of youth move forward into the weight of responsibilities that come with adult decisions and pressures.
Life begins well by growing upon good things. There is a quiet but very real dichotomy in this world — an illustration of youth who are dedicating their young lives to building good character. They are our hope and our blessing.
As the world ripens in iniquity, our youth are being confronted with heaviness of responsibilities at an ever earlier rate. Many times, they must stand alone when they stand for truth. Often, they are persecuted — or at least ignored or snickered at- for upholding righteousness. But uphold, they do. Stand for truth, they do. Many of them are offering the hand for a friend to grasp, and a shoulder for a weaker acquaintance to lean upon. Their public character, as well as their private character, is solid.
Good for you, young people! You are heroes. Though you may not understand many of the sacred principles as you once will, you are forming — daily — the basis of character that will allow you to stand in the presence of the Lord. You are moving forward with faith, satisfied with your circumstances yet seeking to improve them, and walking the walk of goodness. For you, life is beginning well in your youth!