As we think about Standards and what it means to hold standards, I think one has to think deeper than just the list of standards we follow as Mormon youth. It has to go deeper, internally we need to use introspection in our daily lives. Much like the Book of Mormon, we can’t just look at the cover and hope to gain a testimony or have our lives change. We need to feast upon it, live it and apply it to our lives. The same is true with the standards of the church.
In Greek Mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who was renowned for his beauty. His downfall was that he fell in love with his own reflection. Nemesis noticed how much in love with himself Narcissus was, so he attracted him to a pool of water. There in the water, he saw his own reflection and fell in love with it, never realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his image, he drowned. How many of us are drowning in our own images? Drowning on Instagram or Facebook to display an artificial world to those around us? Is this not contrary to living and practicing the true standards that we have been given by our Leaders? I have noticed that sometimes how we see our own reflection isn’t necessarily how everyone else sees it. We need to look inside of ourselves more often, not just look in a mirror or at the shell each of us has been given. In preparing for a mission, seeing everyone as an individual and seeing them from the inside rather than the outside is a hard thing to do sometimes, but it is the way Christ sees each of us and how we should also look.
A way that may helps one, prepare for going on a mission and having a temple marriage is by observing the examples in which leaders of the church, parents and sometimes peers bestow upon us.
Both of my parents served full time missions, so it was apparent to me from the time I was very young that I would need to prepare for a mission. By the time I was five my Mother had me memorize the 13 articles of faith, and I read from the scriptures daily, specifically the Book of Mormon. We still read each night together as a family and this has prepared me significantly for serving as a full-time missionary.
How you do anything, is how you do everything. We tend to create who we are with habits, whether they be good or bad habits. Warren Buffet said: “Chains of habits are too light to be felt, until they are too heavy to be broken.” In the world, people usually associate habits with “Bad” or focus on bad habits, but in this church we know habits are a good thing, as long as they are helping us become better.
My Mother is an example of service to me, she has a habit of helping others. She wakes up before 5AM every day to help everyone and drive us to early morning seminary, then drives my sisters and I to our three different schools. She usually spends the majority of her day serving others. She could go shopping, or work in her different gardens in our back yard or do what she wants, But instead of focusing on herself, almost every Sunday she is staying late at church, then out with the Sister missionaries after church and almost every day she is helping someone who may need a hand, not only in the church but around the city. She has made serving others a habit in her life. To me, this has been an extremely big part of learning to serve the Savior and serve others in preparing for a mission. Along with putting my own wants second to that of God’s.
I have also learned that to be a full-time missionary, the word full-time has a lot of meaning. You can’t serve a full-time mission and then focus part-time on Jesus Christ. You have to go full-time in, all the time. On a mission, “work hard, play hard” is the mantra of a person who doesn’t work hard. You have your whole life to play, so two years of serving God isn’t too much too ask. So learn to work hard now in life.
In preparing for a full time mission, one has to know how to treat others and have basic manners. Growing up in Philadelphia sometimes manners takes a back seat and people will act out of pocket. That’s never an excuse for us as youth to lower our standards and not act as Leaders. It’s not the standard that matters, it’s the standard you hold yourself to. Much like the commandments, if you don’t put the standards to practice, they don’t mean a lot to your life. Jon Huntsman Sr. said:
“Gray is not a substitute for black and white. You don’t bump into people without saying you’re sorry. When you shake hands, it’s supposed to mean something. If someone is in trouble, you reach out.”
I recently had a conversation with one of the youth leaders, in our ward. As I was in the car, we had a conversation that pertained to the topic of dating. As we were talking, one thing this leader said stood out to me. She said something like; Right now, its just practice. This council stood out to me as it stayed in my head. As we prepare for having a temple marriage, in the latter parts of our lives, we must first “practice.” Just like preparing for other tasks in our lives, we must do the same for marriage.
In for the strength of the youth, a book that sets a guideline in a way we should live our lives, as youth, it states, “ A date is a planned activity that allows a young man and a young woman to get to know each other better. In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help you learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have wholesome fun, and eventually finds an eternal companion.” I feel like this definition is right on point. I’d like to point out the part, which says, “It can help you learn and practice social skills.” As I mentioned earlier, it is all just practice right now as we prepare for marriage. To end this talk, I would like to finish with an experience that occurred recently. As I turned 16 just a few weeks ago, my mother bought me presents like every other birthday. My mother has the tradition of asking a question, before I open each present. As this may test my patience, I wait and answer each present. The twist to this story is that this year, I received a little more presents than usual. I believe there were fifteen or sixteen presents. For every present, my mom asked me about dating, and if I had any girls in mind right now. As this painful procedure went on, I sincerely answered each question with a no mom; I don’t have a girl in mind or no mom im not dating right now. In the end, after I reflect on this experience, I am extremely grateful for my mother’s involvement inside my life, as she keeps me in check at all time. I am grateful for the standards the church has put in place to guide our lives, and I know that if we virtuously prepare and practice for important goals like temple marriage and missions, we will have a successful life and live with our lord and our savior Jesus Christ again.