My dear brothers and sisters,
each day is a day of decision. President Thomas S. Monson has
taught us that “decisions determine destiny.” The wise
use of your freedom to make your own decisions is crucial to
your spiritual growth, now and for eternity. You’re never too
young to learn, never too old to change. Your yearnings to learn and
change come from a divinely instilled striving for
eternal progression. Each day brings opportunity for
decisions for eternity. We are eternal beings, spirit
children of heavenly parents. The Bible records that “God
created man in his own image, … male and female
created he them.” Recently I heard a chorus of
children sing the beloved song “I Am a Child of God.” I
wondered, “Why haven’t I heard that song rendered more
often by singing mothers or faithful fathers? Are we not all children of God?”
In truth, not one of us can ever stop being
a child of God. As children of God, we should
love Him with all our heart and soul, even more than we
love our earthly parents. We should love our neighbors
as brothers and sisters. No other commandments are
greater than these. And we should ever revere the
worth of human life through each of its many stages. Scripture teaches that the body
and the spirit are the soul of man. As a dual being, each of you
can thank God for His priceless gifts of your
body and your spirit. My professional years as a
medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human
body, created by God as a gift to you. It’s absolutely amazing. Think of your eyes that see,
ears that hear, and fingers that feel all the wondrous
things around you. Your brain lets you learn,
think, and reason. Your heart pumps tirelessly, day
and night, almost without your awareness. Your body protects itself. Pain comes as a warning
that something is wrong and needs attention. Infectious illnesses strike from
time to time, and when they do, antibodies are formed
that increase your resistance to subsequent infection. Your body repairs itself. Cuts and bruises heal. Broken bones can become
strong once again. I’ve cited but a tiny sample of
the many amazing God-given qualities of your body. Even so, it seems that in every
family, if not in every person, some physical conditions
exist that require special care. A pattern for coping with such
a challenge has been given by the Lord. He said, “I give unto men
weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves
… and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become
strong unto them.” Stellar spirits are often housed
in imperfect bodies. The gift of such a body can
actually strengthen a family as parents and siblings
willingly build their lives around that child born
with special needs. The aging process is also a gift
from God, as is death. The eventual death of your
mortal body is essential to God’s great plan of happiness. Why? Because death will allow your
spirit to return home to Him. From an eternal perspective,
death is only premature for those who are not prepared
to meet God. With your body being such a
vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that
the Apostle Paul described it as a “temple of God.” Each time
you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth–refreshed gratefully
each day–can positively influence your
decisions about how you will care for your body and
how you will use it. And those decisions will
determine your destiny. How could this be? Because your body is the
temple for your spirit. And how you use your body
affects your spirit. Some of the decisions that will
determine your eternal destiny include how you choose
to care for and use your body. What spiritual attributes will
you choose to develop? Your spirit is an
eternal entity. The Lord said to His prophet
Abraham, “Thou wast chosen before thou wast born.” The Lord
said something similar about Jeremiah and
many others. He even said it about you. Your Heavenly Father has known
you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter,
were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time
to be leaders in His great work on earth. You were chosen not for your
bodily characteristics, but for your spiritual attributes,
such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, thirst for
truth, hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others. You developed some of these
attributes premortally. Others you can develop
here on earth as you persistently seek them. A pivotal spiritual attribute
is that of self-mastery–the strength to place reason
over appetite. Self-mastery builds a strong
conscience, and your conscience determines your moral
responses in difficult, tempting, and trying
situations. Fasting helps your spirit to
develop dominance over your physical appetites. Fasting also increases your
access to heaven’s help, as it intensifies your prayers. Why the need for self-mastery? God implanted strong appetites
within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family
to be perpetuated. When we master our appetites
within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer
life, greater love, and consummate joy. It’s not surprising, then, that
most temptations to stray from God’s plan of happiness
come through the misuse of those essential, God-given
appetites. Controlling our appetites
is not always easy. Not one of us manages
them perfectly. Mistakes happen, errors are
made, sins are committed. What can we do then? We can learn from them, and
we can truly repent. We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There’s only one way. True change, permanent change,
can come only through the healing, cleansing, and
enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He loves you, each of you. He allows you to access His
power as you keep His commandments eagerly, earnestly,
and exactly. It’s that simple and certain. The gospel of Jesus Christ
is a gospel of change. A strong human spirit with
control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions
and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital
to the spirit as oxygen is to the body! Freedom from self-slavery
is true liberation! We are free to choose liberty
and eternal life or to choose captivity, misery, and death. When we choose the loftier
path toward liberty and eternal life, that path
includes marriage. Latter-day Saints proclaim that
“marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God
and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the
eternal destiny of His children.” We also know that
“gender is an essential characteristic of individual
premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Marriage between a man and a
woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial
to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a
woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth
and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot
be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued–not if
you want true joy. God’s marriage pattern protects
the sacred power of procreation and the joy of
true marital intimacy. We know that Adam and Eve were
married by God before they ever experienced the joy of
uniting as husband and wife. In our day, civil governments
have a vested interest in protecting marriage because
strong families constitute the best way of providing for the
health, education, welfare, and prosperity of rising
generations. But civil governments are
heavily influenced by social trends and secular philosophies
as they write, rewrite, and enforce laws. Regardless of what civil
legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord
regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed. Remember: sin, even if legalized
by man, is still sin in the eyes of God! While we are to emulate our
Savior’s kindness and compassion, while we are to
value the rights and feelings of all of God’s children, we
cannot change His doctrine. It is not ours to change. His doctrine is ours to study,
understand, and uphold. The Savior’s way of
life is good. His way includes chastity before
marriage and total fidelity within marriage. The Lord’s way is the
only way for us to experience enduring happiness. His way brings sustained comfort
to our souls and perennial peace to our homes. And best of all, His way leads
us home to Him and our Heavenly Father, to eternal
life and exaltation. This is the very essence of
God’s work and glory. My dear brothers and sisters,
each day is a day of decision. And our decisions determine
our destiny. One day each of us will stand
before the Lord in judgment. We will each have a personal
interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions
that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes, and
how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family. That we may choose wisely each
day’s decisions for eternity is my earnest prayer in
the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.