Gary E. Stevenson

Qualify yourselves as did the 2,000 stripling soldiers by being valiant in courage as worthy priesthood holders.

I would like to focus on the first trait that describes them: “valiant for courage.” To me, this describes the conviction of these young men to courageously do what is right, or as Alma describes, “to stand as witnesses of God at all times … and in all places.”2 The 2,000 stripling soldiers had countless moments to demonstrate their courage. Each of you will also have defining moments in your life requiring courage. A friend of mine, John, shared with me one of those moments in his life.

Some years ago, John was accepted at a prestigious Japanese university. He would be part of the international student program with many other top students from around the world. Some enrolled with a hope to deepen their understanding of the culture and language, others viewed it as a stepping-stone to an eventual profession and employment in Japan, but all had left home to study in a foreign country.

Soon after John’s arrival, word of a party to be held on the rooftop of a private residence spread among the foreign student population. That evening, John and two friends made their way to the advertised address.

Following an elevator ride to the top floor of the building, John and his friends navigated the single narrow stairway leading to the rooftop and began mingling with the others. As the night wore on, the atmosphere changed. The noise, music volume, and alcohol amplified, as did John’s uneasiness. Then suddenly someone began organizing the students into a large circle with the intent of sharing marijuana cigarettes. John grimaced and quickly informed his two friends that it was time to leave. Almost in ridicule, one of them replied, “John, this is easy—we’ll just stand in the circle, and when it is our turn, we’ll just pass it along rather than smoke it. That way we won’t have to embarrass ourselves in front of everyone by leaving.” This sounded easy to John, but it did not sound right. He knew he had to announce his intention and act. In a moment he mustered his courage and told them that they could do as they wished, but he was leaving. One friend decided to stay and joined the circle; the other reluctantly followed John down the stairs to board the elevator. Much to their surprise, when the elevator doors opened, Japanese police officers poured out and hurried to ascend the stairs to the rooftop. John and his friend boarded the elevator and departed.

When the police appeared at the top of the stairs, the students quickly threw the illegal drugs off the roof so they wouldn’t be caught. After securing the stairway, however, the officers lined up everyone on the roof and asked each student to extend both hands. The officers then walked down the line, carefully smelling each student’s thumbs and index fingers. All who had held the marijuana, whether they had smoked it or not, were presumed guilty, and there were huge consequences. Almost without exception, the students who had remained on the rooftop were expelled from their respective universities, and those convicted of a crime were likely deported from Japan. Dreams of an education, years of preparation, and the possibility of future employment in Japan were dashed in a moment.

Now let me tell you what happened to these three friends. The friend who stayed on the roof was expelled from the university in Japan to which he had worked so hard to be accepted and was required to return home. The friend who left the party that night with John finished school in Japan and went on to earn degrees from two top-tier universities in the United States. His career took him back to Asia, where he has enjoyed immense professional success. He remains grateful to this day for John’s courageous example. As for John, the consequences in his life have been immeasurable. His time in Japan that year led him to a happy marriage and the subsequent birth of two sons. He has been a very successful businessman and recently became a professor at a Japanese university. Imagine how different his life would have been had he not had the courage to leave the party on that important evening in Japan.3

When I saw this talk I immediately thought of an activity that me and my husband had participated in. My husband and I wanted to go to the movies and when seeing what our options were, he had indicated how much he wanted to see a new movie Flight. The plot was intriguing I have to admit, but it was rated R and as a rule, I don’t usually go to rated R movies because they have sex, nudity, violence, language, etc. I just don’t need or want to see that for entertainment. I’ve told my husband on a couple of occasions that I don’t like to see rated R movies and have stressed that he shouldn’t either – as is taught in our church, but he rationalizes it away saying, I’ll just look away through the bad scene’s. 

Well, that night, I decided – against my better judgement – to watch this rated R movie and sure enough, there was plenty of language, nudity and alcohol and drug consumption. And, like I said above – it did have a good plot to it (a pilot, who is a drug and alcohol addict is flying a plane, which the plane was basically broken and he did the only thing 10 other pilot’s couldn’t do was save almost all the passengers on that plane), but it had all the bad stuff to go along with it and I had to look away and dismiss the language, etc. 

By reading and watching this speech, I came to a realization that I can’t just go with the flow anymore. I have to take a stand on what I believe morally. I can continue to talk to my husband about what he should watch, but for me – I already know. No more rated R movies. And I’m going to have to watch even the PG-13 movies as well. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I would hate to loose myself and my moral standing simply because I didn’t want to have to deal with a few pouty  faces now and then. I need to have courage to stand up for what I believe in. And I’m doing it here and now! If they want to see or do things that I don’t want to do – that’s fine, but I’m not sacrificing my soul and my morals to pacify their carnal wants.