Elder Oaks spoke to students at BYU Hawaii just a few days ago. You can read the entire text here. The title of his talk was “Anxiety in Stressful Times.” He analyzed some of the reasons for anxiety among young people today.
I would like to excerpt some key takeaways from Elder Oaks’ talk, because there seems to be a lot of confusion these days about a variety of important moral issues. Some people even claim the Church is backing away from its traditional positions on morality. As you will see, nothing could be farther from the truth:
We live in stressful times. For some young people the stresses are financial: loss of employment or home or financial security. For others, the stresses are associated with painful separations from those we love, such as caused by divorce of parents or other threats to personal security. We also have the challenge of living in a godless and increasingly amoral generation. More and more publicized voices deny or doubt the existence of God. More and more support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses, each person being free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong.
Along with these challenges—and caused by them—we are confronted by a culture of evil and personal wickedness in the world. This includes:
The diminishing of marriage and childbearing
The increasing frequency and power of the culture and phenomenon of lesbian, gay, and transgender lifestyles and values
Finally, you live in a culture that focuses on individual rights and desires rather than the responsibilities and cooperative efforts that have built our societies.
A major cause of these cultural deteriorations is the loss of belief in absolutes. A century ago, private and public morality—the sense of moderation and restraint necessary to the survival of a free society—were universally understood to rest on the reality of absolute right and wrong, decreed by God and ultimately enforced in a final judgment. Then, as this faith was undercut, public morality sagged into the safety net of ethics, a set of rules based on philosophy, pragmatism, or legalities, which rely on enforcement by individual self-interest or imperfect bureaucracies.
Removed from their foundation of an absolute right and wrong, ethics and legalities have been unable to hold back the tide of immoral conduct that now threatens to engulf us. People have cast off conventional morality and old-fashioned restraints. Our society is now in peril from increasing dishonesty, frightening increases in personal violence and other crimes, and shocking increases in public dependency attributable to deterioration in the solidarity of the family.
That is why we encourage you to look forward to marriage and not be afraid of it. Fear is a substantial deterrent among the increasing proportion of youth being raised in broken homes, who have observed the pain broken marriages can bring. Those kinds of fears are understandable, but they can be overcome by our faith in God and His plan, and the atonement of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. That is my message to you. Don’t lose your perspective of eternal life and the priority it assigns to marriage and child-rearing.
Elder Oaks’ message is right in line with the messages from modern-day prophets since the 19th century. Don’t accept the propaganda from opponents of the Church. Our challenge is to follow the prophets even when their message may seem at odds with what the rest of society believes. Elder Oaks makes the course clear in this talk.