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The Hero Within a Latter-day Youth

The Hero Within a Latter-day Youth

Brock is the son of Lance and Jozet Richardson (author of “The Message”). He played football as a defensive lineman at BYU and received the LaVell Edwards Spirit of the Y award. He served a mission in Montevideo Uraguay. He is now a seminary teacher in Provo.

As a Seminary teacher, I’ve always been interested in what motivates teens.  What spiritual principles are most relevant to them?  Over the years, one theme seems to catch their minds more than others.  Their gaze seems to lock with mine when I speak of the unquantifiable potential they have within themselves, their destiny and potential for good, their existence once as warriors in the Pre-Mortal realm, and their possibility of becoming warriors, once again, for Christ.  This subject seems to captivate boys and girls alike.  There seems to be something unique about these teenagers of the latter days – their sense of destiny and of potential seems even keener than that of my generation, or of any generation before, for that matter.

To me, there is no coincidence: every super-hero, every compelling book or story, every movie, every video game that captivates the attention of a young mind has to deal with someone unlocking and finding great potential within his or herself.  Many popular stories begin with a youth who doesn’t seem to fit in socially, only to find out later that his or her purpose is to defy the forces of evil.  Some stories portray a hero “chosen” by an unseen power to eventually defeat evil, but the hero, for one reason or another, either does not remember or does not have knowledge of being designated for such a special purpose.  Part of the compelling character development is the process of in which the protagonist finds out, line upon line, precept upon precept, what he or she was meant to do.  The examples are countless.  Chances are, delve into the storyline of your teenage son or daughter’s favorite movie, video game or book, and you’ll find resonance of spiritual truth about pre-mortal existence and eternal destiny.

Another compelling fact is the existence of an additional common principle amongst popular stories: heroes emerge from tragedy.  This subject seems to be equally compelling in a Seminary classroom, and I believe that in these latter days, teenagers fight against more tragedy than ever before.  These teens often emerge from abuse or neglect or experience the loss of a loved one.  They fight against tragic temptations such as falsehoods about this Church, or pornography.  It’s no coincidence that some of the greatest super-heroes emerged from great mental or physical tragedies: Batman’s heroic nature and zeal for justice comes from the tragic and unjust death of his mother and father, Superman’s quest to find out his purpose stems from hunger to know who his true parents were, and the tragic loss of his earthly father.  Authors, storytellers and movie-directors alike have learned what captivates young minds in these latter days, and whether they consciously recognize it or not, these stories all speak to these “latter-day warrior” souls, who were once great in a pre-mortal struggle, and have come down here to finish that struggle.

Revelation 12, in my mind, is all the evidence we need to find why latter-day teens feel so drawn to these stories.  This chapter of holy scripture testifies that youth have an equally-powerful hero within themselves.  The scripture describes a war betwixt “Michael and his angels…and the dragon…and his angels.” (Revelation 12:7) If “the dragon(‘s)…angels” represent “the third part of the stars of heaven” which “his tail drew” (verse 4) away, then “Michael(‘s) angels” would logically represent all of us: those of us who came down to this earth to gain experience with a physical body, because we chose our Savior’s plan.  In other words, we were all warriors.  These teens of the latter days, however, may have been even better warriors than we were.  Ezra Taft Benson testifies: “Make no mistake about it, you are a marked generation…There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us.  Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been so well organized.” (April 1987 Ensign, “‘You Are a Marked Generation,’ President Benson Tells Students”) I personally believe this to mean that the closer and closer we approach the Second Coming of our Savior, the more “well organized” “the forces of evil and the forces of good” will be, and thus the more “marked” the youth will be.  We were all warriors, but these youth that live and breathe amongst us may have been some of the greatest.  In my opinion, they are drawn to super-hero stories because they themselves once existed as “super-heroes” and have the capacity to once again become “super-heroes.”

Unfortunately, many of these stories that captivate teenage minds end with the protagonist unlocking strength through violence or through sex, which I think is the devil’s crafty way to connect with a teenager’s powerful soul, redirecting heroic strength into wasteful things.  It’s amazing to me to think that some of the most degrading-yet-influential people were probably magnificent fighters for God, and the devil has carefully and craftily re-directed all that heroic energy into something evil.

Ironically, true strength was found for these young souls in a very different way when in the pre-mortal battles against Lucifer.  “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony,” verse 11 of Revelation 12 testifies.  Thus we see that truly becoming a warrior doesn’t have to mean violence at all.  I love the ironic truth we find in D&C 121: “power or influence” is best held by principles such as “persuasion…long-suffering…gentleness and meekness…love unfeigned…kindness, and pure knowledge.” (verses 41-42) Sitting Bull shows evidence that he was inspired by the same Creator Who inspired Joseph Smith, with this quote: “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

We are taught by latter-day prophets that the heroic strength found within ourselves will never be better demonstrated than in marriage and parenthood.  On a personal note, the heroic-like strength I felt, growing up, I channeled into football; however, football was only a tool in God’s hands that led me to meet my wife, and my true hero-like strength is now employed every day as a husband and father.  I now have a four-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.  They look to me as their “hero.”  An overwhelming sense of heroism floods my heart, even to tears at times, when I come home from work and find these little souls who rush into my arms and call me “daddy.”  To a teenager who has hopes and aspirations of channeling heroic-like energy into the talents that he or she has, I do not mean to say, “The only way you’ll ever become a hero is through parenthood, not your talents.”  I do mean, however, to say that those dreams should never be placed above marriage and parenthood in priority.  If one will allow God to direct the dreams, motivations, aspiration and hopes of the heart, they all have one final heroic destination: being called “sweetheart” by a spouse and “daddy” or “mommy” by children.  One of the heroic-like tasks that lies in our path is the duty to proclaim to all that this is indeed our ultimate destiny.  We proclaim that being a spouse and a parent is the fulfillment of our ultimate potential, when the world increasingly screams and shouts that other priorities are more important for warrior souls.

The book “Latter-day Warriors” involves ten interviews I had with men I loved and admired in life – “warriors” who played BYU football with me, under Coach Bronco Mendenhall.  While we all felt that our personal “warrior-hood” was intensely expressed through the talents we had developed in athleticism, we were taught by Coach Mendenhall and found for ourselves that true “warrior-hood” was expressed in something deeper, in something greater.  We strived to resist peer-pressure, and remain worthy of that eternal honor, one day, of becoming worthy husbands and fathers.

Ten magnificent stories are found in these interviews, involving men (and the women who would eventually become their wives) who, with warrior-like strength, left parties, stood up in plain view of their peers for what they knew was right, confessed sins, worthily went to the temple, served missions, studied the scriptures, and saw the talent the Lord had given them as only a tool by which they could spread the truth.  These men whom I admire with all my heart honor family as the greatest “weapon” we have in this fight against the adversary.  Many of them have already become husbands and fathers, and thus employ their zeal into the true warrior-strength of marriage and parenthood.

To read more about these valiant men and their courageous wives, order your copy of Latter-day Warriors here

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