Heed the Warnings

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Dallin Oaks, BYU Fireside, Aug. 5, 1990

Some Latter-day Saints who think repentance is easy maintain that a person is better off after he has sinned and repented."Get a little experience with sin," one argument goes,"and then you will be better able to counsel others and sympathize with others. Anyway, it won't hurt to sin a little."

I plead with you, my brothers and sisters, my young friends and my older friends, avoid transgression! The idea that one is better off after one has sinned and repented is a devilish lie of the adversary.

Does anyone here think that it is better to learn firsthand that a certain blow will break a bone or a certain mixture of chemicals will explode and sear off our skin? Are we better off after we have sustained and then healed such injuries? I believe we all can see that it is better to heed the warnings of wise persons who know the effects on our bodies of certain traumas.

Just as we can benefit from someone else's experience in matters such as these, we can also benefit from the warnings contained in the commandments of God. We don't have to have personal experience with the effects of serious transgressions to know that they are destructive of our eternal welfare.

Some years ago one of our sons asked me why it wasn't a good idea to try alcohol or tobacco to see what it was like. He knew about the Word of Wisdom and he also knew the health effects of these substances, but he was questioning why he shouldn't just try them out for himself.

I replied that if he wanted to try something he ought to go out in the barnyard and eat a little manure. He recoiled in horror."Ooh, that's gross," he reacted.

"I'm glad you think so," I said,"but why don't you just try it out so you will know for yourself? While you're proposing to try one thing that you know is not good for you, why don't you apply that principle to some others?" That illustration of the silliness of "trying it out for yourself" proved persuasive for one sixteen-year-old.

Here is another experience. A few years ago my wife and I and another General Authority and his wife were on a Church assignment. The other man's wife and I had dated when we were both in high school. I was glad, and I am sure she was glad, that we did not have any bad memories of that date. Both of us could speak of it to our spouses and both of us could speak to a Church audience in the presence of the other without embarrassment.

When we are young, we sometimes behave as if there were no tomorrow. When we are young it is easy to forget that we will grow up, marry, raise a family, and—note this significant point—continue to associate with some of the same people who are witnesses to or participants in our teenage pranks or transgressions.

Young men, the girl you are dating may be your wife in a few years, but probably she will not. Possibly she will turn out to be the wife of your bishop or your stake president. Young women, the fellow you are dating may turn out to be your husband, but more likely, he will not. He may turn out to be the husband of your sister or your best friend. He may even be a counselor in your bishopric or an employee you supervise at your place of work. Conduct your life today so your tomorrows are not burdened with bad or embarrassing memories.