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Priesthood holders must stand for right

- Foster wholesomeness

- Support crime prevention- Offer true friendship

More than just a great blessing, holding the priesthood carries significant responsibilities, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve declared at the priesthood session Saturday evening.

Such responsibilities, he said, include standing as witnesses of God at all times and in all places. (See Mosiah 18:9.)

That extends beyond fast and testimony meetings, he pointed out. "It may not always be easy, convenient or politically correct to stand for truth and right, but it is always the right thing to do. Always."

Standing for truth and right includes supporting safety, law and order in the community, he noted, comparing today's gangs, drug cartels and organized-crime families to the Gadianton robbers in Book of Mormon times.

"They have secret signs and code words," he observed. "They participate in secret rites and initiation ceremonies. Among their purposes are to `murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and the laws of God.' (Hel. 6:23.)

"If we are not careful, today's secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. Do you remember the pattern? The secret combinations began among the `more wicked part' of society but eventually `seduced the more part of the righteous' until the whole society was polluted." (Hel. 6:38.)

He warned that today's young people, just as those "of the rising generation" in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 26:1, Alma 5:49), are the most susceptible to the influence of gangs, that there is a sub-culture that celebrates contemporary gangs through music, clothing styles, languages, attitudes and behaviors. "That's why it is so important for us as priesthood holders to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe."

The gospel of Christ, with its truths and teachings provides the most effective preventive and rehabilitative assistance in overcoming criminal behavior, Elder Ballard declared.

"To you brethren who are fathers, bishopric members and youth leaders: please remember that all young men and young women have a great need to feel loved, respected, valued, and to succeed in ways that will help them gain a sense of confidence and self-worth," he said. "Appropriate and uplifting activities should be planned that will provide a safe and wholesome environment in which our youth and their non-member friends can strengthen one another and draw closer to the Savior."

Elder Ballard also urged support of the efforts of individuals, organizations, communities and governments to help them prevent crime and strengthen families and communities.

Like boys in Nauvoo of the 1840s, who helped discourage suspected lawbreakers by following them while whittling and whistling, young people today can take a stand against the wicked intentions of others, he said.

"True friendship may well be the best thing we can do to help reach those who may be drifting towards unsafe and morally damaging activities and counterfeit forms of belonging," he remarked.