One of your greatest protections against making bad choices is to not put on any mask of anonymity. —Elder Quentin L. Cook
REXBURG, IDAHO — Today's young adults, because of their advantages, have the potential to be "the best generation ever," yet there will be great pressure on each "to act out of character — to even wear a mask — and become someone who doesn't really reflect who you are or who you want to be," an LDS Church leader said Sunday night.
Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed a devotional broadcast emanating from Brigham Young University-Idaho and carried to congregations of young adults throughout North America and elsewhere.
The church leader spoke of an experience he and fellow apostle L. Tom Perry had last summer in meeting with Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, at Foxman's New York office.
Elder Cook spoke of Foxman's background as a 13-month-old whose imperiled Jewish parents were obliged to entrust him to the care of a Polish, Catholic servant girl just before they entered a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania in 1941. The parents survived the Nazi Holocaust but were not reunited with their son until he was 4 years old.
"It is not surprising that Abraham Foxman has devoted his life to fighting anti-Semitism, hatred, bigotry and discrimination," Elder Cook commented.
He said he asked Foxman what counsel he would have for the LDS leaders. The director responded by describing the actions of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States, pointing out that while some were like the "brown-shirted bullies in the dictatorships of 1930s Europe," the majority of them, behind their masks, were usually normal people, including businessmen and churchgoers.
"Mr. Foxman's counsel was to stress the importance of people avoiding masks that hide their true identity," Elder Cook said.
"One of your greatest protections against making bad choices is to not put on any mask of anonymity," he said. "If you ever find yourself wanting to do so, please know it is a serious sign of danger and one of the adversary's tools to get you to do something you should not do."
Elder Cook urged his listeners to spend time doing things that build and develop character and help them become more Christ-like. He warned them against succumbing to the temptation of pornography or other immoral behavior.
But there are other "insidious behaviors that poison society and undermine basic morality," he said. "It is common today to hide one's identity when writing hateful, vitriolic, bigoted communications anonymously online. Some refer to it as flaming."
Some institutions try to control it, he said, noting, "For instance, the New York Times won't tolerate comments where there are personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, impersonations, incoherence and shouting.
Elder Cook denounced "any use of the Internet to bully, destroy a reputation or place a person in a bad light" and said anonymity makes people more likely to engage in such behavior.
To reach their potential, young peple will build their country and community where they live, he said.
"Your generation, like 'the greatest generation,' will need to protect righteousness and religious freedom. … We need to preserve it for future generations."