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Samuelsons counsel students to avoid dragons and build character

President Cecil O. and Sister Sharon G. Samuelson addressed students Tuesday in the first devotional of the 2012-2013 school year. Sister Samuelson spoke of dragons that students should work hard to avoid, and President Samuelson stressed the importance of good character in students’ efforts at BYU.

In encouraging students to discover the world around them, Sister Samuelson drew attention to old maps, on which cartographers would warn, “Here be dragons,” in areas where dangers lurked.    

“Today you are making decisions and choosing courses to take on the many maps and pathways presented to you,” she said. “The paths your lives take today have areas which could be marked by the phrase, ‘Here be dragons,’ as a warning that you should and must avoid them.”

Sister Samuelson reminded students that a firm testimony of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is necessary to withstand the buffetings of the adversary.

“The early explorers often lacked the insight and knowledge about what they would find in the areas marked by dragons, but you young people have knowledge they didn’t,” she said. “You are warned by loved ones as well as prophets and other leaders concerning what may await you in these lairs.”

Sister Samuelson cited the internet, social and other media as possible dragons if used improperly, as well as the dragon of immorality, including dishonesty and a lack of integrity.

“You are blessed to have the teachings of the Gospel to help you shy away from the areas where dangers and forces of evil can enter and put you in peril of losing your faith and testimonies,” she said. “Sometimes you may think that you can get close to a dragon and escape in time because you are strong enough to fight him when necessary and can easily ignore any temptation he might place before you.  Your curiosity and questions about the unknown may lead you to say to yourself, ‘I can always choose when to stop and turn around. I know I can.’ Do not be fooled. The adversary is deceptive and will seek to ensnare you with such thoughts.

“If you find that you have indeed fallen over the edge or have become burned by the fires of a dragon, you are blessed with the knowledge that your Savior has given you His gift of the Atonement. . . . If you have entered an area where you were warned there were dragons, you do have a way to find the correct path out and that is God’s Plan of Salvation, which includes repentance and forgiveness. His love for you is boundless and provides a way for you to return to Him.”

President Samuelson related stories of James E. Talmage as he admonished students to build their character.

“There are many definitions of character but one simple idea articulated by someone long ago seems most satisfactory to me: A reputation is the opinion people have of a person, but character is what she or he really is,” he said.

From President David O. McKay, he quoted: “Character is the aim of true education; and science, history, and literature are but means used to accomplish this desired end. Character is not the result of chance, but of continuous right thinking and right acting. True education seeks to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguists, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also, honest men [and women], with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love. It seeks to make men and women who prize truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence, and self-control as the choicest acquisitions of a successful life.”

President Samuelson told a story about James E. Talmage in which he tried over and over to cross a narrow footbridge on his bicycle, only to crash into the ditch time and again. After a short hour, he had mastered the crossing several times over.

“This is an interesting insight into a man who believed something, likely trivial to most people, was not only worth doing, but doing well,” President Samuelson said. “This same unfailing determination was demonstrated much later in a more widely recognized sense when Brother Talmage literally lived in the Salt Lake Temple as he wrote his famous and beloved book,Jesus the Christ,at the direction of the First Presidency. His absolute commitment to completing a task he determined to be important, whatever anyone else might think, served him very well throughout his life and, in turn, blessed and continues to bless, countless others.”

“Elder Talmage was his own man but he was also a man of impeccable character. He decided to do what he considered was really important and deflected those things of lesser or no priority.”

For President and Sister Samuelson’s talks in their entirety, visit The talks will also be rebroadcast on BYUtv. Visit for more information.


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