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Integrity to the Cause of Christ

Sister Rasband and I love the sky, sun, sand and ocean just outside your door, and your music, we love your music.  Thank you, choir, for your beautiful singing. 

Tonight, I want to talk about integrity. I am not talking about some lofty, academic measure. I am talking about how you live, and where it will take you. BYU-Hawaii is a distinguished setting where the qualities of integrity are a central part of the whole campus experience.

Integrity is being honest and forthright, fair and obedient, willing, at all costs, to choose God’s ways. Integrity creates trust, honors truth, and values spirituality. Joseph Smith said it this way, “I am a lover of the cause of Christ . . . and an upright steady course of conduct and a holy walk.” [1] That says integrity to me. And whether you are wearing sandals or no shoes at all, holy walk is what integrity is all about.

Your BYU–Hawaii setting is so unusual. You have your university classes, a diverse student population, the Polynesian Cultural Center with performances for guests from all over the world, Church meetings, the temple, and just across the highway—the beach! This is a remarkable learning environment where your choices will shape your integrity and that integrity will be deeply rooted in your heart and soul.

Many of you come from far-distant homes and vastly different settings. You brought goodness instilled by your parents, friends, and leaders, and now you are building on opportunities here. You will go forward from here across the world prepared to lead in the Lord’s way. Value that divine charge for the Lord expects great things from you.

I have always loved the hymn “True to the Faith.” Your choir sang it so beautifully. The second verse describes integrity with these compelling words:
“While we know the pow’rs of darkness
Seek to thwart the work of God
Shall the children of the promise
Cease to grasp the iron rod? No!” [2]

Your attendance here tonight is a resounding “No!” You will not be distracted; you have chosen to follow the Lord, to hold fast to the iron rod.

Jesus Christ announced, “I came to do the will of my Father;” [3] and He never wavered in that commitment. Not once. Not when He was tempted in the wilderness, [4] not when He was belittled by self-important priests, [5] not when His followers turned away, and not when He was scourged and then nailed to the cross. He knew what was ahead in the Great Plan of Salvation and He stepped forward, “Here am I, send me.” [6] And He was, as the song says, “Faithful and true.” [7]

We have seen such integrity in leaders in The Book of Mormon. At the death of Lehi, a huge point of transition for Nephi, he described what he called “the things of my soul.” [8] He wrote, “I know in whom I have trusted;” [9] “My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions . . . he hath preserved me;” [10] “He hath filled me with his love;” [11] “He hath confounded mine enemies;” [12] “He hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time;” [13] “Yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me;” [14] “I will trust in thee forever;” [15] “My rock and mine everlasting God.” [16]

I identify with Nephi. I love his integrity demonstrated time and again: His grit, his commitment, his unfailing testimony of Jesus Christ so apparent in the way he lived his life. Nephi’s experiences required him to choose to follow the Lord or be drawn off by his brothers. Nephi was “true to the faith.”

My question tonight is how true are you? Where is integrity in your list of personal priorities? Your integrity is central to fulfilling your mortal charge to become, as best you can, like the Savior Jesus Christ.

When I was nearing the end of my college studies in marketing and business, I met Jon Huntsman, a giant of a man by every standard; businessman, Church leader, faithful husband, father of nine, a visionary, and a benefactor. Jon became my loyal and beloved friend and mentor.

I was the elder’s quorum president of my campus ward and he was the high council advisor. You can picture the setting because of your experience here at BYU–Hawaii.

One day Jon asked me to come to his office. There I was in plush, professional business surroundings! Me, the son of a truck driver, when Jon invited me to join his company working in marketing and sales. I was honored.

Jon was not interested in my academic credentials, which were not stellar, but he had seen what he considered my strengths of leadership and character that were a good fit for his business.

I immediately responded I would love to join his company after graduation in the spring. I had just two semesters to finish. My college degree was so important to me, my wife, and my parents. Yet, his offer was an answer to our prayers about the next step in our lives.

He smiled and then said, “I need you now.” The next week, he explained, he would be in Troy, Ohio, at one of his packaging plants, to negotiate with a major customer. If I wanted the job, I needed to be with him as the new account manager. That was it. The job was next week in Troy, Ohio or no job at all.

That night after seeking counsel from loved ones and friends, Sister Rasband and I prayed earnestly for direction. My dear wife, Melanie, whom I met at an Institute activity, was inspired with our answer. “Isn’t this what people go to college for, to find an opportunity like this one?” We took the job in Ohio. Eventually Jon appointed me president of his global corporation with thousands of employees and billions in revenues.

What did I learn from those beginnings and associations in the years that followed?

Jon Huntsman gave me opportunity, but I had to make more of it than a job. I had to make myself a man of integrity. I realized then and now that my personal integrity is what has defined me in my marriage, business, relationships, and service.

In marriage, I learned that husband and wife face life together; you make decisions together, and take them to the Lord. Then you lock arms and go forward. Joining Huntsman was a beginning for us but since then we have gone to our knees many times seeking the Lord’s guidance. Our spiritual bond and our trust in the Lord, has seen us through many challenges.

In business, I learned from mentors like Jon and Karen Huntsman, to be an effective and fair businessman who lived by clear cut rules. Two days of work were often pressed into one and along the way, I lived by the standard: be moral, ethical and honest. Let me say that again, be moral, ethical and honest. Your word is your bond. That is what we learn from making covenants. We give the Lord our word and we hold to it. Remember, another name for Jesus Christ is “the Word.” [17]

In relationships, I learned you face many challenges to your beliefs and standards. The key is to never let go of the iron rod and never compromise. I have traveled the world and interacted with people in many cultures but was careful not to be drawn into their lifestyles. Guard yourself. Social media can be risky where life is on full display. Be careful what you post. Be careful what you look at. Be wise in your messaging. In gatherings, be sensitive to listening to the Spirit and have the courage to turn away. Or walk away.

In service to the Lord, I learned we are not a Sunday Church. We live the gospel every day. We minister to one another. We act on promptings to lift others. That was our covenant at baptism when we took the Lord’s name upon us. We renew that covenant with the sacrament every week and we make additional covenants in the temple. I remember when President Thomas S. Monson called me to serve as an Apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve. He was a leader whose ministry was marked by his devotion to all of God’s children. He often said, “I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him.” [18] That day in his office, he expected no less of me.

A good measure of integrity is found in the Thirteenth Article of Faith: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men.” [19] Those are not just words, they are strengths and that should guide our every move.

If all the world would live by such standards, how different things would be. We would have fewer sensational news stories, more peace in homes, families, and nations, more respect in business transactions, less rancor in politics, more honor in our dealings in school and with our associates, friends and neighbors, and more compassion for those in need.

Some would say integrity is an old-fashioned virtue. Certainly, it stands in sharp contrast to luminaries whose lives make headlines, but whose characters are sullied by devious, selfish, greedy and lustful behavior. No question, integrity is a much-needed value in the world today.

In the Bible, the Lord selected David, of David and Goliath fame, to care for Israel. The account states, “He chose David. . . and took him from the sheepfolds” because of “the integrity of his heart.” And David guided the Israelites “by the skillfulness of his hands.” [20]

You are here being educated and learning skills that will help you establish traditions in your homes and families, methods in your work, and contributions to society in general. Skill is important, brothers and sisters, but hearts guide hands. Jesus counseled His disciples, “Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.” [21]

Many of you will be asked in the years ahead to bend the rules, to grease wheels, to look the other way, to compromise. Some may even assume that is the way things are done in education, business, government, or your own home. Don’t you believe it! Your integrity will be on the line and the price will never be worth it.

Think of King David. I mentioned earlier that the Lord chose him because of his integrity. But David was sorely tempted, wanting the wife of one of his officers. He arranged to send the man to the front lines knowing he was sending him to his death. What of King David’s integrity then? Well, the Lord withheld from him the blessing of building a temple, giving it instead to his son, Solomon. Even more devastating, David’s lack of integrity caused him to “[fall] from his exaltation.” [22] Everyone is vulnerable unless the decision is made in advance to never compromise principles.

Brigham Young taught, “This people must become sanctified in their affections to God and learn to deal honestly, truly and uprightly with one another in every respect, with all the integrity that fills the heart of an angel.” [23]

President Young knew of what he spoke. In Kirtland, several of the Twelve Apostles, including Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and other leaders met in the newly dedicated temple to plan how to wrest control of the Church from Joseph Smith. It was a time when “the knees of many of the strongest men in the Church faltered.” [24]

Dissatisfied with the financial situation in the Church, they intended to renounce Joseph Smith as prophet and appoint David Whitmer instead. Brigham Young rose up, and in a forcible manner told them that Joseph was a prophet. “They might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, [but] they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God.” [25]

Brigham later wrote, “During this siege of darkness I stood close by Joseph, and with all the wisdom and power God bestowed upon me, put forth my utmost energies to sustain the servant of God and unite the Quorums of the Church.” [26] Brigham had integrity.

Others did not. Eliza R. Snow observed at the time, “Many who had been humble and faithful to the performance of every duty. . . drank in the love and spirit of the world, [and] the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from their hearts.” [27] You don’t want to be in that company.

As a Church, we are facing challenges to religious freedom, to sacred doctrine determined by God whose Church this is. What of the holy covenants you have made? Do you do your best to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places?” [28]

As we see the standards of the world collapsing in every direction, we are often required to stand strong, defend our faith and uphold the integrity of the gospel. Remember the admonition in Helaman that being built on “the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God” the approaching “mighty storm . . . shall have no power over you to drag you down . . . because of the rock upon which ye are built.” [29]

How would you describe your integrity to the cause of Jesus Christ? The Lord said of Hyrum Smith, the Prophet Joseph’s brother, “Blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.” [30]

I assure you; no accumulation of wealth, recognition, position or popularity can supplant a heart full of love for the Lord’s ways and God’s children. “Lovest thou me?” [31] The Savior asked His disciples when they had gone “a fishing.” [32] Peter responded, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” [33] And the Lord said, “Feed my sheep… Feed my sheep.” [34]

Integrity in being about the Lord’s work is to love as He loved, essentially to feed His sheep with kindness. No one knows better than you that circumstances, language, training, or measures of prosperity do not define worth. You have people who depend on you, who need you, who will be blessed by your attention. Leave here today recognizing that to be moral, ethical, and honest you need to pay attention to how you treat people.

Think of the Savior in His last hours. Scourged and nailed to a cross He could have lashed out in anger, but He did not. His words were, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” [35] His kindness and compassion overrode mortal emotion. Again, Jesus Christ is ever our Exemplar.

We are all here to learn how to get on the covenant path and stay there. It is not easy. I told Jon Huntsman I wanted to finish school. That seemed reasonable, but my future was not only about school. It was about providing for my family based on a foundation of personal integrity. In that way, everyone in this hall tonight is the same. So the question is what can you do to be a little bit better each day? Here are some ideas that might help you assess your progress:

  • Do you desire to stand in holy places?  What does it mean to you to hold a current temple recommend and to count it a privilege? Do you seek peace and comfort in the temple just up the street?  Do you honor and wear your temple garments? Is your temple worship of our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ part of your seeking their influence?  
  • Do you, like President Monson, try to listen for promptings to help someone the Lord knows is in need of assistance? Like a fellow student, a ward member, someone you meet at the library or even on a boogie board at the beach. 
  • When you make a mistake, as we all do, do you sometimes deny it or blame someone else? Or, can you, more often, try to square your shoulders, face the issue, and resolve it? 
  • When friends are maligning someone or being rude do you step away or take their defense? Or do you join in for the sake of being a part of things?  
  • Do you strive to keep the Sabbath Day holy? To live the Word of Wisdom? 
  • If you served a mission, are you still doing the work of the Lord or have you slipped back into old habits, setting aside daily scripture study and morning and evening prayer?
  • Do you honor and sustain The First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles? Do you try to support and follow their initiatives and teachings? Do you believe in Latter-day revelation? Remember the admonition of the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” [36] I testify that we have a living Prophet, even President Russell M. Nelson, who receives revelation for the whole Church and is a Seer in this time when clouds of darkness surround us. He has emphasized, “Think Celestial” in good times and bad. And press on helping build the Kingdom of God on earth. 

These are just a few ways you can spot-check your personal integrity. The time to decide your epitaph is not at the end of your career but at the beginning. Right now. I recommend you simply ask yourself as you face decisions going forward, is this moral, ethical and honest? Is this who I want to be?

I remember standing on the cusp of a professional life. Today you are putting down your foundation of a great work—your life. It is up to you to exercise a sense of duty, a recognition of God’s will in your life, your efforts to develop Christ-like characteristics. Jesus Christ was and is the example of being moral, ethical and honest. Apply His word and your life will speak of integrity without duplicity of attitudes or actions. Be humble. When you slip or falter, know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is just for that purpose. Mormon described it this way to his son Moroni, “May Christ lift thee up.” [37] So when you are feeling beaten down, discouraged or not up to the task, when expectations seem beyond your reach, remember the Lord spent His life “lift[ing] up the hands which hang down” and “strengthen[ing] the feeble knees.” [38] That would be you and me.

In Proverbs we read, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” [39] Integrity shapes a legacy, a path for others to follow.

I close with the inspired words of President Russell M. Nelson. Mark these words in your heart that you may always believe and remember them. He said: "Your precious identity deserves your precious integrity! Guard it as the priceless prize that it is." [40]

As an Apostle of Jesus Christ, I leave with you a blessing that you will live a life of integrity, that you may “strive to be found worthy of the kingdom of our Lord.” [41] May you seek to live True to the Faith, to know your Father in Heaven in humble prayer; and to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in “defending truth and right.” [42] May you seek to hear the whisperings of the Holy Spirit for He will guide you and lift you. May you shape a life that will merit the Father’s blessed words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” [43] I promise that as you show love for the Lord by living your covenants, His unending example of integrity will become your standard. You will be moral, ethical and honest.

In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Joseph Smith to William W. Phelps, July 31, 1832, p. 3, in Joseph Smith Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
[2] Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 254.
[3] See John 6:38.
[4] See Matthew 4:1–11.
[5] See Mark 14:53–65.
[6] Moses 4:1.
[7] Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 254.
[8] 2 Nephi 4:15.
[9] 2 Nephi 4:19.
[10] 2 Nephi 4:20.
[11] 2 Nephi 4:21.
[12] 2 Nephi 4:22.
[13] 2 Nephi 4:23.
[14] 2 Nephi 4:24.
[15] 2 Nephi 4:34.
[16] 2 Nephi 4:35.
[17] John 1:1.
[18] Thomas S. Monson in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “On the Lord’s Errand: The Life of Thomas S. Monson,” YouTube Video, 59:07, January 3, 2018.
[19] Articles of Faith 1:13.
[20] Psalm 78:70, 72.
[21] JST Luke 14:27–28. See footnote “b” in Luke 14:27.
[22] See Doctrine and Covenants 132:39.
[23] Brigham Young, “Sermon,” Deseret News, November 25, 1857, 301.
[24] History of Brigham Young, book G, p. 16, Image 22, in Manuscript history of Brigham Young, CR 100 150, Box 1, Folder 1, CHL.
[25] History of Brigham Young, book G, p. 15, Image 21, CHL.
[26] History of Brigham Young, book G, p. 16, Image 22, CHL.
[27] Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, One of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Company, 1884), 20.
[28] Mosiah 18:9.
[29] Helaman 5:12.
[30] Doctrine and Covenants 124:15.
[31] John 21:15.
[32] John 21:3.
[33] John 21:15.
[34] John 21:16–17.
[35] Luke 23:34.
[36] Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.
[37] Moroni 9:25.
[38] See Doctrine and Covenants 81:5.
[39] Proverbs 20:7.
[40] Russell M. Nelson, “Integrity of Heart,” BYU Speeches, February 23, 1993.
[41] Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 254.
[42] Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 254.
[43] Matthew 25:21.