Do Right: Honoring Our Commitments
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today. It’s a little bit intimidating, however, and I pray for the Spirit to be with me as our opening prayer asked as well.
Just before beginning this semester, the College completed a process of defining our cultural beliefs. Those cultural beliefs were presented to the faculty and staff, and then some changes were made to them. Additional modifications were made to reflect the changes necessary to adapt them to students. Hopefully, all of you have had copies of those cultural beliefs, and if not, Troy has been handing them out today. So we hope you will take them.
The cultural beliefs are intended to act as a compass to help students, faculty and staff as we present and students absorb the educational experience here at LDS Business College. I have chosen today to speak on the first of those student cultural beliefs. The first part of the belief, “Do Right,” suggests that in all we do we should make the right choices.
Brother Ben Banks, in the devotional last week, addressed this when he posed the question uttered by Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21: And Elijah came unto all the people and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The implication here is that there was a right and a wrong choice.
How do we make right choices? In some cases it’s very easy. They are learned from parents, teachers, leaders, and peers, related to issues or dilemmas we face, and we form opinions of what is right. Or perhaps we can deduce from the circumstances a direction and make an educated guess. We may even ask a trusted friend to help us make the decision. It is the other issues that present the difficulty. What we need is a compass that points the way to find the right answer.
I would like to relate to you some experiences that I have had with compasses and their value that I have experienced. At about the age of 17, my employer offered the use of some horses to two of my friends and I so that we could go fishing in the mountains near Cokeville, Wyoming. My employer’s sheepherders provided the horses along with advice that if we got lost, we should give the horses their head and let them take us back to where we were dropped off. We were told, “They can always find their way home. They have a built-in compass.”
The day we left from our trip to return, the morning sky was overcast so the sun was of no value to help us determine our direction. I had a compass and we used it instead of the sheepherder’s advice. We made it back to the road, but many miles from where we should have been and much later than the prearranged time. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the magnetic poles of the needle of the compass had become reversed, and the north end of the needle pointed south. From that experience I learned that a faulty compass is of little or no value.
A Global Positioning System or GPS as it is called, is a highly accurate technological device based on the reception of radio waves transmitted from satellites that orbit 12,600 miles above the earth. Using this technology, location, altitude and speed are available. The accuracy at their highest setting is within eight to twelve inches. On a hike to Notch Lake last year in the Uinta Mountains with my eldest son and several of his sons, we took a small GPS receiver. Traveling to the lake, we followed a trail shown on the screen of the GPS. It is a winding trail skirting ponds and cliffs for about 3.6 miles. It is an easy hike on a well-marked trail. The GPS was not needed, but we thought it would be fun to test the technology. As we left the lake to travel back, since we could see a map on the GPS screen and the location of the lake where we camped, we decided to take the direct and shorter route and travel cross-country and not follow the trail. This time we found ponds, lakes, dense forest and cliffs in our way that made the trip very difficult and in some cases, treacherous. A GPS is a wonderful compass when applied correctly.
In September, my wife and another son and grandson took a train from Paris to Madrid to visit, among other sites, the Madrid Temple. Upon leaving the train station, we went by taxi to the temple. The driver didn’t know the way, but when we gave him the address, he input it into the GPS receiver mounted on his windshield. A map appeared on the screen and he followed the map, and a voice announced to him every turn that he should take along the way. We arrived at the temple with no difficulty.
An application of a sophisticated compass is of great value. But it is of little value as we traverse down the road of life. The point I make in relating these experiences is to illustrate that you need to be careful what you choose as your compass. Some are accurate when used wisely, and others made lead you astray or far from your intended goal.
Perhaps the best-known compass in church history is the Liahona spoken of by Nephi in 1 Nephi 16:10: “And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.”
Nephi then explains, in verses 28 and 29, how the ball worked:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.“And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it.”
Of the three compasses that I have mentioned, it is this last one that will be of most value to us as we consider the first cultural belief—“Do Right.” The principle that made the Liahona work is available to all of us, to act as a compass. But its use is conditional, just like the first two compass examples I mentioned. It will work if the principles that govern its use are followed exactly. We can draw on that compass according to the faith and diligence and heed which we give them. We also have writing which is plain to be read, as was that on the Liahona. The words of prophets both ancient and modern, the scriptures and the words of present-day prophets can be listened to during conferences and read reprinted in Church magazines and online at the Church website. And they exist to provide us direction. But we only benefit from them as we study, ponder and pray about their meaning for us.
As faculty, students and staff here at LDS Business College, we have all committed to follow a code of ethics known as the Honor Code, which also serves as a compass. The Honor Code is not to tell us everything we can or cannot do, but provides direction. Coupled with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, which right was given to us as we were confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Spirit of Christ for those who are not members, that is given to all men, it helps us lessen the time that we halt between two opinions.
Let me tell you of an experience I heard from the parents of a young student at BYU-Idaho. Not long after leaving for her first semester in Idaho, her parents living in Germany received a package containing articles of clothing she had taken with her to school, but with no explanation as to why they were being returned. Her mother, concerned that the clothing purchased with funds that could have been used for other needs was not going to be utilized, called her daughter for an explanation. Her answer was that she had decided that they did not meet the Honor Code, and said, “It was my decision to follow the Honor Code.” She made that decision even though it was not specifically spelled out in the code. What an example of commitment and doing what’s right.
Consider this scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-29, which we probably all should have memorized:
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore, he receiveth no reward.“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
“But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.”
This scripture explains exactly how the Honor Code is to be interpreted. In verse 28 of the previous scripture, it says, “And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” The direction is not only that we should do right, but that we should do good. Last week, I witnessed a situation that demonstrated to me the power of doing good.
I was riding to work on TRAX, and the train car I was riding in had every seat filled. The door opened at a stop and several more people entered, looked for seats and, when they found none, found a spot to stand. A young man of Asian descent near the front very quietly stood up and offered his seat to a young lady. She thanked him and sat down.
The young man found a place next to the window and continued to read his book, which I noticed was the Book of Mormon. Following his example, an older man then stood up and gave his seat to another lady. I was impressed that this young man had taken the initiative to do good, and someone else had followed his example. I continued to watch him until we both got off the train at the last stop. He walked behind the KSL building and I lost sight of him until we were both waiting for an elevator—here at LDS Business College. He was a great example of doing good, and I wished people could have known that he is a student here at LDS Business College.
We should all look for opportunities not only to do right, but to do good—not to be seen of others, but because it is the right thing to do. It is the noise of the world that tries to move us from our correct path that leads back to our Father in Heaven. The oft-stated admonition that we should be “in the world, but not of the world” provides us additional direction on how we should act.
Our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires much of us. But as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”
When I was a young boy, every Tuesday night in Mutual, we would stand and recite the Mutual Theme. Some here will remember that theme; it is familiar to all of us. It comes from 1 Nephi 3:7: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
Several other scriptures come to mind that admonish us to do right and do good, and the value that comes from doing so. In Joshua 24:15: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; …but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The second, Doctrine and Covenants 88:63: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.”
The second part of the cultural belief is, “I honor my commitments.” As I have pondered that phrase, I have identified three types of commitments. The first are those that are made to our Father in Heaven. They consist of covenants and commandments that we live. Among them is baptism. Just take a moment and read—I’m sure that none of you remember this from the time that you were baptized, because it wasn’t spoken in words—but we read in Mosiah some of the commitments we made, or we make as we enter the waters of baptism. They’re found in Mosiah 18: 8-10.
“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus they were called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.”
We don’t remember those things because they weren’t said, but they are commitments that nevertheless we bear as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The second comes from the partaking of the sacrament—a renewal again of the baptismal covenant. Another is the Word of Wisdom. I dwell here for just a moment on the Word of Wisdom, but consider the benefits that might be of particular value to each one of us here as students, for we are all students. We commit to a certain lifestyle that requires that we avoid some things and embrace other things. It is the promise that comes from fulfilling that commitment that I would turn your attention to. It is found in Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21, and to me, is the real value of the Word of Wisdom:
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.”
What a wonderful benefit for keeping a commitment to our Father in Heaven. Are those all promises that we could benefit by? I think specifically as students here at LDS Business College, the one that says, “Shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures,” is of particular value to us. There are commitments that are made between you and someone else, and we call those contracts. They must be beneficial to both parties. I can hear the faculty of the business department teaching that particular principle. For example, loans—we pay interest in return for funds for things. Our employment—we receive pay in return for our labors. We expect an honest pay for honest labors. The Honor Code kind of falls into this category. We receive an education and a substantial tuition subsidy in return for obedience.
Then there are the commitments that we make to ourselves, which become our values and our beliefs. They develop character, which I have heard defined as what you would do if you knew you would not be found out. Think about that for a moment. What would you do if you knew you would not be found out? It helps us create integrity in our lives. Integrity means to do what you say you will do.
In our lives, there are many opportunities for us to make commitments in each of these three areas. To our Father in Heaven, when we promise we will do certain things if He will help us with other things. We need to learn to keep those kind of commitments. There are all kinds of covenants that we make with our Father in Heaven—those that we make with others as we agree to do things for other people in turn for things that they would do for us. Or perhaps things that we just offer to do, with no hope of anything in return.
And finally, and not more importantly but certainly as important, are those commitments that we make to ourselves. When we come here to school, we all come in with the idea—and I did as well—that I would do my very best; that I would achieve that 4.0 grade point average (which, by the way, I never did). There are all kinds of things that we do, that we commit to in our own hearts. In the fervor of the moment—perhaps during a sacrament meeting when we have been impressed by a particular talk, and we say, “You know, that’s what I’m going to do.” And then, as time wings on and our memories are dimmed by the time, we forget what we have committed to ourselves to do.
Of particular value is writing down those commitments that we can remember them and imbed them in our hearts, that we may in fact be a peculiar people, a people that keep their commitments.
Brothers and sisters, I know that the gospel is true, that our Father in Heaven wants us to keep our commitments. He provides many promises and blessings to us if we will. I know that we are led by prophets today, that our Father in Heaven would have us listen to those prophets and read their words and heed them, as He expected in times of old.
And I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.