Maintaining An Independent Character


In response to his son expressing an interest in public life, John Adams, our second President, wrote:

“Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not'; if honest men refuse it, others will not. A young man should weigh well his plans. Integrity should be preserved in all events, as essential to his happiness, through every stage of existence. His first maxim then should be to place his honor out of reach of all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence. Let him have a trade, a profession, a farm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent principles. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character.” (“John Adams, by David McCullough, pg. 415).

John Adams gave sound advice to his son regarding public service. Times have changed and our “public servants” no longer hold “independent characters” when it comes to running this country. I think all of us can see that politicians have lost their “independent character”, which can have negative consequences regarding public policies and laws. The old saying that “money talks” is ever so true. But what of religion? Can losing one’s “independent character” affect the manner in which one worships? Sadly, it is also true that “money talks” when it comes to religion.

I can’t speak for other faiths, but from distant observation it is clear to me that holding one’s character “independent” can easily become lost when a living is at stake. The summer before I left to serve a full-time mission for the church I was working construction on the newly approved subway just outside the Pentagon. I happened to mention to a co-worker about my plans to serve a mission for the church. He replied, “Good for you. There’s a lot of money in preaching”. I explained to him that I wasn’t getting paid to do it. He gave me a quizzical look, like, “Then why would you do it?” I am grateful that the Lord has revealed that the priesthood of God can be given to all worthy males, but with no monetary payment expected. In so doing, the Lord, in His wisdom, has given to each of us who hold that authority, the ability to have “an independent character”. What a wonderful blessing it is to serve in the ranks of the church, without any worry of our characters being compromised by, or suspected of being compromised by, our greed for monetary gain.

It is a wonderful thing, as a priesthood holder, to make decisions based on inspiration that is not tainted by the need or greed of the day. On the contrary, it is indeed a peaceful feeling to serve in the kingdom knowing that you are doing so out of devotion to principles that you hold dear.

I may not be a rich man when it comes to the things of this world, and that’s alright I suppose. But I have had the great blessing of being given “an independent character” by the Lord in how I have conducted my religious life. And that is worth all the money in the world to me!


Hope For The Lamantations Of An Aging Man


A recent instructor of a Sunday School class said, “When I was in my early twenties I never thought I would be fifty. But here I am.” I remember having the same thoughts. I specifically recall, as a boy, figuring up how old I would be in the year 2000. It seemed so far away, and 44 was an impossible age to fathom for my young mind. I have been having trouble with my back as of late. So I went to the doctor who recommended I have some x-rays done. They show minor arthritis in my neck and lower back. I’m now on medication. Lately I have been waking up during the night because of pain in my neck. The prescription helps. As I ponder my life, I am left to lament, “Is this what I get when all is said and done!” I am reminded of a line out the movie Shawshank Redemption. After spending almost his entire life behind bars a convict named Red is up for parole…again. He is asked if he has been rehabilitated. Part of his classic reply was:

“Not a day goes by I don’t feel regret, and not because I’m in here or because you think I should. I look back on myself the way I was…stupid kid who did that terrible crime…wish I could talk sense to him. Tell him how things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, this old man is all that’s left, and I have to live with that”

I was struck by the phrase, “this old man is all that’s left, and I have to live with that”. The older your body gets, the more you begin to appreciate the power, the beauty, and the magnificence of its glory. It truly is God made, and God-given! But the bodies we were given, in this life, are temporal. That truth is driven home the longer you reside on this earth. Yet, there is a strong rebuttal to my lamentation of “is this what I get?” Of course it isn’t! Echoing Red’s words of “This old man is all that’s left” for me may be true. But I don’t have to “live with that”. At least not forever! Someday I will be that “kid” again. This is part of the great message that Jesus brought to the world. He broke the bands of death so that all of us may become “kids” again! The scriptures testified that at the time of Christ’s resurrection, that

“…the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27:52-53)

And so, as true believers in Christ, we have the triumphant words of Paul, written to the Corinthians:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery…we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

The time will come when the lamentation of man will be soothed. Then shall the mystery of how Christ shall overcome the sting of death be revealed to all! Then shall every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:11) So, as time continues onward, all of us experience the pain and suffering that comes with the onset of age. Different trials come with the aging of the body. New challenges! And if we are blessed enough to have a long sojourn in this life, the time comes when we all wish for younger days, back to an age when our bodies were healthy and strong. The message of hope for that return is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the only hope for the lamentations of an aging man!


man patting another man on back

“If My Life Is Of No Value To My Friends…”


There is a bond forged while in church service that is not found in this world. Perhaps the armed services comes the closest to forming such feellings of love and closeness.  This brotherhood or sisterhood  is forged because of the nature of the work. At times it can be hard, with joy and discouragement neatly intertwined so that neither is gained without the other. In such circumstances you develop great love and devotion to those you serve with.  So it is that both small and large compliments mean so much. A word of encouragement by a fellow church member is so important. It is therefore imperative that we be generous in our praise of our fellow workers. A word of praise really can turn a day of darkness and discouragement into a day of light and hope. Even though this is the work of the Lord, criticism said to others can be so damaging.  Nothing stings quite so,  as words of criticism from those closest. False praise is not what I am encouraging, but the kind of praise that people earn and that are honest in nature. And if we look hard, good can be found in everyone.

I am reminded of the story of the martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith. Let us go back and examine what led to that fateful day in Carthage, Illinois. Why was he there? Well, the particulars of his arrest have been well documented. However, I want to go back as to why he surrendered himself to the authorities. He thought that the mob would leave the Saints alone if he fled. He crossed the Mississippi to safety where he received word that some of his own people were calling him a coward.  There he was, a man who had given his entire life to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had been driven from state to state, jailed, tarred and feather, beaten and persecuted. Yet, nothing stung so deeply as to hear criticism from those closest.  I can imagine him standing on the banks of the Mississippi, feeling lonely and discouraged, but at least he had his friends. Or so he thought.  His reply of “If my life is of no value to my friends, then it is of none to myself,” echoes the importance of supporting and sustaining one another. He returned to face death at the hands of a mob. It speaks volumes of his character that he valued the opinion of the saints. No charlatan would have cared.

“There is a sad tendency in our world today for persons to depreciate each other. Did you ever realize that it does not take very much in the way of brainpower to make remarks that may wound another? Try the opposite of that. Try handing out compliments” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Strengthening Each Other,” Tambuli, Jun 1985, 1).

Recently I spoke at a baptismal service and a sister stopped me the next day to compliment me. I didn’t need it to continue serving, but it was nice to hear. This sister is very consistent in giving out compliments to others. Good for her! That is a wonderful quality to have. She is following the counsel of  generously”handing out compliments.” Be sincere, but look for the good in others service. It is a good feeling to be told that you are of value to others.


When The Last Putt Fell On My Honeymoon!


As her ball dropped into the eighteenth hole she gave me a great big smile. I had lost by one stroke to her in miniature golf. Instead of being happy for her, I was mad inside because I had lost. I’d been shown up by my wife of five days, in an athletic event, of all things. After all my bragging of how great an athlete I was, it only took five days for her to embarrass me. And even though she gave me a cute smile, I didn’t return it, because….I wanted to win! And that’s the way it went down, on our Honeymoon at the “Old Pro” Golf Course. I still recall the feeling!

Now some thirty-nine odd years later, if it happened again, I think I would be happy for her…because…I am a more mature man. I have better learned to control my temper and emotions. I have learned that being a “miniature” man, is not the way of the Lord. It is the way of man! What is a “miniature man?” Well, to me, it’s a man who is “small” in character. It’s a man who lets little things upset them. It’s a man who thinks and acts immature. It’s a man who hasn’t bridled his short temper with the age-old excuse that it’s just “who I am” or “God made me this way”. Lynn G. Robbins once said that Satan is the father of contention and anger.

“A cunning part of his strategy is to dissociate anger from agency, making us believe that we are victims of an emotion that we cannot control. We hear, “I lost my temper.” Losing one’s temper is an interesting choice of words that has become a widely used idiom. To “lose something” implies “not meaning to,” “accidental,” “involuntary,” “not responsible”—careless perhaps but “not responsible.”

“He made me mad.” This is another phrase we hear, also implying lack of control or agency. This is a myth that must be debunked. No one makes us mad. Others don’t make us angry. There is no force involved. Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose! (“Agency and Anger”, April, 1998 GC)

There are many scriptural references regarding anger. All of them condemn it. Lynn Robbins continued with a powerful suggestion for us to consider regarding anger. He said:

“Understanding the connection between agency and anger is the first step in eliminating it from our lives. We can choose not to become angry. And we can make that choice today, right now: “I will never become angry again.” Ponder this resolution.”

It is a resolution that all of us should consider taking upon ourselves. Our lives, and those of our loved ones would be so much more fulfilling if we choose not to become angry. Most of us act, at times, like “miniature” men, by not controlling our tempers like we should. Looking back on my feelings that day when I lost to my wife in Putt-putt golf, it’s quite shocking to me that I was so immature to let something so minor affect me. Now, all these years later I still recall the feelings of losing to her. How unfortunate to have such a memory from your Honeymoon. And it didn’t need to be that way. I should have enjoyed the moment. I should have reveled in seeing my cute wife’s face light up with that “gotcha” look.

I can still see the look on her face when the putt dropped all those years ago. Now, I get it, but, like so many things, being able to truly enjoy that moment together is long gone. Perhaps I need to take her out again to Putt-putt golf. Because I want to prove to her and myself, that her “miniature” man, has grown up. Or so I would like to think. I guess I will find out, when the last putt drops!

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