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!

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