“Success Stories,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 29
As a part of the program for each of the 1966 leadership meetings held in connection with each quarterly stake conference, two three-minute success stories were given. A success story is a segment of the success experience which might be isolated in one person and made negotiable in the lives of a great many others.
As an interesting part of the human personality, each individual person has been endowed by creation with a collector’s instinct. And as the squirrel collects and stores up acorns, so we collect stamps and butterflies and coins, and stocks and bonds and insurance policies and real estate and bank accounts. We also collect attitudes, skills, habits, and personality traits.
But since 1966, I have collected seventy-two success stories. These are segments from the experience of someone else which I have chiseled and painted and polished and memorized and recorded to make them immediately and eternally available for my own personal use. And in the twelve minutes of your time which has been assigned to me this afternoon, I would like to make you a present of four three-minute success stories.
Success story number one: After the assassination of Julius Caesar, the world was divided into two great war camps, one led by the conspirators under Brutus, and the other led by Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony, a friend of Julius Caesar. During the long, hard war that followed, Mark Antony distinguished himself as the greatest soldier in the world. And we might ask ourselves, “How did he do it?” If we can discover the secrets of his success, we can make them available to our own success bloodstream.
Following are some of the clues that have been given for the accomplishments of Mark Antony. “Armed with his convincing speech, the power of his logic, the courage of his leadership, and his own self-discipline, he swept everything before him. He took upon himself the hardest tasks with the most wondrous good cheer. He lived for weeks on a diet of insects and the bark of trees. And he won the unquestioned loyalty of his men, the acclaim of the people, the support of Octavius, and his own self-confidence.”
Opposed by such dedication and skill, the enemy generals one by one soon began dropping out of the fight. And when the war was won, Mark Antony stood where the great Julius Caesar had once stood as the master of the world. But when the need for struggle had passed, Mark Antony became idle, and idleness accounts for some of life’s most tragic failure stories.
Mark Antony went to Egypt where he fell in love with the bewitching queen, Cleopatra. He became a victim of the soft luxury, perfumed elegance, and immorality of the Egyptian court. His great mind became clouded by the fumes of wine, and he became what Plutarch referred to as a “Fishing-rod general.” As Mark Antony abandoned his better self he lost the loyalty of his men, the acclaim of the people, the support of Octavius, and his own self-respect. Finally a guard of soldiers was sent to take Mark Antony into custody and bring him back to Rome in chains.
It didn’t require an army to overcome Mark Antony now. Just a handful of the meanest soldiers was all that was necessary. However, Mark Antony avoided arrest by thrusting a dagger into his own heart, and as he lay dying he recounted to Cleopatra that there had been no power in the world sufficient to overthrow him, except his own power. He said, “Only Antony could conquer Antony.” And then as he contemplated the arrival of the Roman soldiers and thought of the awful disgrace that he had brought upon his country and the shame and humiliation that he had caused his family, he made his last speech, which William Haines Lytle has translated into verse, in which Antony says to Cleopatra:
Let not Caesar’s servile minions
Mock the lion thus laid low;
‘Twas no foreman’s arm that fell’d him,
‘Twas his own that struck the blow;
His who, pillow’d on thy bosom,
Turn’d aside from glory’s ray,
His who, drunk with thy caresses,
Madly threw a world away.
“Antony and Cleopatra,” The Best Loved Poems of the American People, comp. Hazel Felleman, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1936, p. 203.
Mark Antony had held securely in his hands the control of an entire world, and there was no one upon the earth with sufficient power to take it from him except himself. But every one of us has within his reach a world that is far more significant than the world which belonged to Mark Antony. There is no power in the universe that can come between us and the celestial kingdom, except our own power. Only Antony can conquer Antony.
Success story number two comes from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. He gives an account of the man with the muckrake who had spent his lifetime raking unto himself the chaff and muck of the earth. However, there was an angel standing over his head with a celestial crown in his hand, offering to exchange the crown for the muckrake. But because this man had trained himself to look in no direction but down, he disregarded the offer of the angel as he continued to rake unto himself the chaff and dust of the earth.
There is also an angel standing over our head with a celestial crown in his hand offering to exchange it for our muckrakes if we will just look up to God and faith and righteousness and understanding. The beast was put down on all fours and thus his vision is cast upon the ground, but man was created upright in the image of his maker that he might look up to God.
We have a song in which we sing,
Look up, my soul, be not cast down;
Keep not thine eyes upon the ground.
Break off the shackles of the earth,
Receive, my soul, the spirit’s birth.
“Before Thee, Lord, I Bow My Head,” Hymns, no. 231.
And one who did this recalls the experience by saying:
I raised my eyes to yonder heights
And longed for lifting wings
To bear me to their sunlit crests,
As on my spirit sings.
And though my feet must keep the paths
That wind along the valley’s floor
Yet after every upward glance
I’m stronger than before.
Success story number three is the inspiring story of Pygmalion and Galatea from Grecian mythology. Pygmalion was a sculptor from Cyprus, and, like all great artists, Pygmalion loved his work. Then the day came when he would create the great masterpiece of his life. In deathless ivory he would carve the statue of a beautiful woman and show the human form and human personality at its best. Week after week and month after month he labored until finally the statue was completed. And so great was the devotion and love that Pygmalion had lavished upon his work that the gods decreed that the statue would have the power to breathe and move and live. As she stepped down off the pedestal, Pygmalion called her name Galatea, and Pygmalion married his work.
But this is much more than just an idle myth, as the story of Pygmalion is the story of every person who ever lives. For God has decreed that for everyone who falls in love with his work, his work shall live.
Success story number four has to do with the lion-hearted King Richard, who ruled England during the latter part of the twelfth century. Richard organized a crusade to the Holy Land to dispossess the Turks of the sepulcher. But the expedition was unsuccessful and Richard himself was captured and confined to a foreign prison. During his absence from home, traitors took over the government, and when Richard finally effected his escape and returned to England, it was necessary for reasons of his own personal security that he come disguised in plain, unmarked armor. When back in England, he quietly gathered around him a few of his faithful followers with the idea of putting England back in the hands of its rightful rulers. One of the first things he did after this little group had been assembled was to attack the castle at Torquilstone. Torquilstone was the stronghold of the enemy in which Ivanhoe, the faithful friend and follower of the King, was wounded and imprisoned.
When Ivanhoe heard the noises of assault beginning to take place outside the castle, and since he was unable to raise himself from his couch because of wounds and loss of blood, he asked his nurse, Rebecca, to stand by the window and tell him what was taking place. The first thing he wanted to know was who the leader was. And that is the most important thing that anyone needs to know about any undertaking. So he asked Rebecca to describe for him the insignia or other marks of identification on the armor of the leader and then he would know who he was and what their chances for rescue were.
But Rebecca reported back that the leader fought in plain, unmarked armor and that he had no insignia or marks of identification. Ivanhoe said, “Then tell me how he fights and I’ll know who he is.” That is, everyone has a set of traits about as characteristic as his fingerprints, and the best key to his identity is what he does. So Rebecca tried to describe this great knight clad in plain black armor as he swung his ponderous ax with thunderous blows assaulting this castle stronghold almost single-handed. And here are some of the things that she said about him. “Stones and beams are hurled down from the castle walls upon him, but he regards them no more than if they were thistledown or feathers.” Again, she said, “He fights as if there were twenty men’s strength in his single arm.” Again, she said, “It is fearful yet magnificent to behold how the arm and heart of one man can triumph over hundreds.”
I suppose that Richard’s arm wasn’t much stronger than any other warrior’s arm, but that is not where strength comes from. Rebecca had said, “The arm and heart of one man.” Richard was fighting with his heart; he was fighting for England. And when one begins to put his heart in what he is doing, then things really begin to happen.
Ivanhoe did not know who this man was. He knew that Richard fought like this, but no one fought like the King, and he believed Richard to be a prisoner in an Austrian dungeon. And then he paid this great tribute to an unknown leader. He didn’t know what this man’s name was, but he knew the traits that characterized greatness, and he said to Rebecca, “I swear by the honor of my house, I would endure ten years of captivity to fight a single day by that great man’s side in such a quarrel as this.” Captivity would have been the greatest punishment to which Ivanhoe could have been subjected, and yet he said, “I would gladly languish ten years in a dungeon cell for the privilege of fighting by the side and under the banner of a great man in a great cause.”
Now we have a great cause, we have the greatest cause ever known in the world. And the only question that remains unanswered is, “How will we fight?” And our own leader has said to us, “O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.” (D&C 4:2.)
Now as a special bonus, I would like to give you a thirty second witness of one of the greatest success experiences ever to take place upon this earth wherein the first prophet of our dispensation has said to all the world:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:22–24.)
And may the Lord bless us with a sufficient amount of his success that we might be lifted up to him in celestial glory. For this I sincerely pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.