The Power of Example
December 1981

“The Power of Example,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 2

First Presidency Message

The Power of Example

I have noted recently, as I have many times in the past, that whenever or wherever a Latter-day Saint is mentioned in a news story—whether it be for appointment to high government office or for law-breaking—the “Mormon” connection is usually mentioned. Other denominations rarely receive that distinction. I consider this a compliment because it is evidence that the world is becoming more and more aware of what we stand for and expects more of us.

The example we set before the world will determine, in large measure, whether we gain friends or enemies. It is most important that each of us live according to the standards of the Church, adhering to the precepts of the gospel and keeping the commandments of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which have been so well defined for us.

It is always impressive to read the stirring stories of what can be accomplished through the power of good example. I recently read a story which I would like to repeat. A nonmember relates that about ten years ago he was assistant manager of a discount store where they hired high school students to work the night shift. He stated:

“I don’t remember how I hired the first Mormon girl, who was about 16 or 17, and I don’t even remember her name. But I’ll never forget her example. She was unusually honest, dependable and clean-cut, yet those words can’t fully describe her the way I’d like. Compared to the other kids, she really stood out.”

Soon he hired one of her friends and found that she, too, was an exemplary employee. Both were friendly and helpful in their attitudes toward the other employees and the customers.

“Pretty soon I tried to hire any more of their Mormon friends that I could find. Individually and collectively, they were the best kids I ever had work for me,” he said. “Never was there a single occasion when any of them let me down or proved to be untrustworthy. They were the finest employees and fellow workers that anyone could want.”

One night he wanted a pizza for dinner but was unable to leave the store, so one of the Mormon girls went to get it for him. When she returned he found she had been in a minor accident. He offered to pay for the damages to her car because she was on his errand, but she refused, saying it was her responsibility. He said: “I didn’t think many young people that age would have that kind of character and I’ve never forgotten it.”

This man recently met some LDS missionaries through his son, has had some of the discussions, and has attended some meetings. “I have found that the things I admired in those girls ten years ago hold true among the Mormon adults I have met,” he said. “I like their emphasis on the family and they seem to me like the happiest group of people I have ever met.” (Church News, 9 May 1981, p. 7.)

How wonderful it would be if all of us could make that kind of impression on those with whom we come in contact! Another recent article about a conversion carried this headline: “Example Is Vital Conversion Factor.” We hear many stories of conversions through the example of some of our members, but think of the impact if we all were living so as to influence others by our example.

We are fortunate to have the gospel of Jesus Christ and to understand what it can mean to us as we prepare ourselves here to live forever in the presence of God. The world does not understand the meaning of eternal life; we have the opportunity and responsibility, therefore, to teach all nations this glorious principle.

A child is most blessed who lives in a home where the parents have a knowledge and testimony of the gospel and who live accordingly. Such parents recognize the responsibility they have to teach their children to do those things which will bring them lasting joy and success and happiness, and help prepare them for immortality and eternal life. The Lord has instructed:

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:25, 28.)

There is no greater responsibility, privilege, or blessing bestowed upon us than to be worthy parents. Since growing up I have been most thankful to my Heavenly Father that I “was born of goodly parents” who taught me that I was a spirit child of God, even as I was their mortal child, and that God as well as they expected me to live worthy of him and of them. They set the example as they tried diligently always to live according to the teachings of the gospel. They were honest, honorable, and upright in every way and expected me to be the same. I knew that they knew the gospel was true and that they desired and were determined to live and keep the commandments of God.

They never expected me to do anything that they were not prepared to do themselves. They did expect me to do right at all times, to walk uprightly before my Heavenly Father, and to live so as to be trusted by my friends and associates, to keep myself morally clean, to keep the Sabbath day holy, to obey the Word of Wisdom strictly, to pay my tithes and offerings, and to pray regularly, knowing that my Father in Heaven was there to hear and answer my prayers and to strengthen and guide me when I needed it. I always knew that I could depend on them to do the right thing, to be fair in their dealings with me and their fellowmen. How fortunate a child is to have such parents to whom he feels free to go with every problem.

My father, who was also my bishop and my best friend during my Aaronic Priesthood years, taught me to honor my priesthood. He emphasized the importance of the priesthood and having the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ, the only perfect example we have to follow. If we can learn to feel his great love for us and always remember that he died to redeem us from our sins, we will always want to live the way he taught.

Whether we are at work, at play, at school, or taking care of our spiritual needs, the power and influence of our good example can be exerted on our associates. We must never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ or of belonging to his church. We must be fearless in our defense of truth and be able to withstand the persecutions which are sometimes leveled against us. In this too we can be exemplary. Let us recall the words of the Savior:

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:10–12.)

Today we are faced with new threats, new challenges, new methods of communication, and greater opportunities than ever before to be as a beacon on a hill. Again let us remember the Savior’s admonition in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14–16.)

A youngster walking through a dense London fog was carrying a lighted lantern.

“Guide me back to my hotel,” said a voice from out of the fog, “and I’ll give you a shilling.”

“Yes, sir.”

And so the boy, holding his lantern high, started walking in the fog and soon reached the hotel. As he paused, not one man, but four stepped forward with a shilling. The other three had seen the light and followed without question. It is so with any who lead the way to truth and light.

By our example may we light up a world of darkness.

Ideas for Home Teachers

1. Relate a personal experience about the power of example. Ask family members to share experiences they’ve had.

2. Are there some scriptural verses or other quotations in this article that the family might read aloud, or some supplemental scripture you desire to read with them?

3. Discuss the opportunities family members have to be examples to others. Why is example such a powerful teacher?

4. Discuss the differences between setting a righteous example and being self-righteous or sanctimonious. Why is it important that our inward thoughts and attitudes be consistent with our outward acts?

5. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the family? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the household head concerning the power of example?

Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten and Jed A. Clark