“A Pattern of Righteousness,” Ensign, May 1991, 83
Many years ago while my children were very young, the nighttime bottles and the daytime diapers seemed as endless as the frozen ground outside our military apartment. When I feel sorry for myself, it helps me to do something for someone else. That winter my need was great, so I needed a grand solution. I decided to make a sport coat for my husband. Having no experience in tailoring, I began by finding the best pattern and materials on the market. With great enthusiasm I took out the pattern guide. My heart nearly failed me. There were pages of instructions—138 steps, as I remember. It was beyond my ability. The next few days I took that pattern everywhere I went. I decided to work on no more than two steps per day so I wouldn’t get discouraged. When two steps were completed, I would read the directions for the next day’s task. Occasionally I got overanxious and had to unpick, but fortunately mistakes in good materials don’t remain if they are carefully removed. A few months later, I had created a masterpiece. The pattern had made the miracle possible. Patterns had become very important to me.
As my awareness of patterns has continued, I have become very appreciative of the Lord’s patterns. Patterns for his handiwork are detailed in the scriptures. They describe the building of a tabernacle, an ark, an altar, and temples. The materials are important; the purpose is grand. Then comes that most important pattern of righteousness set by Jesus Christ, “a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Tim. 1:16.) In every imaginable setting from ancient times to modern days, we see this pattern repeated—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Patterns are meant to be repeated. A pattern of righteousness is worthy of duplication, yet there are those who suppose that our righteousness involves climbing some imaginary vertical ladder. We then think we hasten our progress by trying to get above or ahead of others. I believe this is pride. In Alma we are told, “The preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.” (Alma 1:26.) Righteousness is reproduced horizontally, not vertically. When we establish a pattern of righteousness in our lives, we commit to our Heavenly Father to do all in our power to help others reproduce this pattern in their lives. This can happen over and over until, as it says in Isaiah, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9.)
Heavenly Father tells us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived.” (D&C 52:14.) To avoid deception, we should watch for patterns of righteousness in our lives. I would like to mention three—prayer, scripture study, and service to others.
When we have learned the importance of prayer, the habit of daily prayer can be reproduced in the lives of others by teaching and good example. My youngest daughter said that prayer became more meaningful to her as she watched her older sister kneel by the bed at night when she thought others were asleep. As a student at BYU, I remember kneeling in prayer with eight roommates each morning at 6:30 and then having breakfast together. Years later, if we missed having prayer with our children, I was sure my old roommates would be concerned. What a great pattern they set for me. Is that happening in homes and apartments today?
A few months ago, I was kneeling in prayer with a young family in Albuquerque. I had a wonderful warm feeling as I opened my eyes and looked around that circle. It was as if I imagined families in homes throughout the world having that same experience. Hopefully, if the pattern of prayer is established in our homes, individual family members will help reproduce that pattern for others as my roommates did for me.
Scripture study helps us increase our understanding of the pattern of righteousness. As we live the words of God, we are told, “He will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept.” (D&C 98:12.) I am encouraged by the examples of scripture reading I see. I have a daughter who likes to warm her feet before going to bed. I love to see her sitting on the bathroom counter with her feet in a sink of warm water as she reads her scriptures. My two grandsons, ages two and four, report with satisfaction the stickers they receive on their progress charts as they say their prayers and hear scripture stories each day. These fundamental patterns will always need to be taught to our children if righteousness is to continue.
Giving loving service is another beautiful pattern of righteousness often learned in our homes. The scriptures teach of the importance of service, and leaders testify of its importance. Harold Glen Clark, the first president of the Provo Temple, wrote a story for his grandchildren called, “Good for One Pass into Heaven.” Brother Clark wrote:
“I was thinking of what one thing I had ever done that might have pleased the Lord most. Deacons quorum president? Bishop? Patriarch? Temple president?
“Then it came to me what it might be. It was when I was 16 or 17 years old. My mother, who often took in the unfortunate, had the care of two grandpas at one time. Someone said to her in jest, ‘Why don’t you put up a sign, “Grandpas wanted”?’ But it wasn’t funny because I was assigned to take care of one grandpa, who had to be bathed, dressed and undressed, and helped to the table to eat. Now I was a fun-loving 16-year-old, and here I was too many times, nursing Grandpa while a good game of basketball was going on outside.
“Once when my pals were calling me, I was inside doing the tedious chore of taking off his wet pajamas. I was impatient and upset. Then I felt Grandpa’s trembling hand on mine. I turned and met his tearful countenance and heard him say, ‘God bless you, my boy. You will never regret doing this for me.’
“I was so sorry I had been resentful. … To this day, I have a warm glow about this little service I performed for a quite helpless grandpa.
“I suppose doing something for someone else which they cannot do for themselves brings you close to God, because that’s what He and His Son are doing all the time, out of pure love for us.” (Unpublished manuscript.)
Our young people need role models as they establish a pattern of righteousness in their lives. As I thought about my commitment to the youth of the Church, words of Elder Boyd K. Packer had added meaning. Elder Packer has spoken of the warnings of Alma and Helaman as they told of the Church in their day. Quoting Elder Packer: “They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the Church drifted off course.” (Address delivered at regional representatives’ seminar, 30 Mar. 1990.)
Again I was thinking about the youth of the Church. Consider the transition of a young person beginning at the age of twelve and lasting until the eighteenth year. The conditions spoken of in the Book of Mormon are almost always present in the lives of young people—a period of fast growth, a desire to be liked by others, to be popular, and often, prosperity. A pattern of personal righteousness which includes prayer, scripture study, and service is the answer to avoiding the dangers spoken of in the Book of Mormon. Nephi knew this when he asked the Lord, “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!” (2 Ne. 4:33.)
When I looked for a definition of pattern, I found it had a Latin origin derived from pater or father, one who served as a model or pattern to be emulated. Our Savior Jesus Christ set the pattern and asked us to follow him. Nephi asks, “Can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?” (2 Ne. 31:10.)
I am grateful to men and women and people of all ages whose lives help us see this pattern of righteousness. I am thankful for a living prophet. A few days after being called as a counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, the First Presidency of the Church approached my chair to set me apart and give me a blessing. I realized the prophet of God was about to lay his hands upon my head, and I was in awe. Following the blessing, as I turned to face the prophet, I was quite unprepared for the magnificence of the spirit I felt. I bear testimony that Ezra Taft Benson is a prophet of God and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He has given us a pattern of righteousness that, when followed, will lead us back to our Heavenly Father. I bear this witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.