“I Believe,” Ensign, Aug. 1992, 2
First Presidency Message
This article is an edited version of a talk given at Brigham Young University on 1 March 1992.
Each of us is largely the product of his or her beliefs. Our behavior is governed by these. They become our standards of conduct.
The thirteen Articles of Faith enunciated by Joseph Smith have stood as an expression of doctrine ever since 1842, when they were written as a concise statement of our theology. They have served as a compendium of our beliefs for all the world to see.
I have a personal secondary set of beliefs, ten to be exact, that I have written out to serve as reminders and guideposts for my individual benefit. I have been asked to share them. I do so with some reluctance because they are personal, but with the thought that they may give encouragement to others. I have not set these ten statements necessarily in order of their importance.
One: I believe in the wonders of the human body and the miracle of the human mind.
I have in my home a reasonably good sound system. I do not use it frequently, but now and again, I sit quietly in the semidarkness and listen for an hour or so to music that has endured through the centuries because of its remarkable qualities. I listened the other evening to Beethoven’s Concerto for the Violin and marveled that such a thing could come of the mind of a man. The composer, I suppose, was very much like the rest of us. I do not know how tall he was or how broad he was or how much he weighed. I assume that he got hungry, felt pain, and had most of the problems that we all have, and maybe some that we do not have. But out of the genius of that mind came a tremendous blending to create rare and magnificent masterpieces of music.
Have you ever contemplated the wonder of yourself, the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the voice with which you speak? No camera ever built can compare with the human eye. No method of communication ever devised can compare with the voice and the ear. No pump ever built will run as long or as efficiently as the human heart. What a remarkable thing each of us is.
Look at your finger. The most skillful attempt to reproduce it mechanically has brought only a crude approximation. The next time you use your finger, look at it, and sense the wonder of it. While sitting in Symphony Hall listening to a concert, I was in a position to see the fingers of the performers in the orchestra. Every one, whether playing the strings, the percussion instruments, the brass, the woodwinds—all used their fingers. One does not have to use one’s fingers to sing or whistle, but beyond that, there would be little of musical harmony without the deft action of trained fingers.
I believe the human body to be the creation of Divinity. George Gallup once observed, “I could prove God statistically. Take the human body alone—the chance that all the functions of the individual would just happen is a statistical monstrosity.” Our bodies were designed by our Eternal Father to be the tabernacle of our eternal spirits.
I am grateful for the growing knowledge on how to take care of the body. I once read that the smoking of a single cigarette, actuarially speaking, would result in a loss of seven minutes of life for the smoker. I wonder how any thoughtful individual can smoke cigarettes. How can any thoughtful individual take debilitating drugs into his or her system? How can any thoughtful individual expose himself or herself to the deadly scourge of AIDS or other health problems that follow abuse of the body?
I think of the wonders of the age in which we live, this greatest of all ages in the history of mankind. More of invention and scientific discovery have occurred during my lifetime than occurred altogether during all of the previous centuries of the history of man.
What a miracle is the human mind. Think of its power to assimilate knowledge, to analyze and synthesize. What a remarkable thing is learning, the process whereby the accumulated knowledge of the centuries has been summarized and filtered so that in a brief period we can learn what was first learned only through long exercises of research and trial and error.
Education is the great conversion process under which abstract knowledge becomes useful and productive activity. It is something that need never stop. No matter how old we grow, we can acquire knowledge and use it. We can gather wisdom and profit from it. We can be entertained through the miracle of reading and exposure to the arts and add to the blessing and fulfillment of living. The older I grow, the more I enjoy the words of thoughtful writers, ancient and modern, and the savoring of that which they have written.
Under a divinely given mandate, we are to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.) And “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” (D&C 130:18.)
Two: I believe in beauty.
The earth in its pristine beauty is an expression of the nature of its Creator. The language of the opening chapter of Genesis intrigues me. It states that “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (Gen. 1:2.) I suppose it presented anything but a picture of beauty.
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3.) And so the creation continued until “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31.)
I interpret this to mean that it was beautiful, for “out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight.” (Gen. 2:9.)
I believe in the beauty of nature—the flowers, the fruit, the sky, the peaks, and the plains from which they rise. I see and believe in the beauty of animals.
I see and admire beauty in people. I am not so concerned with the look that comes of lotions and creams, of pastes and packs as seen in slick-paper magazines and on television. I am not concerned whether the skin be fair or dark. I have seen beautiful people in all of the scores of nations through which I have walked. Little children are beautiful everywhere. And so are the aged, whose wrinkled hands and faces speak of struggle and survival.
I believe in the beauty of personal virtue. There is so much of ugliness in the world in which we live. It is expressed in coarse language, in sloppy dress and manners, in immoral behavior which mocks the beauty of virtue and always leaves a scar. Each of us can and must stand above this sordid and destructive evil, this ugly stain of immorality.
Three: I believe in the gospel of work.
There is no substitute under the heavens for productive labor. It is the process by which dreams become realities. It is the process by which idle visions become dynamic achievements.
Most of us are inherently lazy. We would rather play than work. We would rather loaf than work. A little play and a little loafing are good. But it is work that spells the difference in the life of a man or woman. It is stretching our minds and utilizing the skills of our hands that lift us from mediocrity. It is work that provides the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the homes in which we live. We cannot deny the need for work with skilled hands and educated minds if we are to grow and prosper individually and if our nation is to stand tall before the world.
When Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, Jehovah declared: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” (Gen. 3:19.)
Four: I believe that honesty is still the best policy.
What a destructive thing is a little dishonesty. It has become a cankering disease in society. Insurance executives tell of the soaring costs of dishonest claims. Cheating in the payment of taxes robs national treasuries of millions and places undue burdens on those who pay. Employee theft, padded expense accounts, and similar things bring tremendous losses to business institutions. The institution may be able to stand the loss of money, but the individual cannot afford the loss of self-respect.
A letter and an old ashtray came to the office of the Presiding Bishop. The letter reads: “Dear Sir, I stole the enclosed ashtray from your hotel in 1965. After these many years, I want to apologize to you and ask for your forgiveness for my wrongdoing. Sincerely, (signature)
“P.S. I have enclosed a check that attempts to reimburse you for the ashtray.”
The check was in the amount of $26.00, one dollar for each year he had kept the ashtray. I can imagine that during those twenty-six years, each time he tapped his cigarette on the rim of that tray he suffered a twinge of conscience. I do not know that the hotel ever missed the ashtray, but the man who took it missed his peace of mind for more than a quarter of a century and finally ended up paying far more for the stolen tray than it was worth. Yes, honesty is the best policy.
Five: I believe in the obligation and blessing of service.
I speak of that service which is given without expectation of monetary reward. Most of the troubles of the world come because of human greed. What a therapeutic and wonderful thing it is for a man or woman to set aside all consideration of personal gain and reach out with strength and energy and purpose to help the unfortunate, to improve the community, to clean up the environment and beautify our surroundings. How much greater would be the suffering of the homeless and the hungry in our own communities without the service of hundreds of volunteers who give of their time and substance to assist them.
I have a friend, a prominent and highly successful lawyer. When he was married, his wife said to him, “Let’s resolve to spend one-quarter of our discretionary time to improve the community in which we live.” Many years have passed, and that resolution has been kept. The husband, now a widower, is properly given credit for dynamic and unselfish leadership in one project after another to improve the water and the environment and to build with tremendous foresight public facilities that have blessed the lives of all the citizens in the area of the nation in which he lives.
Everyone who has served a mission can testify of the tremendous happiness that comes of service to others. In some areas of the world, a great corps of volunteer seminary and institute teachers carries the instruction load. I talked with one of these the other day, a successful businessman who gets up at five o’clock five days a week to teach seminary. He said, “It’s the best thing I do.” No man can live fully and happily who lives only unto himself. It was King Benjamin who said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17.)
Six: I believe the family to be the basic and most important unit of society.
The greatest joys of life are experienced in happy family relationships. The most poignant of sorrows, the most bleak and forlorn feelings of misery come of unhappy family life.
We have many failures in the world, but the greatest of these, in my judgment, is that failure which is found in broken homes. Immeasurable is the heartache.
The root of most of this lies in selfishness. The cure for most of it can be found in repentance on the part of the offender and forgiveness on the part of the offended.
Every marriage is subject to occasional stormy weather. But with patience, mutual respect, and a spirit of forbearance, we can weather these storms. Where mistakes have been made, there can be apology, repentance, and forgiveness. But there must be willingness to do so on the part of both parties.
I believe in the family where there is a husband who regards his companion as his greatest asset and treats her accordingly; where there is a wife who looks upon her husband as her anchor and strength, her comfort and security; where there are children who look to mother and father with respect and gratitude; where there are parents who look upon those children as blessings and find a great and serious and wonderful challenge in their nurture and rearing. The cultivation of such a home requires effort and energy, forgiveness and patience, love and endurance and sacrifice; but it is worth all of these and more.
I have learned that the real essence of happiness in marriage lies not so much in romance as in an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Thinking of self alone and of the gratification of personal desires will build neither trust, love, nor happiness. Only when there is unselfishness will love, with its concomitant qualities, flourish and blossom.
Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.
Seven: I believe in the principle of thrift.
We are witnessing in society tremendous business failures to a degree and an extent we have not seen in a long while. Many of these are the fruits of imprudent borrowing, of debts so large they cannot be paid. In America, we have seen billions upon billions lost in the failure of savings and loan institutions that have been forced to the wall because borrowers did not meet their obligations. We have seen strong banks shaken and brought to their knees because those to whom they loaned money could not pay their debts. I think of a great international airline whose assets were recently sold. It could not meet its obligations. Once it was looked upon as the leading commercial airline of the world. I have used its services to many far-flung areas where this once-mighty monarch was easily the best to be had. But it lost its sense of leadership, it borrowed beyond its ability to pay, and area by area, it has sold its routes and is now dead.
“American business now devotes 50 percent of its earnings to debt service, double the level 15 years ago.” (U.S. News and World Report, 15 October 1990, p. 136.)
But this problem is not confined to business institutions. It is shared by individuals in countless numbers. Within a period of one year, U.S. consumer nonmortgage debt increased 27 billion dollars. “The typical family now spends 30 percent on debt service, compared with 20 percent a year ago.” (Ibid.)
Our pioneer forebears lived by the adage “Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
Reasonable debt for the purchase of an affordable home and perhaps for a few other necessary things is acceptable. But from where I sit, I see in a very vivid way the terrible tragedies of many who have unwisely borrowed for things they really do not need.
President Heber J. Grant once said, “If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within [one’s] means. And if there is any one thing that is grinding and discouraging and disheartening, it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet.” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941, p. 111.)
Eight: I believe in myself.
I do not mean to say this with egotism. But I believe in my capacity and in your capacity to do good, to make some contribution to the society of which we are a part, to grow and develop, and to do things that we may now think impossible.
I believe that I am a child of God, endowed with a divine birthright. I believe that there is something of divinity within me and within each of you. I believe that we have a godly inheritance and that it is our responsibility, our obligation, and our opportunity to cultivate and nurture the very best of these qualities within us.
Though my work may be menial, though my contribution may be small, I can perform it with dignity and offer it with unselfishness. My talents may not be great, but I can use them to bless the lives of others. I can be one who does his work with pride in that which comes from hand and mind. I can be one who works with respect for my associates, for their opinions, for their beliefs, with appreciation for their problems and with a desire to help them should they stumble. I believe in the principle that I can make a difference in this world. It may be ever so small. But it will count for the greater good. The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts.
Nine: I believe in God, my Eternal Father, and in His Beloved Son, the Redeemer of the world.
I believe in the principle of the Golden Rule enunciated by Jesus Christ—“Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” (Matt. 7:12.)
I believe in the principle of the second mile of which He spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. Though it is difficult to follow, I believe in that forbearance and forgiveness and charity which He taught.
I believe in worshipping God “according to the dictates of … conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (A of F 1:11.)
I believe in the sacred writings of the past. Our sacred books, our volumes of scripture, set forth the basis of our civil law, of our societal relationships, of our family responsibilities, and, most important, set forth divinely given teachings, principles, and commandments by which to set the course of our lives. They enunciate the relentless law of the harvest—“As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” (See Gal. 6:7; D&C 6:33.) They spell out a law of accountability, under which we must someday give a report of our labors, our activities, and our words to the God of heaven, who has granted us the privilege of life with all of its joys, with all of its opportunities, and with all of its challenges.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.)
Not fully, but in a measure at least, I have come to know and love these, my Father and my Redeemer.
Ten: I believe in prayer.
I believe in the invitation to come unto my Eternal Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe in the integrity of the promise: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.)
It was that promise that prompted the boy Joseph Smith to go into the grove, there to kneel in supplication and seek an answer to his question.
I believe, without reservation, in the reality of the vision he described. From that wellspring of communication between the God of heaven, the resurrected Redeemer of the world, and a boy pure in heart and unschooled has grown this magnificent and wonderful and true church which is spreading over the earth to bless the lives of all who will hear its message.
I believe in prayer, that prayer which is the practice of those who have been called to leadership in this church and which brings forth inspiration and revelation from God for the blessing of His church and people.
I believe in prayer, the precious and wonderful privilege given each of us for our individual guidance, comfort, and peace.
These, then, are my ten articles of belief. In so stating them, I have used the first person singular, and this is seldom good. I have tried to follow these, not to the degree of success that I might have hoped for, but with at least a desire to do so. I offer them only with the hope that they may be helpful to someone else.
Ideas for Home Teachers
Some Points of Emphasis
You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:
We are largely the product of our beliefs, which govern our behavior.
President Hinckley lists ten personal guideposts, including belief in
—the wonders of the human body and mind
—the gospel of work
—honesty as the best policy
—the obligation and blessing of service
—the family as the most important unit of society
—the principle of thrift
—God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ
Relate your feeling about these guideposts. Ask those you visit to share their feelings.
Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?