Faking It and the Fourth French Horn

“Faking It and the Fourth French Horn,” New Era, Apr. 1977, 5

The Message:

Faking It and the Fourth French Horn

Prior to joining the Navy at the close of World War II, I attended Brigham Young University. Because I played the trumpet, I was invited to join the symphony orchestra for a special concert under the guest direction of Dr. LeRoy Robertson, the greatest Church composer in that day.

Many of the musicians were still in the service, and university enrollment was small. We were determined to have a full orchestra, however, so I was persuaded to perform on the French horn instead of the trumpet.

I soon learned the only similarity between the two instruments is that both are brass. I found the French horn much more difficult to play, especially in reaching for higher notes. With the trumpet I could accurately hit any note up to a high C, but with the French horn I never knew if my attack would be right.

I was nervous when we began the first rehearsal under the renowned Dr. Robertson. I had never before even been in the audience to hear a full symphony orchestra, and now I was right in the middle of the most magnificent sounds I had ever heard. It seemed to me that we had at least 50 violins and all kinds of other instruments in numbers to match the violin section.

The 12 bass viols to the left made the floor and my rib cage vibrate in unison. Behind were the other brass instruments and the timpani. I was in the center of a new world of glorious sound. The difficult French horn passage came. Everyone around me knew when I bobbled it, ending a fifth or a third out of register.

Dr. Robertson stopped the orchestra. “There is something wrong in the French horns. Let’s start over at the top of the page.”

Embarrassed, I began once more. I didn’t want to be singled out again as the offending musician. It seemed obvious to me that even with the violins singing, the brass trumpeting, the cellos warmly filling, the great bass viols zooming, and the other French horns boldly playing, Dr. Robertson might hear me if I made a mistake, but it would be impossible to know that I wasn’t really playing.

I puffed my cheeks out and went through the fingering, but as we entered the hard part of the French horn quartet no air went through my lips. To my absolute horror and embarrassment, Dr. Robertson stopped the orchestra and announced to the world, “The fourth French horn is faking it. Let’s start again at the top of the page.”

It is easy in many of life’s situations to fake our way through and think that our lack of preparation, or lack of effort, will go unnoticed. It may be true that in a large group some of our weakness will be covered up by others, but we know if we are putting forth our best effort. We know if we are faking it. Besides that, the Lord knows, and more times than we want to admit, a great bishop or mission president or other Church leader also knows.

A friend of ours was hospitalized following an accident. A neighbor remarked, “I’ve got to bake something for Sally’s family,” but she didn’t. Then she said, “I’ve got to visit Sally while she is still in bed.” But she didn’t. On another occasion she told us, “I’ve just got to get a card off to Sally,” but she never did. These are examples of wanting to be a good neighbor but kind of faking it, though there probably were extenuating circumstances and good excuses.

In the world there are many places where we sometimes try to fake it. What about the salesman who could close a few more sales if he tried? What about the worker who could put the finishing touches on a job but decides that it takes too much effort. What about the student who doesn’t give his best on a difficult assignment? So often people today just put in their time, punch the clock, stand at their work position, but do not put forth their best and total effort. It is a form of dishonesty. It is not our decision to give the effort we think we are being paid for, whether for money or for grades, but it is our obligation to give our best.

In our Church work it is hard to be as spiritually prepared as we need to be. Sometimes others think that if we are where we are supposed to be and are attending our meetings that we are doing our best. However, we know if we are faking it. It takes great effort to be spiritually inspiring to those about us. It means regular daily study, pondering, and prayer about the scriptures. It means not losing our cool in a tense situation. It means never giving in to anger or cutting words. It means being thorough in our reports, in our lesson preparation, in our study of the manual and job description for the position we accept.

At times we are thrown suddenly into positions that seem too big for us and for which we have little preparation. The Lord stimulates our growth this way. (I’m feeling it again as a brand-new General Authority.) The Lord blesses us far beyond our natural ability and experience. However, it has been my experience that he expects us to quickly exert ourselves and acquire the things we need. He gives us a little time to improve our management skills and detailed knowledge so that we don’t have to rely upon him for everything. We’ll always need inspiration in these areas we couldn’t possibly understand without his help.

Sometimes, when we fake our efforts, we tend to have a negative effect on the project at hand. I often think of the story of two missionaries on a bicycle built for two. They were going up a steep hill. It was a difficult climb, and at the top the two stopped to rest.

The young missionary up front, dripping with perspiration, remarked, “Boy, that was a steep hill. I didn’t think we’d make it.”

The other companion, with total composure, looked down the steep grade and said, “I’m sure we’d have gone backwards if I hadn’t had the brake on all the way up.”

Faking it or even braking while occupying a position on the team, whether in sports, school, church, or business, is destructive to our society.

I particularly like Doctrine and Covenants 58:27 [D&C 58:27] because it encourages us to be “anxiously engaged.” To me, anxious means extra effort and desire. It means putting forth enthusiasm.

A man I know accepted a position as counselor in an organization. He didn’t study his manuals. He didn’t try to understand how the program fit into the whole Church effort. He complained about the reports and the meetings. He felt they were a burden and an imposition. He contributed nothing, yet he held the position. While we are in a position of responsibility, we are the only ones who can receive the inspiration needed to move that work ahead. If we are faking it, like the brother I mentioned, we are also a braking effect on the work, as was the back-seat missionary. When we accept a job, we must give it our best, push ahead, and lengthen our stride.

Illustrated by Preston Heiselt