“Whose Help Would You Rather Have?” New Era, Sept. 1979, 4
Have you ever imagined how much fun it would be to cast away all restraint, throw away the rules, and be free? Such ideas have been popular in the recent past, especially among the young. However, they are not new. I recall a working companion, a young man in the days of my youth who followed that plan. He preached his devilish doctrine with great enthusiasm, even though he came from an LDS family.
“Why don’t you live like I do?” he said. “Look and see how happy I am. I enjoy smoking and drinking. Nothing stops me. I do everything I want. It’s fun to be immoral.”
I have heard these comments countless times, but never from a wise man.
The prophet Malachi heard the same attitude in the complaints of his time:
“It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
“And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Mal. 3:14–15.)
In other words, we are trying to be good, but it isn’t any fun. We wonder if it is worth it, and we wish we could enjoy life like some nonmembers do.
We used to have a slogan: “Be honest with yourself.” I would like to say a few things about honesty.
Honesty is the foundation of a sound character and the keystone of all other virtues. It is the cement without which all other redeeming features are fractured and without anchor. A dishonest person may be kind, witty, and very capable, but the strength of character simply isn’t there. Honesty does not come by degrees. A person is either all honest or he is dishonest. You can be true or you can be false, but you can’t be both at the same time. You may count on it that a thief, an adulterer, or even a non-tithe payer is first of all dishonest. All human weakness centers in some form of dishonesty and can be corrected only on the basis of integrity.
Some years ago the entire United States was shocked with the report that a group of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy had been discharged because of cheating on their examinations in violation of the honor code and the solemn promise they gave at the time they entered the service. The reaction among the people of the United States was, to some extent, disappointing. Instead of feeling indignant, many seemed to justify cheating, stating that the honor standards were too high and that some cheating should be expected. One of the cadets who had withheld information said, “You don’t ‘fink’ on your buddies.”
Does it pay to be honest? This is probably one of the most constant questions for all children and young people. Older people have usually given their answer one way or another. How will you decide?
While in high school I watched my classmates play a special classroom game. The students were matched against the teacher. The name of the game was “How to pass the answers in an examination from one side of the room to the other without the knowledge of the teacher.” One boy in the middle of the room was the “quarterback.” He had a special knack and skillfully and joyfully carried out the process. The game was so much fun that many of the students participated, not thinking themselves dishonest, but merely playing a game. I tried it myself a time or two, though I felt little need of help in answering the questions. On one such attempt the teacher caught me, and the embarrassment and overpowering sense of guilt put an effective stop to my participation.
I noticed, however, that in the following years there was a little soft spot in my character. For example, after having served as a missionary and for four years in the U.S. Armed Forces, I was studying at a university, and there, sometimes, sitting in the back of the room during an examination, I discovered that I had a physical disability. A certain muscle in my neck had a tendency to twist my head in the direction of my neighbor’s paper. I was unaware how this weakness had developed, but it began to trouble me. I knew, of course, what was right, and I didn’t cheat, but how was I to control the involuntary muscle spasm?
One day I performed mental surgery on my neck. It was in the form of a lecture to myself, as follows: “Grant, before you came to school this morning you knew about this examination and you have studied the material carefully. Don’t you remember how, because it was so important, you knelt down and asked Heavenly Father to quicken your mind and increase your powers of memory and recall? Now, Grant, you know the rules of the gospel. You understand that if you take help from your neighbor, you are not going to get any from the Lord. Just make up your mind. Whose help would you rather have?”
You can see how, after that little pep talk, my neck muscle was completely cured.
My university days were not all easy. As I neared the time for graduation, I seemed to have a mountain of work to complete before the specified time, and I worried that I would miss the deadline. Over the years of college training I had been earnest in my prayers and had constantly asked that the Lord would bless and guide me. But I was not aware of any special help received, even though I had made good progress. One Sunday, about a week before graduation, my wife and I were visiting a young couple who were our close friends. (You see, I didn’t study on Sunday, because I thought that during my school years that would be the same as working.) My friend asked me if I was ready for graduation. I told him that my work was still incomplete and that there was some doubt whether I could complete it.
“Oh,” he said, “you’ll make it all right. Let’s look in the newspaper. They just published the list of graduates.” He began by reading the names of those who would graduate with honors, and he included my name.
Of course, I knew he was only teasing, and I laughed as I said, “You can’t fool me with your jokes.”
Then he said, “Well, isn’t this your address?” and he read that.
I said, “Let me see the paper.”
As I read my name among those who were to receive honors, my eyes filled with tears and an inward light filled my whole being with understanding. As clearly as in a vision I saw how, over the years, in quiet, unseen ways, God had been listening to my prayers and had overshadowed me with his blessed influence to bring me through triumphant!
Now I know the answer to the prophet’s question “Is it vain to serve God?” The young man who preached false doctrine to me in my youth is now growing old, as we all must do. The driving vigor of his youth has faded. I never knew him to express one elevated or intellectual thought. It always seemed to me that his thoughts emanated not from his brain but from parts of the body that develop sensual passion, uncontrolled appetite, and selfish pleasure. He has ruined the lives of boys and girls by his pernicious lies. He does not understand the joy of a virtuous life based on nobility of character. When I can have men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, David O. McKay, or Spencer W. Kimball for my models, I am glad I didn’t choose him. Such men belong to a different race.
Listen to what else the prophet says:
“They that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
“And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
“Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” (Mal. 3:16–18; italics added.)