“I Believe,” New Era, Sept. 1996, 4
Each of us is largely the product of our beliefs. Our behavior is governed by these. They become our standards of conduct.
The 13 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 not set these ten statements necessarily in order of their importance.
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.
I believe the human body to be the creation of Divinity. 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 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.
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.
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, and 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.
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. 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 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 collectively.
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 in 1991. 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 26 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. Yes, honesty is the best policy.
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 talked one day with 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
I do not mean this in an egotistic way. 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. I can be one who does his work with pride in that which comes from hand and mind. 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.
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 worshiping 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.
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. 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.