Marvin J. Ashton, “Be a Quality Person,” Ensign, Feb 1993, 64
Address given 30 August 1992 at a single member fireside broadcast via satellite from Temple Square, Salt Lake City.
God bless you valiant single members. You are choice in our Heavenly Father’s eyes and in my eyes. The leaders of the Church pray that with the Lord’s help and our personal efforts, all of us can achieve happiness. Certainly when we choose the good part, regardless of our current situation, life will be lived to the fullest.
A quality life is God’s greatest wish for us. Life is to be lived well in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. There should not be a waiting period.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity of talking with a woman who was worried about how she might prepare to be a good wife. I told her, “Don’t worry about being a good wife. Concern yourself with life’s number one priority: being a quality person. If you are a quality person, you don’t have to worry about being a good wife, mother, daughter, Church member, leader, single, or community strength. If you are a quality person, you will be good in any situation in which you find yourself.”
What makes up a quality person? Many traits and characteristics of a worthy nature are necessary for all of us, whether we’re married or single. Let me share a few thoughts. I hope you will think about them with me for just a few minutes.
1. If you have self-respect, you will take satisfaction in being well groomed and will not allow yourself to perform shabbily. You will continue to work toward high standards and goals to serve others, to continue and to practice self-discipline. You will not compromise your standards or beliefs.
Think of the confidence and joy that our Heavenly Father expressed when he said, “This is my beloved Son.” (Matt. 17:5.) Or as Jesus himself once said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9.) Each of us has the challenge to know the Father and to become one with Him.
William George Jordan once said, “Man has two creators, his God and himself. The first creator furnishes him the raw materials of his life—the laws and conformity with which he can make that life what he will. The second creator—himself—has powers he rarely realizes. It is what a man makes of himself that counts.”
Self-respect allows a person to know who he or she is and what is expected of him or her.
Set your goals—without goals you can’t measure your progress. But don’t become frustrated if the victories don’t come quickly or easily. Remind yourself that striving can be more important than arriving. If you are striving for excellence—if you are trying your best day by day with the wisest use of your time and energy to reach realistic goals—you are a success, and you can feel proud of your accomplishments.
2. A quality person is someone with integrity. To be worthy of the highest trust is a noble attribute and compliment. You will need to maintain confidences. Certainly it is greater to be trusted than loved. Truly happy persons will always be totally honest in their dealings with their fellowman.
3. A quality person will not be offended. In life there is no time for being hurt. There should be no time to be petty. A wise person will focus on principles of optimism and hope.
4. A quality person will develop the capacity to love and be lovable. We all need to take advantage of every opportunity to love with tenderness and sincerity. This will determine our eternal joys and progress. Ponder the truth that it is more important to love than to be loved.
Thomas P. Malone said: “Almost every emotional problem can be summed up in one particular bit of behavior: it’s a person walking around screaming, ‘… Love me.’ Love me, that’s all. He goes through a million different manipulations to get somebody to love him.
“On the other hand, healthy people are those who walk around looking for someone to love. And, if you see changes in the people who are screaming, ‘Love me, love me,’ it’s when they realize that if they give up this screaming and go to the other business of loving another human, they can get the love they’ve been screaming for all their lives. It’s hard to learn, but it’s good when you learn it.” (“Points to Ponder,” Reader’s Digest, Jan. 1974, p. 151.)
5. A quality person will murmur not. He will not find fault or criticize, belittle, or nag. When I think of those who are examples of proficient murmuring on a continuing basis, I think of Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. By contrast I admire Nephi, who never murmured. Instead he was positive and had no time for contention, discouragement, or apathy.
Someone has wisely stated that hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy is. We will not have time for apathy in life’s journey if we speak and think positively. Seek, search, and work for worthy eternal qualities and friends.
6. A quality person is one who has real faith. With true faith we will increase our meaningful relationship with God. This will develop and expand our knowledge that God is our father. He lives. He loves us. He hears our prayers and would lead us to eternal happiness. Remember that God and one are a family. What a comforting, heartening truth this is.
All of us must live with proper priorities and purposes. Don’t be harsh in your self-appraisal. Rather, measure yourself by whether or not you are living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I like the way of life expressed by my friend, Carol Clark, administrative assistant to the Relief Society general presidency, when she says that the personal challenge is not to wait successfully but to live richly, fully, and joyfully. The goal is not to wait for the right person but to be the right person.
“The real fun of life is in overcoming obstacles while still happily hoping everything will work out. … I freely admit that living with my dreams unfulfilled has proven to be a softening, humbling influence because it’s been so hard. But the anchor is at hand, and because it is, I can progress, even though to date I’ve lost at love—the one thing I’ve wanted more in life than anything else save righteousness itself. …
“Last summer I complained to a non-Latter-day Saint friend that I was exhausted, having no fun, living like an automaton. Nonsympathetically, she countered, ‘What do you think this is? A dress rehearsal? This is your life, Carol. Fix it.’ I expected a pat and a kind word. Instead, I got a splash of reality square in the face. She was, of course, quite right. I wasn’t giving my life value, so I didn’t feel it had value. I went home, reread the parables of the sower and of the talents, and regrouped.” (A Singular Life, ed. Carol L. Clark and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987, pp. 35–36.)
Brothers and sisters, regroup, if that’s what is needed. Do not wait. Rather fill your life with service, education, personality development, love for all, and other such meaningful traits. Live with purpose each day. You are being unfair if you call yourself a failure because a proper marriage is not possible.
I know that some of you are single because of fears or difficult experiences in your past. I invite you to partake of the love of our Savior, who gave His life for each of us. He “manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.” (2 Ne. 26:13.) Remember that He loves you, and so do we. Remember that all of us can learn to contribute today, no matter what happened yesterday or what awaits us tomorrow.
I recall a personal friend of mine who lost her husband when they were both approximately fifty years of age. Some weeks after the funeral I talked to her, and she said, “I love my husband so much and know how deep his affection is for me. What I am going to do now is wait for him to come and get me someday.” Do not indulge yourself, at any marriageable age, in the waiting game when there is so much in life to do. Bring additional self-fulfillment, personal development, and self-respect through worthy associations and services.
Maintain your perspective while making marriage a righteous goal in your life. Count what you do have—not what you don’t have. A quality life in any circumstances comes from remembering what Mormon taught, that if a man or woman doesn’t have charity or love, he or she is “nothing.” (See Moro. 7:44.)
I like the observations made by Karen Lynn Davidson in her excellent book, Thriving on Our Differences: “I have yet to see marriage, by itself, turn an unhappy person into a happy person. A really happy married person is almost always one who was or could have been happy as a single person.” (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990, p. 39.)
I remind you again that compromising and lowering standards and ideals never have been and never will be tools of happiness. While we are striving for quality conduct in our lives, we must ever realize that being single will never be as painful as being married to the wrong person with wrong and selfish standards. A mate must be willing to share tender and loving associations in an eternal quest for life at its best. Avoid getting married just to be married. Feeling sorry for people or desiring to help them get their lives in order are poor reasons for marriage. Marriage should be based on love and shared values.
Even after a good marriage opportunity comes along, we should consider the wonderful things there are for us to do. How much richer life in every situation will be when we love others and find meaningful activities. Every child of God can profit from getting into a preparation mode, not in a waiting mode. Living without purpose is improper waiting. It can cause stagnation and ultimate despair. Think of President Spencer W. Kimball’s example:
“I stress again the deep need each woman has to study the scriptures. We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians—whether you are single or married, young or old, widowed or living in a family.
“Regardless of your particular circumstances, as you become more and more familiar with the truths of the scriptures, you will be more and more effective in keeping the second great commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Become scholars of the scriptures—not to put others down, but to lift them up! After all, who has any greater need to ’treasure up’ the truths of the gospel (on which they may call in their moments of need) than do women and mothers who do so much nurturing and teaching?” (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 102.)
To be in control of your life, to be a success regardless of your situation as a single, I recommend you come to know your Father in Heaven. Come to love Him. Always remember that He loves you and will give you guidance and support if you will but give Him the chance. Include Him in your decision making. Include Him in your heartaches and heartbreaks. Include Him when you take inventory of your personal worth. “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men [and women] to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32.)
As you strive to become a quality person, commune daily with your Heavenly Father who knows you best of all. He knows your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses. You are here on the earth at this time to develop and refine these characteristics. I promise you He will help you. He is aware of your needs. He is aware of your unanswered prayers.
Brethren, I share some counsel with you from our prophets. President Ezra Taft Benson declared: “My dear single adult brethren, we are also concerned. We want you to know that the position of the Church has never changed regarding the importance of celestial marriage. It is a commandment of God. The Lord’s declaration in Genesis is still true: ‘And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.’ (Gen. 2:18.)” (Ensign, May 1988, p. 52.)
On another occasion, President Spencer W. Kimball shared an experience: “Recently I met a young returned missionary who is 35 years old. He had been home from his mission for 14 years and yet he was little concerned about his bachelorhood, and laughed about it.
“I shall feel sorry for this young man when the day comes that he faces the Great Judge at the throne and when the Lord asks this boy: ‘Where is your wife?’ All of his excuses which he gave to his fellows on earth will seem very light and senseless when he answers the Judge. ‘I was very busy,’ or ‘I felt I should get my education first,’ or ‘I did not find the right girl’—such answers will be hollow and of little avail. He knew he was commanded to find a wife and marry her and make her happy. He knew it was his duty to become the father of children and provide a rich, full life for them as they grew up. He knew all this, yet postponed his responsibility.” (Ensign, Feb. 1975, p. 2.)
President Benson also stated: “I realize that some of you brethren may have genuine fears regarding the real responsibilities that will be yours if you do marry. You are concerned about being able to support a wife and family and provide them with the necessities in these uncertain economic times. Those fears must be replaced with faith.
“I assure you, brethren, that if you will be industrious, faithfully pay your tithes and offerings, and conscientiously keep the commandments, the Lord will sustain you. Yes, there will be sacrifices required, but you will grow from these and will be a better man for having met them.
“Work hard educationally and in your vocation. Put your trust in the Lord, have faith, and it will work out. The Lord never gives a commandment without providing the means to accomplish it (see 1 Ne. 3:7).
“Also, do not be caught up in materialism, one of the real plagues of our generation—that is, acquiring things, fast-paced living, and securing career success in the single state.
“Honorable marriage is more important than wealth, position, and status. As husband and wife, you can achieve your life’s goals together. As you sacrifice for each other and your children, the Lord will bless you, and your commitment to the Lord and your service in His kingdom will be enhanced.” (Ensign, May 1988, pp. 52–53.)
All of my life I have been taught the virtue and necessity of patience. With all I know about the importance of this great quality, I still want to go on record at this time as saying that one of the areas of life that is most difficult for me to be patient with is a group of marriageable, mature men who delay, postpone, and neglect this important phase of life and eternity.
To marriageable, mature men, I call them unto repentance. Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance. Believe us when we tell you there is someone for you and God will help you find her. I have little patience for a marriageable, mature man who hasn’t found “Miss Perfect.” I believe some men think of themselves as “Mr. Perfect.” I suggest that any of these men who sincerely desire a happy, fulfilling, worthy life view single women and themselves more realistically. Don’t be afraid to seek out persons of the opposite sex who would be pleased to share dating and courtship time with someone who is worthy, sincere, and truly lovable.
There may be excuses and a failure to make the commitment to a worthy lady, but frankly it is hard to find reasons for indefinite delay and an unwillingness to adapt, adjust, and grow by participating in an eternal partnership.
Not long ago a young, marriageable-aged lady said to me, “When you go about speaking to single, marriageable-aged men, why don’t you tell them to ‘get with the program.’ ” Maybe that statement is a little blunt, but if her phrase speaks to the heart of the matter, I don’t hesitate to endorse it.
I say to our sisters, don’t delay marriage because of your career goals, educational desires, or unwillingness to change your life. You too must strive to find a worthy mate and live all the commandments of God.
Now, for those listening who are thinking, “This is the same old thing the Brethren always say to singles,” I remind you of the words of Amulek, “I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know.” (Alma 10:6.) Brethren and sisters, we love you, and we desire your welfare. That’s why we persist in teaching you the Lord’s way. It is your choice if you will have ears to hear our words. I pray you will seek your Heavenly Father’s guidance that you might know, then do what is right for you.
God will never stop helping us to become quality people. I promise you this. He will constantly help us to be our best when we walk in the light of truth, hope, and appreciation. Make yours a quality life, for you are important to the Lord and to us.
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