N. Eldon Tanner, “Dependability,” Ensign, Apr 1974, 2
The worst reprimand I ever received and possibly the best lesson I ever learned was when my father said to me, “My boy, I thought I could depend on you.” My father was a bishop and had left my younger brother and me to do some special work while he was away preparing for a funeral in the ward. We thought he would be away longer than he was, and when he returned he found us wasting our time riding calves.
I knew my father loved me, and I loved him and always wanted to please him. So when he said, “I thought I could depend on you,” it really cut to the quick; and I made up my mind right then and there that he would never again have reason to say that to me.
This experience disappointed him and hurt me. As I thought about it, I determined that I would so live that no one would ever have reason to say, “I thought I could depend on you.” I began to realize that if my father were offended, my Heavenly Father also would certainly expect me to do the things that I agreed with him to do when I was baptized, when I was ordained to the priesthood, or when I accepted an office in the Church.
At that time I made up my mind that I would so live that my Father in heaven would never have reason to say, “I thought I could depend on you.” And I have tried to live accordingly. Of course, I have done things for which I have had to repent, but my resolve has been to live so that the Lord could depend on me.
As I taught school for 16 years, I tried diligently to help my students realize how important it was to live so that they could always be depended upon to keep the promises and covenants they made with their associates and with their Heavenly Father. This is something that I also emphasized continually to my own children.
As members of the Church we have the true and everlasting gospel, and even the young men have an opportunity to hold the priesthood of God and to act in his name. We know that we are spirit children of God, and it is most important, therefore, that we live every day worthy of the covenants that we make as we enter the waters of baptism, as we accept the priesthood and are ordained to offices therein, and as we accept offices in the Church and in other organizations.
Someone asked me recently how we can expect our young people, or citizens generally, to be honorable and upright in their dealings, and full of integrity, when men in high places prove to be untrustworthy. My answer was, and is, that such experiences, probably more than anything else, should emphasize the great importance of each one of us living above reproach so that we can be depended upon to carry the responsibilities entrusted to us by those whom we represent. We should stop and ask ourselves such questions as:
What is my reaction to little white lies?
How do I feel about honor and integrity?
How much tolerance do I have for suppression or misrepresentation of facts to promote business advantages?
Do I accept the old adage that all is fair in love and war and politics and athletics?
We really need to stop and ask ourselves these questions, and bring out honest answers. Just how do I feel about these things?
When I was in the government and also in business, it was common for me to receive requests for character references regarding individuals who were seeking employment in the government or industry. One of the most common questions asked was: “Do you consider him to be honest and dependable?” I was always sad when I was not able to recommend one as being dependable but happy when I could recommend others without reservation.
A man with whom I am associated as a director in a large company and who is also a government official, said to me on one occasion: “We asked for applicants who were prepared to accept a certain job in the government. We had many applicants, and we got them down to ten. As we were considering those ten, we noticed that one of them was a member of your church, and we took him just like that.”
I said, “Why did you take him?”
He said, “Because we knew that he wouldn’t be carousing at night; we knew that we could depend upon him, and we knew that he would do the work assigned to him.” What a tremendous thing if our young men would all just realize the importance of this!
As I said before, it is so important that people be dependable. One thing that has always disturbed me greatly is, as the records show, that misappropriations are often made by trusted employees whose performance has been good, but whose inner feelings of integrity apparently have not been known.
Each day we must stop and ask ourselves: Am I dependable? Am I strong enough and determined to become the kind of person in whom everyone can have confidence? We have examples all around us of people who had every opportunity to make good and had possibilities of promising careers, and of really making a contribution to the world, but failed because they had not made up their minds and were not strong enough to keep themselves above reproach and withstand the temptations placed before them.
We need to stop and ask ourselves the question: How do I feel about conditions in the world today when Satan and his cohorts are doing all in their power to lead us away from the old time-honored standards of morality, calling it new morality, when, in fact, it is nothing more than immorality?
For example, during courtship, can I be depended upon by my parents, and can we each depend upon each other to keep ourselves clean and pure and respect each other and do those things that will contribute to true manhood and womanhood, always remembering that we are determining at this stage the kind of parents our children will have? They are worthy of the best we can give them.
Ask yourself: Am I so living that my children can truthfully say, “I was born of goodly parents”? Am I determined to live so that the Lord can depend on me to be worthy of coming to his Holy House, there to be sealed for time and all eternity, and then prepare a home where his spirit will abide and where he will be pleased to send his spirit children? Can he depend on me to help lead them and guide them back into his presence?
He has told us to love our fellow men, but can I truthfully say: I can be depended upon to be honest in all my dealings, and I will do unto others only as I would have them do to me? Am I completely honest with the Lord in the payment of tithes and offerings? Then ask: Is evading income tax any worse than failing to pay tithing to the Lord? Is breaking the laws of the land worse than breaking the laws of God?
Though we believe in “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law,” many keep the laws of the land in order to be free from punishment which they are sure will follow any violation. God’s punishment will surely follow disobedience to his commandments, but we should keep his laws and commandments because of his love and sacrifice for us and for the blessings he has promised. Let us read and reread the 20th chapter of Exodus and incorporate these commandments into our daily living habits.
We must not be nearly dependable, but always dependable. Let us be faithful in the little things, as well as the big ones. Can I be depended upon to fill every assignment, whether it be for a two-and-a-half minute talk, home teaching, a visit to the sick, or a call as a stake or full-time missionary?
Remember, “… there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
“Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, …” (D&C 121:34–35), and they are not dependable.
The Lord speaks of the chosen few, and he means those who are fully dependable. Let us determine now to be some of those few. Let us often ask ourselves: Am I ashamed of the gospel of Christ, or do I apologize for being a member of his Church and for being different? The Lord has said that we will be a peculiar people, which means that if we live according to the teachings of the gospel we will be different from the world. Can I take the criticism and ridicule and stand up for what I know to be right, even if I have to stand alone? Can the Lord depend on me to defend his Church and his prophets, and to acknowledge and be worthy of his great sacrifice for me?
Stand up and be counted! Say with Joshua of old: “… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15.) Be on the Lord’s side! Remember the words of this song:
We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few,
When compared with the opposite host in view;
But an unseen power will aid me and you
In the glorious cause of truth.
Fear not, though the enemy deride,
Courage, for the Lord is on our side;
We will heed not what the wicked may say,
But the Lord alone we will obey.
—LDS hymns, no. 98.
In order to do all this, we must have the desire and determination, and then discipline ourselves in all things so that it might be said of each of us, “He is one on whom you can depend.”
[illustration] Illustrated by Richard Brown^ Back to top