Viewpoint: Cultivate an Honest Heart

Contributed By the Church News

  • 21 September 2014

In the children's story "The Empty Pot," by Demi, a lesson a young child learns about honest effort applies to all of us seeking to do our best.

“What is the point of fame and glory if, in the end, we can’t look ourselves in the eye, knowing that we have been honest and true?” —President Thomas S. Monson

The children’s story “The Empty Pot,” by Demi, tells of a boy named Ping who lived a long time ago in China. Ping—whose kingdom was a place where everyone loved flowers—could make anything he planted bloom.

In this wonderful kingdom, where the air smelled like perfume, the emperor was growing old. He needed to choose a successor.

He issued a proclamation: All the children in the land were invited to the palace. The emperor gave the children special flower seeds. “Whoever can show me their best in a year’s time,” he told them, ”will succeed me to the throne.”

Ping collected his seed and planted it in rich soil. Day after day passed but nothing grew in his pot. He transferred the seed to new soil and still nothing happened. After a year, Ping’s pot was empty.

“Ping was ashamed of his empty pot. He thought the other children would laugh at him because for once he couldn’t get a flower to grow.”

But Ping’s father offered tender advice: “You did your best, and your best is good enough to present to the emperor.”

The advice from Ping’s father holds true for each of us who seek each day to do our best and find success.

“In the world today we face difficulties and challenges, some of which can seem truly daunting,” said President Thomas S. Monson during his April 2009 general conference address in the priesthood session. “However, with God on our side we cannot fail.”

The Apostle Paul taught us how to be on the same side as God: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

President Ezra Taft Benson said the Lord wants each of His children to be successful—just as Ping’s father wanted him to be successful. “I am sure the Lord wants each young man and woman in His Church to excel in his or her chosen field, whatever it may be, whether it be in the home, in business, in professions in teaching, medicine, dentistry, government, or agriculture. I am sure it is pleasing to the Lord to see His sons and daughters who have taken upon themselves the covenants of membership in His Church to be more than just average. He wants them to succeed, to be outstanding. He will open the way before them if they will just live worthy of it” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 463).

As Ping found out, however, living worthy of the Lord’s blessings is not always easy.

Louisa May Alcott, author of the classic Little Women, wrote:

I do not ask for any crown

But that which all may win;

Nor try to conquer any world

Except the one within (

After spending a year tending a flower that did not bloom, Ping took his empty pot to the palace where the other children were waiting with beautiful flowers. The emperor looked at the flowers and then asked Ping, “Why did you bring an empty pot?”

Ping began to cry.

“I planted the seed you gave me and I watered it every day, but it didn’t sprout,” he told the emperor. “I put it in a better pot with better soil, but still it didn’t sprout. I tended it all year long, but nothing grew. So today I had to bring an empty pot without a flower. It was the best I could do.”

When the emperor heard those words, he put his arm around Ping and exclaimed, “I have found him. I have found the one person worthy of being emperor.”

Then the emperor looked at the other children and told them that he had cooked the seeds. It was impossible for the seeds he gave them a year before to grow.

Despite his failure to grow a flower, Ping had been a success. He gave his best effort—and he did it with an honest heart.

“What is the point of fame and glory if, in the end, we can’t look ourselves in the eye, knowing that we have been honest and true?” said President Thomas S. Monson during Dixie State College Commencement on May 6, 2011.

President Monson said when we “literally fill our minds with truth, fill our lives with service, and fill our hearts with love, we may qualify to hear one day that statement of our Savior, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). My prayer is that we may so conduct ourselves that we may merit that plaudit from our Lord and Savior” (“Formula for Success,” Ensign, Mar. 1996).

There are many ways to succeed, taught President Spencer W. Kimball. “A few reach the pinnacle of professional or social or financial success through devious, even evil means,” he said. “Others may be more virtuous, but still show a lack of sensitivity to loved ones, friends, and colleagues as they climb to the top. Those who combine honor, integrity, devotion, and sensitivity to family and friends are rare indeed” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 355).

It was that kind of rare person the emperor was seeking in one to lead the kingdom.

“I admire Ping’s great courage to appear before me with the empty truth,” he said. “Now I reward him with my entire kingdom and make him emperor of all the land” (“The Empty Pot,” Demi, published by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1990).