We Seek That Which Is Praiseworthy

Sometimes in our attempts to mimic the world and contrary to the prophet’s counsel, we run after the world’s false educational, political, musical, and dress ideas. New worldly standards take over, a gradual breakdown occurs, and finally, after much suffering, a humble people are ready to be taught once again a higher law.

During all this gradual lowering of standards, the righteous should be living up to the highest personal standards they can, not forcing those standards on others, but preparing for and awaiting a better day that surely must come.

This leads me to another principle: a leader cannot lead without followers. If better standards are to be observed, there must be a better people to do it.

The Book of Mormon talks about clearing away the branches “which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish. …

“Wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad.” (Jacob 5:65–66.)

Only a Zion-people can bring in a Zion-society. And as the Zion-people increase, so we will be able to incorporate more of the principles of Zion until we have a people prepared to receive the Lord.

This means in due time that on this campus [Brigham Young University], there will be an increasing number of textbooks written by inspired men of the Church. There will be less and less of a tendency to subscribe to the false teachings of men. There will be more and more of a tendency to first lay the groundwork of gospel truth in every subject, and then, if necessary, show where the world may fall short of that standard.

In due time there will be increased teaching by the Spirit of God, but that can only take place if there is a decreased promotion of the precepts of men.

We seek that which is lovely, virtuous, of good report, and praiseworthy, and we salute Beethoven, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, and Michaelangelo. In due time, we will also have more of our own giants—particularly great father-patriarchs and noble companions and mothers of men. There is certain music heard and art seen and clothes worn on this campus that must pass away—not because the styles change, but because our standards will be improved.

When individual actions of some Church members disturb you, here’s another principle to consider: the principle of stewardship. As the kingdom grows larger, more and more responsibilities have to be delegated and stewardships handed out. Men respond in different degrees of valiancy to their stewardships. God is very patient and longsuffering as he waits for some of us to rise to our responsibilities. He usually gives a man a long enough rope and a long enough time to either pull himself up to the presence of God or drop off somewhere below. But while God is patient, no puny arm of man in his stewardship can long impede or pervert the work of the Lord. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind ever so finely.

Because God has given men their agency, there will always be those who will misuse it. The gospel net draws in the good and the bad, the best and the worst. The worst because the devil, before the final cleansing, put some of his followers within the kingdom in order to try and destroy it. We have some of them within the kingdom today, and in due course their number shall be known. Time has a way of taking care of all things, of elevating the good and bringing down the bad. If we see things going on within the kingdom that disturb us, we should first find out if the matter falls within our stewardship. We then might go to the person or people involved. If it is of such a nature that we think it should be called to the attention of higher authority, then we can, in a kindly and quiet manner, take the necessary steps at the proper level.

To publish differences we may think we have with the leaders of the Church, to create strife and division, is a sure road to apostasy. Our task is to stick with the kingdom, to not let anything or anybody disaffect or sour us toward that great gift that Christ has given us—his Church.

The Church is true. Keep its laws; attend its meetings; sustain its leaders; accept its callings; get its recommend; enjoy its blessings. …

Each week we make a solemn covenant to be like him [the Savior] and take him for our leader, to always remember him in everything and keep all of his commandments. In return he promises to give us his spirit.

A few years ago, we knew our Elder Brother and our Father in heaven well. We rejoiced at the upcoming opportunity for earth life that could make it possible for us to have a fullness of joy like they had. We could hardly wait to demonstrate to our Father and our Brother, the Lord, how much we loved them and how we would be obedient to them in spite of the earthly opposition of the evil one.

And now we’re here—our memories are veiled—and we’re showing God and ourselves what we can do. And nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us. And then, as President Brigham Young said, we’re going to wonder why we were so stupid in the flesh.

God loves us. He’s watching us, he wants us to succeed, and we’ll know someday that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew it, there are heavenly hosts pulling for us—friends in heaven that we can’t remember now, who yearn for our victory. This is our day to show what we can do—what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly bring to God. If we give our all, we will get his all from the greatest of all.

President Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve. Brigham Young University Devotional Address, December 10, 1974

Health Statistics Favor Mormons

Not too long ago there appeared in a publication of the University of California at Los Angeles an article with this title: “Strikingly Low Cancer Mortality Among Mormons.” (UCLA Cancer Bulletin 1: April/May 1974.)

This article, by Dr. James E. Enstrom, reported that Latter-day Saint church members sampled who lived in Alameda County, California, during a six-and-one-half-year period, had a mortality rate only 55 percent as great as the total sample in that county. Then the article went on to state that for the entire state of California, a comparison of expected mortality for the year 1970 indicated that Latter-day Saints experienced only about 50 percent of expected deaths from all causes and from cancer of all sites. So, indeed, in terms of these California statistics, we are a peculiar people.

Of particular interest, low rates occurred for cancer of the stomach, colon, breast, kidney, and other sites that have never before been clearly related to factors such as smoking. The article underlined the peculiarities of these Mormon statistics.

Another recent study indicates that Utah residents, about 72 percent of whom are Latter-day Saints, experience total mortality and cancer mortality rates that are the lowest in the United States. (Public Health Service, “Vital Statistics of the United States: 1969,” by Dr. Joseph Lynn Lyon, University of Utah School of Medicine, Washington, D.C., National Center for Health Statistics, 1973.)

A third study with somewhat preliminary data indicates that the cardiovascular disease mortality rate among Los Angeles County, California, Church members is roughly one-half of the rate for the entire Los Angeles County white population. Dr. James E. Enstrom, a nonmember who also made this study, stated, “Almost all forms of cardiovascular disease are lower than expected, and the total cardiovascular disease mortality rate for Los Angeles County Mormons as a whole is about the lowest of any substantial United States population group thus far studied.” (“Cardiovascular Disease Among Mormons,” to be published.)

Dr. James O. Mason, Latter-day Saint Commissioner of Health Services, Brigham Young University address, June 11, 1974.

Skill and Drill

One of the very serious problems that confronts us in Church leadership is that we so frequently depend on our own desires or our testimonies or our faith or our good intentions to get the job done for us, whereas we need to be able to translate these good traits into great abilities and skills.

Skill comes from drill. There are many people who can think the most beautiful music or imagine the finest success or contrive the greatest wealth, but there is only one way to reach any accomplishment, and that is by developing skill or expertise in actual performance.

There are many Church members who are fine people and live good lives, but they are not as effective as they might be in building up the kingdom because they have not developed their abilities and skills to translate their faith into productivity. There are many people who never really understand that great truth: faith without works is dead.

There is an old axiom that says practice makes perfect, but sometimes we practice the wrong things. We go out on a home teaching assignment and talk about the weather or politics, and we become more and more effective in those weaknesses that do not have a constructive result. The Lord has said over and over again that he wants doers of his word and not hearers only. He has said that we should learn our duty and then act in our office in all diligence, but we pervert these great commandments by becoming hearers and thinkers and believers and talkers, but not doers.

Suppose that each Church worker would keep an accurate account of how many hours he spent per year in actually and effectively teaching the gospel to nonmembers or inactive members. Don’t count the time spent in bearing testimony to believers or saying your prayers. Don’t count the time spent in thinking about the job, but only that spent in actual performance. The Lord has appointed us to carry his message to the ends of the earth, but very frequently we have not yet gotten it over the fence to our next door neighbor. Someone has said that after all is said and done, there is usually much more said than done. It has frequently been pointed out that we are a very promising people, but the Lord wants someone who is not only long on promises but who has a performance record to match. Everyone wants to see our actual track record. And this ability to perform may be more valuable in our church work than in any other thing.

Elder Sterling W. Sill, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve