My beloved brothers and sisters, it is always a joy to meet with the Saints.
The church to which we belong now has a worldwide identity. It stands for many things, including integrity, honesty, and high moral purpose. The Church as an institution stands for something different from the standards and morals of the day.
We as individual members of the Church also have identity of our own. Each of us stands for something, either strong or not strong; either good or not so good.
I should like to speak of the desirability and importance of every member standing up and being counted fully, completely, and openly for what the Church should represent in our lives.
In Revelation there is a strong warning to the fence sitters:
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15, 16.)
I have been persuaded, almost against my better judgment, to tell a story. I ask for your indulgence and forgiveness because it involves my experience. Hopefully, the lesson I learned from it might be of some help to you.
In the fateful war year of 1942, I was inducted into the United States Air Force as a private soldier. One cold night at Chanute Field, Illinois, I was given all-night guard duty. As I walked around my post, shivering, and at the same time trying to stay awake, I meditated and pondered the whole miserable long night through. By morning I had come to some firm conclusions.
I was engaged to be married, and knew that I could not support a wife on a private’s pay of $50 per month. I felt I needed to become an officer. In a day or two, following my all-night vigil, I filed my application for officers’ school. Shortly thereafter, on the appointed day, I was summoned, along with some others, before the Board of Inquiry looking into my qualifications and aptitude. My qualifications were sparse, but I had had two years of college and had finished a mission for the Church in South America. I was twenty-two years of age and in good physical health. Possessing only these few qualifications, I was grateful to be able to put on my application that I had been a missionary for the Church.
The questions asked of me at the officers’ Board of Inquiry took a very surprising turn. Practically all of the questions centered upon my missionary service and my beliefs. “Do you smoke?” “Do you drink?” “What do you think of others who smoke and drink?” I had no trouble answering these questions.
“Do you pray?” “Do you believe that an officer should pray?” The officer propounding these last questions was a hard-bitten career soldier. He did not look like he had prayed very often. I pondered, “Would I give him offense if I answered how I truly believed? Should I give a noncontroversial answer and simply say that prayer is a personal matter?” I wanted to be an officer very much so that I would not have to do all-night guard duty and k.p., but mostly so my sweetheart and I could afford to be married.
I decided not to equivocate, and responded that I did pray and that I felt officers might seek divine guidance as some truly great generals had done. I added that officers at appropriate times should be prepared to lead their men in all appropriate activities, if the occasion requires, including prayer.
More interesting questions came from my examiners. “In times of war should not the moral code be relaxed?” one high-ranking officer asked. “Does not the stress of battle justify men in doing things that they would not do when at home under normal situations?”
Here was a chance to equivocate, to make some points and be really broad-minded. I knew perfectly well that the men who were asking me this question did not live by the standards that I tried to live by, had been taught, and myself had taught. I thought to myself, “Here go my chances to become an officer.” The thought flashed through my mind that perhaps I could still be faithful to my beliefs and respond by saying that I had my own beliefs on the subject of morality but did not wish to impose my views on others. But there seemed to flash before my mind the faces of the many people to whom I had taught the law of chastity as a missionary. I knew perfectly well what the scriptures say about fornication and adultery.
I could not delay my answer any longer, and responded to the question about the double standard of morality simply by saying, “I do not believe there is a double standard of morality.”
There were a few more questions testing, I think, whether or not I was trying to live and behave as we of our faith represent to the world. I left the hearing resigned to the fact that these hard-bitten officers who had asked these questions concerning our beliefs would not like the answers I had given, and surely they would score me very low. A few days later when the scores were posted, to my complete astonishment the score opposite my name read “95 percent.” I was amazed. I was in the first group taken for officers’ school, and had to be promoted to corporal to get into the school. I graduated, became a second lieutenant, married my sweetheart, and we lived happily ever after.
This was one of the most critical crossroads of my life, one of very many times when I have had to stand up, search my soul, and like all of you, be identified. Not all of the experiences in my life when I have had to stand up and be counted turned out the way I wanted them to, but they have always stengthened my faith and helped me adjust to the other occasions when the result was different.
From that and many other experiences, I learned that even though others do not share your beliefs, in fact may be hostile to them, they will respect you if you are willing to stand up and be counted.
Then there are those who are bystanders. They come to a certain persuasion in their hearts and minds, but for social, family, economic, or political fears cannot hold to the ring of truth. Festus accused Paul of having so much learning that “much learning doth make thee mad.” (Acts 26:24.) Paul’s response was:
“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
“King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
Almost. What a heartbreaking sound is the word “almost”! Almost some of our good members keep the Word of Wisdom, or just about go to priesthood meeting and sacrament meeting, or almost hold family home evening. Some of us almost but not quite—pay our tithing.
Since the time of the Savior there have been those who believed, but for social pressures have been fearful of standing up and being counted as believers. John speaks of the chief rulers who were afraid of the social stigma:
“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:
“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.)
Said Paul to the Corinthians: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58.)
Some months ago Sister Faust and I were privileged to hear the testimony of Sister Fay Richardson, the wife of Bishop Richard Richardson of the Nottingham England Stake. Sister Richardson said, and with her permission I quote:
“I learned not to be passive about my testimony quite a long time ago during a religious-knowledge lesson in a schoolroom. I was fourteen years old, and after asking us all our religions, the teacher asked the question of us, ‘How many of you know God lives?’
“I felt myself go hot and my face turn red, and I thought, ‘Oh, no, time to stand and be counted.’ I instinctively knew that no one else would raise their hand, for they were far too sophisticated to believe in God, but I slowly raised mine. Then, feeling rather embarrassed and aware that all eyes were upon me, I said, ‘Well, I suppose so.’
“How I wished I hadn’t said that! I had added doubt to what could have been a firm testimony. In the years that followed I often dreamed of being able to stand boldly in front of that same class and bear firm testimony of the living God. I wished over and over again that I could relive the experience and be able to tell them just how much I loved my Heavenly Father. Fortunately, I learned from the experience, and I never since have said, ‘I suppose so,’ where the gospel is concerned.”
Sister Richardson continued: “Some time ago the film Mormons, Fact and Fantasy was being shown in one of the rooms at the public library in Nottingham. My husband was going there straight from work, and I decided that I ought to be there, too, so I caught the bus and went there with our three children.
“About a half hour before the film was due for a showing, someone’s voice rang out, ‘Could we have volunteers to go out into the street and invite people in and hand out leaflets?’ I thought, ‘Yes, that’s what I should be doing. That’s what I had come for.’ Then something inside me said, ‘You don’t really want to, though, do you? You’re afraid of talking to all those strangers.’ I thought, ‘That’s right, I am!’
“So I just stood there with a battle going on within me, and then I looked down. Three upturned faces were looking into mine. They belonged to the three little people who are very important to me. I thought, ‘What kind of a mother would I be if I didn’t show our children my faith by my works?’ We have spent a lot of time teaching our children the gospel, and I knew that I could ruin much of that teaching if I didn’t practice what I preached. I knew what I had to do.
“We took some leaflets. Our eldest little girl put on a sandwich board advertising the film, and we went down into the street below. I didn’t know if any of the people we invited actually came to see the film, but I was happy that we were doing our part, and that I had the opportunity of showing our little ones that sharing the gospel is not just something we talk about occasionally in family home evening.”
One of the ways that the Saints stand up and are counted is in the payment of their tithes and offerings. In so doing, they are blessed. They learn to manage and budget their affairs. They become better stewards of the balance of their means. They increase in faith.
One of the biggest surprises of my life came as a young bishop when in that calling I first had access to the tithing rolls of my ward. It was a ward in which I had grown up. Many of the people had been my teachers; all were my friends. I had been taught by them; they were my heroes. I loved them and felt loved by them in turn. But it was a terrible shock to see many who stood on fast day and affirmed a strong and abiding faith in God and in his holy work upon the face of the earth, and then when it came to paying tithing their faith faltered.
Many of us backslide, many stumble, and I believe firmly in the gospel of the second chance. But the gospel of the second chance means that having once been found weak, as was Peter when he denied that he knew the Savior, thereafter we become steadfast like the few Lamanites spoken of in Third Nephi, “They were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.” (3 Ne. 6:14.)
We cannot hide what we are, try as we will. It shines from within us. We are transparent. When we attempt to deceive, we deceive only ourselves. We are like the emperor in the fairy tale who was deceived into thinking he was arrayed in beautiful garments, but he was in fact unclothed.
Those who stand firm, steadfast, and immovable are given great inner hidden powers and unseen strengths. They will be endowed with full and potent spiritual resources.
I wish to conclude by affirming the deepest convictions of my soul concerning the truthfulness of the sacred work in which we are engaged. The guiding head of this church is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He leads and directs the work through President Spencer W. Kimball, who in turn directs the labors of the kingdom upon the earth.
This church is the Lord’s church, and his work and his glory is being carried out upon many lands of this world under his direction.
I testify of the divinity of these holy labors in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
After reading “Stand Up and Be Counted” individually or as a family, you may wish to discuss some of the following questions during a gospel study period:
1. The article discusses the Lord’s warning to those who are lukewarm in the faith. How does one “fire up” his testimony?
2. Obedience to the Word of Wisdom and the moral code are discussed as possible tests of one’s faith. Discuss other teachings that provide opportunities for us to manifest and express our desire to follow the Lord’s teachings as opposed to the world’s teachings.
3. Must one follow the crowds to be successful? to be happy?
4. How should we respond if we are shunned by others for loyalty to the Lord’s teachings? What are the Lord’s rewards for loyalty to the truth?