Standing Tall


H. David Burton
Jesus Christ is our perfect example of one who always stood tall. He is the one who personifies integrity, strength, and courage.

A man of wisdom often offered this simple piece of advice: “David, stand tall.” My dad did not expect that I would add inches to my stature or rise up on my tiptoes. He meant that I should be courageous in my decision, not compromising principles, not violating spiritual values, and not shrinking from responsibility. When I have followed his advice, life has been very good. When I have failed to stand tall, life has usually been unpleasant. I recently asked my two young grandsons what it would mean to them if Heavenly Father asked them to stand tall. I noticed one inadvertently raised himself to his tippy-toes so as to seem a little taller. And then they quickly said in unison, “He wants us to do what is right.”

Out of the deep anguish and turmoil of September 11th have come many instances of men, women, and nations standing tall. Foes and friends have come together against a common enemy. Uncommon acts of bravery have become commonplace. Humanitarian response seems to know no bounds. Men and women, regardless of race or creed, have reached out to victims and their families. Countless prayers have been offered. The forces for good are standing tall against the forces of terror and senseless mayhem.

It is said that a fence-sitter eventually has to come down on one side or the other. If we are sitting on the top of life’s fences, now is the time to muster the courage to stand tall on the side of righteousness and shun the shackles of sin.

The life, ministry, and teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ, provide a template for introspective assessment. Jesus Christ is our perfect example of one who always stood tall. He is the one who personifies integrity, strength, and courage. I would like to use three examples from the Savior’s ministry.

First, after His baptism, Jesus was prompted to remove Himself to commune with His Father. For 40 days He chose not to eat in order that His mortal body might be subjected to His divine spirit. In this weakened state, He was visited by the tempter, who suggested that the Savior use His great power to perform extraordinary feats. To the tempter’s request that He turn stones to bread to relieve His hunger, the Savior stood tall by replying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). To the notion that He throw himself from a high place to be saved by the hands of angels, He triumphantly stated, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matt. 4:7). To the proposition that the Savior fall on His knees and worship the devil in exchange for the wealth and splendor of earthly glory, He valiantly replied, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).

The tempter’s insidious ways continue unabated. The quest for “things” has enticed some to depart from principle. Failure to distinguish between needs and wants has muddied men’s minds. Families are starving for the affection, recognition, and leadership of parents. Many are resorting to unethical, immoral, and, on occasion, illegal methods to acquire more and more material goods.

If you find yourself entrapped in the pursuit of material things, now is the time to courageously stand tall. If you worship the items that money can buy more than you cherish the love of God, now is the time to stand tall. If you have been blessed with abundance beyond your needs, now is the time to stand tall in sharing with those whose needs remain unfulfilled.

The second example—on one occasion, the Savior called together His followers and said, “Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (Matt. 15:10–11).

As a normal part of everyday language, many people take the name of God in vain. Among our youth, vulgar and crude terms seem to come easily as they describe their feelings. My young friends, now is the time to stand tall in eliminating these words from your vocabulary. You know the words to which I refer. Unfortunately, you hear them used over and over again in your schools, music, and sports. Will it take courage to stand tall? Of course it will. Can you muster the courage? Of course you can. Seek strength from your Heavenly Father to overcome it. The Savior said, “Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing” (D&C 19:38). It has been said, “You reach the greatest heights while on your knees” (“Standing Tall,” New Era, Oct. 2001, 19). Profanity and crudeness do not exalt; they defile. My wife and I have attended hundreds of youth sporting events. Too often we hear profanity expressed by coaches and other adults who should be role models. Adults need to stand tall in eliminating crude and profane language.

You have heard the phrase “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear your words.” Our actions indeed speak volumes about us. We need to stand tall in following the counsel of the prophets to attire ourselves modestly. “Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight [form-fitting] clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire” (For the Strength of Youth [2001], 12). Clothing that is modest, neat, and clean uplifts. Immodest clothing degrades. If there is any question, ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?” (For the Strength of Youth, 13). Mothers, you can be our examples and conscience in this important matter. But remember, young people can detect hypocrisy as easily as they can smell the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread. Parents, counsel your sons and daughters and then join with them in standing tall against immodesty.

Third, you will recall that in response to the lawyer’s question about who is our neighbor, the Savior recounted that a certain man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves and was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. The first to come his way was a priest, who looked away and passed by on the other side of the road. Likewise, the next to discover his plight stopped to look but passed without rendering aid. The third, a Samaritan, bound up his wounds and made arrangements for his care. Then Jesus asked which of them was the neighbor. The lawyer responded that the neighbor was he who showed mercy. In response the Savior said, “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37; see Luke 10:30–37).

As we reach out to our neighbors, are we sensitive not only to their needs but also to their feelings? Is our neighborliness selective and confined to those of our faith, or is it all-inclusive regardless of faith, color, or any other perceived differences? To the Savior there was no reservation in the definition of neighbor. Sometimes our unique Church language can be misinterpreted and appear insensitive or even condescending to our neighbors. As Elder Ballard suggested yesterday, I too feel uncomfortable with the term nonmember. When we refer to others as nonmembers, they might wonder if we feel they are not members of our community, city, or even the human race. We are quick to say we are accepting and inclusive in our neighborly relationships, but to some we too often come across as barely tolerating. Love of neighbor comes only after love of self and God. Let us stand tall in extending unequivocal love and respect to our neighbors.

A dear family friend passed away a few years ago. He and his wife enjoyed hiking together in the mountains. One fall afternoon, they hiked several miles up a steep mountainside to a beautiful waterfall. While descending the trail, several hikers making the climb upward asked the question, “Is it worth it?” Our friends’ reply was always in the affirmative. Later, they observed that the effort was worth it only if you enjoyed the fresh air, alpine beauty, exercise, and loving companionship.

Feeling the intense pressure from peers and the need to be accepted, some may ask the question, “Is it worth the effort to stand tall?” To that question I respond, “If life eternal is important to you and if you want to experience real joy in this life, then standing tall is worth the determination and tireless daily effort it requires.”

May we all stand tall on the side of righteousness, I pray in the sacred name of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, amen.