Stand Up and Be Counted

By Elder James E. Faust

Of the Quorum of the Twelve

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    My dear young friends, the church to which we belong stands for many things, including integrity, honesty, and high moral purpose.

    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.

    It is important for each of us to stand up and be counted fully, completely, and openly for what the Church should represent in our lives.

    I have been persuaded to tell a story that involves my experience. Perhaps 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 Army Air Corps with the rank of private. 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. I felt I needed to become an officer. In a day or two following my all-night vigil, I filed my application for Officer’s Candidate School. Shortly thereafter, on the appointed day, I was summoned, along with some others, before the board of inquiry, whose job it was to look into my qualifications and aptitude. My qualifications were few, but I had had two years of college and had served 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 on 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 asking these last questions was a hardened career soldier. He did not look like he had prayed very often. I pondered, Would I give him offense if I answered as 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 kitchen duty, 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, including prayer, if the occasion requires.

    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 in normal situations?”

    Here was a chance to equivocate, to make a good impression by being really broad-minded. I knew perfectly well that the men who were asking me this question did not live by the standards that I had been taught, had tried to live by, and had taught to others. 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 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 the officers who had asked these questions concerning our beliefs would not like the answers I had given and would surely 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 Officer’s Candidate School and was promoted to the rank of 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 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 strengthened my faith and helped me adjust to the other occasions when the result was different.

    We cannot hide what we are, try as we might. It shines from within us. We are transparent. When we attempt to deceive, we deceive only ourselves.

    Those who stand firm, steadfast, and immovable are given great, hidden inner powers and unseen strengths. They will be endowed with full and potent spiritual resources.

    I bear witness 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 a living prophet, who in turn directs the labors of the kingdom upon the earth.

    Illustration by Paul Mann