John Taylor lived a life of integrity that was an example to all who knew him and served with him in the Church. The day after his death in July 1887, his counselors, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, wrote a letter to the Deseret News to inform the public of his passing. Part of that announcement included a tribute to President Taylor. The following is a portion of that tribute describing the stalwart character and integrity of this beloved prophet:
“Few men have ever lived who have manifested such integrity and such unflinching moral and physical courage as our beloved President who has just gone from us. He never knew the feeling of fear connected with the work of God. But in the face of angry mobs, and at other times when in imminent danger of personal violence from those who threatened his life, and upon occasions when the people were menaced with public peril, he never [flinched]—his knees never trembled, his hand never shook. Every Latter-day Saint always knew beforehand, on occasions when firmness and courage were needed, where President John Taylor would be found and what his tone would be. He met every issue squarely, boldly and in a way to call forth the admiration of all who saw and heard him. Undaunted courage, unyielding firmness were among his most prominent characteristics. … He was a man whom all could trust.”2
Let us be men of truth, honor and integrity—men that will swear to our own hurt and change not—men whose word will be our everlasting bond. … We are trying to raise up a people that shall be men of God, men of truth, men of integrity, men of virtue, men who will be fit to associate with the Gods in the eternal worlds.3
God expects to have a people who will be men of clean hands and pure hearts, who withhold their hands from the receiving of bribes, … who will be men of truth and integrity, of honor and virtue, and who will pursue a course that will be approved by the Gods in the eternal worlds, and by all honorable and upright men that ever did live or that now live, and having taken upon us the profession of sainthood, he expects us to be Saints, not in name, not in theory, but in reality.4
The great difficulty with us is that we are too fond of catering to the world, and too much of the world has crept into our hearts; the spirit of covetousness and greed, and—what shall I say?—dishonesty has spread itself like a plague throughout the length and breadth of the whole world in every direction, and we have drunk more or less into that spirit. Like a plague it has pervaded all grades of society; and instead of being governed by those high, noble, and honorable principles that dwell in the bosom of God, we are after the filthy lucre which is spoken of as being the root of all evil [see 1 Timothy 6:10]; and instead of setting our affections upon God, we set our affections upon the world, its follies and vanities. … Show and prove to the world, to angels and to God that you are on the side of truth and right, of honesty, purity and integrity, and that you are for God and His Kingdom.5
Never mind the world nor what they can say or do, for they can only do what the Lord permits them. … We will send out the gospel to them, and continue to advocate the principles of truth, and to organize ourselves according to the order of God, and seek to be one—for if we are not one we are not the Lord’s and never can be, worlds without end. Hear it, you Latter-day Saints! And do not be figuring for yourselves and for your own aggrandizement; but feel to say in your hearts, “What can I do to help to build Zion. I am here, and everything that I have got is upon the altar, and I am prepared to do the will of God no matter what it may be, or where it sends me, to the ends of the earth or not.” But we are not doing that yet; we are too much after our own affairs and drinking into the spirit of the world, and yielding and catering to that feeling and influence. Now, while we wish the world well and would desire to promote their happiness, we cannot be governed by their practices nor be under their influences. God is the Lord our God; he is to be our king and law-giver, and he must rule over us.6
There is one great principle by which, I think, we all of us ought to be actuated in our worship, above everything else that we are associated with in life, and that is honesty of purpose. The Scriptures say—“If the truth shall make you free then shall you be free indeed, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” [See John 8:32, 36; Philippians 2:15.] We are told again that God requires truth in the inward parts [see Psalm 51:6]. It is proper that men should be honest with themselves, that they should be honest with each other in all their words, dealings, [discussions], intercommunication, business arrangements and everything else; they ought to be governed by truthfulness, honesty and integrity, and that man is very foolish indeed who would not be true to himself, true to his convictions and feelings in regard to religious matters.
We may deceive one another … as counterfeit coin passes for that which is considered true and valuable among men. But God searches the hearts and tries the reins of the children of men [see Jeremiah 17:10]. He knows our thoughts and comprehends our desires and feelings; he knows our acts and the motives which prompt us to perform them. He is acquainted with all the doings and operations of the human family, and all the secret thoughts and acts of the children of men, are open and naked before him, and for them he will bring them to judgment.7
We should be strictly honest, one with another, and with all men; let our word always be as good as our bond; avoid all ostentation of pride and vanity; and be meek, lowly, and humble; be full of integrity and honor; and deal justly and righteously with all men.8
If a man borrows five dollars he must give a mortgage on something, because the lender fears he will be cheated out of it. Men have no confidence in each other’s word. I would not give a straw for a man if I could not trust his word. There is nothing of him, no foundation, nothing to tie to. Yet these are the very people that the prophet said should exist in the last days. They enter into covenant and never think of fulfilling it. Their word amounts to nothing, their integrity has no foundation.
I speak of these things for your information, for this is the condition of the world. And are we free from it? Not by a long way—I wish we were. I wish there were more honesty, virtue, integrity and truthfulness, and more of every principle among us that is calculated to exalt and ennoble humanity. I speak of these things as a shame to the human family; and if they exist among the Saints it is a crying, burning shame, and we all ought to be disgusted; for if anybody in the world ought to be men of integrity, truth and honesty, we should be, everywhere and under all circumstances. And if we say a thing it ought to be as worthy of belief as if we had sworn to it, and as if we were bound by ten thousand ties to accomplish it.9
What do we believe in? We believe in purity, in virtue, in honesty, in integrity, in truthfulness and in not giving way to falsehood; we believe in treating all men justly, uprightly and honorably; we believe in fearing God, observing His laws and keeping His commandments. Do we all do it? No, not quite. I wish we did. But a great majority of the Latter-day Saints are doing this; and if there are those that are not, let them look well to their path. … And as we are here for the purpose of building up Zion, He expects that we will be upright and honorable in all our dealings with one another and with all men.10
We are living in a critical and an important age. Men sometimes are astonished when they see the corruption, wickedness and evil, the departure from honesty and integrity, and the villainy that everywhere exist; but why should they be? … Has it not been preached to us that the nations of the earth had the elements of destruction within themselves and that they were bound to crumble? And when we see honor trampled under foot, and integrity and truth standing afar off, while the wicked, corrupt and froward [or disobedient] manage and direct affairs, we may expect that the axe is laid at the root of the tree and that [the tree] is decaying and will soon fall [see D&C 97:7]. And that is what is being accomplished among the nations today. We need not whine or think there is anything strange or remarkable about it. We have expected these things to transpire, and they will be a great deal worse than they are to-day. But we are engaged in introducing correct principles.11
We are living in the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God is gathering all things together in one, and he has brought us from different nations, countries, climes and peoples. What to do? To make fools of ourselves? Is our object to live as the wicked do—to be “covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, heady, highminded, despisers of those who are good, to have a form of godliness without the power?” [See 2 Timothy 3:2–5.] No, we came here that we might learn the laws of the Almighty, and prepare ourselves and our posterity for thrones, principalities, powers and dominions in the celestial kingdom of our God.
We talk sometimes about Zion, that has got to be built up in Jackson County; also about a New Jerusalem that has to be built and prepared to meet a Jerusalem that shall descend from the heavens. How do our lives and actions compare with these things? Are our hearts, feelings and affections drawn out after them, or are we forgetful and our minds swallowed up with the affairs of time and sense?
Are we preparing our children for this time, and spreading an influence around us wherever we go to lead people in the paths of life and lift them up to God? Or are we taking a downward course—come day, go day, just as it happens? I think we ought to wake up and be alive, and endeavor to pursue a course that will secure the smile and approbation of the Almighty. …
We ought to be preparing our youth to tread in our footsteps, if they are right, that they may be honorable members in society, that when we get through in this world and to go into the other, we may leave behind [posterity] who are full of integrity, and who will keep the commandments of God. We ought to teach our children meekness and humility, integrity, virtue and the fear of God, that they may teach those principles to their children. … Seek to implant in the hearts of your youth principles that will be calculated to make them honorable, highminded, intelligent, virtuous, modest, pure men and women, full of integrity and truth … that they with you may have an inheritance in the kingdom of God.12
We forget, sometimes, that we are engaged, with many others, in establishing righteousness and planting the kingdom of God upon the earth; and we condescend to little meannesses, and become forgetful of the great and glorious calling to which we are called. Many of us give way to temptation; we falter and get into darkness, and lose the Spirit of the Lord. We forget that God and angels are looking upon us; we forget that the spirits of just men made perfect and our ancient fathers, who are looking forward for the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth, are gazing upon us, and that our acts are open to the inspection of all the authorized agencies of the invisible world.
And, forgetting these things sometimes, we act the part of fools, and the Spirit of God is grieved; it withdraws from us, and we are then left to grope our way in the dark. But if we could live our religion, fear God, be strictly honest, observe his laws and his statutes, and keep his commandments to do them, we should feel very different. We should feel comfortable and happy. Our spirits would be peaceful and buoyant. And from day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, our joys would increase.13
In relation to events that will yet take place and the kind of trials, troubles, and sufferings which we shall have to cope with, it is to me a matter of very little moment; these things are in the hands of God. … If we are found to be willing and obedient, and on the Lord’s side for right, for truth, and integrity, for virtue and purity and holiness, adhering to the principles of truth and the laws of life, then God will be with us, and he will sustain all those who adhere to these principles. … The pure and virtuous, the honorable and upright, will go forth from conquering to conquer until they shall accomplish all that God designs them to do on this earth.14
Be honest with yourselves, honest before God. Be virtuous, be truthful and full of integrity, and fear the Lord your God in your hearts, and his blessing will be with you, and his Spirit will attend you, and your generations after you, worlds without end. Amen.15
Based on what you have learned from President Taylor, how would you define integrity? In what areas of life can it be especially challenging to maintain integrity?
What do you think it means to be honest with ourselves? with others? with God? Why is it important to be honest in all aspects of our lives? How are we blessed as we are honest?
How would life be different if everyone were committed to the principles of honesty and integrity? How would such a commitment affect your actions?
What challenges to integrity do children face today? What can we do to teach children the value of honesty and integrity?
How do our lives and actions compare with our goal to build the kingdom of God? Why is it important to make this comparison often?