On 10 November 1918, the 17th anniversary of the day he was sustained as President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith gathered his family together and spoke of his life and what he had learned. All came to the occasion fasting and in the spirit of prayer. President Smith said, “If there is anything on earth I have tried to do as much as anything else, it is to keep my word, my promises, my integrity, to do what it was my duty to do.”1
This was his last formal counsel. Nine days later, on 19 November 1918, President Joseph F. Smith died. An influenza epidemic prohibited a formal public funeral service. In tribute to this great leader, all public assemblies, entertainments, and official meetings were suspended. Theaters and many local businesses were closed. Thousands of citizens of Salt Lake City, Church members and nonmembers, thronged the streets to honor Joseph F. Smith as the funeral cortege made its way up South Temple to the Salt Lake City Cemetery. As the procession passed the Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine, the bells in the cathedral tower tolled in tribute to this venerable leader who had influenced so many.
President Joseph F. Smith loved the right; he championed the cause of truth; he lived fully the principles he preached; and he was respected and revered for such integrity.
The religion which we have espoused is not a Sunday religion; it is not a mere profession. … It is the most important thing in the world to us, and the results to us in this world and in the world to come will depend upon our integrity to the truth and our consistency in observing its precepts, in abiding by its principles, and its requirements.2
It is a joy to me always to have the privilege of meeting with men and women who have embraced the truth and who are true to it in their daily life, for after all, we establish the standard of our integrity and our fidelity to the truth by our daily works. The tree is known by its fruits, and we do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles. When you see a number of individuals, a community, or an entire people, who have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, consistent with their professions, true to their covenants, true in every respect to their faith, you will see men and women who are bearing good fruit and worthy in all respects.3
It is for us to do our duty and live our religion on one day the same as any other. Let us serve the Lord in righteousness all the day long and He will be our Father and Friend, and our enemies shall have no power over us.4
We all need love in our souls, all the time: first, for God our heavenly Father, who is the giver of all good—love which encompasses our souls, our thoughts, our hearts, our minds, our strength, insomuch that we would willingly, if he required, give our lives as well as our time, talents, and substance in this world to the service of the living God who gives us all that we have. … We [should] have that love in our hearts, so much that we will love God more than business, more than money, more than earthly pleasures; that is, enjoy greater pleasure in the worship and love of God than we have in any other thing in the world.5
Everywhere men hear the word success dwelt upon as if success were defined in a word, and as if the highest ambition of men and women was the advancement of some worldly ambition. … After all, one’s success must be determined more by the eternal (as well as the present) needs of man, than by temporary standards which men erect in pursuance of the spirit of the age in which they live. Certainly nothing is more fatal to our well being than the notion that our present and eternal welfare is founded upon the wealth and honors of this world.
The great truth enunciated by the Savior seems very generally to be lost sight of in this generation, that it will profit a man nothing though he should gain the whole world, if he lose his own soul [see Matthew 16:26]. The standard of success as declared by the word of God, is the salvation of the soul.6
The essence of true membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is this—that you and I, independent of every other person in the world, will live our religion and do our duty, no matter what other people do. As Joshua expressed himself in olden times, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” [Joshua 24:15.] … The true measure of our standing in this Church is that we will do right, no matter who else does right or does wrong. Therefore let us seek to get that spirit upon us and live by that rule.7
The first and highest standard of correct living is to be found in that individual responsibility which keeps men good for the truth’s sake. It is not difficult for men who are true to themselves to be true to others. Men who honor God in their private lives do not need the restraint of public opinion which may not only be indifferent, but positively wrong. It is by the individual responsibilities which men feel that they are able to place themselves on the right side of all public questions. Those who neglect the inner life are dependent upon public guidance which leads them into all sorts of inconsistencies.8
The fruits of the Spirit of God—the fruits of the spirit of true religion—are peace and love, virtue and honesty, and integrity, and fidelity to every virtue known in the law of God.9
Our duty is to keep steadily on—on and upward in the direction that the Lord Almighty has marked out for us to pursue. Keep the faith; honor the name of God in your hearts; revere and love the name of Him whose blood was shed for the remission of sins for the world; honor and hold in the highest esteem him whom God raised up in his childhood to lay the foundations of this great latter-day work.10
My childhood and youth were spent in wandering with the people of God, in suffering with them and in rejoicing with them. My whole life has been identified with this people, and in the name and by the help of God it will be to the end. I have no other associations or place of abode. I am in this respect like Peter when the Savior, on seeing the people turn away from Him, asked him, Will ye go also? Said Peter, Lord, if I leave Thee whither can I go, Thou hast the words of eternal life. [See John 6:67–68.] We have nothing else to do save to keep in the narrow path that leads back to God our Father. That is the channel He has marked out for us to pursue, and it is our duty to press on; we cannot turn aside, we cannot switch off; there is no side track, it is a “through train” and its destiny is already fixed and mapped out.
We have got to meet opposition as it presents itself, battling against it with the weapons of truth which God has placed in our hands. And we must make up our minds that this world with all its pleasures is as dross compared with the excellency of the knowledge of God. He intends to try us and prove us, and He has a right to do it, even to the death if need be, and only those who endure to the end, who will not flinch, but will maintain their integrity at the risk and sacrifice of their all, if need be, will gain eternal life, or be worthy of the reward of the faithful.11
My prayer has been constantly, not that I might be spared trials, but that I might have wisdom and judgment, patience and endurance given unto me, to bear the trials that I might be called to pass through. While I cannot say truthfully that I have been tried in my faith in the Gospel of Christ, yet I can say truthfully that I have been tried in many ways. My patience has been tried, my love has been tried, my integrity has been tried.12
I believe [our pioneer forefathers] built better than they knew. I believe they were led by the power of God, step by step, and were taught precept upon precept, line upon line. In this way He proved their integrity and their devotion. He proved them unto death; yes, and even beyond death; for death to many of them would have been sweet, it would have been peaceful, happy rest, compared with the toil and trouble they had to endure.13
Many a man has gone to the stake in obedience, as he believed, to the commandments of God. Not one of the ancient disciples who were chosen of Jesus Christ, escaped martyrdom, except Judas and John. Judas betrayed the Lord, and then sacrificed his own life; and John received the promise of the Lord that he should live until He came again to the earth. All the others were put to death, some crucified, some dragged in the streets of Rome, some thrown from pinnacles, and some stoned to death. What for? For obeying the law of God and bearing testimony to that which they knew to be true. So may it be today. But let the spirit of this gospel be so imbedded in my soul that though I go through poverty, through tribulation, through persecution, or to death, let me and my house serve God and keep his laws.14
The Lord told the young man who loved the world, that if he desired to be perfect, he should sell all that he had and give it to the poor, then said the Lord, “Come and follow me.” [Matthew 19:21.] This may be a very simple manner of expression, but there is a great deal of truth in it, there is an essential principle involved in it. It is the putting of that which is sacred and divine, that which is of God, that which makes for the peace and happiness of the souls of men, before our riches, before all our earthly honors and possessions. The Lord Almighty requires this of the Latter-day Saints; and every man and woman who has embraced the Gospel ought to feel in his and in her heart today, and in their souls always, that “whatsoever the Lord requireth of me, that will I do,” or that will I give, no matter what it is.15
If He should require me to give all I possess unto him, I wish to feel that it should be done cheerfully and willingly, as Job, and also Abraham, felt when the Lord called upon them for expressions of their faith. Abraham was called upon to offer up his son—a child of promise—did he stop to reason or argue with the Almighty? No, he went to, without complaint or murmuring, to do what he was commanded. He may have had peculiar feelings, and no doubt he was tried to the very core; his tenderest affections were tested, but for all that he proposed obeying the behest of the Almighty. Abraham did not, however, execute the command, for the Lord, seeing his integrity and willingness, prevented it. [See Genesis 22:1–18.] …
Now, how many of us have the confidence in the Lord that Abraham had? Supposing, He were to ask from you your first born, or any of your loved ones, or your wealth, could you endure it without murmuring? … Can we expect to attain a celestial exaltation if we have some corner—something put away—upon which our hearts or dearest affections are set? Ask yourselves, if you are worthy to receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God?16
Job was a righteous man, perfect in all his ways. There were none like him in all the earth. … He did not curse the Sabeans for carrying off his cattle, nor the fires of heaven for consuming his flocks, nor the winds of heaven for destroying his habitation and children. He did not swear and blaspheme and deny the Lord because of this. But he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [Job 1:21.] …
… Here is exemplified the principle that should underlie all the faith, the hope, the charity, the love, the labor, the desire of all mankind—that they will serve God, no matter what may befall them. Though they suffer imprisonment, though they suffer persecution, though they suffer poverty, though God should try them to the very core, and put them to the utmost test to prove their integrity, they should say like Job, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [Job 1:21.] Thus magnify God, love Him with all thy heart, might, mind and strength; then love our neighbor as ourselves; that when trials come we may endure them and not complain, but wait until God shall develop His purposes. Then we will see that there is no love like that of God for His suffering children; there is no mercy so broad, no purpose so grand, and great and noble as the purpose of God concerning His children. If we will do this, we will learn this eventually and we will bless God with all our hearts.17
What is integrity? How do we “establish the standard of our integrity … by our daily works”? What situations in your daily life cause you to choose whether to put the things of God first?
How can we develop the ability to “enjoy greater pleasure in the worship and love of God” than in the love of business, money, or other earthly pleasures? When you have faced tests in putting “that which is sacred and divine” ahead of “earthly honors and possessions,” how have you responded?
What is the true standard of success in our lives? What other definitions of success sometimes keep us from pursuing this true standard? How does acting according to revealed truth contrast with acting according to “public guidance”?
Why do trials and opposition often face us when we are striving to live the gospel? In what ways have you been tried and proven in your efforts to do the will of God? How have you responded?
How do the examples of faithful disciples like Abraham and Job help us to better understand how to “serve God, no matter what may befall”? How has your testimony been strengthened by their examples? What things can prepare us to serve God in this way during our times of trial?
How can developing and maintaining personal integrity bless and strengthen our families? our communities?