Before his call as an Apostle, Spencer W. Kimball was active in business and community life in Arizona. He was co-owner of an insurance and real estate business and participated in local and statewide service organizations. In these matters, he was known for his honesty and integrity. It has been written of him: “Personal rectitude lay at the heart of the perceptions others had of Spencer W. Kimball. … He was always a straight arrow, delivering what he promised and negotiating with candor and without devious motives.”1
Integrity was part of his character from the days of his youth, as the following account demonstrates: “Spencer and some of the boys borrowed a horse and an old buggy to use when their science class at school went on a field trip. On the rough road a buggy spring broke. The next day Spencer explained to his friends, ‘We ought to all pitch in some money to pay for the broken spring,’ but no one offered to help. He persuaded them, saying, ‘That spring’s going to be paid for, if I have to do it myself.’”2
Speaking at a general priesthood meeting in October 1974, President Marion G. Romney, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, pointed to President Kimball’s example: “Throughout the years he has been a pattern of integrity. No one doubts that he would discharge the sacred trust the Lord has placed upon him at the peril of his life. … How glorious, men of the priesthood, it would be if all of us possessed the integrity of a President Kimball.”3
Integrity (the willingness and ability to live by our beliefs and commitments) is one of the foundation stones of good character, and without good character one cannot hope to enjoy the presence of God here or in the eternities.4
Integrity is a state or quality of being complete, undivided, or unbroken. It is wholeness and unimpaired. It is purity and moral soundness. It is unadulterated genuineness and deep sincerity. It is courage, a human virtue of incalculable value. It is honesty, uprightness, and righteousness. Take these away and there is left but an empty shell. …
Integrity in individuals and corporate bodies is not to ask, “What will others think of me, and my practices?” but, “What do I think of myself if I do this or fail to do that?” Is it proper? Is it right? Would the Master approve? …
Integrity in man should bring inner peace, sureness of purpose, and security in action. Lack of it brings the reverse: disunity, fear, sorrow, unsureness.5
It would be well if all of us would take frequent inventory to see if hidden away under the rugs and in the corners of our lives there might be some vestige of hypocrisy and ugliness or error. Or could there be hidden under the blankets of personal excuse and rationalization some small eccentricities and dishonesties? Are there any cobwebs in ceilings and corners which we think will not be noticed? Are we trying to cover up the small pettinesses and the small gratifications we secretly allow ourselves—rationalizing the while that they are insignificant and inconsequential? Are there areas in our thoughts and actions and attitudes which we would like to hide from those we respect most?6
When we make a covenant or agreement with God, we must keep it at whatever cost. Let us not be like the student who agrees to live by certain standards of conduct and who then breaks his oath and tries to see how long he can get away with his deceit. Let us not be like the missionary who agrees to serve the Lord for two years, then wastes his time with laziness and rationalization. Let us not be like the Church member who partakes of the sacrament in the morning, then defiles the Sabbath that afternoon.7
By taking our covenants lightly, we will wound our own eternal selves. … Self-justification is easy and rationalization seductive, but the Lord explains in modern revelation that “when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, [or] our vain ambition … the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and … [man] is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks” (D&C 121:37–38).
Of course, we can choose; the free agency is ours, but we cannot escape the consequences of our choices. And if there is a chink in our integrity, that is where the devil concentrates his attack.8
The covenants we make with God involve promises to do, not merely to refrain from doing, to work righteousness as well as to avoid evil. The children of Israel made such covenants through Moses, saying, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8, italics added), though hardly was Moses’ back turned until they had broken their promise through wrongdoing. In the baptismal waters we give a similar undertaking and we repledge it in the ordinance of the sacrament. Not to honor these pledges, to refuse to serve or to accept responsibility and do less than one’s best at it, is a sin of omission. …
Melchizedek Priesthood holders and those who have received their temple endowments have made further and specific pledges to do, to work righteousness. The Lord has expressed the mutual pledges between our Heavenly Father and the priesthood holders as an “oath and covenant.” [D&C 84:39.] … One breaks the priesthood covenant by transgressing commandments—but also by leaving undone his duties. Accordingly, to break this covenant one needs only to do nothing.9
Keep your promises. Maintain your integrity. Abide by your covenants. Give the Lord this year and every year your high fidelity and fullest expression of faith. Do it “on your honor” and you will be blessed now and forever.10
Almost all dishonesty owes its existence and growth to that inward distortion we call self-justification. It is the first, and worst, and most insidious form of cheating: We are cheating ourselves.11
Self-justification is the enemy of repentance. God’s Spirit continues with the honest in heart to strengthen, to help, and to save, but invariably the Spirit of God ceases to strive with the man who excuses himself in his wrong doing.12
In public office and private lives, the word of the Lord thunders: “Thou shalt not steal; … nor do anything like unto it.” (D&C 59:6.)
We find ourselves rationalizing in all forms of dishonesty, including shoplifting, which is a mean, low act indulged in by millions who claim to be honorable, decent people.
Dishonesty comes in many other forms: … in playing upon private love and emotions for filthy lucre; in robbing money tills or stealing commodities of employers; in falsifying accounts; … in taking unreal exemptions; in taking out government or private loans without intent to repay; in declaring unjust, improper bankruptcies to avoid repayment of loans; in robbing on the street or in the home money and other precious possessions; in stealing time, giving less than a full day of honest labor for a full day’s compensation; in riding public transportation without paying the fare; and all forms of dishonesty in all places and in all conditions. …
“Everybody’s doing it” is often given as an excuse. No society can be healthy without honesty, trust, and self-restraint.13
He is dishonest who buys more than he can reasonably expect to pay for. This is defrauding. He has little honor who fails to pay his honest debts. It would seem to me that every luxury one enjoys at the expense of a creditor is not wholly honest. … It is not always dishonorable to be in debt, but certainly it is to ignore debts.14
The theft of pennies or dollars or commodities may impoverish little the one from whom the goods are taken, but it is a shrivelling, dwarfing process to the one who steals.15
A parent who understates the age of the child to avoid adult prices in shows and planes and trains and buses is forcefully teaching the child to be dishonest. He will not forget these lessons. Some parents permit the child to break the law as to firecrackers, the use of guns, fishing and hunting without license. The children are permitted to drive without a license or to falsify their ages. Those who take little things without accounting for them, such as fruit from the neighbor’s yard, a pen from a desk, a package of gum from the help-yourself shelf, all are being taught silently that little thefts and dishonesties are not so bad.16
Parents who “cover up” for their children, excuse them and pay for their misappropriations, miss an important opportunity to teach a lesson and thereby do untold damage to their offspring. If the child is required to return the coin or the pencil or the fruit with an appropriate apology, it is likely that his tendencies to steal will be curbed. But if he is lionized and made a little hero, if his misappropriation is made a joke, he is likely to continue in ever-increasing thefts.17
Parents can develop respect for others’ property and rights in their growing children by example and precept. Parents who require their youngsters to apologize and make good and return—perhaps even double or triple—that which they have taken, broken, or destroyed—those children will be honorable citizens and will bring honor and glory to their parents. Those parents who themselves respect law and order and observe all the rules can, by that pattern and by their expression of approval or disapproval, discipline and protect their children against disorder and rebellion.18
We urge you to teach your children honor and integrity and honesty. Is it possible that some of our children do not know how sinful it is to steal? It is unbelievable—the extent of vandalism, thievery, robbery, stealing. Protect your family against it by proper teaching.19
Let us be sure that we inject into our home evenings a lesson on honesty and integrity.20
We may be bucking a strong tide, but we must teach our children that sin is sin. Children are permitted to get by with inaccuracies in sports and cheating in games. This cheating goes on into college and into the professions and into businesses. In addition to its being wrong, very wrong, it undermines the very fabric of their culture and their characters.21
On the train from New York to Baltimore we sat in the dining car opposite a businessman and commented, “It seldom rains like this in Salt Lake City.”
The conversation soon led naturally into the golden question: “How much do you know about the Church?”
“I know little about the Church,” he said, “but I know one of its people.” He was developing subdivisions in New York. “There is a sub-contractor working for me,” he continued. “He is so honest and full of integrity that I never [require] him to bid on a job. He is the soul of honor. If the Mormon people are like this man, I’d like to know about a church that produces such honorable men.” We left him literature and sent the missionaries to teach him.22
How one’s admiration soars for Peter … as he is seen standing at full height and with boldness and strength before those magistrates and rulers who could imprison him, flog him, and perhaps even take his life. We seem to hear those fearless words as he faced his foes and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29.)
Peter looked into the eyes of the crowd and bore his testimony to them of the God they had crucified [see Acts 3:13–15]. …
Of those who heard this testimony and charge, 5,000 men saw this courage superior and integrity supreme! And 5,000 men believed.
Turn back to Daniel, a captive and slave but also a prophet of God who was willing to die for his convictions. Was integrity ever placed on a higher plane? The gospel was Daniel’s life. … In the king’s court, he could be little criticized, but even for a ruler he would not drink the king’s wine nor gorge himself with meat and rich foods. His moderation and his purity of faith brought him health and wisdom and knowledge and skill and understanding, and his faith linked him closely to his Father in heaven, and revelations came to him as often as required. His revealing of the dreams of the king and the interpretations thereof brought him honor and acclaim and gifts and high position such as many men would sell their souls to get. But when the choice was put to him of ceasing to pray or of being cast into a den of lions, he prayed openly and submitted to the punishment. [See Daniel 1–2, 6.]
We remind ourselves of the integrity of the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who like Daniel defied men and rulers, to be true to themselves and to keep faith with their faith. They were required by decree of the emperor to kneel down and worship a monumental image of gold that the king had set up. In addition to losing caste, losing position, and angering the king, they faced the fiery furnace rather than deny their God.
… When the prearranged sounds of the cornet, flute, harp, and other instruments reverberated through the area and the masses of men and women everywhere filled their homes and the streets with kneeling worshipers of the huge golden image, three men refused to insult their true God. They prayed to God, and when confronted by the raging and furious emperor king, they courageously answered in the face of what could be certain death:
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:17–18.)
Integrity! The promises of eternal life from God supersede all promises of men to greatness, comfort, immunities. These men of courage and integrity were saying, “We do not have to live, but we must be true to ourselves and God.”…
No virtues in the perfection we strive for are more important than integrity and honesty. Let us then be complete, unbroken, pure, and sincere, to develop in ourselves that quality of soul we prize so highly in others.23
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Review the second paragraph on page 125. What qualities of character did young Spencer’s reaction reveal? What similar experiences might we have today?
Study the first four paragraphs on page 126, looking for words President Kimball used to define integrity. When have you seen that integrity brings “inner peace, sureness of purpose, and security in action”? When have you seen that lack of integrity brings “disunity, fear, sorrow, unsureness”?
What are some attitudes about covenants that hinder a person from having integrity? (For some examples, see pages 126–27.) How can we overcome these attitudes? Ponder the integrity with which you keep your covenants.
In what ways are we “cheating ourselves” if we are dishonest? (For some examples, see pages 128–29.)
Review President Kimball’s examples of dishonesty and honesty in parents (pages 129–30). Consider what you are doing to teach children integrity.
Read the story that begins with the last paragraph on page 130. How has your life been influenced by the integrity of others?
Study the fifth paragraph on page 126. Consider taking an inventory of your life, as President Kimball counseled. Ask yourself the questions he asked.