03442_000_005Trustworthiness seems like such a simple virtue, but the impact it has on our lives is crucial.
“Get him, Banner, get him!” The words sent little chills through my body, and I felt my muscles tense and my mouth get just a little dry because I knew the him referred to in the command was me. Banner was a tall and lanky German shepherd police dog assigned to a member of the Salt Lake City Police Department K–9 Corps. He wasn’t one of the heaviest dogs—he weighed only about 85 pounds—but oh, could he bite. My sweating hand tightened inside the heavy burlap covered sleeve which would protect me from injury of the dog’s attack, and then he was there. He hit hard and bit harder. I worked my arm up and down, giving the dog a good battle, until, after what seemed like an eternity, I heard the welcome command, “Out, Banner.” The dog released his grip and trotted back to his handler where he received his reward of pats and praise for a job well done.
All the officers in the corps had to take their turn being the quarry for the dogs. It was dangerous and sometimes tiring, but when your own dog was the attacker, it was the highlight of long tedious hours of patient training. Each dog was carefully selected and trained to be very obedient to his handler before being used on the street. Each could be controlled while on or off leash with only hand signals, voice command, or both. They were taught to attack to protect their handler under all conditions, even in the face of gunfire if necessary. The training took a long time, but the work of the dog with his police officer partner made it worth the investment. After spending such long hours in preparation, it was only natural that every officer looked forward to the time when he could send his dog after a fleeing burglar or use his training in other ways to do “real police work.” I was no exception.
My big chance came late one Saturday night. It had been fairly quiet and I had been spending time checking back alleys when suddenly the silence was broken by the breathless voice of an excited officer calling for help. “Fifth West and Second South … gang fight … 9-1.” Nine-one is the code meaning emergency aid is needed, and every officer able to help responded.
I was nearly the first car to arrive. There were hundreds of people completely blocking the street, and many were fighting. The officers quickly identified those who seemed to be the ring leaders of the disturbance and systematically started making arrests. As the first few were isolated and hand-cuffed, most of the crowd seemed to vanish into the alleys and doorways. Soon there were only the police cars, lights flashing in the darkness, a few officers, and those who had been arrested.
As the crowd disbursed, most officers left the scene, and I was also preparing to leave for the jail with the prisoner I had handcuffed and placed in the front seat of my K–9 truck. My dog was still in the back, since I didn’t feel it was wise to use him with such a large crowd. I approached the driver’s door and had just opened it, when suddenly I was engulfed from behind in the tightest, biggest bear hug I had ever felt. I struggled and fought futilely. This big man was trying to rescue his friend whom I had arrested, and it looked like he might make it.
Now was the time to use my dog. His name was Dusty, and I struggled to reach the small release handle on the side of the vehicle. It would free the back door to the cage and allow the dog to get out. With a lunge I jerked the handle, my arms still pinned to my sides, and the door swung open. “Get him, Dusty,” I shouted. Dusty hit the street running, skidded as he turned back toward me and my captor, and then to my amazement he ran right past me and around the truck. I continued to shout for him to “get him,” but without response. Around and around he went, once, twice, then with sudden purpose he turned from his path and ran to the gutter where fresh water was running and paused for a drink. Thank goodness by this time another police officer came to my rescue.
I spent about another year in the K–9 Corps after that incident, but it was spent with a different dog. In spite of his fine performance in training, Dusty had proven that in real life he couldn’t be trusted.
Of what value is trustworthiness? It seems like such a simple virtue, and yet it means a great deal in our lives. People who are trustworthy are admired and respected. They are said to have integrity, a very fine sounding word which means that they are honorable and will keep their word. They can be depended upon to do what they say.
The 12 points of the Scout Law begin with the principle of trust. Why do you suppose it is so important to be trusted? I believe that we must surely be trustworthy if we are going to be successful in keeping all God’s commandments and if we are to reach our fullest potential in this life. Being trustworthy is being committed to doing what is right, even when there is no one around to observe what you do. It is being willing to give up your personal desires in order to fulfill an assignment or to do some chore that you have said you would do.
Jesus Christ taught this principle most beautifully through the life he led and the tremendously important sacrifice he was entrusted to make. He also taught by parable such as the parable of the two sons.
He said, “But what think ye?” A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not (Matt. 21:28–30).
Jesus then questioned the people of Jerusalem about which son did the will of his father? They said, “The first.” He then explained that “the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matt. 21:31). Jesus meant that these people were hypocrites. They said that they would do the will of the Lord, but their actions did not follow their words. They were not obedient, nor could they be trusted.
One of my favorite examples of trust is contained in a story related by President N. Eldon Tanner. He was 14 years old, and his father, serving as bishop, had gone to prepare for a funeral. He had asked Eldon and his brothers to do the chores while he was gone.
“We decided to ride some calves before we did what he had told us to do. We thought we would have plenty of time, but he came home while we were still riding those calves, and he called us over to him. … he pointed his finger at me and said, ‘My boy, I thought I could depend on you.’ That hurt me very much. I can still almost recall the exact feeling I had at that time. I made up my mind that he would never have a reason to say, ‘I thought I could depend on you.’ Right then I made up my mind that the Lord would never have reason to say, ‘I thought I could depend on Eldon Tanner’” (New Era, Jan.–Feb. 1983, p. 14).
Someone said once that to be trusted is greater than to be loved. In some ways I think that this might be true. I did love my dog, yet I could not trust him. Many parents love their children, yet they may not be able to trust them to do certain things or to follow certain standards. Trust must be earned, and once earned is a valuable resource which will sustain you in all you do throughout your life.
A good friend of mine, C. Ray VanLeuven, lived in Vernal, Utah, as a teenager. He worked for his uncle and grandfather on a farm. In addition to the farm, they owned a good deal of land on Diamond Mountain, 30 miles northeast of Vernal. This land had been plowed but needed to be disked. It was determined that if the tractor was kept going around the clock, day and night, for two weeks except Sunday, the project could be completed.
Ray, then age 14, and his friend Larry, age 15, were given that assignment. They were told the uncle would pick them up the following Saturday. For the next six days they were to run the tractor day and night, only stopping long enough for gas. The boys took turns, four hours on and four hours off around the clock. During their off time they would try to sleep.
On about the third day, a U bolt that attached the disk to the hydraulic system of the tractor broke. The boys didn’t know what to do. It was 30 miles back to the farm, and they didn’t know if their uncle was there or in Vernal. They had been entrusted to do a job, and after thinking about it they decided that they could lose as much as two days’ work if they tried to find him. The boys began to look for an alternative, and at a nearby corral they found some bailing wire. They discovered that if they looped 30 to 40 strands through the holes where the U bolt had been it would last eight to ten hours until the wire broke. By using all the bailing wire they could find and even taking a fence apart and using its wire, they were able to keep going until the uncle came to pick them up on Saturday.
Ray VanLeuven was trustworthy, and by his actions he had proven it to all who knew him. This proving of trust is something that each of us must do. In the Book of Mormon, Helaman describes the attributes of his 2,000 stripling soldiers in these words: “And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20).
It is a noble trait to be trusted, and perhaps it is greater than to be loved. I hope that you will each commit now to truly establish a reputation of trust. Let your parents know that goals you have set will be met and that you can be depended upon to fulfill assignments on time and in the right way. Let them know your work will be done and your life lived with the greatest excellence you can muster. Above all, your Father in Heaven will know he can trust you to live the gospel and be “true at all times in whatsoever thing [you are] entrusted.”