“Worthy of Proper Recommendation,” Ensign, May 1978, 42
It is now my privilege and responsibility to address you for just a few minutes. I certainly have enjoyed—and I hope all the young men and priesthood holders, wherever you are, have enjoyed and appreciated—the talks that have been given and this fine music which we have heard.
As I look out upon those gathered here tonight and think of the thousands listening in, I realize that I am talking to priesthood leaders, priesthood holders, and those who will assume positions of leadership in the future. Those who are leaders now should already have become men of integrity, men with character, men whose ideals and standards are of the highest quality, worthy of emulation by those whom they lead. So tonight I, along with the others who have addressed you, want to direct my remarks to the young men who will come up through the ranks of the Aaronic Priesthood and eventually take over the jobs we older fellows now hold. Yes, no doubt one of you will some day be standing here at this pulpit as one of the General Authorities of the Church. One of you may even become the President, and certainly as you remain true and faithful and keep the commandments, you will all advance in the kingdom of God.
What an awesome thought! How necessary and important it is that we all continually strive to improve ourselves and prepare for the day when a call might come to serve in a new or more responsible position! The whole purpose of our existence in mortality is to build the kingdom of God and to prove ourselves worthy to go back into his presence. You are here tonight because you sense this responsibility and want to be numbered among those whom the Lord will call his own.
What must you do that you are not already doing? As I think about this and the requirements that we must meet in order to be capable and profitable servants, it seems to boil down to a matter of being worthy of a proper recommendation by someone in authority.
The First Presidency and some other General Authorities are currently preparing for a series of area conferences in far-flung locations where we have members of the Church. As we make these preparations it is necessary that we have passports or visas or tourist cards in order to satisfy the requirements of the governments of the countries which we will visit. These credentials must be properly endorsed by the respective authorities involved, and only after conforming to all the regulations can we receive our papers which will allow us to enter the countries of our choice.
Not long ago Elder David Haight of the Council of the Twelve had been assigned to a stake conference in Mexico. As he reached the border, he found that he did not have with him the necessary papers which would allow him to enter the country. In spite of his plea and the urgency of his mission, the officials had no authority to admit him without proper credentials. Therefore, he could not attend the conference.
So it is with our progress in the priesthood. We must be properly recommended and endorsed by those in authority before we can advance from one office to another, and we cannot receive the certification or proof of our advancement without being worthy, or meeting the requirements. It will be so when we want to enter the kingdom of heaven to join with others who have gone before, and live eternally with God, our Father.
It is true that some steal across the line to other countries without credentials, but if and when discovered they are penalized and deported according to the law. In the Church, some who are guilty of transgression will lie to be advanced in the priesthood, to go on missions, or to enter the temple. But the Lord knows, and they cannot expect to enjoy his blessings.
Throughout my life in government, in industry, and in the Church, I have had many people ask me for letters of recommendation or reference to assist them in obtaining employment or a promotion. I also have had heads of industry or government ask for my recommendation regarding certain individuals whom they may be considering for employment.
It is always with a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction when I can respond that the individual is worthy of their consideration, that he is honest, dependable, has done well in school, gets along well with people, is a willing worker, does not procrastinate, and is loyal and trustworthy. Under such circumstances I add that I can recommend him without any reservation, and state that he will be an asset to the company.
It is with sadness that I respond when I cannot recommend an individual without reservation because of some undesirable traits of character or some quality which in my judgment would keep him from performing to the satisfaction of his employer. In fact, I usually say that I am not in a position to vouch for him, or I do not respond to the query. It is as important that I be honest in my letter of reference as that the prospective employee be an honest and upright individual.
When choosing a vocation, one should consider what his personal qualifications are; that is, if he chooses to be a medical doctor, he, in addition to possessing the qualities which should be part of each man’s character, such as good morals, honesty, integrity, dependability, etc., should be sensitive to the well-being of people, and go into the profession not only because it can be very lucrative, but also because he is really concerned and interested in improving the health of mankind. A doctor must be someone who will be prepared to give of his time at any hour of the day or night without thought for his own comfort and convenience.
If one wants to be an airline pilot, he should be able to think and react calmly and clearly in the face of unforeseen or unexpected occurrences in the performance of his duties. A lawyer needs the ability to express himself well in both the spoken and written word. A salesman must have enthusiasm and be able to meet people well; he must have the ability to convince people whom he is trying to convert to his product. A secretary or receptionist must be able to keep confidences and to help create an atmosphere of friendliness and helpfulness in the office where people wait for their appointments.
So you see, for every type of job classification there are some basic and some specialized qualifications necessary to perform the required work with the greatest efficiency. All through our lives we should be preparing ourselves with a combination of the characteristics essential to filling our niche in life.
A few years ago the Church distributed to our young people a series of small cards with a picture on one side and a message on the other. The series was called “Be Honest with Yourself.” I quote from one of these with a heading, “Can You Pass This Test?”
“Here is a classroom during an examination hour. The students are unwatched—the teacher has put them on their honor. Except for their own consciences and the disapproval of classmates, they are completely free to peek into those reference books or look over the shoulders of their classmates for easy answers. What will they do? What would you do?
“Some critics of modern youth claim that cheating in high schools and colleges is increasing. Even worse, they claim that it is common for fellow students—noncheaters—and some teachers to condone this practice. Various excuses for classroom cheating are offered:
“—to stay eligible for athletic teams or other activities;
“—to win the favor of fellow students or teachers;
“—to satisfy parents who believe their sons or daughters are, and should be, ‘as smart as anybody’;
“—or simply to stay in school.
“None of these reasons is an honest reason; none will hold up in the test of time and conscience. Cheating is dishonest wherever you find it—always was and always will be.
“The first cheater was Satan, ‘the father of lies.’ He tried to cheat our premortal spirits out of our birthright to free agency and eternal progression. Satan lost. Cheaters never really win.
“When anyone cheats, whether by taking help to pass a school test or through more flagrant forms of dishonesty, he cheats himself first.
“Don’t do it! Always, in all ways—be honest with yourself.”
This training in honesty begins in the home. Each of us has personal possessions which are ours alone. We can and should share such things as toys and games and our services to one another; but we have money, or jewelry, or clothing that is the personal property of each and should not be taken without the consent of the owner. A child who respects such honesty in the home is not apt to violate the principle outside the home. On the other hand, lack of such training fosters disrespect for the rights and property of others.
I realize that young people today are under a lot of pressure from outside influences and feel that in order to be popular they have to go along with their friends on some things which are against their personal standards. But I implore you to consider the consequences of compromising your principles which may adversely affect your whole life.
As a child matures and starts working for money, whether for his parents or his neighbors, he will deal honestly and give honest labor for the returns he gets. Often the earliest employment for a young man is as a newsboy. Countless numbers of our successful businessmen today got their start in this occupation. They learned to be prompt and dependable. I knew a newsboy who always had his papers delivered on time regardless of the weather, and he handled his collections in a pleasant, courteous, and businesslike manner. He had many satisfied customers and had no difficulty in getting new subscriptions. This early training helped him to become a most successful businessman.
Another boy I knew—and I have known several like him—did not deliver his papers on time, got mixed up on his collections, and the news office had so many complaints about him that they had to replace him. It is not what work we do, but how we do it that counts.
When I was president of TransCanada Pipelines, we had an office boy who did only what we asked him to do. He would wait until called to run an errand, or stand around waiting for instructions, never offering to be helpful. As the company grew and the job became more than he could handle, we hired another lad, even younger, who was alert and always looking for extra things to do to be helpful. He would finish an errand and then see or ask for something else to do. In just a few months one of the departments wanted him for a position of greater responsibility, and within two years he had three advancements, salary increases, and more responsibilities. The other lad remained an errand boy.
I remember, too, serving as a Scoutmaster, and noticing the differences in the boys. Some were alert and anxious to learn, to keep the Scout Oath and Promise, to be of service, and to learn all they could about taking care of themselves under all conditions. There would be many stories to tell about Scouts who had saved their own lives and the lives of others through the training which they received as they took advantage of their opportunities. There were other Scouts who did as little as they could and were only interested in seeing how much foolishness they could get away with. I always wanted the boys to have a good time as long as they were honest and dependable and determined to keep the Scout Oath and Promise and complete their training.
I remember so well one of the chief Scouts in England, who, when he was in the army during the war, had the responsibility of selecting soldiers for highly confidential missions. He was always happy, he said, when he found a man who had been a good Scout and could put his arm to the square with his three fingers extended and say that he kept the Scout Law and the Scout Promise. He said he did not hesitate to recommend a man under those conditions because he knew that he could depend on him, and knew then that he was trustworthy. He said he was never let down by such a man.
Let me give you an example of how important it is to put first things first if you are to be successful in life. As a boy I was raised on a farm, where I remained until I went away to school. I had observed how a farmer on one side of the road was very successful, while one on the other side was almost a failure as a farmer. What made the difference? They received the same amount of sunshine and rain. They planted the same kind of seeds. But one had beautiful and bounteous crops, while the other had no harvest or a poor one.
I observed that the successful farmer worked at his job. He would do his plowing, discing, harrowing, seeding, and harvesting in the proper season and at the proper time, while his neighbor was procrastinating, or off hunting and fishing while the work was still to be done. We must learn to set our priorities straight. No one can be successful in his line of work unless he works at it in the proper season and plays in the proper season.
Work is a great antidote for many things. On the wall of a reception room at a well-known neurological institute hangs a card, intended not for the sick, but for the well:
“If you are poor, work. If you are rich, work. If you are burdened with seemingly unfair responsibilities, work.
“If you are happy, continue to work; idleness gives room for doubts and fears. If sorrow overwhelms you, and loved ones seem not true, work. If disappointments come, work.
“If faith falters and reason fails, just work. When dreams are shattered and hopes seem dead—work. Work as if your life were in peril; it really is.
“No matter what ails you, work. Work faithfully, and work with faith. Work is the greatest material remedy available. Work will cure both mental and physical afflictions.”
Now, young men, if you were to ask me for my help in seeking employment, what kind of recommendation could I give for you? Would I be able to say that you were completely honest and dependable and honorable in all your dealings? Or would I have to say that you measured up to some of these things, but that you were lazy, or had not done well in school, or that you would not follow instructions, or that you were a troublemaker, or disloyal, or any other thing that would not make you a desirable employee?
If it is so important to be highly recommended or to have adequate references in order to get employment, how much more important it is that we live worthy of a good or satisfactory recommendation from our Church authorities so that we can progress in the various offices and functions of the priesthood, and eventually gain admission to the kingdom of heaven.
As holders of the priesthood we should know that God is our Father; that his Son Jesus Christ is our Savior; that through his atoning sacrifice we can be resurrected, and by following his teachings gain eternal life; that through revelation The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established; that Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet of God and President of the church of Jesus Christ; and that the priesthood which we hold is the power of God delegated to us to act in his name.
May we strive every day to live worthy in every way of this great privilege and blessing, I humbly pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.