The following are not my writings, but the words of others. These two stories have had a major impact on the way I view integrity. The first is story involves President John Taylor and Elder Heber J. Grant. The second comes from an interview with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.
The first time I heard this story was a couple of years ago while sitting in Relief Society. As soon as the class was over, I approached the instructor and asked her where she found it. I had to read it again. I couldn’t believe what I just heard because it felt like it was contradicting the religious culture I had learned, yet it seemed to speak truth. I was so deeply moved by the leadership of President Taylor in this story, for he was not pushing Heber J. Grant to conform and “obey”, but rather he was pushing him to think for himself and to act upon his own convictions.
“Some years ago a prominent man was excommunicated from the Church. He, years later, pleaded for baptism. President John Taylor referred the question of his baptism to the apostles, stating [in a letter] that if they unanimously consented to his baptism, he could be baptized, but that if there was one dissenting vote, he should not be admitted into the Church. As I remember the vote, it was five for baptism and seven against. A year or so later the question came up again and it was eight for baptism and four against. Later it came up again and it was ten for baptism and two against. Finally all of the Council of the Apostles, with the exception of your humble servant, consented that this man be baptized and I was then next to the junior member of the quorum. Later I was in the office of the president and he said:
“Heber, I understand that eleven of the apostles have consented to the baptism of Brother So and So,” naming the man, “and that you alone are standing out. How will you feel when you get on the other side and you find that this man has pleaded for baptism and you find that you have perhaps kept him out from entering in with those who have repented of their sins and received some reward?”
I said, “President John Taylor, I can look the Lord squarely in the eye, if he asks me that question, and tell him that I did that which I thought was for the best good of the kingdom. … I can tell the Lord that [that man] had disgraced this Church enough, and that I did not propose to let any such a man come back into the Church.”
“Well,” said President Taylor, “my boy, that is all right, stay with your convictions, stay right with them.”
I said, “President Taylor, your letter said you wanted each one of the apostles to vote the convictions of his heart. If you desire me to surrender the convictions of my heart, I will gladly do it; I will gladly vote for this man to come back, but while I live I never expect to consent, if it is left to my judgment. That man was accused before the apostles several years ago and he stood up and lied and claimed that he was innocent, and the Lord gave to me a testimony that he lied, but I could not condemn him because of that. I got down on my knees that night and prayed God to give me the strength not to expose that man, seeing that he had lied but that we had no evidence, except only the testimony of the girl that he had seduced. And I prayed the Lord that someday additional testimony might come, and it did come, and we then excommunicated him. And when a man can lie to the apostles, and when he can be guilty while proclaiming repentance of sin, I think this Church has been disgraced enough without ever letting him come back into the Church.”
“Well,” repeated President Taylor, “my boy, don’t you vote as long as you live, while you hold those ideas, stay right with them.”
To read the full story follow the link below:
I have read, re-read, and read again this interview with Dr. Jenifer Finlayson-Fife. I’ve printed it out, I’ve marked it up, I’ve quoted from it in my writings on multiple occasions. But the following excerpt from the interview is what I love the most, what I tell people about the most, what I think about the most.
My job as a moral being, as a child of God, [is] to grapple earnestly with what I believed was right and wrong, and to confront the fact that there are false traditions everywhere, including within our faith, and to struggle with the Spirit and my own honest effort to know what is right, and live accordingly.Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife
I remember being in the MTC, and feeling like obedience, obedience, obedience was being drummed into us. My thinking on this was less developed then, but I remember feeling that there were so many things I didn’t know, and yet I felt as if I was being told I had to claim to know them, in order to be okay with God. I remember having a bit of an internal crisis during a testimony meeting in the MTC where I was wondering if God would really ask me to pretend? If I just look the part, does that please God? Or, does God want me to be true to myself, as long as my intentions are sincere in pursuing truth. Is that acceptable to God? The entirety of my mission experience ended up confirming to me that my job as a moral being, as a child of God, was to grapple earnestly with what I believed was right and wrong, and to confront the fact that there are false traditions everywhere, including within our faith, and to struggle with the Spirit and my own honest effort to know what is right, and live accordingly. So I see that process as fundamental to becoming a developed spiritual person—having an anchored internal sense of self and strong sense of what is good that allows you to be a strong presence in a family, in a marriage, in a ward—just complying does not enable any of that. When we think about people we admire most in history, it’s people who could stand strongly for what they believe is right, despite the social costs of doing so. These are people with a strong sense of rightness, a strong sense of self, and that is an important spiritual and relational reality.