Credentials and Character
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
April 13, 2013
Elder Richard J. Maynes
Presidency of the Seventy
President Wheelwright, honored guests, distinguished faculty and administration, parents, friends, and especially the current graduating class of 2013, I truly appreciate the invitation to participate in your commencement services today.
Sister Nancy Maynes and I extend our most sincere congratulations to you graduates, your families, and your loved ones. We recognize that the success of this day is a result of a team effort between you, the graduate, and all those who have supported you over the years. Very few individuals accomplish something as significant as graduating from Brigham Young University–Hawaii without the help of others. I am sure that one of the most important elements of your celebration today will be a heartfelt hug and a big “mahalo” to your loved ones who have been your biggest supporters.
It is great to be back in the Aloha State. One of my assignments as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy is the supervision of the North America West Area, which includes Hawaii. Due to that assignment, I have the privilege and blessing of working with Elder Aley Auna of the Seventy, who presides over the coordinating councils in Hawaii. It is great to see Elder and Sister Auna in the audience today.
During the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah, an article was published in the Church News entitled “Credentials and Character.” The article highlighted the fact that the Olympic athletes had earned their credentials “through hard work, by overcoming physical and emotional challenges, through commitment to their goals and by meeting and winning their competitive challenges.” Today, I would like to speak about credentials and character as they relate to you.
Because of your dedication and hard work, you have earned credentials in the form of a diploma issued by Brigham Young University–Hawaii, which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The question I have for you today is this: “Can you and will you justify your credentials by your character?” Before you answer that question, remember the old adage, “Being a character is not the same as having character.”
Of course, your character should be beyond reproach. Most of you have taken upon yourselves sacred obligations in the waters of baptism. You have made covenants or promises to the Lord. You, therefore, have the added credentials of being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once again, can you and will you justify those credentials by your character?
Sister Maynes and I live in the mountains above Salt Lake City, east of Park City, and I have about a 50- minute drive to my office at Church headquarters. Awhile back, while driving to work, I turned on the radio to catch up on the news. The story that was being reported referred to corruption in government. The next story was a report on corruption in business, and the third story reported on cheating and dishonesty in professional athletics. I turned off the radio and asked myself this question: “Where do people, especially young people, find positive role models in today’s world?” The answer to that question is sitting before me today in this auditorium. The answer is you! You will be the ones who justify your credentials by your character. You will be the role models for the next generation.
Brothers and sisters, it might be possible to cut corners on credentials, but it is very difficult to cut corners on character. Let me illustrate this concept using an excerpt from the book To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson:
“Tom attended a business law class with one of the football team stars. The athlete never prepared for the oral recitations or the class discussions. ‘In the classroom, he was just a phony. He was clever, all right.’ Perhaps too clever. The final examination was ‘closed book.’ Tom’s classmate came to class that winter morning wearing sandals. As the examination began, he placed his open textbook on the floor, removed his bare feet from the sandals, and, with toes saturated with glycerin, opened his textbook. Skillfully, with those ‘educated’ toes, he turned the pages to find the answers to the questions asked. ‘He received an A grade, as he did in other classes. Nominated for honors, praised for his intellectual acumen, he passed the examinations of school but failed the test of manhood.’ As he prepared for his comprehensive exams, the dean of his discipline announced for the first time that an oral exam rather than a written test would be given. The athlete failed and remained another year in school to fulfill his graduation requirements.”
In this particular example, the student’s character caught up with him before he received his credentials. However, you can clearly see how easy it might have been for him to have deceived his way through graduation. In that case, his character surely would not justify his credentials.
Returning to the biography of President Monson, it states, “Years later, standing before university students, President Monson said, ‘During the last half century, there has been in this country a gradual but continual retreat from standards of excellence in many phases of our life. We observe business without morality; science without conscience; politics without principle; wealth without works.’ He counseled, ‘Refuse to compromise with expedience. Maintain the courage to defy the consensus. Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. By so doing, you will not detour, but rather will ever remain on the way to perfection.’”
Brothers and sisters, choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong means we are being true to the covenants we have made with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Almost all of us here today have made covenants or promises to the Lord. We made promises to the Lord when we were baptized, and we make additional promises to Him as we participate in temple ordinances.
There is nothing more important in life than being true to the covenants or promises we have made with the Lord. Our eternal life depends on the principle of honesty—honesty with the Lord.
The Lord reminds us each week how important these covenants are by allowing us the privilege of renewing them as we partake of the sacrament. When we honestly take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments, we can and will be worthy of His Spirit. This great blessing and gift of the Holy Ghost will guide, direct and influence us for good throughout our lives.
On the other hand, when we break a commandment, we are actually breaking our word, our promises, and our covenants. We are being dishonest with the Lord. When we are dishonest with the Lord, we are, in fact, working against His work.
In today’s culture, the principle of honesty seems to be seldom talked about and often abused. The world is filled with the false tradition of corruption—corruption in government, corruption in business, and even corruption in athletics. Honesty, it seems, must take a back seat to the worldly aspiration of getting ahead at any cost.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have a solemn obligation to live the principles taught by Jesus Christ. When we speak of justifying our credentials with our character, we primarily focus on one of the most basic of all Christian principles: integrity.
Is it possible to succeed in this world and at the same time be honest with the Lord and true to your covenants? I believe it is.
Many years ago, when I was president of a company that specialized in factory automation, I was confronted with a situation that taught me the importance and the benefit of keeping promises no matter what the cost. This was the situation:
Our company was going through a phase of rapid growth. We were engineering, fabricating, and installing automated production lines in factories around the world. We were hiring personnel and building increased factory capacity as fast as we could.
We had accepted an order on a large project in Scotland from a multinational corporation. We had agreed to a specific delivery date on the project. As the promised delivery date approached, it became obvious that we would not be able to meet the schedule.
We met as an executive council and discussed the matter. After careful analysis, it looked like we would miss the delivery date by approximately three weeks. While we were studying the detailed schedule of the project, it was pointed out that the critical path included a shipment window of approximately three weeks. The production line equipment would be shipped from our California factory overland to New Orleans and then transported via cargo ship to Liverpool, England, then across land to Scotland.
It became obvious that the only way we would be able to keep our word and make the delivery date would be a very expensive option. It was decided that we would lease wide-bodied jets and ship all the equipment for the Scotland factory via air freight. This option would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and, as you might suspect, eliminate any positive contribution this project was expected to make to our bottom line. The financial cost of keeping our word was high; however, you can’t put a dollar figure on the importance of keeping your word and getting a good night’s sleep.
Interestingly enough, the successful and timely installation of this project in Scotland wasn’t the end of the story. Several months later, I was in Malaysia negotiating a similar project with a different company. We had reviewed with the customer all of the engineering drawings and the design concepts as well as the financial aspects of the project. We were coming to the conclusion of our discussion and negotiations when a high-ranking executive representing the customer asked this question: “Will you be able to honor the delivery date?” Our team huddled for a few minutes to review the schedule and the time constraints one more time, and then we answered by saying that yes, we could make the date.
Much to my surprise, the executive responded by saying, “We know you will. We have heard all about what you did in Scotland in order to keep your word. The project is yours.”
In the end, our company could never have spent enough money on advertising to develop the goodwill that had been created throughout the industry worldwide due to the simple act of being honest and keeping our word. The goodwill created by this experience lasted for years.
When we are honest with our fellowman, we are, in fact, keeping our covenants. When we keep our covenants, we are at the same time being honest with the Lord. We cannot separate the two. Sometimes even members try to live in two worlds, the world of truth and the world of false traditions.
Dr. Benjamin Martinez shared the following example that illustrates the principle of integrity and helps us to understand the importance of justifying our credentials with our character:
“Of all the kinds and colors of marble, the milky white Carrara is the rarest and most costly. Sculptors who lived during the Golden Age of Tuscan Sculpture claimed that it was the purest substance God ever created, and they longed for the feel of it beneath their hands. Any sculptor who was commissioned by a wealthy patron of the arts to create a statue of Carrara marble felt himself to be highly favored.
“Sculpting in marble was neither fast nor easy. In addition to innate talent, it required both careful analysis and tedious, backbreaking work. The artist would have to study the block of marble to determine its essential nature. He would then need to discover the direction of the grain and ascertain the presence of any flaws. He had to make careful and precise plans and drawings, which were in accord with the structure of the marble itself. Then, with consummate care, he would begin to chip off the superfluous marble, layer by layer, until he revealed the form he had envisioned.
“Any mistake could be disastrous. If the sculptor went against the grain, he could crack the marble; if he struck a blow with too much force, he could mash the crystals beneath the surface, creating holes and ruining the sculpture. This seldom happened with the greatest of sculptors, who labored with infinite care and supreme sensitivity. Those with lesser talent and little patience, however, would occasionally be confronted with such a disaster. Rather than admit their blunder and lose their commission, some would resort to subterfuge.
“Soft, white wax, skillfully applied, could usually disguise the damage. In outward appearance, the sculpture appeared to be flawless and the defect was seldom discovered until well after the work had been accepted and the commission paid. As this practice became more common, patrons of the arts became more discerning. They refused to accept a piece of marble statuary until after a careful examination had been made to ensure that it was undamaged and contained no wax-covered flaws. The highest standard of excellence for works of white Carrara marble came to include the distinction, ‘sine cere,’ meaning ‘without wax.’
“Eventually these two words merged to become a single word, in Spanish ‘sincera,’ or in English ‘sincere,’ meaning ‘pure, unadulterated, whole, intact, [and] uninjured.’ When the word was used to refer to marble works of art, the emphasis was on the fundamental wholeness of the statue, not just on its superficial or outward appearance. The statue was expected to be good, not just to look good.”
Brothers and sisters, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are expected to be righteous, not just appear to be righteous. What we believe and what we say and what we do should all be the same. A person of integrity does not cover his or her flaws in order to look good to the outside world. A person of integrity repents of behavior unbecoming a member of the Church, embraces and lives new habits and lifestyles, and tries to eliminate the flaws in his or her character. In other words, we continually strive to justify our credentials with our character.
In the end, your character will outlive your credentials. The Lord, referring to Hyrum Smith, stated, “For I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me.”
Character, like testimony, is an evolving process that is grown and strengthened or diluted and weakened by our daily actions or inactions. I pray that the Lord will bless each of you as you embark on this new and exciting chapter in your life with the desire, courage, and spiritual strength to continually justify your credentials with your character, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 “Credentials and Character,” Church News, Feb. 16, 2002.
 Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson (2010), 105–6.
 Swinton, To the Rescue, 106.
 Benjamin Martinez and Meredith Martinez, “The Primacy of Principles,” in 10 Principles of Leadership Power (1992), 1.
 Doctrine and Covenants 124:15.