Hold Fast to Your Integrity
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
February 27, 2016
Mark B. Woodruff
Assistant to the Commissioner of the Church Educational System
Brothers and sisters, aloha. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here with you today at this joyful occasion in your life—your graduation from BYU–Hawaii. Your labors and efforts these many semesters have now successfully come to fruition, and you can rightfully claim the title of alumni of this great institution. Congratulations to each of you.
You have received an excellent education here at BYU–Hawaii. Since commencement is a beginning rather than a conclusion, you will want to continue with your education as you leave this remarkable university. Your life will be filled with learning opportunities that will bring you great joy and satisfaction. Regardless of the type of learning, be it specific to your career, your home, or your calling or for your personal enrichment, please remember that your lifelong education should have a spiritual component.
The Lord taught that all things are spiritual unto Him. Be certain that your future learning incorporates both study and faith—by so doing, you will receive a deeper and more lasting effect upon your character, which is critical in helping you fulfill the measure of your creation here upon the earth.
In President John S. Tanner’s inauguration address last November, he quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said that “character is higher than intellect.” Character is best developed through firm adherence to the pursuit of high moral values. Pursuing a moral code of ethics will develop the Christlike attribute of integrity in your life, the application of which will bless you and those around you in countless ways.
The word integrity is derived from the Latin word integer, which means “whole,” “entire,” or “untouched.” As you live your life in an honest and upright manner, you will experience a sense of completeness and wholeness that comes as a result of your virtuous actions. You will remain untouched from the effects of deceit that attend those who act with dishonesty.
Today’s world is in dire need of individuals who refuse to compromise their principles—individuals who are committed to walking in truth and righteousness. The very core of society is threatened and seriously eroded when people abandon their integrity in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage over others through fraudulent and deceptive means. Commit to yourself this day that you will place integrity above personal gain so that you can be “an influence throughout the world for good,” as was promised by President David O. McKay during the dedicatory prayer for the Church College of Hawaii.
The decision to make righteous choices, even when the consequences of those decisions might produce difficult or painful outcomes, requires the courage to stand firm for what you know to be right. Jonathan Napela, a truly courageous man, was one of the early converts to the Church in the Hawaiian Islands. He was serving as a judge when he was taught the gospel by George Q. Cannon and was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ did not come without heavy consequences for Jonathan and his family. He ultimately resigned his judgeship due to his decision to be baptized; however, despite the loss of his livelihood, he exhibited great courage in staying true to the covenants he made at baptism.
Do we show that same type of courage in remaining true to our covenants? To what level are we willing to sacrifice for our beliefs?
I have observed that people who exhibit a high level of integrity are also typically obedient to the commandments of our Heavenly Father. The story of the stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon is indicative of this correlation. Alma recorded that “they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.” The scriptures tell us that “their minds [were] firm” and that they placed “their trust in God continually.” Alma went on to say that “they [were] strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they [did] observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith [was] strong . . . concerning that which is to come.” They were true to their beliefs—a key in developing and maintaining integrity. We know from the conclusion of the story that they were blessed in many ways, both spiritually and temporally. You too will be blessed as you obey God and keep His commandments.
As you cultivate honesty and morality in all aspects of your life, your heart will be right before the Lord, as was Hyrum Smith’s heart. He was loved of the Lord “because of the integrity of his heart.” Like Hyrum, you will desire to do that which is pleasing to our Heavenly Father. Others will take note of what they feel when they are around you—a feeling of trust and confidence in your behavior, which will always be above reproach. You will feel a sense of spiritual grounding and eternal happiness as you walk the paths of righteousness. Like Job of old, as you hold fast to your integrity, generations after you will be blessed for your righteous example. Your influence for good will change the world in ways that you never could have imagined. That change will start within you and will spread to your family, friends, neighbors, and beyond.
Have the courage, with other people of faith, to be a true leader and to stand up for your beliefs in an increasingly secular world. As is taught in the Young Women values, “Have the moral courage to make [your] actions consistent with [your] knowledge of right and wrong.”
You will be truly happy as you walk the paths of righteousness that were provided for you by the one perfect example of integrity, our Savior Jesus Christ. He has shown us the way to find true and lasting happiness in this life as we seek to strengthen our character—an integral part of our ongoing educational growth.
Be the type of person you know you have the divine potential to be. Shun the allures of the world in favor of a life that is spiritually grounded in the highest level of moral attributes. If you do so, you will find a resolute purpose for your life and the blessings of God will be yours in rich abundance. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar (1837), section 3.
 David O. McKay, “Church College of Hawaii Dedicatory Address and Prayer,” Laie, Hawaii, 17 December 1958, in Something Wonderful: Brigham Young University–Hawaii Foundational Speeches (Laie: BYU–Hawaii, 2012), 23.