Alma 18:4-11, LeGrand Baker, the power of personal integrity
10 Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them.
11 Now I surely know that this is the Great Spirit, and I would desire him that he come in unto me, but I durst not.
Mormon is a superb and very candid historian. He has an agenda and he not only doesn’t try to hide it, he insists we know what it is. He frequently concludes his stories with the words “and thus we see” then he explains the principles we should have learned. But he does not always do that. Sometimes he just tells the story and leaves it to us to discover the principles. That is an easy task because the principles can usually be reduced to four basic ideas: To be happy (1) one must exercise faith in God, (2) one must be true to the eternal law on one’s own being, (3), one must obey instructions and teachings of the prophets, and (4) one must comport his life in the same way the prophets conduct theirs. This story focus on the second and fourth of those principles: have the integrity to be true to one’s eternal self, and achieve that by doing what Ammon did.
Integrity is one of the most fundamental principles that leads to salvation. In my work at BYU, I once interviewed Arnold Friberg, who did the artwork for Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Friberg had great admiration for DeMille whom he described as having unbending integrity. Then Friberg defined the word: “Integrity is having no gap between what one says and what one does.” In gospel terms that simply translates to this: Integrity is having no gap between the covenants one makes and the life one lives.
Elder Maxwell spoke of integrity in eternal terms, He used the word “unvaryingness ” to describe the integrity of God. He said,
“We can serve others also by developing real integrity, which is more than being honest and true only until it becomes too expensive. In the crowds of chameleons in the world today, daring to be the same good self is being different. When our goodness is constant we are on the road, albeit only a short distance along, to the unvaryingness of Godlike love.” (Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 62.)
It is not surprising that President Monson equated faith in God with personal integrity. He said,
“Today, in a quiet grove at Valley Forge, there is a heroicsized monument to Washington. He is depicted not astride a charging horse nor overlooking a battlefield of glory, but kneeling in humble prayer, calling upon the God of Heaven for divine help. To gaze upon the statue prompts the mind to remember the oft-heard expression, “A man stands tallest when upon his knees.
“Men and women of integrity, character, and purpose have ever recognized a power higher than themselves and have sought through prayer to be guided by such power. Such has it ever been. So shall it ever be.” (Thomas S. Monson, Be Your Best Self [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 24-25.)
The book of Job, which is not only some of the most beautiful but also probably the oldest poetry in our Old Testament, is all about integrity. It begins in the Council in Heaven where Satan wishes to lay claim to the earth, but he can’t because Job is there.
3 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. (Job 2:3)
From that time, Job’s life begins to fall apart, until his wife can’t take it any more.
9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.
10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10)
Job’s steadfastness was an evidence of his sure knowledge. He laments,
23 Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 19:23-26)
As seems often to be so, Job’s most intense trial comes from those who should have been his friends but were his accusers instead. They attack him with all the philosophical and academic weapons they can muster. To which Job responds,
2 As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul;
3 All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;
4 My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.
5 God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.
6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live. (Job 27:2-9)
Later, he challenges his tormenters,
6 Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity. (Job 31:6)
In the end, God gives Job all that he requests, including the fulfillment of the ultimate promise. Job spoke in wonderment and said,
5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. (Job 42:5)
When the Prophet Joseph organized the Relief Society, he taught the sisters that each of our lives would be something like Job’s.
“He spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer; for according to his prayers, God had appointed him elsewhere.” ( Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 226.)
The Psalms repeatedly say that we will be judged according to our personal integrity (Psalms 7, 25, 26, 41, 78). Brigham Young confirmed that. He said,
“We have the principle within us, and so has every being on this earth, to increase and to continue to increase, to enlarge and receive and treasure up truth, until we become perfect. It is wisdom for us to be the friends of God; and unless we are filled with integrity and preserve ourselves in our integrity before our God, we actually lay the foundation for our destruction.” (Journal of Discourses, 5:54)
The ultimate importance of personal integrity is found in the Saviour’s praise of Hyrum Smith. In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph, the Saviour said,
15 And again, verily I say unto you, blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord. (D&C 124:15)
As we approach judgement day, we will discover that one’s integrity is the final definition of one’s eternal Self. If that Self is the guileless personification of one’s love for God and for “that which is right,” then one is on the sure path that leads to eternal life.