Saturday, May 26, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on having righteous hearts

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"One of the major messages of our Lord and Savior was to be righteous within our hearts. Jesus, who knows with complete clarity and compassion all the diverse ways of sin, spoke with special intensity and passion about the soul-destroying effects of hypocrisy. He despised hypocrites—those who feign righteousness and make a public display of it but are in reality shams and frauds. Jesus intoned, 'Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity' (see Matthew 23:27–28).
"The antithesis of hypocrisy is integrity, with its connotation of wholeness of spirit and completeness of personality. How glorious is integrity! Those who have it display a constancy of character. Their behavior is the same in private as in public. Their goodness is not dependent on whether someone is watching. Their actions are based on principle, not expediency. Perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, 'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me' (John 14:21; emphasis added).
"A true measure of whether one has integrity, therefore, is provided by an honest answer to the following question: Am I righteous when no one is watching? Your answer to that simple query tells much about your true character....
"Our behavior, both public and private, does not happen by accident. It is the product of conviction, resolution, and habitual practice. We become what we believe; we practice the principles that are etched upon our souls. When the moment of decision is upon us, we act according to the principles that have become internalized in our hearts and minds."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Being Righteous in Our Hearts," BYU devotional, January 21, 1997
Click here to read the full talk

Some of the Savior's strictest warnings and condemnations in the New Testament record were against individuals Elder Wirthlin describes as "those who feign righteousness and make a public display of it but are in reality shams and frauds." This is a stern warning, since we all face the temptation or tendency now and then to put on a fa├žade of outward commitment or obedience when we are struggling with something in our personal life.

The contrast between hypocrisy and integrity is a dramatic one. Elder Wirthlin goes on to describe the "glorious" nature of a soul with true integrity:


Elder Wirthlin suggests that the private moments, when we think no one is aware of us, are a sign of our true state of heart. Do we live with integrity when no one is watching? Does that make any difference to us in our decisions and actions? There is always One who watches and knows, and that should be all that matters to us.

Elder Wirthlin suggests that we develop integrity through efforts of "conviction, resolution, and habitual practice." It's a gradual process; a pure heart is the result of pure actions, which follow sincere desires.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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