Monday, August 14, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on achieving true greatness in life

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President for only nine months, from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"Many Latter-day Saints are happy and enjoying the opportunities life offers. Yet I am concerned that some among us are unhappy. Some of us feel that we are falling short of our expected ideals. I have particular concern for those who have lived righteously but think—because they haven't achieved in the world or in the Church what others have achieved—that they have failed. Each of us desires to achieve a measure of greatness in this life. And why shouldn't we? As someone once noted, there is within each of us a giant struggling with celestial homesickness. (See Heb. 11:13-16; D&C 45:11-14.) ...
"What is true greatness? What is it that makes a person great? ...
"Giving consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life leads to true greatness. Specifically, it is the thousands of little deeds and tasks of service and sacrifice that constitute the giving, or losing, of one's life for others and for the Lord. They include gaining a knowledge of our Father in Heaven and the gospel. They also include bringing others into the faith and fellowship of his kingdom. These things do not usually receive the attention or the adulation of the world....
"True greatness is never a result of a chance occurrence or a onetime effort or achievement. Greatness requires the development of character. It requires a multitude of correct decisions in the everyday choices between good and evil that Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke about when he said, 'Over the years these little choices will be bundled together and show clearly what we value.' (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 21.) Those choices will also show clearly what we are."
- Howard W. Hunter, "What is True Greatness?," BYU devotional, February 10, 1987; see Ensign, Sept 1987, pp. 70-72
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Have I achieved anything worthwhile in life? Have I lived up to my potential? Sometimes questions like this are a result of comparing ourselves with those around us who seem to have accomplished more than we have. But sometimes they are honest inquiries about our personal efforts. President Hunter considers what it means to "achieve greatness" in our lives.

The phrase "celestial homesickness" is an interesting one to ponder; perhaps there is something deep inside us longing to return to our heavenly home.

The real message of this excerpt for me lies in how we define greatness. The world's definition often involves recognition and prominence; but in God's sense, it's the development of character, the commitment to principles, the ongoing faithfulness demonstrated by disciples who give "consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life." That's what we really should aspire to!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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