On December 6, 2011, Tad R. Callister gave a devotional address at Brigham Young University entitled “Integrity: Foundation of a Christlike Life.” He presented seven principles that are crucial in establishing integrity as a fundamental part of our discipleship. This post is an excerpt from his stellar address.
Robert Bolt’s classic play A Man for All Seasons is the story of Sir Thomas More. He had distinguished himself as a scholar, lawyer, ambassador, and, finally, as Lord Chancellor of England. He was a man of absolute integrity. The play opens with these words of Sir Richard Rich: “Every man has his price! … In money too. … Or pleasure. Titles, women, bricks-and-mortar, there’s always something.”
That is the theme of the play. It is also the theme of life. Is there a man or woman in this world who cannot be bought, whose integrity is beyond price?
As the play unfolds, King Henry VIII desires to divorce Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. But there is a catch: divorce is forbidden by the Catholic Church. And so King Henry VIII, not to be thwarted in his desires, demands of his subjects the taking of an oath that will support him in his divorce. But there is a further problem.
Sir Thomas More, who is loved and admired by the common people, is a holdout—his conscience will not let him sign the oath. He is unwilling to submit, even at the king’s personal request. Then come the tests. His friends apply their personal charm and pressure, but he will not yield. He is stripped of his wealth, his position, and his family, but he will not sign. Finally, he is falsely tried for his life, but still he will not succumb.
They have taken from him his money, his political power, his friends, and his family—and will yet take his life—but they cannot take from him his integrity. It is not for sale at any price.
At the climax of the play, Sir Thomas More is falsely tried for treason. Sir Richard Rich commits the perjury necessary to convict him. As Sir Richard exits the courtroom, Sir Thomas More asks him, “That’s a chain of office you are wearing. … What [is it]?”
Prosecutor Thomas Cromwell replies, “Sir Richard is appointed Attorney-General for Wales.”
More then looks into Rich’s face with great disdain and retorts, “For Wales? Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. … But for Wales!”
In the life to come, no doubt many will look back amidst uncontrollable sobs and repeat again and again, “Why did I trade my soul for Wales or temporary physical pleasure or fame or a grade or the approval of my friends? Why did I sell my integrity for a price?”
Principles of Integrity
I would like to address seven principles of integrity that I hope will inspire us to make this Christlike attribute a fundamental character trait in our personal lives.
1. Integrity is the foundation of our character and all other virtues…Integrity is the foundation upon which character and a Christlike life are built. If there are cracks in that foundation, then it will not support the weight of other Christlike attributes that must be built upon it. How can we be humble if we lack the integrity to acknowledge our own weaknesses? How can we develop charity for others if we are not totally honest in our dealings with them? ... At the root of every virtue is integrity...
We cannot continue to fully acquire other Christlike virtues until we first make integrity the granite foundation of our lives. In some cases this may require us to go through the painful process of ripping out an existing foundation built upon deceit and replacing it stone by stone with a foundation of integrity. But it can be done.
2. Integrity is not doing just that which is legal but that which is moral or Christlike... Integrity is not just adherence to the legal code; it is also adherence to the higher moral code. It is as U.S. president Abraham Lincoln suggested: living in accord with “the better angels of our nature.”...
3. Integrity makes decisions based on eternal implications...Integrity is not shortsighted—it is not just a temporary change of behavior; it is a permanent change of nature…King Benjamin told us how we might change our natures from a natural man to a spiritual man: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Changing our natures, not just our behaviors, is facilitated by an eternal perspective that we are the children of God, that we have His spark of divinity within us, and that through the Atonement we can become like Him—the perfect model of integrity.
4. Integrity is disclosing the whole truth and nothing but the truth...The Lord can live with our weaknesses and mistakes, provided we demonstrate a desire and effort to repent. That is what the Atonement is all about. But ... He can[not] easily tolerate a deceitful heart or a lying tongue...
5. Integrity knows no alibis or excuses. There is something ennobling about the man or woman who admits his or her weaknesses and takes the blame square on without excuse or alibi...
6. Integrity is keeping our covenants and our commitments, even in times of inconvenience. Integrity is the courage to do right regardless of the consequences and the inconvenience...
One of the acid tests of our integrity is whether we keep the commitments and promises we have made or whether there are loopholes in our word.
7. Integrity is not governed by the presence of others. It is internally, not externally, driven...
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Polonius says to his son Laertes:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
What wonderful counsel! We have a choice. We can either seize the moment and take control of our lives or become mere puppets to our environment and our peers...
The man of integrity who is true to self and to God will choose the right whether or not anyone is looking because he is self-driven, not externally controlled...
May we all become men and women of integrity—not because we have to but because we want to. (Tad R. Callister, "Integrity: Foundation of a Christlike Life," Ensign, February 2013)
You can find the full text of the talk at speeches.byu.edu.