The Value of Self-Esteem
JAMES E. FAUST
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Speech was given on May 1, 2007
It is my privilege to introduce tonight’s speaker.
James E. Faust was set apart as the Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on March 12, 1995. He earlier had served in the Council of the Twelve Apostles since September of 1978. He had previously served for four years as an assistant to the Twelve and was sustained as a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy on October 1, 1976. His present assignments include: Vice Chairman of the Board of Education, the Board of Trustees for Brigham Young University, the Welfare Services Executive Committee, and the Deseret Management Corporation.
Prior to becoming a General Authority, President Faust has served the church as a Bishop, High Councilor, Stake President and Regional Representative.
He was born July 31, 1920 in Delta, Utah. He attended school in the Granite District of Salt Lake City, Utah and enrolled at the University of Utah in 1937. He participated as a member of the track team in 1938 and ran the quarter mile and quarter relay. His college career was interrupted first, to serve a mission for the church in Brazil, and then later by World War II during which he served in the US Army Air Force as was discharged as a 1st Lieutenant.
In 1945, he reentered the University of Utah by enrolling in the Law School from which he graduated in 1948 with a Juris Doctorate Degree. He began the practice of law in Salt Lake City, and continued until his appointment as a General Authority, in the church, in 1972. He served as a member of the Utah Legislature from 1949-1951, as an Advisor to the American Bar Journal and was President of the Utah Bar Association in 1962-1963. He received the distinguished Lawyer Emeritus Award from the Utah Bar Associated in 1995. In August 1997, he received an Honorary Doctor’s Degree of Christian Service from Brigham Young University. He was honored as a Distinguished Alumni at the University of Utah 1999 and was honored with the Honorary Order of the Coif at Brigham Young University in 2000. In 2002, he was given the Marion G. Romney Distinguished Service Award by Brigham Young University Law School and was awarded an Honorary Doctors of Law Degree by the University of Utah. In 1998, President Faust received a Brazilian National Citizenship Award, an honor given to only a select few leaders, and was awarded honorary citizenship of the city of Sao Palo.
He is married to the former Ruth Wright of Salt Lake City and they are the parents of two daughters and three sons. They also have 25 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren.
Turns time over to President Faust…
It’s a joy to be with all of you young adults, and your leaders this evening as we are seated in the newly renovated and beloved tabernacle. Along with those of you who have gathered in the stakes near and far and are viewing these proceeding by means of satellite transmission.
I think I’m more comfortable than you are. I remember when I used to sit in those seats. And when the tabernacle was remodeled, they weren’t made any softer either.
We’re delighted to see you all, you wonderful young men and women. And we’re grateful for you and appreciate the fact that you want to go forward and do what’s right, accomplish the things which the Lord would have you accomplish in your lives. You young ladies seem to know what you’re doing and want to do, and the young men are learning what they ought to do.
I just like to say one word to you young men, don’t take too much counsel from your fears. Now think about that.
I’m grateful to have Sister Faust here with me. When we decided to get married, I told her that I needed her help and that I needed to get more schooling and would appreciate her support. And I can honestly say that she gave that support and much, much more and made it possible for me to do some of the things that I have done in my life. I guess I should say to you that marriage involves having a helpmeet and those years, and still, Sister Faust has been my best helpmeet.
Tonight, I’d like to talk about self-esteem: what we think of ourselves, how we relate to others, what they think of us, and the value of what we accomplish.
An unknown Englishman of early days offered this prayer, “O God help me hold a high opinion of myself.” That, said Harold B. Lee, the Englishman’s plea, be the prayer of every soul. Not an abnormally developed self-esteem that becomes haughtiness, conceit, or arrogance; but a righteous self-respect that might be defined as belief in one’s own worth, worth to God, and worth to man.
Indeed, this self-esteem that I speak of this evening is not blind, or arrogant, or vain self-love but rather a self-esteem that is self-respecting, honest, and without conceit, and is born of inner peace and strength.
Self-esteem goes to the very heart of our personal growth and accomplishments. It is the glue that holds together our self-reliance, or self-control, our self-approval or disapproval, and keeps all self defense mechanisms secure. It is a protection against excessive self-deception, self-distrust, self-reproach and plain old fashioned selfishness.
In my long life, I have observed that the greatest respect is owed, not necessarily to the rich or famous, but to the quiet, unsung, unknown heroes whose true identity is like that of the unknown soldier, is known only to God. The unsung often have little of status, but much worth.
When I was growing up in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake County, it was a rural part of the valley. One of the men who had the greatest dignity and commanded the greatest respect was an old Scandinavian brother who, after walking a couple of miles, traveled by street car to work at the Salt Lake City cemetery and back, every day. His work was to water and mow the grass and tend the flowers and dig the graves. He said little because he did not speak English well but he was always where he should be, doing what he should be doing, in the most dignified and exemplary way.
He had no problems with ego, or with faith. For a while, he dug graves for a living. He felt his work was to serve God. He was a man of little status but of great, great worth.
When the Savior called his disciples, he was not looking for men and women of status, property or fame, he was looking for those of worth and potential. They were an interesting group, those early disciples, the fisherman, the tax gatherer and the others. After they were called to be Apostles, they didn’t become puffed up or think they were superior. On one occasion, after some of them had been beaten, they went on their way rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Worth has little to do with age, it has everything to do with service. The Lord has made it clear that worthiness is built upon service, not just to family and friends, but also to strangers, and even enemies.
From Elton’s “Paradise Lost” comes this truth: “Oft times nothing profits more than self-esteem grounded just right and well managed.”
I would like to suggest six essential keys to keep a healthy self-esteem.
The first key is to keep your free agency.
This means that you must not surrender your self-control, nor yield to habits that bind to addiction or enslaves to conduct that destroys. To keep our free agency, we must avoid the deadly traps and pitfalls which there can be sometimes no escape. Some have been ensnared and spent the best years of their life trying to escape and so exhaust themselves in the process Even in the end, although they have ultimately found themselves freed from the addiction, they are spent, burned out, nerves shot, and their brains dulled forever.
How much better off we would be, and how much more complete our free agency, if we would be able to say with the Psalmist, “I have refrained my feet from every evil.”
The second key to an addict itself is humility.
I do not mean the breast beating, sack cloth and ashes kind of humility. I mean the humility that comes with inner strength and peace. It is the inner humility that allows us to accept and live with our own warts without cosmetics to hide them. It is important to learn to live with our uncorrectable physical and mental defects without complaint or explanation.
Some months ago, I had a back operation. I’ve never been the same since, I may never be. But, the first time I spoke over in the conference center with a little pulpit like this, one of my granddaughters said, “Oh grandpa, you look so comfortable up there. I just wanted to come up there and crawl in your lap.”
Some years ago, I became acquainted with a delightful and wonderful new friend. He is a successful businessman, charming, outgoing and well groomed. His spirituality shines through his countenance. A few months later, I noticed a slight limp in his walk, which had not been obvious before. That led to a closer observation. When I looked past the gracious smile, I noticed my friend was slightly hunchbacked, with a slightly misshapen spine. These physical defects were so well hidden by the natural goodness, warmth, and great charm they were as nothing in the total man. My friend accepts his physical defects with humility and strength, and completely compensates for them with his natural personality.
There is another dimension of humility that must be mentioned: that of being teachable. The Prophet Samuel counsels, “Now therefore stand still that I may reason with you.”
Proverbs reminds us that, “Whosever loveth instruction, loveth knowledge.”
The third key to self esteem is honesty. Honesty begins with being true to one’s own self.
Some years ago, I sat in as a spectator in a heart wrenching drama concerning the custody of some children. The contention was that the natural mother was not a good housekeeper that was to fuel the claim that she was an unfit mother. The case worker contested that when she visited the family home it was in a shamble and that the kitchen was dirty. The natural mother seeking to keep custody of her children, was called to the witness stand. A middle aged, heavy physically, unattractive lady came forward, took the oath and sat in the witness stand.
The attorney for the father, who had remarried and wanted custody of the children, followed up relentlessly on the testimony already provided by the caseworker. His questions to the beleaguered mother were penetrating. He asked, “Was your house in fact as dirty as a pig pen the day the case worker came?” What drama. How could the mother answer in her own best interest and protect the custody of her children? What should she say? There was electricity in the air.
She hesitated for a tense moment, then she responded calmly, with complete self-assurance, “Yes, my house was certainly a mess that day.” The honesty of her answer surprised even the judge. He leaned over the bench and asked, “what do you mean that day?”
“Well your honor,” she replied, “that morning when the caseworker came, I had been bottling peaches. I had peeled, cooked, and bottled two bushels of peaches. I had not finished cleaning up the mess when the caseworker came. My sink was still sticky from the syrup, that I had spilled over, that I was trying to pour into the bottles before they were sealed. My house certainly was a mess that day. I try to be a good housekeeper; with three children I can’t possibly keep it straight all of the time.
Her frankness and candor were absolutely disarming and devastating to the opposition. When she finished speaking, everyone in the courtroom knew that the judge would rule in her favor. As she arose to step down from the witness stand, she had the bearing and self-assurance of a queen. Being true to one’s own self, is the essence of honesty and the keystone of self-esteem.
The fourth key of self-esteem is the love of work.
A most gifted athlete at our university excelled in every sport. Played football, ran the hurdles, in fact he held the conference records in the low hurdles. Our coach, Ike Armstrong, required that the sprinters run once a week with the quarter milers for three hundred yards to increase the stamina of the sprinters and increase the speed of the quarter milers. My friend, this great athlete, would lead all the runners for about 275 yards, but as soon as the first quarter miler passed him, he would quit. He wouldn’t even finish. His natural talent and ability were such that he never had to extend himself to excel. He was married, but the marriage failed. He went into professional football and was something of a star until he got into the drug scene and died from debilitating of drugs and alcohol.
Others with much less talent and ability have achieved far more. In my experience, there are very few people who are of true genius. While there are those who are gifted, most of the world’s work and some of the greatest contributions come from the ordinary people with a talent which they have developed. An ordinary, garden variety talent can be nurtured and nourished into a great gift through hard work.
Some of the artisans of China spend years making just one exquisite object of art, of unbelievable grace and beauty. We do not all have a talent for the arts such as painting, sculpture, music. There are many gifts which are not showcased. Some may have a natural gift to make others feel important, happy, and special. Such a gift should be developed and strengthened.
Spiritual gifts can be refined and enlarged by attentive, righteous living, to prayer, to study the scriptures, and obedience. George Lucas has said, “It doesn’t matter what people say about me, or what I say. What matters is what I accomplish.”What we accomplish helps our self-esteem. Sometimes we might think that the work I do is not important. I’m only this or that. Every job that has to be done is important, no matter how minimal it seems, someone has to do it. The fifth key to building self-esteem is the ability to love.
The commandment given by the Savior was to love others and yourself.
I’m secure enough in my love of myself to laugh at myself. Am I secure enough to admit my mistakes and graciously accept a compliment? Am I secure enough in my love for others to smile and say hello to a perfect stranger?
Years ago, in seminary, our class was taught, “I have to live with myself so I want to be fit for myself. To know I want to go out with my head erect. I want to demand all men’s respect. I can never hide myself from me. I see what others might never see. I can never fool myself so whatever happens, I want to be self-respecting and conscious free.”
The sixth and most essential key to self esteem is the love of God.
Mosiah reminds us how Noah the man, the master, whom he has not served.
In Paul’s epistle to Titus, he reminds us, “There are many who profess they know God, but in works they deny him.”
The Apostle John gives us a valuable key, “And hereby, we know, that he abideth in us, by the Spirit, which he has given us.” Then John makes an important point about obedience when he states, “And hereby, we do know, that we know him if we keep his commandments. He hath said I know him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.”
There are many whose self-esteem has been so devastated by the loss of loved ones, divorce, or other personal misfortunes. Some carry an extra burden of guilt from grievous sins. Transgression is so devastating to self-esteem. So often, after transgression, comes rationalization and even lying. This is what makes justice so violent to the offender. Fortunately, we have a great principle of repentance, whereby sins that are as scarlet can become white as snow.
I am grateful for this principle and pray that none will hesitate to find peace that comes from repentance. It is important to remember and never forget, that all of us, male and female, were created in the image of God and created by God.
Mankind is the noblest of all creations. “What is man”, asks a Psalmist, “that thou are mindful of him and that the Son of man that thou visiteth him. For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels and has crowned him with glory that thou hast made him have dominion over the works of the hands. That thou hast put all things under his feet.”
Frequently, in my ministry, as I set apart a Stake President, or a Mission President, the distinct impression has come to me that the person I have laid my hands was foreordained to that calling. The Prophet Jeremiah had this assurance come to him from the Lord, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee. Before thou camest forth from the womb, I sanctified thee. I ordained thee a Prophet unto the Nations.”
All of us are not called to leadership in the kingdom. Yet is there greater work than that of a teacher, father, mother? So, nobody is nobody. The seeds of divinity are in us all. The day will come when we have to account to God for what we have done with that portion of divinity which is within us.
Now, it is a lovely evening and it would be very nice for you young people to have time to spend with each other, and so I’m going to conclude.
Then I want to teach you something else that I taught to General Authorities in Conference, “Meetings don’t have to be endless to be eternal.”
Now I testify that God loves each of us, warts and all. I testify that He knows each of our names and I testify that each of us has a potential in this life and beyond the grave that exceeds our fondest dreams. I testify through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we are engaged in his holy work. I invoke and apostolic blessing upon each of us all, that we may come to know who we truly are, the sons and daughters of God and I should like to invoke a blessing upon you. It is the blessing that the Lord gave to Nephi but I’m going to substitute each of your names; “Bill, and Henry, and Katherine, and Helen, all of you, each one of you.
Blessed art thou, Bill, and Henry, and all of you, for those things which though hast done. For I have beheld how though hast with such un-weariness declared the word which I have given unto thee, unto this people, and thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but have sought to keep my will and commandments.” Now here comes the blessing, “And because thou hast done this with such un-weariness, behold, I will bless thee forever and I will make thee mighty in word, in deed, in faith, and in works.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, delivered this devotional.