Girl In Lab

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Marvin J. Ashton

President David O. McKay frequently said: "It is better to be trusted than to be loved."  A good friend of mine learned the importance of this and the significance of being a person of integrity at a relatively young age in life.

In one of her high school classes, there was a requirement to attend a lab period before school officially began.  It was early in the morning, and in order to get credit for this lab, the students would sign their names in a roll book at the beginning of the class period.  This roll book was located on the teacher's desk at the front of the room. 

One morning, while standing in line waiting to sign the book, Roxanne, a very popular girl in school who was standing in the doorway, motioned my friend to come and talk. She did, and Roxanne asked her if she would sign her name for her so that she could get credit for attending the class even though she wouldn't actually be there. 

Roxanne was a student body officer and had to attend a special meeting for the student body officers. Without hesitating at all, my friend said, "Sure, I'll do that for you." She didn't really know this girl very well.  She was someone whom everyone liked and who was very popular in school, but she was only an acquaintance of hers.

Meanwhile, she went back to the desk and signed her name. Then, below her own signature she signed Roxanne's name in her handwriting. The teacher was obviously smarter than my friend and realized that there were twenty students attending class, and twenty-one students who had signed the roll. Because the handwriting was the same, she knew that my friend had signed Roxanne's name for her.

In the middle of the lab session the teacher announced that there was a discrepancy in the number of students who had signed the roll and the number who were there in class.  Then she called out my friend's name and asked that she go to the back of the room while the rest of the class continued their lab assignments.  This teacher then proceeded to impress upon her a most important lesson, one that she was never to forget. 

She can't remember most of what the teacher said to her, except that she was very embarrassed and shamed.  But the one thing she does remember was this question that the teacher asked: "Why were you willing to sacrifice your integrity for the sake of that girl?" You see, she was a very good student, a student who was trusted and respected in that high school, and she had let her teachers down. 

She was willing to sacrifice something that was most precious to her because of peer pressure, because of the fear that someone wouldn't like her if she didn't do a favor for her.  My friend learned in a very significant way that it is more important to be trusted than to be loved, that a person's integrity is of supreme importance.

Never in the history of mankind or the Church has there been a greater need for honesty in personal lives--honesty with neighbors and integrity in discussions and total commitment on the basis of full trust and respect from those who are about us. 

Certainly we have reason to be disappointed and concerned when we see too many business and professional associates not adopting honesty as the best policy, but instead asking, What can I get away with without being caught? Or what is expedient? What will be the most profitable? What will be the most rewarding for me without regard to permanence or other people?

Integrity must be the foundation of moral life. In school and in daily associations we must teach students and children, as well as adults, that honesty must be 100 percent and not treated as a convenience or escape in some situations.  We must fight corruption and graft and return people to the basics of integrity, honesty, and fair play.

Achievement and talent without character are hollow.

Dr. Madison Sarratt, who taught mathematics at Vanderbilt University for many years, before giving a test would admonish his class something like this:  "Today I am giving two examinations--one in trigonometry and the other in honesty.  I hope you will pass them both.

If you must fail one, fail trigonometry.  There are many people in the world who can't pass trig, but there is no one who can't pass the examination of honesty."

(Excerpt from March 5, 1989 BYU Dev. by Marvin J. Ashton, "He Loveth that which is Right")