Integrity is realized by doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason — at any cost.
That was the message Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve shared with cadets and others gathered May 7 for the National Day of Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Church leader’s remarks on integrity were one of several value-themed messages delivered during the year by leaders of various religious faiths. Other addresses focused on loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor and personal courage.
Elder Holland’s participation in the morning program marked his first visit to the storied academy and the first time a Latter-day Saint had spoken in the prayer breakfast series. He noted West Point’s prominence in American history and his admiration for the academy cadets preparing to serve their country.
In his remarks, the Church leader focused on three aspects essential to integrity.
1. Adherence to a code
The U.S. Military Academy has a code that declares, ‘”A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.” It is an external code imposed by the institution, and those who violate it are subject to harsh discipline.
“But men and women of honor have an internalized code of conduct that informs their decisions which is far more demanding than anything this academy can impose,” said Elder Holland. “If that internal code is built on the right principles, a soldier will do the right thing in any given situation, even if doing it is at great personal cost.”
Adherence to such an internalized code makes a man or woman incorruptible. “And the world needs incorruptible men and women today as desperately as it ever has in its history. Thanks for believing that at the United States Military Academy.”
Joan of Arc, he added, believed some things are worse than dying, even worse than dying young. “One of those things worse than dying is to live without integrity to a cause you believe to be more sacred than life itself.”
2. An unimpaired condition
Elder Holland spoke of the structural integrity of a healthy heart. Impairments in the integrity of a human heart can result in failure and death. The human body is, by nature, flawed and subject to structural failure. In like manner, spiritual flaws result in a failure of the integrity of the soul.
“Internal conflicts created by the dissonance between what we believe to be right, and what we actually do, can be even more debilitating than failures of physical health,” he said.
Elder Holland challenged the cadets to deeply reflect on what they value most. Once identified, build a life around that value and, if necessary, be prepared to die for it. Seek counsel from those who have gone down the path before — trustworthy friends, respected leaders, the writers of great books and the holy scriptures. “I commend to you quiet prayer, worship and reflection, where the whisperings of God’s voice will not be drowned out by the cacophony of our culture. Avail yourself of your chapel or the woods nearby or any place where you can slow down the frenetic pace of your life. And feel the spirit of heaven’s love for you.”
Prayer to God, he added, can be part of the formation of one’s character.
“A man or a woman never stands taller than when kneeling in humble, urgent prayer.”
3. Being complete
Elder Holland spoke of President Abraham Lincoln’s commitment to preserving the territorial integrity of the United States and keeping the nation complete at a time of civil war. Lincoln’s efforts exacted great personal cost — but were key to saving the country.
“Fundamental to your efforts as cadets and future officers of the Army of the United States is this very same effort to preserve the territorial integrity of our country,” he said. “You will succeed largely on the strength of your own personal integrity.”
He concluded by testifying of the divine. “In life or in death, I declare as an expression of my integrity, that God lives and loves us, that He will always be with us, and will, if we but trust in Him, direct our personal paths.”