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Music and the Spoken Word: The still, small voice of conscience

POSTED: October 23, 2017 9:03 a.m.
Deseret Connect/

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Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

About 45 years ago, the Watergate scandal led to the resignation of a United States president and shook the nation to its core. A young law clerk, fresh out of law school, saw the details of this tragedy unfold as he worked for the judge who presided over the Watergate trials. This law clerk, Elder D. Todd Christofferson now of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently shared his experience with the faculty and students at Oxford University.

“The life lesson I took away from this experience,” he said, “was that my hope for avoiding the possibility of a similar catastrophe in my own life lay in never making an exception — always and invariably submitting to the dictates of an ethical conscience. Putting one’s integrity on hold, even for seemingly small acts in seemingly small matters, places one in danger of losing the benefit and protection of conscience altogether" (see “At Oxford, Elder Christofferson Says His Watergate Experience Revealed the Importance of Conscience, Integrity,” by Tad Walch, Church News via lds.org, June 16, 2017).

Perhaps we think such a catastrophic failure of character would never happen to us. But so many catastrophes happen gradually. They can start with just a small compromise of integrity. And the path away from danger lies in small, daily decisions to do what we know is right.

And we do know what is right. Each of us has, deep in our soul, a moral compass — an innate attraction to purity, truth and goodness. Sometimes we call it a conscience, and it speaks to us, not surprisingly, in a “still small voice” (see 1 Kings 19:12). When we live true to that voice, that’s what we call integrity.

Integrity, however, does not mean a life of perfection or a life free of mistakes. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. It does mean, however, that we strive never to take even small steps down the road of dishonesty. It means we focus on doing good and blessing those in need — for, to use Elder Christofferson’s words at Oxford, “a life devoted to service to others allows conscience to flourish.”

If we listen, that still, small voice of our conscience can help us live a life of integrity, knowing and doing the right thing.
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