True Greatness “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great

True Greatness
“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have
greatness thrust upon ‘em.” Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
In the world, greatness is usually defined in terms of preeminence, achievement, fame, and
fortune. In contrast, the Lord defines greatness in terms of servanthood; for “[h]e that is greatest
among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). Service is less about a position or status and
more about possessing a willing “heart and … mind” (D&C 64:34).
But even great acts of service, if they remain alone, will not make a man (or woman) great.
Greatness can only be achieved to the extent one answers the Savior’s call to become like Him (3
Nephi 27:27). Thus, in order to move up in God’s eyes, we must first fall to our knees for
whosever “humble[s] himself as [a] little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven”
(Matthew 18:4).
Jockeying for position and seeking to “be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24), while
commonplace in the world, have no place in God’s kingdom. God calls upon the “weak and the
simple” (D&C 1:23) to do His work because they are humble and put their trust in Him. The
weak, thus strengthened by their God, are “made strong” (D&C 50:16) to “accomplish[] the
thing[s] which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Nephi 3:15).
Daily Commitment and Perseverance
It is but human nature to seek to do “some great thing” (2 Kings 5:13) at the expense of taking up
the “cross daily” (Luke 9: 23). Perhaps some of the foolish virgins were even out circulating and
signing petitions instead of “buying” oil for their lamps drop by drop (Matthew 25:9). Greatness
comes slowly precisely because it is found in the daily doing of “small and simple things”; for
“[o]ut of small things proceedeth that which is great” (Alma 37:6; D&C 64:33).
True greatness comes only by choosing good over evil in every situation, even when no one is
looking or people will never know. “True greatness is never a result of a chance occurrence or a
one-time effort or achievement. It requires the development of character. It requires a multitude
of correct decisions for the everyday choices between good and evil” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr.).
True greatness involves treating everyone with kindness, even when that kindness is not
reciprocated. “Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the
noblest men and women I have known. … Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is
how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at
work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes” (Joseph Wirthlin – 2005).
True greatness, like spirituality, comes slowly “in process of time” (Moses 7:21). “[T]here is no
such thing as instant greatness. … [T]he achievement of true greatness is a long-term process. It
may involve occasional setbacks. The end result may not always be clearly visible, but it seems
that it always requires regular, consistent, small, and sometimes ordinary and mundane steps
over a long period of time” (Howard W. Hunter – 1987).
Truth and Moral Courage
True greatness means that we do the right thing, even when it is hard. By doing right regardless
of the personal cost, we develop “moral discipline” which “is the consistent exercise of agency to
choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. It rejects the self-absorbed life in favor
of developing character worthy of respect and true greatness through Christlike service” (Elder
D. Todd Christofferson - 2009).
True greatness requires an unshakeable commitment to truth and morality. “There are those who
believe that a new modernity demands a new morality. What they fail to consider is the harsh
reality that there is no such thing as a new morality. There is only one morality. All else is
immorality. If we are to fulfill our great destiny as a people, then we must return to the old
morality, the sole morality” (Theodore Roosevelt).
Love, Sacrifice, and Service
Contrary to worldly wisdom, greatness is not found in doing the “greatest” things, but instead the
things that matter most. “After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the
common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful
mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman” (Joseph Fielding
Smith Jr. - 1905).
In the arithmetic of the gospel, greatness is not found in taking but in giving. Indeed, it is not the
size of the gift but the cost to the giver that really matters. Thus, the poor widow gave more than
they all, for she did “of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 8:44).
But none, however, gave more than Christ, who “hath descended below them all” (D&C 122:8)
that He might “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christ himself taught that the road
to “greatness” is to become a “minister” and “servant” (Matthew 20:26-27).
King Benjamin, the Book of Mormon’s great philosopher-king, exemplified the teaching that
“when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God”
(Mosiah 2:17). Having had served his people with all his “might, mind and strength” (Mosiah
2:11), including by teaching them the commandments of God (Mosiah 2:13-14), King Benjamin
ended his reign with “a clear conscience before God this day” (Mosiah 2:15).