We must recognize that excellence and quality are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and about life and about God. If we don’t care much about these basic things, then such not caring carries over into the work we do, and our work becomes shabby and shoddy.
Real craftsmanship, regardless of the skill involved, reflects real caring, and real caring reflects our attitude about ourselves, about our fellowmen, and about life.
Spencer W. Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball, “The Gospel Vision of the Arts,” Ensign, July 1977, 3
Some suppose that our high standards will repel [the] growth [of the Church]. It is just the opposite. High standards are a magnet. We are all children of God, drawn to the truth and to good.
Boyd K. Packer, “A Defense and a Refuge,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 85–88; emphasis added.
“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”
“Most leaders spend time trying to get others to think highly of them, when instead they should try to get their people to think more highly of themselves. It’s wonderful when the people believe in their leader. It’s more wonderful when the leader believes in their people! You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life… as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”
Booker T. Washington (American educator and reformer, first developer of Tuskegee Normal, 1856-1915)
In an address to BYU students in November 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley told students to rise to the high ground of excellence, and said, “Don’t muff the ball. Be excellent.” This week, I saw a connection to that idea as I was listening to his 2004 address to the young women of the Church, in which he also talks about not dropping the ball and invites them to walk the high, if sometimes lonely, road. Given his recent death, I find his comments urging them forward, knowing that many will depend upon them, particularly poignant.
Many years ago I told a story in conference that I think I will repeat. It is a story about a baseball player. I realize that some of you in various parts of the world do not know much about baseball. You do not even care about it. But this story brings with it a tremendous lesson.
The event occurred in 1912. The World Series was being played, and this was the final game to determine the winner of the series. The score was 2-1 in favor of the New York Giants, who were in the field. The Boston Red Sox were at bat. The man at bat knocked a high, arching fly. Two New York players ran for it. Fred Snodgrass in center field signaled to his associate that he would take it. He came squarely under the ball, which fell into his glove. But he did not hold it there. The ball went right through his grasp and fell to the ground. A howl went up in the stands. The fans could not believe that Snodgrass had dropped the ball. He had caught hundreds of fly balls before. But now, at this most crucial moment, he had failed to hold the ball, and the Red Sox went on to win the world championship.
In October, 2007, Elder L. Tom Perry gave a wonderful devotional at BYU. Here are a couple of quotes from his talk:
If you want the extreme example of planning, you must turn to the scriptures. See how carefully the Lord has laid out His plan to guide His children to their eternal destiny. Perhaps the example of His careful planning would motivate us to give more energy to spending sufficient time to plan what we want to accomplish in our lives.
His comment made me want to do just as he asked: plan more regarding those things I should accomplish.
Here is another quote that fits nicely with the other quotes at this site encouraging us to avoid mediocrity and strive for perfection:
We are living in the remarkable age of the dispensation of the fulness of times when the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in its fulness.
You are children of promise. I hope that you do not plan to be just common but plan to excel. There is no place in this world for mediocrity; we need to strive for perfection. You can obtain perfection in so many areas as you seek and work toward the goals you have established. You have a rich heritage; do not be afraid to think and act according to gospel principles and enjoy its blessings as you fulfill on earth the full measure of your creation as a child of God.
I hope today as you leave this devotional assembly that you will spend more time looking at yourself. God bless you that you may have the desire to go forward and seek your own salvation under this great plan the Lord has given to us.
Elder L. Tom Perry, “The Great Plan of Our God,” BYU Devotional, 30 October 2007
Our prophets and leaders have continually encouraged us to be our best. Here’s another quote on this subject:
“Find a purpose in life so big it will challenge every capacity to be at your best.”
David O. Mckay
This reminds me of President Monson’s encouragement: “I plead with you to tax your talent…”, as well as other quotes in the category “Excellence.”
Here are three quotes about giving ourselves to God, and receiving in return His blessings.
“If you give anything for the building up of the Kingdom of God, give the best you have. What is the best thing you have to devote to the Kingdom of God? It is the talents God has given you. … Let us devote every qualification we are in possession of to the building up of God’s kingdom, and you will accomplish the whole of it.”
Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 445.
“Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life….
“Give God your best, and his best will come back to you.”
Ezra Taft Benson, “Jesus Christ–Gifts and Expectations,” BYU Devotional, 10 December 1974
“Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop I, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 167.