I was asked to give a sacrament meeting talk on the message from one of our great Church Hymns, “Do what is right; let the consequence follow.” The line comes from Hymn 237, Do What Is Right, and the chorus goes like this:
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!
The phrase “Do what is right; let the consequence follow” is actually one of my favorite lines from our hymn book. I love the message it conveys that by trusting in God and having faith to follow His commandments, wherever it leads you, will be a blessing and protection. The message is simple, just do what is right, but while simple, it’s often not easy. But I believe as we practice this rule to do what is right let the consequences follow, that God will strengthen us, support us, and bless us.
When asked to speak on this topic, I began immediately to try to think of examples of people choosing the right no matter the consequence. One of the first people to come to my mind was Huckleberry Finn. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain that is widely regarded as of one of the United States’ greatest literary masterpieces. It was written about 20 years after the U.S. Civil War in the late 1800s, but the story takes place many years earlier in the Southern U.S. where slavery was alive and well. It is the story of a young man, Huck Finn, who about 13 or 14 years old and lives with an alcoholic and abusive father. Huck runs away from home and soon meets up with a man from his town, named Jim, who is a runaway slave.
Huckleberry Finn and Jim become fast friends and they share many great adventures together traveling down the Mississippi River. They go hunting and fishing together, get pulled in a scheme by con men, and they help restore the money the con men stole. Huck comes to a point in his adventure where he has to decide if he is going to do what he knows is right or do what others are telling him to do, even though he knows it is wrong. You see, throughout the book, Huck is conflicted about his friend Jim because he had been taught his whole life that helping a runaway slave was wrong.
Huckleberry Finn grew up in a time in the South when slavery was accepted in the predominant culture. The southern culture in which he was raised said that Jim was the property of Miss Watson, the slave owner, and that Huck had a duty to turn in a runaway slave to the authorities. Everyone in the society around him says that the morally right thing to do is return Jim to the slave owner.
But after getting to know Jim, Huck realizes that the two of them are not very different and that Jim is actually a better man, in terms of faith, and friendship, and loyalty to his family, than most of the people he knows. Huck grapples with these two opposing forces, his friendship with Jim on the one hand, and the societal pressure on the other hand, even a reward money, if he would turn on Jim.
Eventually, Huck comes to a profound moral conclusion when he decides to do whatever he can to save his friend Jim regardless of the consequences to himself. Huck decides that even though the society in which he lives says that he will go to jail for helping a slave escape, and the religion he was taught says he will go to hell for doing it, Huck has the moral maturity to help Jim anyway. This is what Huckleberry Finn says in this moment:
“I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper (offering a reward for Jim’s capture/return). It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’—and tore it up” (Chapter 31).
Huckleberry Finn had the moral maturity to do what is right, let the consequence follow.
As I continued my train of thought, looking for examples of people who chose the right no matter the consequences, my thoughts next turned to the Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi. Abinadi was sent by God to preach repentance unto the people of Nephi. He prophesied that God would afflict and punish the people unless they repented and he even prophesied the destruction of their king, the wicked King Noah Well, King Noah, didn’t take kindly to Abinadi’s prophecy and soon captured and imprisoned him. While in prison, Abinadi is brought before King Noah and he uses the opportunity to teach him and his wicked priests a great sermon about the commandments of God, the love Our Lord has for us, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, and the reality of the resurrection.
Noah and his wicked priests decide that Abinadi should be put to death unless he takes back his words, but Abinadi stands by his words, regardless of the consequences. This is what is says in Mosiah 17:
“7) And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death. 8) For thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men; and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people. 9) Now Abinadi said unto him: I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true; and that ye may know of their surety I have suffered myself that I have fallen into your hands. 10) Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you.”
The prophet Abinadi was willing to suffer even death to do what is right let the consequence follow.
The Book of Mormon Prophet Nephi’s determination to do what is right let the consequence follow is epic, as my son would say. After traveling many days into the wilderness, he obediently and voluntarily went back to Jerusalem, under vary trying conditions, to fulfill the commandments of God which he received through his father, the prophet Lehi. Nephi’s response is one we should all be familiar with. In 1st Nephi 3, he said:
“7) And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
Many other tests of Nephi’s faith and commitment to do what is right are told throughout the Book of Mormon, but another instance in his life stands out to me and that was when he built a ship and set out on the open sea. Nephi didn’t know how to build a boat, but he trusted in God and moved forward as best he could. Nephi’s older brothers mocked him and refused to help. Nephi’s response showed that he would do what is right and move forward in faith, even if he didn’t know the outcome, but trusting in God. This is what Nephi said in 1st Nephi 17:
“50) And I said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. 51) And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?”
With the help of the Lord, Nephi was able to fulfill the commandment he had received to build the ship. With faith in God that He would lead them to a promised land, Nephi and his family entered the boat, and after a harrowing journey across the sea, they made it to the land of promise. While this story really happened to Nephi, it is a reminder of the archetypal journey we all have to make to get to the promised land. We must be willing, like Nephi, to follow God commandments, do what is right, let the consequence follow, and trust that God will guide us safely to a better land, even the Celestial Kingdom of God.
Thomas S. Monson
Thomas S. Monson, a beloved previous president of the Church, taught:
“May I provide a simple formula by which you can measure the choices which confront you. It’s easy to remember, sometimes difficult to apply: You can’t be right by doing wrong; you can’t be wrong by doing right.” https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/thomas-s-monson/decisions-determine-destiny/
By reassuring us that we can’t go wrong in doing what is right, Pres. Monson is encouraging us to do what is right, let the consequence follow.
Joseph B. Wirthlin
Another phrase that came to mind is something Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin often said, “Come what may, and love it.” Elder Wirthlin said when he was a young man, if he was feeling down, emotionally or literally, his mom would encourage him.
“When we fell down, she expected us to pick ourselves up and get going again. So the advice my mother gave to me then wasn’t altogether unexpected. It has stayed with me all my life. “Joseph,” she said, “come what may, and love it.” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2008/10/come-what-may-and-love-it?lang=eng
By choosing to have a good attitude in spite of trials, Elder Wirthlin was reinforcing the principle to do what is right, let the consequence follow.
One of my favorite podcasters and social commentators is a man named Jordan Peterson. He once made a statement that basically echoed the sentiment that we should do what is right let the consequence follow. He said:
“If the world is properly constituted through truth. …You say what you believe to be the truth and then you have the faith that no matter what happens. If you’ve said what you believe to be truth, whatever happens is the best thing that could have happened.” https://johnanderson.net.au/conversations-featuring-jordan-peterson-and-dave-rubin/
Continuing, he said, “Try to articulate what you believe to be true as carefully as possible. Then, accept the outcome. Assume that … truth, as lived and spoken, will produce the best possible outcome.” https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/books/authentic-speech/
While not a member of our faith, he came to the same conclusion as us that it is always the best option to do what is right, let the consequence follow.
Personal Life Examples
In my personal life, I have been richly blessed time and time again as I have followed the counsel to do what is right, let the consequence follow.
- Mission: When I was 19 years old, I embarked in a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a scary step to take, but I knew it was the right thing to do. For two years I would leave behind my family and friends, school and professional opportunities, and the flexibility and conveniences of life, in order to preach the gospel to people halfway around the world, in a country that was foreign, and in a language I didn’t know. My mission turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life, and a constant source of inspiration and blessing to me. It was the right thing to do, and the consequence was hard work, but many blessings this life and throughout eternity.
- Having a Large Family: Another example of doing what is right, let the consequence follow was when Heather and I decided to have a large family. Having six kids has not been easy, but we felt it was the right thing to do. Early in our marriage, we weren’t sure if a big family would be possible. Our first child, Hannah was born via a last-minute cesarean section and there were other health complications along the way. But as we prayed to God and sought the direction of the Lord in our life, we felt strongly impressed to have a large family. Over more than 20 years of marriage, we have seen the hand of the Lord bless us and our family. As Heather and I have had the determination to do what is right, let the consequence follow, we have been blessed with a family that is the source of greatest joy, satisfaction, and meaning that we have in life.
Jesus Christ’s Example
Of course, the greatest example of doing what is right, let the consequence follow comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The gospel of Luke tells us that a few days before his crucifixion, where Jesus knew he would suffer and die for the sins of the world, Jesus went to a favored spot on the mount of Olives, to a garden called Gethsemane, to pray. Luke chapter 22 tells us what transpired:
“41) And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42) Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. 43) And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44) And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Jesus asked Our Father in Heaven if there was any way to fulfill his mission without having to go through this suffering. But we the family of God, needed a Savior and we needed his great atoning sacrifice, and thankfully Jesus was willing to do what is right let the consequence follow.
Testimony and Conclusion
But Jesus’ death was not the end. I testify that He rose again on the third day and the resurrected Christ lives today. Jesus Christ was willing to descend below all things in obedience to His father and in doing what is right. As a consequence of His great atoning sacrifice, he paid the price for our sins, overcame all things, and has the power to raise us up again to live with our Heavenly Father in celestial glory.
Jesus lives. He loves each of us. He guides this Church and He guides us in our lives. As we move forward with faith and do what is right, regardless of the consequence, I know that we will be blessed beyond measure. He will bless us with peace and eternal joy. I pray that you will always do what is right let the consequence follow and receive those blessings.