Live Above the Law to be Free


October 1972

The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was called Israel, is a vivid representation of the great truth that “all things work together for good to [those] who” love God. (See Rom. 8:28.) Joseph always seemed to do the right thing; but still, more importantly, he did it for the right reason. And how very, very significant that is! Joseph was sold by his own brothers as a slave and was purchased by Potiphar, a captain of the guard of Pharaoh. But even as an indentured servant, Joseph turned every experience and all circumstances, no matter how trying, into something good.

This ability to turn everything into something good appears to be a godly characteristic. Our Heavenly Father always seems able to do this. Everything, no matter how dire, becomes a victory to the Lord. Joseph, although a slave and wholly undeserving of this fate, nevertheless remained faithful to the Lord and continued to live the commandments and made something very good of his degrading circumstances. People like this cannot be defeated, because they will not give up. They have the correct, positive attitude, and Dale Carnegie’s expression seems to apply: If you feel you have a lemon, you can either complain about how sour it is, or you can make a lemonade. It is all up to you.

“Failure ceases to exist in the face of persistence.” So, the Lord prospered Joseph, and his master saw that the Lord was with him and made Joseph overseer over all his house; and all that he had, he put in Joseph’s hands. So implicit was his trust in this remarkable young man that Potiphar did not bother to keep any accounting of his own possessions.

Naturally, such a remarkable person would be enticing to the opposite sex, and so it was with Joseph. Potiphar’s wife, who, to say the most for her, was of very doubtful character, attempted to seduce Joseph; but Joseph was untouchable because of his trust and reliance on the Lord. He tried to reason with her, saying:

“… my master … hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

“There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife …” (Gen. 39:8–9.)

Then, it would seem that he would have followed this declaration with a profession of loyalty to his master because of his appreciation of the trust that Potiphar had placed in him. But he did not; instead, his statement of why he could not submit to her demands revealed the real strength of this choice young man. He said: “… how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9.) With this statement Joseph showed that he was determined to do the right thing, but do it for the right reason. That reason: because he loved the Lord.

Oh, yes, it is good to be loyal to your employer, or your friends, or your family. Loyalty is akin to honesty; and if you are not honest, you are really not much good. You are no good to yourself because you lie to yourself. This is called rationalization, but it is really just lying. You are no good to your friends because they cannot trust you. You are no good to the Lord because he cannot use you—unless, of course, it would be as a bad example. If you make a mistake, all is not lost. You can always be used as a bad example.

Joseph vividly demonstrated why he was favored of the Lord, or, as the scriptures said, why “the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man. …” (Gen. 39:2.) His reliance was upon the Lord. His trust was in the Lord, and his allegiance ran to the Lord.

I believe this is the greatest lesson that can be learned by the youth of Zion—to do the right thing because you love the Lord. It is so vitally important that, I feel, if you do anything in righteousness for any other reason than you love the Lord, you are wrong—at least you are on very shaky ground. And, somewhere your reasons for acting in righteousness will not be strong enough to see you through. You will give way to expediency, or peer group pressure, or honor, or fame, or applause, or the thrill of the moment, or some other worldly reason. Unless your motives are built upon the firm foundation of love of the Lord, you will not be able to stand.

Read or view the remainder of Hartman Rector Jr.’s 1972 Sermon.

Source: Hartman Rector Jr. Excerpt from his October 1972 General Conference address “Live Above the Law to Be Free.” Hartman Rector Jr. served as a member of the First Quorum of Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. © 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Called Unto Liberty is researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional introductory notes and commentary) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor In Chief of Self-Educated American. Copyright © 2009-2014 Steve Farrell.