Music and the Spoken Word: A sense of obligation

An American flag is displayed at the Capitol grounds in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This is an encore performance of “Music and the Spoken Word” with a new “Spoken Word” selected and recorded while the choir is practicing social distancing. This will be given Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021.

When we meet someone who has lived a long, healthy life, it’s natural to wonder what he or she did to achieve such longevity. Even the best health practices, however, cannot guarantee the length of our life. And yet there are things we can do to ensure the quality of our life — measured not in terms of luxuries but of virtue, goodness and honor.

Wall Street Journal editor-at-large Gerard Baker recently wrote a tribute for the 100th birthday of his father, a man who achieved both — longevity and quality. What was his father’s secret?

“He is from an era,” Baker explained, “when life was defined primarily by duty, not by entitlement; by social responsibilities, not personal privileges. The primary animating principle throughout his century has been a sense of obligation — to family, God, country.” Baker went on to write of his pride and gratitude for his father, “who, without fuss or drama, without expectation of reward or even acknowledgment, has got on — for a century now — with the simple duties, obligations and, ultimately, joys of living a virtuous life” (see “A Man for All Seasons at 100,” by Gerard Baker, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 2020,; see also “Sustainable Societies,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Ensign or Liahona, November 2020, pp. 32–34).

That sense of duty to family, God, and country is what creates a virtuous life, just as certainly as nutritious food and exercise create a healthy life.

Honor must begin at home, the place where we are the truest version of ourselves. If we cannot live the principles of honesty and fidelity, charity and kindness with our family — with those who are closest to us — then how can we truly live honorably toward anyone else?

When we have a sense of obligation to God, so many virtues naturally follow. We strive to make good choices, even when we are alone, because we know that we are, in reality, never alone. We count our blessings because we know where those blessings come from. And we find ways to help others because we know that’s what God would want us to do.

Obligation to family and God provides a solid foundation for honoring our country. We cherish her virtues while seeking to improve her weaknesses. We stand up for what is true and just and treat our fellow citizens with respect, fairness and compassion.

Family. God. Country. Our obligation to these simple duties and joys will make for us, if not a long life, certainly a good and virtuous one.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, , BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the , and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at .

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