“Et si omnes ego non”
I watch quite a bit of BYU TV early in the morning with my caregivers as they work on me. Though not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints they seem to enjoy the programming on BYU TV. One caregiver I had for eight years loved to hear President Gordon B Hinckley speak and told me he was his favorite speaker on BYU TV, a sentiment I shared with him. As we watched President Hinckley's funeral service together I saw him wipe away a tear or two.
Several months ago I heard a re-broadcast on BYU TV of a talk Sharon G. Samuelson, the wife of BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson, gave on September 12, 2006 at a student devotional. Her talk seemed so important and relevant, not only to college students in today's society, but to the very young, middle-aged, and old alike.
She told of going with her husband to some friend's home for dinner and inscribed on an archway they had placed some printed words – “Et si omnes ego non.” She was curious about what the Latin words meant and why they had them in such a prominent place in their home.
She was told that their translation was, roughly: “Even if all, not I.” In other words, “Even if everybody does it, I will not.” She was also told the saying was the motto of the Barons von Boeselager, an old German noble family. Two descendants in the family, Philipp and Georg von Boeselager, were members of the resistance group that had planned the failed assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler on July 20, 1944. Their involvement in the operation went undetected, and they were not executed along with the majority of the other conspirators. The saying is carved in a timber beam on the outside of Philipp’s family home in Germany.
She went on to say that her friends explained that they used this quote as a motto for their family and that it was a reminder to them that they are members of a chosen generation and must be different in the world of today. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they should make choices consistent with the teachings of the gospel and shun the negative, misleading, and evil messages of the world that surround them. [BYU Devotional September 12, 2006]
I was very fortunate as a young boy, about age 14, to have the great truth and principle of life, "Even If all, Not I," indelibly burned into my heart and spirit.
The year was 1952, and I was a freshman at White Pine County high school in Ely, Nevada. I had three friends that were excellent trumpet players and they had learned a number entitled "Buglers Holiday." I played the piano accompaniment for them at the annual Christmas high school band concert. The county was so lacking in, and starved for entertainment, that we were asked to perform for the Lion's Club, the Rotary Club, and for the Elks Club. Prior to our performance at the Elks Club, a custodian opened up the hall for us so we could practice for the evening performance. When we finished our rehearsal the custodian was nowhere in sight, and one of the trumpet players reached over the bar, snatched up a fifth of whiskey and hid it under his leather jacket. We all hurried out to the car, piled in, and headed up into the mountains surrounding Ely on an old dirt road. We finally pulled off the road behind some cedar trees and I knew what was coming next.
The driver is the one that had taken the bottle of whiskey and he opened it up and took a big drink and handed it to the kid next to him. I was strategically placed behind the driver and so I knew I would be the last one to be offered a drink of whiskey. I began to sweat bullets! The last thing I wanted to do was to drink the whiskey but at the same time, I didn't want to appear to be a goody two shoes to my friends. What was I to say or to do? I guess I could say, "I don't like whiskey." Or maybe, "My mother would be upset if I were to drink this." Or maybe I would take the bottle and throw it out the window and call my friends to repentance for their wickedness. Quite frankly, I just simply did not know what to say or what I would do when that bottle would inevitably come into my hands.
My good friend sitting next to me was handed the bottle from the boy in the front seat next to the driver. He took a big drink and then turned to hand it to me. I don't know what he saw on my face but he said, "I'm not going to waste this whiskey on Rushton, I know he is a Mormon and doesn't drink." With that he passed the bottle up to the driver. Nothing more was said and no pressure exerted on me to do what in my heart I did not want to do. I felt like I had been pardoned by the governor just before being executed. I gained a reputation that afternoon, for which I take no credit that would follow me all through high school and I was never asked to take a drink by any of my friends who did not share my standards or beliefs. I have often wondered what direction my life might have taken had I taken that drink as a 14-year-old. I vowed that I would never find myself in that kind of a situation again, not knowing what to say or do. Of course, as a 14-year-old I hadn't heard the principle, "Even If All, Not I," but that was in reality how I knew I wanted to live my life.
As a 73-year-old, as I look back on my life, I am so grateful for that experience I had as a 14-year-old. Over the years, like so many of you, I have encountered many situations where I have had to take a stand on certain issues and implement the principle, "Even If All, Not I!"
When we find ourselves outnumbered on issues of morality that obviously are in violation of Article of Faith 13 – "…We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things," hopefully, we will take a stand and be true to our God and to ourselves.
Perhaps, if we are fortunate, there will come into our minds when being tempted to cave-in and give up defending unpopular truths, both by word and by deed, the words of Joseph. As a young 14-year-old boy being persecuted and ridiculed for what he said had occurred in his life, said he felt much like Paul, whose testimony of having seen Christ in vision was rejected and ridiculed as he was examined by King Agrippa.
" So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation." [Joseph Smith History, 25]
How blessed we would be if we were to truly internalize into our lives and into our hearts as individuals and as families, the motto –“Et si omnes ego non.”