More than 100 Latter-day Saints involved in running city governments across the United States were told by Elder Neal A. Maxwell recently that "for many reasons, public servants need an immense integrity."
Elder Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve said, "Some things must be said and done by professional public servants which may not be pleasing to those who supervise them."Professional public servants should be as candid and competent and constant as they are self-effacing and responsive to policy makers."
Elder Maxwell spoke at a dinner meeting of the BYU Alumni and Friends in Urban Management Sept. 8. The group held special meetings in connection with the International City Management Association Conference, which drew nearly 3,300 city managers and administrators.
"The proper professional public servant helps to define the issues and provides truths about various tradeoffs but he or she should be appropriately respectful of constitutional authorities and their prerogatives," said Elder Maxwell, a former university executive vice president and legislative assistant to a U.S. senator.
"True professionals will not `cook' the data or slant the reports," he added. They also know when to speak and when to be silent. As you know, it is at times like walking a razor's edge, but able, professional, public servants are crucial to our nation!"
While tasks of government administrators are important, they do not necessarily involve eternal benefits, Elder Maxwell noted.
"Therefore, an interesting question to ask oneself is: `What additional services am I rendering to our family, friends, neighbors and others which can help to prepare them for the forever third estate [life after deathT while I am serving them here and now?'
"For instance, to develop in ourselves and to help to develop in others the eternal skills and qualities is a marvelous thing. These skills and qualities are portable skills which will be carried with us into the next world. These virtues will not only help us to serve more effectively here but will also rise with us in the resurrection - when not much else will."
Virtues public servants and all of us should develop to become more Christlike include being gentle, long-suffering, temperate and merciful, Elder Maxwell said.
"Learn to listen; don't be impatient. Be meek. Know how to delegate. If your style is machismo, it is not the style of Jesus Christ. Be humble, not proud or seeking ascendancy.
"Don't be intolerant of ineptness. Do we help people grow? We should be full of love, not demanding or condescending. Jesus Christ was never condescending. We should be easily entreated. Reject stereotyping. It deprives us of a chance to serve. The world doesn't celebrate the virtues we're talking about.
"Be long-suffering. A lot of people are waiting to be offended, and it doesn't take long. We can respond with long-suffering to those offended," he said.
"Be gracious, not tactless and grumpy and easily irritated. Never excuse yourself by saying, `That's my style.'
"The virtue I see least in public life is meekness. We are so intent on being one up that we put other people down. The capacity to bite the tongue is as important sometimes as the gift of tongues.
"We should be shining lights to the world, and those who shine in this world have no need of a spotlight."
The LDS group is composed primarily of full-time professional city and county executives who are BYU alumni or who consider themselves advocates and supporters of BYU's Master of Public Administration program.
It was formed in the mid-1960s and became more formalized in the mid-1970s. During the International City Management Association Conference in Fort Worth, the group was involved in several special meetings, including a testimony meeting, a BYU Management Society luncheon and the banquet with Elder Maxwell.
While in Fort Worth, Elder Maxwell and several LDS city managers met with Fort Worth Mayor Bob Bolen, who is the president of the National League of Cities. Bolen welcomed Elder Maxwell to Fort Worth and presented him with a special belt buckle.
During the Fort Worth meetings, David Harris of Dixon, Calif., was named president of the LDS group, with Tom Martin of Mount Pleasant, Mich., as vice president.
The goals of the group include providing wholesome opportunities for fellowship at the annual International City Management Association conference where members can help one another keep responsibilities and concerns in the proper eternal perspective. Goals also include serving as a source of voluntary aid for scholarships and stipends at BYU, providing a source of networking, promoting professional ethics, and serving as a referral group for internship opportunities for BYU graduate students.