My first experience with a compass was when I was in the 9 th grade. By some sheer
combination of dumb luck, limited entrants, and determination, I found myself representing my
junior high school in the Geography Olympiad. There were several categories that we had to
study to prepare; I was good with maps, countries and capitals, but the one that I struggled
with was Orienteering. Now, at the time, I assumed I was at a disadvantage because I was the
only girl on the team, so my dad and I headed to the local headquarters of the Boy Scouts of
America, bought the merit badge book, a compass and we went home to figure out how to use
the thing. I figured that I just had to have a rudimentary grasp on the basics, and that surely
the Eagle Scouts on the team could pull the weight of this part of the competition. Well, the
day finally arrived and we found ourselves dispersed on the campus at Utah State University,
with a compass and a list of coordinates. I waited for one of the boys to take charge and start
leading us through the paces (as this was timed) but not one of them stepped forward. It
would seem, and I would later learn, that some of their Scout Leaders had not been as
fastidious as my dad had been in their instruction. There have been many times in my life when
I knew asking my parents for help was going to require more than just a couple of quick
minutes; but as I have grown and had my own family, I am so grateful for parents who took the
time to explain the why and the how. Just to finish off the story, I grabbed the compass and we
completed the challenge; we weren’t the first by any means, but we weren’t the last either. It
was my Annie Oakley moment where I felt like bursting into song “Anything you can do, I can
do better.…” Because of this you need to know that every group of young women that I have
ever taken into the mountains has learned how to read and use a compass – oh, and tie knots –
because those are skills that you can really use in life.
So, what does this experience have to do with recognizing and following my internal compass?
This was a very applicable, real life demonstration of something that I needed to use to point
me in the direction that I should go. In real life, our intended direction, or true north, is not
always magnetically defined as it is on a real compass. And yet the more we use it, the more
we listen to what it tells us, the greater in tune we become with the messages it has to give us
and we are able to take those clues, those coordinates, to guide ourselves along our life’s path.
Some of these experiences are easy to recognize from a mile away; we look at them, we see
how they affect others and we say “we will not be going that way.” Others, however, are more
nuanced and may require us to make further investigation before we decide on a course of
Learning to follow and recognize your intuitive internal compass and speaking and acting with
integrity can be hard. Sometimes in our societies, we are surrounded by a lot of people who
think alike and it feels like it may be easier to join with that group. However, your internal
compass may be telling you something different. I believe that God has given each and every
one of us talents and abilities to teach, to lift, and to help ourselves and others grow. If we
spend our lives trying to be like those around us, the diversity of love and knowledge is lost, or
at the very least, minimized.
It’s hard to follow your compass when it’s different than that of someone you love and care for.
In the United States this year, we see divisions emerge in families, in work environments,
between groups of friends, and even some moments of internal conflict. As I was talking to my
good friend Norma the other night about politics, a couple of thoughts came to mind that I
would like to share with you on Integrity. These are taken from publications of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when I was a teenager, but are still some of the strongest
ideals that I measure my actions against today.
“I will have the moral courage to make my actions consistent with my knowledge of right or
Put another way, Gordon B. Hinckley said, “There is no substitute for personal integrity. It
includes honor, performance, keeping one’s word, doing what is right regardless of the
Developing personal integrity is not just something that happens overnight. It takes study and
practice and yes, sometimes abysmal failure. But at the end of the day, I should be able to
make an honest accounting to myself and to my God that I did my best to keep my words and
actions consistent with my beliefs. There have been times that I have had to go back and
reevaluate what I believe based on new information that I have learned; but ultimately, I
choose which direction I let my compass take me. Does it draw me closer to the divine person
that I attain to be, or will it be a stumbling block in my path?
The other thing to remember is that my path is not your path. We can encourage and support
each other along the way, but that does not mean that we need to be in lock step as we go
through life. Our unique talents and individual choices help to make the world a better place,
and oftentimes, it is through the actions of others that we are given the chance to share our
One final story that keeps popping into my mind is found in Proverbs 31:10-31. The Lord
describes a virtuous woman.
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion
to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
This is the type of woman that I want to be. This woman has worked hard to recognize her
inner compass and lets it drive her life. She has the courage to live her life so that her moral
courage makes her actions consistent with her knowledge of right or wrong. As I seek to follow
my intuitive moral compass, I hold it up high so that it is not distracted by the things of the
world, so that I may find my true north and reach my ultimate destination in peace and love.