PROVO — In 1976, industrial tycoon Jon Huntsman Sr. pulled a young Ron Rasband out of college. He mentored the truck driver's son. He groomed him for leadership. In 1987, he made him president of Huntsman Chemical.
Then in 2003, their roles flipped. As an LDS Church general authority, Elder Ronald A. Rasband became president of the faith's Utah Salt Lake City Area. Among those he was to supervise was an Area Seventy named Elder Jon M. Huntsman Sr.
"When I became his area president," Elder Rasband said, "he came of his own accord to me and said, without any hesitation, 'Well, Ron, the roles are now reversed. Put me to work. What do you want me to do?' It was a wonderful experience."
Elder Rasband shared that story Tuesday after delivering a BYU devotional on integrity. He peppered the talk with illustrations from Huntsman's life. Huntsman died Feb. 2 at age 80.
"Some would say integrity is an old-fashioned virtue," Elder Rasband said.
He spoke during a news cycle dominated by ongoing revelations of sexual misconduct in the #metoo moment, a porn actress offering to return money from a nondisclosure agreement so she could speak freely about an alleged sexual encounter denied by President Donald Trump, and college basketball preparing for its one shining moment amid allegations of widespread cheating.
"Certainly, (integrity) stands in sharp contrast to luminaries whose lives make headlines, but whose characters are sullied by devious, selfish, greedy and lustful behavior," said Elder Rasband, now a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He told the Deseret News he was not referring to anyone specific, but to society and the world in general.
"Integrity cannot become a lost art form for those of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ," he added in an interview.
Elder Rasband paused and his eyes grew wet when he spoke of Huntsman at the Marriott Center before an audience of 4,398, according to the BYU Special Events office.
"Being that this devotional is this close to Jon Huntsman's passing," he told the Deseret News, " I thought I'd pick out a very applicable character trait that had a huge influence on me."
He said the talk was one he wished he'd heard as a student. He encouraged BYU students to choose now to live with integrity.
"The time to decide your epitaph is not at the end of your career but at the beginning," he said. "Right now. Will you be moral, ethical and honest?"
Elder Rasband also provided a list of questions to help students evaluate the shape of their integrity today. Emilie Gonzalez, 21, a sophomore in public relations from Pleasant Grove, Utah, said the list was useful.
"We're framing who we need to be and the habits we'll take into the work field," she said. "Having integrity is one of the most important."
Elder Rasband used a Huntsman deal as an object lesson. During a recession in the 1980s, Huntsman made a handshake deal to sell 40 percent of his company. The market rebounded before the paperwork was finalized, making that 40 percent worth five times the sale price. His lawyers told Huntsman the handshake wasn't binding.
Huntsman said his handshake was his bond. He honored the original terms at the cost of millions.
"If all the world would live by such standards, how different things would be," Elder Rasband said. "We would have fewer sensational news stories, more peace in homes, more respect in business transactions, less rancor in politics, more honor in our dealings with our associates, friends and neighbors, and more compassion for those in need."
Another time, a government official demanded an annual kickback of $250,000. Huntsman refused. He sold his plant in that Far Eastern country, again at a loss of millions. "Personal integrity is chiseled into place most often by adversity and challenges," Elder Rasband said.
Students said the stories resonated with them.
"His examples from someone he considered his hero were fantastic," said Ryan Arnesen, a 21-year-old sophomore in computer science from West Jordan, Utah. "Jon Huntsman's integrity clearly was worth more to him than any amount of money."
Elder Rasband said Huntsman's integrity extended to his marriage to Karen Haight Huntsman.
"She was his partner in every aspect of his life," Elder Rasband said, "and that example was not lost on me."
He said integrity in business, family and spiritual matters are drawn "from the same well of strength — our love for the Lord Jesus Christ."
"Integrity of purpose to the Lord’s work is to love as he loved, essentially to feed his sheep with kindness," he added. "I saw that in Jon Huntsman. He was as much a friend to a homeless man in a soup kitchen as to a dignitary at a state dinner."
He asked BYU students where they stood today.
"Can the Lord count on you and your integrity as a true member of his church? Is President (Russell M.) Nelson in your prayers and are his words guiding you? Do you believe in latter-day revelation? Remember the admonition of the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants, 'Whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants it is the same.'"
Katie Ellis, 19, a freshman in psychology, said growing up as a Mormon in West Friendship, Maryland, forced her to make decisions about whether she would live her faith with integrity or join friends in activities opposed to her standards.
"I think we have to be honest about not hiding our faith and living it openly," she said.
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