"Enthusiasm is contagious try starting an epidemic."
Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave this counsel Friday to those attending a luncheon during Brigham Young University's school of management seminars, held as a part of homecoming activities."We always seem to be able to generate an excitement for a battle, an athletic contest or a political rally. I often wonder what would happen if that same spirit could be exercised as we approach the challenges of our daily routine activities at home, in the office or even in our church assignments," Elder Perry said.
Speaking on the seminar theme of "Mormon Business Ethics," Elder Perry used Joseph from the Old Testament of the Bible, who was given a coat of many colors and sold to Egypt by his jealous brothers, as an example of a person who exhibited integrity.
Joseph was purchased by Potiphar, a captain of the guards in the Egyptian army, and soon became the chief of all servants. Elder Perry said the job had its challenges because Potiphar's wife invited Joseph to her chambers. "But he was a man of integrity and refused," Elder Perry said.
"The first lesson from Joseph then is that he followed a standard of honesty that includes honor, integrity and truthfulness," Elder Perry said.
Elder Perry remembered the late President N. Eldon Tanner, a member of the First Presidency, who was responsible for the church's financial affairs.
"There were many times we were in meetings when propositions were brought forth that would be advantageous to the church if we would only compromise a little on principle. This was especially true where there were business dealings in countries who had weak value systems in honesty and integrity," Elder Perry said.
"President Tanner's voice would come up strong; and he would say that the church would never participate in anything that was not completely honest and upright. His legacy remains. We would not enter into any proposition in the church that was not doing business in a completely honest way," Elder Perry said.
Another seminar speaker was Stephen R. Covey, chairman of Stephen R. Covey and Associates, a management training firm specializing in leadership development. Covey said business ethics are a popular topic in these days of insider trading and investment scams, but too many companies and universities are only giving lip service to the topic.
Talking about ethics is fashionable, but talking is not enough if ethics are not central in the individual and the culture, Covey said.
"It's good but it is misplaced. It is too much a compartment and not central enough in the mission statement," he said. "We are what represents our heart, our deepest desire.
"It is incumbent on us to be a leavening influence for good," he said.
Business leaders who are serious about following strict ethics should develop a mission statement for their companies. It should clearly define the firm's core purpose and what its leaders value most. Those values should be used as criteria for making decisions, he said.
Every company should include four aspects in its mission statement, including economic considerations, social, psychological and spiritual. Executives fail when they think only of personal financial gain.