…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

The Platitude Attitude

Vaunted Strength

By Rex Goode


platitudeThey’re all over the internet, especially FaceBook—little sayings that have the masses nodding their heads in agreement and sharing them with others. They come in all flavors, but one kind that asserts itself a lot is the sentiment summed up in Frank Sinatra’s famous rendition of “My Way.”

The idea has its roots in secularism and bias against religion, asserting the supremacy of individuals over all external forces, even God. The problem with most platitudes is that they have a ring of truth to them and may even seem profoundly religious.

They seem to be consistent with scripture and religious doctrine, but the main flaw is that they leave out of morality anything that God has revealed. I remember one Sunday when I was a youth. I had come across and memorized the poem, “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley. I was supposed to give a talk on “free agency” as understood by Latter-day Saints.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It seemed to me, at the time, to be the perfect illustration of taken responsibility for our actions and moving proactively forward, against all adversity, to doing our utmost to achieve the celestial kingdom.

So, I quoted it as part of my talk. To my surprise and delight, my bishop, who also spoke on the same topic, said that he had planned to use the very same poem in his talk. It just confirmed for me how applicable the poem was.

That’s the problem with these platitude-laden verses. They just sound so true, so inspiring, and yet, they leave out God. In fact, upon close examination, it dismisses God and declares him to be irrelevant, useless, and inferior to the individual.

Take a look at the popular, secular sayings that people flaunt and throw around every day. Do these declare the greatness of God or the greatness of the individual? Wrap them up in a pretty digital image and people are sold on them.

If we are great at all, it is because we are the offspring of the eternal God. No seemingly noble cliché talks about the redemptive power of God. We make mistakes every day that are uncorrectable using our own powers. We are unable to undo most of the damage we do in our weakness.

I like the rebuttal poem that LDS Apostle, Orson F. Whitney, wrote.

The Soul’s Captain

Art thou in truth?
Then what of Him who bought thee with His blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood,
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but Him could bear-
That God who died that man might live
And endless glory share.

Of what avail thy vaunted strength
Apart from His vast might?
Pray that His light may pierce the gloom
That thou mayest see aright.

Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree,
Thou, captain of thy soul! Forsooth,
Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine-free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto Him
To whom all souls belong.

Bend to the dust that ‘head unbowed, ‘
Small part of life’s great whole,
And see in Him and Him alone,
The captain of thy soul.

When I first read this, I really re-evaluated my beliefs and attitudes. I began to understand my complete reliance on the atonement. Whatever moral strength I have is not of my own making. Of myself, I am weaker than I dare to face. While believing in my own “vaunted strength”, I can do nothing.

As much as I love Elder Whitney’s poem, I have written my own rebuttal to “Invictus”.


Out of the grace that covers me,
Bright as the light from day by day,
I thank the God who ransomed me,
For lightening my way.

In the ravages of adversity,
I’ve cried and sued for deliverance.
Under the judgment for iniquity,
Received mercy and magnificence.

Beyond this veil of pain and tears,
Is joy, faith, and serenity.
Reward for sorrows, toils, and fears,
Shall find me in eternity.

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