by Anna Hawkes
As BYU President (1904–21), George H. Brimhall was famous for his soul-searing dissertations. Ezra Taft Benson said of them, “’No man has so inspired me with so few words as has President Brimhall in his famous four-minute assembly talks.’” Brimhall was so intense and dramatic in his performance that he could move the students to the most tender of feelings, or to the most horrific guilt. In one talk, Brimhall told of a stolen watch that made him so upset he delivered an especially scathing address. He said that if the thief had even the tiniest bit of a conscience, every tick of the clock would be a reminder of his deed: “’Thief, thief; thief, thief; thief, thief.’” He suggested that the thief may want to return the watch. According to J. Edward Johnson’s telling of the story, the next morning when he arrived at his office, he found not just one, but a number of watches on his desk.
One such “sermonette” carries the title, “Don’t Be a Quitter.” I have never read a more compact, intense, no-nonsense address. From this speech, I would like to focus on two points Brimhall makes. The first is his definition of a quitter. I always thought of a quitter as someone who simply stops doing something they had done before, but Brimhall asserts that a quitter is someone “who leaves a good thing (because it is hard) for a position in which he can get along with less effort and is content with less results.” Brimhall is saying that a quitter is someone who is lazy; who isn’t willing to put in effort for a good thing. I feel like this tendency is something that is in all of us. I have felt its pull over and over again. It can be discouraging and difficult to overcome—sometimes so much so that it seems impossible. I am grateful that Brimhall addresses this problem. To overcome the temptation to be a quitter, Brimhall says, one must acknowledge where he is lacking and then decide that “with the help of heaven, he will strengthen that part of his nature.” It is with God’s help that we can be fully successful sons and daughters. He has provided us with all the resources we need to overcome difficulties. Take the high road and stick with good, though hard, things. As Brimhall said, “Don’t be a quitter!”