First off, I would like to give thanks & credit to my husband Mike for his help on this talk. The last couple of weeks have really been bad for me in the pain department. I thank you so much for your help & Heavenly Father’s help. I was asked to speak today about honesty. At first I didn’t know where exactly to start. I first asked myself, what is honesty? In your generic dictionary, honesty is defined as uprightness, fairness, truthfulness, sincerity & freedom from deceit or fraud. It is hard to stay on the topic of honesty, because it is so closely linked to trust & integrity.
In a 2001 issue of the Friend, Pres. James E. Faust said “We all need to know what it means to be honest. Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving. John, a nine-year-old Swiss pioneer child who was in one of the handcart companies, is an example of honesty. His father put a chunk of buffalo meat in the handcart and said it was to be saved for Sunday dinner. John said, “I was so very hungry and the meat smelled so good to me while pushing at the handcart that I could not resist. I had a little pocket knife. … Although I expected a severe whipping when father found it out, I cut off little pieces each day. I would chew them so long that they got white and perfectly tasteless. When father came to get the meat he asked me if I had been cutting off some of it. I said ‘Yes. I was so hungry I could not let it alone.’ Instead of giving me a scolding or whipping, father turned away and wiped tears from his eyes.” …
To know what honesty is, you must also know what dishonesty is. In 2nd Nephi chapter 2 we learn that the only way to know good is to also know evil. Some people believe that the little dishonesties don’t matter. But is there really a difference between when a cashier accidentally gives you $20 in extra change or just 10 cents? Both are technically stealing from that company. Some of the more common forms of dishonesty are Stealing, cheating, Violations of Word of Wisdom standards, & violating traffic laws. It might be easy to reason your actions & justify mild dishonesty.
One example is, When you’re driving down the highway & you see that the speed limit is 70mph, do you move over to the right hand lane & do the speed limit or since everyone else is going 10-15 miles over the speed limit, it is no big deal if you do. I will admit that I do tend to speed on the highway. I used to go about 10 miles over, but since I married my husband, he has helped me get down to only 5 miles or less over. I know I am still breaking the law, but I am working on it.
Another example, You had a scout or young women activity that ran long & you went straight to bed so you could get up early for seminary in the morning. But when you get to your first class you realize that you forgot to study for a test in your next class. Do you just try your best & take whatever grade you earn or do you think to yourself…..oh it won’t hurt if I cheat just this once.
My last example, which has become much to common lately, You’re waiting with your friends for the bus to go home. They start bullying someone you vaguely know. Do you A. do nothing B. join in or C. stand up & try to get your friends to back off. I’m not going to go into this one further at this time, but we have been taught through the scriptures that C is the best option. I wish more people had chosen the third option when I was growing up. From personal experience, being bullied does have lasting effects.
In these last 3 examples doing them once might not hurt anything or anyone. Once is sometimes all it takes. Speeding can easily cause a car accident. If you get away with cheating once, you might think that it was easy so why not do it again. Staying quiet or joining in on bullying may be easy or make you feel like part of the group, but it can have lasting consequences. If we continue to do these little dishonest acts, they begin to add up & can allow Satan to have a tighter grasp, pulling us in the wrong direction.
President Howard W. Hunter told this story in a 1978 New Era “I recall a young man who was in our stake when I served as a stake president. He traveled around with a crowd that thought it was smart to do things that were not right. On a few occasions he was caught in some minor violations. One day I got a call from the police station and was told he was being held because of a traffic violation. He had been caught speeding, as he had on a few other occasions prior to this time. Knowing the things he was doing might prevent him from going on a mission, he straightened up, and when he was 19 years of age, he received his call.
I shall never forget the talk we had when he returned. He told me that while he was in the mission field he had often thought of the trouble he had caused by the mistaken belief that the violation of little things was not important. But a great change had come into his life. He had come to the realization that there is no happiness or pleasure in violation of the law, whether it be God’s law or the laws that society imposes upon us. He said to me, “When I drive a car now and the speed limit is 55 miles an hour, I feel it is morally wrong to drive a single mile faster.”
So, if you are not being honest with yourself & others, are you really happy?
Later in his talk, President Hunter says, “Think of what an act of dishonesty will do to you. It does not make any difference whether it is great or small. First, it may affect your whole life. You will have a hard time living it down. It will be difficult for you to forget about it because it will be engraved upon your conscience. Secondly, it will affect others in many ways. The injury is far-reaching. Its malignancy extends to your friends, your relatives, your loved ones, and persons you may never see. Thirdly, it affects your relationship to the Savior. It closes the channel of communication and shuts out light from your life.”
Have you ever told someone a little white lie, just to make them feel better about themselves? Pretty easy to do isn’t it? We tell ourselves its okay, because it is helping that other person. Once it becomes easier & easier to tell the white lies, it isn’t a big leap to begin telling bigger lies. Soon you are telling a lie to cover up a lie to cover up another lie. Eventually you will forget what your first lie was even about. You can then find yourself stressing out over trying to keep your stories straight. An old proverb says, “oh the tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
Pres. Hinckley in 1990 said ““Thou shalt not bear false witness.” At the core of this commandment is dishonesty again. Television carried the story of a woman imprisoned for twenty-seven years, she having been convicted on the testimony of witnesses who later came forth to confess that they had lied. I know that this is an extreme case, but are you not acquainted with instances of reputations damaged, of hearts broken, of careers destroyed by the lying tongues of those who have borne false witness?”
In 1984, Elder Marvin J. Ashton, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told this story in the Liahona.
“I once spoke in a sacrament meeting that I will long remember. The conducting officer, a member of the bishopric who introduced me as the speaker that evening, gave an unusual, rather lengthy introduction that went something like this:
“Brothers and sisters, Elder Ashton will undoubtedly be disappointed when he hears what I am going to say about him and about myself. I heard him say to a group of prisoners once, ‘When you fellows leave this prison and go back into a regular environment, don’t apologize or boast about being ex-convicts. Just go on from where you are.’ Well, many of you in the congregation don’t know it, but I am an ex-convict of the Utah State Prison. About six years ago, when I met Elder Ashton, he was in charge of the Church prison program under the Social Services Department. A few weeks later when I became better acquainted with him, I told him I was a long-distance runner. I asked him if there was any chance for me to run in the annual Salt Lake City 24th of July marathon race. Elder Ashton encouraged me and said he would talk to the prison warden about my getting out for the day to participate in the race. He told me later that the warden agreed if Elder Ashton would take the responsibility for me. Elder Ashton assumed that responsibility and later told me he trusted me and expected me to do well in the contest.
“I’ll never forget that marathon race in July 1971. It was hot, the course was challenging, and I wasn’t in the best physical condition. My only preparation had been running around the prison grounds when I had free time. Halfway through the race I felt completely exhausted; my legs were sore, and blisters covered the bottoms of both my feet. I wanted to quit. I felt I couldn’t continue. Just as I was about to drop out, the thought flashed through my mind, ‘You can’t let Elder Ashton down. He’s counting on you.’ I made it into the final section of the marathon route, and I had the urge to stop. Again the thought came to me: ‘You can’t quit. You want Elder Ashton to be proud of you, don’t you?’
“Well, I finished the race. Not among the first 25, but I finished. I went right back to the prison after the race, according to my agreement. Elder Ashton told me he was proud of me for finishing the race and proud to have me for his friend. I don’t mind telling you that I was a little pleased with myself for one of the first times in my whole life.
“It wasn’t too long after the marathon race that I was released from prison. About a year later I met a lovely young lady; we had a good courtship, and some months after that Elder Ashton accompanied us to the temple and performed our marriage and sealed us for time and all eternity. Tonight, six years later, I am proud to be serving in your bishopric.”
While I pray that none of us are ever so dishonest in our actions that we end up in prison, Elder Ashton’s story demonstrates that personal honesty and integrity, along with some guidance from your Bishop, can help guide you back to the iron rod and the path towards redemption.
When you meet with the bishop for your temple recommend interview one of the questions he asks involves being honest in your dealings with those around you. How you answer this question can impact your worthiness to commune with the Lord in the temple. If you lie, the Lord will still know the truth.
If you are feeling like dishonesty has loosened your grasp on the iron rod, we are encouraged to seek out our bishop & repent of our actions. The Savior gave his life so we can all have the opportunity to repent so we can be worthy to commune & be with him.
Where can we learn about honesty? The schools should not be relied on to teach our children morals. As members of the church it is our God given duty to be righteous examples to the youth around us. Just being an example can go a long way. At a couple of jobs I have had, my fellow coworkers liked to use certain choice words. After a short period of time they noticed I didn’t use that language, so they would try to watch what they were saying around me. Occasionally they would slip, but would then immediately apologize to me. When a new employee would come in my co-workers would always let them know not to swear around me. I don’t know that this impacted my co-workers lives in any permanent way, but it made easier to be at work.
You never know who may be watching you, but being an example of righteous living can go a long way. You may never know the full impact it could have.
You shouldn’t live an honest life just to be an example to those around you. You should do so for yourself for more than your own peace of mind. Do it for your own salvation.