Once again, tremendous resources for this lesson are found in the reliable Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). Especially helpful will be the manuals for Brigham Young, chapter 25, Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 47, John Taylor, Chapter 7, and Spencer W. Kimball, Chapter 12. These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are found at the bottom of this page.
The new website for the Church “lds.org” is wonderful. On the first page, there is a link in the upper right-hand corner ”Search all LDS.org” which, if you type in “honesty” has terrific results. The fourth one is “Quotes: Honesty.” These quotes also lead to some truly outstanding talks on the subject.
Honesty Is a Principle of Salvation
Concerning the title of this section, according to Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith stated:
"No one can ever enter the celestial kingdom unless he is strictly honest" (transcript of Joseph Smith Tapes in the section “Doctrinal Developments and the Nauvoo Era”).
President Joseph F. Smith echoed these sentiments when he proclaimed:
Those who maintain their integrity by daily putting the things of God first and enduring in trials will gain eternal life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 416).
President Smith also indicated that honesty is to be long term:
The religion which we have espoused is not a Sunday religion; it is not a mere profession. … It is the most important thing in the world to us, and the results to us in this world and in the world to come will depend upon our integrity to the truth and our consistency in observing its precepts, in abiding by its principles, and its requirements (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 417).
Since we will be judged by our works (Revelation 20:12-13), Brigham Young’s statement is important:
Honest hearts produce honest actions—holy desires produce corresponding outward works (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 181).
President John Taylor also taught:
Let us be men of truth, honor and integrity—men that will swear to our own hurt and change not—men whose word will be our everlasting bond. … We are trying to raise up a people that shall be men of God, men of truth, men of integrity, men of virtue, men who will be fit to associate with the Gods in the eternal worlds.
God expects to have a people who will be men of clean hands and pure hearts, who withhold their hands from the receiving of bribes, … who will be men of truth and integrity, of honor and virtue, and who will pursue a course that will be approved by the Gods in the eternal worlds, and by all honorable and upright men that ever did live or that now live, and having taken upon us the profession of sainthood, he expects us to be Saints, not in name, not in theory, but in reality (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 59).
President Hinckley gave a terrific First Presidency Message in which he stated:
Some may regard the quality of character known as honesty to be a most ordinary subject. But I believe it to be the very essence of the gospel. Without honesty, our lives and the fabric of our society will disintegrate into ugliness and chaos (Ensign, Oct. 1990, 2).
The first question asked in this section is, “What would society be like if everyone were perfectly honest? (p. 125).
Brigham Young addressed this question:
We need to learn, practice, study, know and understand how angels live with each other. When this community comes to the point to be perfectly honest and upright, you will never find a poor person; none will lack, all will have sufficient. Every man, woman, and child will have all they need just as soon as they all become honest. When the majority of the community are dishonest, it maketh the honest portion poor, for the dishonest serve and enrich themselves at their expense (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 180).
Elder Quentin L. Cook also discussed this idea in our most recent general conference:
Think about the light and truth that the shared value of honesty has in the Judeo-Christian world. Think about the impact on society if youth didn’t cheat in school, if adults were honest in the workplace and were faithful to their marriage vows. For us the concept of basic honesty is grounded in the life and teachings of the Savior. Honesty is also a valued attribute in many other faiths and in historic literature. The poet Robert Burns said, “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.” In almost every instance, people of faith feel accountable to God for being honest (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 27).
Concerning this issue, one concept that seems lacking in our society is taking responsibility for our own actions. A terrific example of this comes from the life of President Kimball:
Integrity was part of his character from the days of his youth, as the following account demonstrates: “Spencer and some of the boys borrowed a horse and an old buggy to use when their science class at school went on a field trip. On the rough road a buggy spring broke. The next day Spencer explained to his friends, ‘We ought to all pitch in some money to pay for the broken spring,’ but no one offered to help. He persuaded them, saying, ‘That spring’s going to be paid for, if I have to do it myself’ ” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 125).
Elder Quentin L. Cook had the following to say about honesty:
The thirteenth article of faith begins, “We believe in being honest.” Honesty is a principle founded in religious belief and is one of God’s basic laws (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 27).
In light of Elder Cook’s statement, it is a serious mistake to not link honesty and integrity with making and keeping covenants. These two laws seem to connect us to God and the covenants we make with Him.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin stated how important honesty is in regards to keeping covenants:
To me, integrity means always doing what is right and good, regardless of the immediate consequences. It means being righteous from the very depth of our soul, not only in our actions but, more importantly, in our thoughts and in our hearts. Personal integrity implies such trustworthiness and incorruptibility that we are incapable of being false to a trust or covenant (Ensign, May 1990, 30).
One of my favorite stories about honesty and covenants was told by Elder Russell M. Nelson:
President Karl G. Maeser once said:
“I have been asked what I mean by word of honor. I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I may be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No, never! I’d die first!” (Ensign, Aug. 1995, 19).
President John Taylor spoke of those who are dishonest about their covenants:
I would not give a straw for a man if I could not trust his word. There is nothing of him, no foundation, nothing to tie to. Yet these are the very people that the prophet said should exist in the last days. They enter into covenant and never think of fulfilling it. Their word amounts to nothing, their integrity has no foundation (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 61).
Concerning the eternal nature of honesty, President Taylor promised:
If we are found to be willing and obedient, and on the Lord’s side for right, for truth, and integrity, for virtue and purity and holiness, adhering to the principles of truth and the laws of life, then God will be with us, and he will sustain all those who adhere to these principles…
Be honest with yourselves, honest before God. Be virtuous, be truthful and full of integrity, and fear the Lord your God in your hearts, and his blessing will be with you, and his Spirit will attend you, and your generations after you, worlds without end (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 64).
I really like what President Kimball explained concerning honesty and keeping covenants:
Integrity (the willingness and ability to live by our beliefs and commitments) is one of the foundation stones of good character, and without good character one cannot hope to enjoy the presence of God here or in the eternities.
When we make a covenant or agreement with God, we must keep it at whatever cost. Let us not be like the student who agrees to live by certain standards of conduct and who then breaks his oath and tries to see how long he can get away with his deceit. Let us not be like the missionary who agrees to serve the Lord for two years, then wastes his time with laziness and rationalization. Let us not be like the Church member who partakes of the sacrament in the morning, then defiles the Sabbath that afternoon.
By taking our covenants lightly, we will wound our own eternal selves. … Self-justification is easy and rationalization seductive, but the Lord explains in modern revelation that “when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, [or] our vain ambition … the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and … [man] is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks” (D&C 121:37-38).
Of course, we can choose; the free agency is ours, but we cannot escape the consequences of our choices. And if there is a chink in our integrity, that is where the devil concentrates his attack.
Keep your promises. Maintain your integrity. Abide by your covenants. Give the Lord this year and every year your high fidelity and fullest expression of faith. Do it “on your honor” and you will be blessed now and forever (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 126-8).
President Kimball also further elaborated:
Integrity is a state or quality of being complete, undivided, or unbroken. It is wholeness and unimpaired. It is purity and moral soundness. It is unadulterated genuineness and deep sincerity. It is courage, a human virtue of incalculable value. It is honesty, uprightness, and righteousness. Take these away and there is left but an empty shell. …
Integrity in individuals and corporate bodies is not to ask, “What will others think of me, and my practices?” but, “What do I think of myself if I do this or fail to do that?” Is it proper? Is it right? Would the Master approve? …
Integrity in man should bring inner peace, sureness of purpose, and security in action. Lack of it brings the reverse: disunity, fear, sorrow, unsureness.
It would be well if all of us would take frequent inventory to see if hidden away under the rugs and in the corners of our lives there might be some vestige of hypocrisy and ugliness or error. Or could there be hidden under the blankets of personal excuse and rationalization some small eccentricities and dishonesties? Are there any cobwebs in ceilings and corners which we think will not be noticed? Are we trying to cover up the small pettinesses and the small gratifications we secretly allow ourselves—rationalizing the while that they are insignificant and inconsequential? Are there areas in our thoughts and actions and attitudes which we would like to hide from those we respect most? (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 126).
For those who have current temple recommends, we have answered to Priesthood leaders that we are honest. From of the Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual we read:
Those seeking recommends…should be striving to keep all of the Lord’s commandments, including…being honest in word and deed… (Lesson 2).
To Lie is Dishonest
President Hinckley quoted from Acts 5:1-10 about Ananias and Sapphira and the lie which resulted in their death, then promised:
In our time, those found in dishonesty do not die as did Ananias and Sapphira, but something within them dies. Conscience chokes, character withers, self-respect vanishes, integrity dies (Ensign, Oct. 1990, 2).
From “Additional Scriptures” (p. 183), the first three references would be great to discuss concerning this section. In addition, Proverbs 6:16 – 19 and 12:22 are great, as well as Malachi 2:6.
To Steal is Dishonest
Stealing, this section teaches, is “taking something that does not belong to us” (p. 181). God has commanded that we not only do not steal (Exodus 20:150 but that we do not covet (Exodus 20:17). It may be very productive to go through the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and discuss which of these commandments are based on honesty.
What we desire in our hearts is a key to keeping to the law of honesty. While Esau did not technically steal, he certainly placed higher priority upon Jacob’s pottage than he did upon the birthright (Genesis 25:27-34). What we want most, our priorities, are important according to President Joseph F. Smith:
…we must make up our minds that this world with all its pleasures is as dross compared with the excellency of the knowledge of God. He intends to try us and prove us, and He has a right to do it, even to the death if need be, and only those who endure to the end, who will not flinch, but will maintain their integrity at the risk and sacrifice of their all, if need be, will gain eternal life, or be worthy of the reward of the faithful (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 419).
Jeffrey R. Holland, before he became an apostle, had some sobering thoughts on Utah and honesty:
Recently I was working with President Elliot Cameron on the BYU—Hawaii Campus, only to open the Sunday edition of the Honolulu Advertiser to read this headline: “Mormon Utah Called A Test Market For Scams.” May I quote a few lines.
“Utah’s large Mormon population has become a prime target for con artists and swindlers who annually gyp the state’s residents out of hundreds of millions of dollars. …
“'Federal prosecutors say the state has gained a national reputation as ‘test market for scams.’ ‘If it works here, they take it on the road. …’
"It has happened time and time again. … It’s very easy for people to bridge the gap from unbelievability to believability if church affiliation is used." …
“The investor lists were drawn up on genealogy sheets used by church members to trace their ancestry. … Mormon leaders denounced the scheme in a stinging editorial which asked, ‘Why do people take chances like this? Why do people gamble?’ One answer. ‘Their greed gland gets stuck. … [I]n this culture, financial success is often equated with righteousness.’” (Peter Gillins, Sunday Star Bulletin and Advertiser, Honolulu, Jan. 10, 1982.)
Note this from Elder Marvin J. Ashton in our last general conference:
“In today’s marketplace—yes, in your own neighborhood, town, and cities—scheming, deceiving promoters are making available to gullible purchasers all kinds of enticing offers. We are sorry to report thousands within our ranks are being duped by the glib tongues of those who offer and solicit in whispers. ‘Once in a lifetime opportunities’ and ‘Just for you’ approaches. …” (Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 90.)
We can get our share of the earth’s bounties but not this way (Ensign, Feb. 1984, 68).
President Hinckley used the following scripture as a great example of not stealing:
And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine… (Genesis 14:22 - 23) (Ensign, Oct. 1990, 2).
In “Additional Scriptures” (p. 183) D&C 42:20, 84-85 and 59:6 would be good for discussion, as well as D&C 136:25-26, one of the rules given for pioneers.
To Cheat is Dishonest
In the terrific talk earlier mentioned, President Hinckley stated:
On Mount Sinai the finger of the Lord wrote the law on tablets of stone: “Thou shalt not steal.” (Ex. 20:15.) There was neither enlargement nor rationalization. And then that declaration was accompanied by three other commandments, the violation of each of which involves dishonesty: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” “Thou shalt not covet.” (Ex. 20:14, 16, 17.)
Was there ever adultery without dishonesty? In the vernacular, the evil is described as “cheating.” And cheating it is, for it robs virtue, it robs loyalty, it robs sacred promises, it robs self-respect, it robs truth. It involves deception. It is personal dishonesty of the worst kind, for it becomes a betrayal of the most sacred of human relationships and a denial of covenants and promises entered into before God and man. It is the sordid violation of a trust. It is a selfish casting aside of the law of God, and like other forms of dishonesty, its fruits are sorrow, bitterness, heartbroken companions, and betrayed children (Ensign, Oct. 1990, 2).
In this section, we read:
Some employees cheat their employers by not working their full time; yet they accept full pay. Some employers are not fair to their employees; they pay them less than they should (p. 181-2).
Brigham Young addressed this problem:
I have tried to suppress dishonesty in individuals, and have tried thereby to make them honest. If I hire a carpenter and pay him three dollars a day, and he is three days in making a six panel door that a good workman can make in one, or even a door and a half, I do not want to pay him three dollars a day for that labor. Yet some who are here have no more judgment, discretion, or idea of right or wrong, than to want to be paid for labor they do not perform; and that they consider to be honesty: but it is just as dishonest as anything in the world (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 180-1).
It may be important to note that all examples of dishonesty cannot be named in this lesson. As King Benjamin stated:
And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them (Mosiah 4:29).
President Kimball discussed the range of dishonesty:
Dishonesty comes in many other forms: … in playing upon private love and emotions for filthy lucre; in robbing money tills or stealing commodities of employers; in falsifying accounts; … in taking unreal exemptions; in taking out government or private loans without intent to repay; in declaring unjust, improper bankruptcies to avoid repayment of loans; in robbing on the street or in the home money and other precious possessions; in stealing time, giving less than a full day of honest labor for a full day’s compensation; in riding public transportation without paying the fare; and all forms of dishonesty in all places and in all conditions. …
“Everybody’s doing it” is often given as an excuse. No society can be healthy without honesty, trust, and self-restraint.
He is dishonest who buys more than he can reasonably expect to pay for. This is defrauding. He has little honor who fails to pay his honest debts. It would seem to me that every luxury one enjoys at the expense of a creditor is not wholly honest. … It is not always dishonorable to be in debt, but certainly it is to ignore debts.
The theft of pennies or dollars or commodities may impoverish little the one from whom the goods are taken, but it is a shrivelling, dwarfing process to the one who steals (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 129).
There are great stories about stealing in “Three Towels and a 25-cent Newspaper” by Bishop Richard C. Edgley (Ensign, Nov. 2006, 73).
We Must Not Excuse Our Dishonesty
In this section, it states, “People use many excuses for being dishonest” (p. 182).
President Kimball discussed the excuse of self-justification as well as its consequence:
Almost all dishonesty owes its existence and growth to that inward distortion we call self-justification. It is the first, and worst, and most insidious form of cheating: We are cheating ourselves.
Self-justification is the enemy of repentance. God’s Spirit continues with the honest in heart to strengthen, to help, and to save, but invariably the Spirit of God ceases to strive with the man who excuses himself in his wrong doing (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 128).
In this section is also stated the excuse for dishonesty “everyone else does it” (p. 182). President John Taylor discussed this problem:
The great difficulty with us is that we are too fond of catering to the world, and too much of the world has crept into our hearts; the spirit of covetousness and greed, and—what shall I say?—dishonesty has spread itself like a plague throughout the length and breadth of the whole world in every direction, and we have drunk more or less into that spirit. Like a plague it has pervaded all grades of society; and instead of being governed by those high, noble, and honorable principles that dwell in the bosom of God, we are after the filthy lucre which is spoken of as being the root of all evil [see 1 Timothy 6:10]; and instead of setting our affections upon God, we set our affections upon the world, its follies and vanities. … Show and prove to the world, to angels and to God that you are on the side of truth and right, of honesty, purity and integrity, and that you are for God and His Kingdom (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 60).
A truly wonderful example of dismissing this excuse comes from the life of Gordon B. Hinckley:
As he [Gordon B. Hinckley] prepared to enter the seventh grade, he and his friends looked forward to being the first class to occupy the new Roosevelt Junior High School. But when they reported to school, they learned that the building was already overcrowded and their class was being moved back to the elementary school for one more year. Gordon and his friends had already spent six years at Hamilton, and they felt they deserved something better than a sentence to another year with the lower grades. The following day they went “on strike” and played “hooky.” When they returned to school the next day, the principal, Harold J. Stearns (whose demeanor, Gordon insisted, matched his name), greeted them at the front door and announced that they would be readmitted only after they supplied a letter of explanation from their parents. Ada [Gordon’s mother] was not pleased when she learned what had transpired, and her note to the principal contained a rebuke that stung her eldest son: “Dear Mr. Stearns, Please excuse Gordon’s absence yesterday. His action was simply an impulse to follow the crowd.” He later explained why his mother’s response had cut so deeply: “It wasn’t an impulse to follow the crowd. I was one of the instigators. But to have Mother classify me as one to do something just to follow the crowd cut me, and I made up my mind then and there that I would never do anything just to follow the crowd” (Gordon B. Hinckley: Go Forward With Faith, 32-3).
To excuse our dishonesty is to give in to Satan. That decision, this section teaches, leads to spiritual destruction:
When we excuse ourselves, we cheat ourselves and the Spirit of God ceases to be with us. We become more and more unrighteous (p. 182).
President Joseph F. Smith pleads for the opposite:
My prayer has been constantly, not that I might be spared trials, but that I might have wisdom and judgment, patience and endurance given unto me, to bear the trials that I might be called to pass through. While I cannot say truthfully that I have been tried in my faith in the Gospel of Christ, yet I can say truthfully that I have been tried in many ways. My patience has been tried, my love has been tried, my integrity has been tried (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 419).
President Smith then went on to explain how this can happen:
I believe [our pioneer forefathers] built better than they knew. I believe they were led by the power of God, step by step, and were taught precept upon precept, line upon line. In this way He proved their integrity and their devotion. He proved them unto death; yes, and even beyond death; for death to many of them would have been sweet, it would have been peaceful, happy rest, compared with the toil and trouble they had to endure (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 419-20).
Brigham Young added:
Simple truth, simplicity, honesty, uprightness, justice, mercy, love, kindness, do good to all and evil to none, how easy it is to live by such principles! A thousand times easier than to practice deception!
It is much better to be honest; to live here uprightly, and forsake and shun evil, than it is to be dishonest. It is the easiest path in the world to be honest,—to be upright before God; and when people learn this, they will practice it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 181).
We Can be Completely Honest
Concerning the title to this section, Brigham Young declared:
Men must be honest, they must live faithfully before their God, and honor their calling and being on the earth. You ask if that is possible? Yes; the doctrine which we have embraced takes away the stony hearts (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 180).
It may be important to know that Elder David A. Bednar states that only with the help of the Savior can we be completely honest:
Only through Christ can we achieve “complete honesty”:
Becoming people of integrity and honesty does not occur quickly or all at once, nor is it merely a matter of greater personal discipline. It is a change of disposition, a change of heart. And this gradual change of heart is one that the Lord accomplishes within us, through the power of His Spirit, in a line-upon-line fashion. . . .
Remember that becoming people of integrity and honesty is not simply a matter of more personal determination, more grit, and more willpower; rather, it is accomplished through the enabling power of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe the best test of our integrity and honesty is when we personally enforce in our own lives that which ultimately cannot be enforced (New Era, Oct. 2005).
President John Taylor believed that Latter-day Saints need to be honest:
…if anybody in the world ought to be men of integrity, truth and honesty, we should be, everywhere and under all circumstances…
What do we believe in? We believe in purity, in virtue, in honesty, in integrity, in truthfulness and in not giving way to falsehood; we believe in treating all men justly, uprightly and honorably; we believe in fearing God, observing His laws and keeping His commandments. Do we all do it? No, not quite. I wish we did. But a great majority of the Latter-day Saints are doing this; and if there are those that are not, let them look well to their path. … And as we are here for the purpose of building up Zion, He expects that we will be upright and honorable in all our dealings with one another and with all men (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 62).
In this section is taught:
To become completely honest, we must look carefully at our lives. If there are ways in which we are being even the least bit dishonest, we should repent of them immediately (p. 182).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson also explained the importance of repentance:
Good men sometimes make mistakes. A man of integrity will honestly face and correct his mistakes, and that is an example we can respect. Sometimes men try but fail. Not all worthy objectives are realized despite one's honest and best efforts. True manhood is not always measured by the fruits of one's labors but by the labors themselves--by one's striving (Ensign, Nov. 2006, 47).
In last October general conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook gave a great example of repentance:
Many years ago when I was practicing law in California, a friend and client who was not a member of our faith came in to see me and with great enthusiasm showed me a letter he had received from an LDS bishop of a nearby ward. The bishop wrote that a member of his congregation, a former employee of my client, had taken materials from my client’s work site and had rationalized that they were surplus. But after becoming a committed Latter-day Saint and attempting to follow Jesus Christ, this employee recognized that what he had done was dishonest. Enclosed in the letter was a sum of money from the man to cover not only the cost of the materials but also interest. My client was impressed that the Church through lay leadership would assist this man in his effort to be reconciled to God (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 27).
In this section it states that when we are completely honest, “…we can face the Lord, ourselves, and others without shame” (p. 182). A great scripture for this idea is 2 Corinthians 8:21.
Brigham Young added to this:
Woe to those who profess to be Saints and are not honest. Only be honest with yourselves, and you will be honest to the brethren (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 181).
President John Taylor also said this about that:
It is proper that men should be honest with themselves, that they should be honest with each other in all their words, dealings, [discussions], intercommunication, business arrangements and everything else; they ought to be governed by truthfulness, honesty and integrity, and that man is very foolish indeed who would not be true to himself, true to his convictions and feelings in regard to religious matters.
We may deceive one another … as counterfeit coin passes for that which is considered true and valuable among men. But God searches the hearts and tries the reins of the children of men [see Jeremiah 17:10]. He knows our thoughts and comprehends our desires and feelings; he knows our acts and the motives which prompt us to perform them. He is acquainted with all the doings and operations of the human family, and all the secret thoughts and acts of the children of men, are open and naked before him, and for them he will bring them to judgment.
We should be strictly honest, one with another, and with all men; let our word always be as good as our bond; avoid all ostentation of pride and vanity; and be meek, lowly, and humble; be full of integrity and honor; and deal justly and righteously with all men (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 61).
President Joseph F. Smith had similar sentiments:
The first and highest standard of correct living is to be found in that individual responsibility which keeps men good for the truth’s sake. It is not difficult for men who are true to themselves to be true to others. Men who honor God in their private lives do not need the restraint of public opinion which may not only be indifferent, but positively wrong (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 418).
As mentioned earlier, it would be a mistake to not discuss the connection between honesty and making and keeping covenants. In the Parable of the Sower (Elder James E. Talmage wrote that this should really be called the Parable of the Four Soils) Jesus taught that true disciples are honest:
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).
President Kimball also shared an example of how honesty was a great missionary tool:
On the train from New York to Baltimore we sat in the dining car opposite a businessman and commented, “It seldom rains like this in Salt Lake City.”
The conversation soon led naturally into the golden question: “How much do you know about the Church?”
“I know little about the Church,” he said, “but I know one of its people.” He was developing subdivisions in New York. “There is a sub-contractor working for me,” he continued. “He is so honest and full of integrity that I never [require] him to bid on a job. He is the soul of honor. If the Mormon people are like this man, I’d like to know about a church that produces such honorable men” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 130-1).
President John Taylor listed many ways in which men of the world were dishonest in his day, then prophesied about our day and our need to be good missionaries:
We need not whine or think there is anything strange or remarkable about it. We have expected these things to transpire, and they will be a great deal worse than they are to-day. But we are engaged in introducing correct principles (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 62).
In scripture, honesty was a primary consideration for those called to the office of Seventy in the New Testament (Acts 6:3) as well as important to serving in the office of apostle (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).
From the life of President Kimball comes a wonderful story about his efforts to repent when called to be an apostle:
Spencer’s worst worry was how to live up to his call. What about people he had offended? Would they resent him? He started visiting every man he had done much business with, to explain his new situation: ‘I’ve been called to a high position in my Church. I cannot serve in good conscience unless I know my life has been honorable. You and I have had dealings. If there was any injustice I want to make it right, and I’ve brought my checkbook.’ Most shook hands and refused to hear any more. A couple of men fancied that in fairness they should have got a few hundred dollars more on certain sales. Spencer wrote the checks (The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, Sunday School, 190).
Perhaps one of the most important things to understand for parents in Priesthood or Relief Society is our responsibility to teach our children about honesty. From the wonderful booklet For the Strength of Youth comes the following terrific counsel:
Be honest with yourself, others, and the Lord. When you are honest in every way, you build strength of character that will allow you to be of great service to God and others. You will be blessed with peace of mind and self-respect. When you are honest, you will be trusted by the
Lord and by those around you.
Dishonesty hurts you and usually hurts others as well. When you lie, steal, shoplift, or cheat, you damage your spirit and become less able to do good things. Be honest in your job, giving a full amount of work for your pay.
Don’t rationalize that wrong is right, even though many people around you may think there is no harm in being dishonest. Being honest requires courage and commitment to do what you know is right (p. 31).
Following is wonderful counsel from President Kimball about teaching our children about honesty:
A parent who understates the age of the child to avoid adult prices in shows and planes and trains and buses is forcefully teaching the child to be dishonest. He will not forget these lessons. Some parents permit the child to break the law as to firecrackers, the use of guns, fishing and hunting without license. The children are permitted to drive without a license or to falsify their ages. Those who take little things without accounting for them, such as fruit from the neighbor’s yard, a pen from a desk, a package of gum from the help-yourself shelf, all are being taught silently that little thefts and dishonesties are not so bad.
Parents who “cover up” for their children, excuse them and pay for their misappropriations, miss an important opportunity to teach a lesson and thereby do untold damage to their offspring. If the child is required to return the coin or the pencil or the fruit with an appropriate apology, it is likely that his tendencies to steal will be curbed. But if he is lionized and made a little hero, if his misappropriation is made a joke, he is likely to continue in ever-increasing thefts.
Parents can develop respect for others’ property and rights in their growing children by example and precept. Parents who require their youngsters to apologize and make good and return—perhaps even double or triple—that which they have taken, broken, or destroyed—those children will be honorable citizens and will bring honor and glory to their parents. Those parents who themselves respect law and order and observe all the rules can, by that pattern and by their expression of approval or disapproval, discipline and protect their children against disorder and rebellion.
We urge you to teach your children honor and integrity and honesty. Is it possible that some of our children do not know how sinful it is to steal? It is unbelievable—the extent of vandalism, thievery, robbery, stealing. Protect your family against it by proper teaching.
Let us be sure that we inject into our home evenings a lesson on honesty and integrity.
We may be bucking a strong tide, but we must teach our children that sin is sin. Children are permitted to get by with inaccuracies in sports and cheating in games. This cheating goes on into college and into the professions and into businesses. In addition to its being wrong, very wrong, it undermines the very fabric of their culture and their characters (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 129-30).
Concerning this important topic, President John Taylor had this to say:
We ought to be preparing our youth to tread in our footsteps, if they are right, that they may be honorable members in society, that when we get through in this world and to go into the other, we may leave behind [posterity] who are full of integrity, and who will keep the commandments of God. We ought to teach our children meekness and humility, integrity, virtue and the fear of God, that they may teach those principles to their children. … Seek to implant in the hearts of your youth principles that will be calculated to make them honorable, highminded, intelligent, virtuous, modest, pure men and women, full of integrity and truth … that they with you may have an inheritance in the kingdom of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 63).
President Brigham Young also added to this concept:
Children should be taught honesty, and they should grow up with the feeling within them that they should never take a pin that is not their own; never displace anything, but always put everything in its place. If they find anything seek for the owner. If there is anything of their neighbor’s going to waste, put it where it will not waste, and be perfectly honest one with another (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 181).
Honesty was one of President Joseph F. Smith’s primary goals:
On 10 November 1918, the 17th anniversary of the day he was sustained as President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith gathered his family together and spoke of his life and what he had learned. All came to the occasion fasting and in the spirit of prayer. President Smith said, “If there is anything on earth I have tried to do as much as anything else, it is to keep my word, my promises, my integrity, to do what it was my duty to do” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 416).
From “Additional Scriptures” (p. 183), a discussion of the contrast in honesty between God (D&C 3:2) and Satan (D&C 10:25-28) could be productive.
Again, from that wonderful talk by President Hinckley, a challenge he issued:
The thirteenth Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that “we believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men.”
We cannot be less than honest, we cannot be less than true, we cannot be less than virtuous if we are to keep sacred the trust given us. Once it was said among our people that a man’s word was as good as his bond. Shall any of us be less reliable, less honest than our forebears?
Those who are living the principle of honesty know that the Lord does bless them. Theirs is the precious right to hold their heads in the sunlight of truth, unashamed before any man. On the other hand, if there be need for reformation in any member of this Church, let it begin where we now stand.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord requires his people to be honest. May we desire with all our hearts to be honest in all our relationships and in all the things that we do. God will help us if we seek the strength that comes from him. Sweet then will be our peace of mind and our lives. Blessed will be those with whom we live and associate. And God will bless and guide us with his loving care (Ensign, Oct. 1990, 2).
This is a second witness to what President John Taylor said:
Let us be pure, let us be virtuous, let us be honorable, let us maintain our integrity, let us do good to all men, and tell the truth always, and treat everybody right (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 58).
In conclusion, it may be a good time to repeat the scripture quoted in the first paragraph of the lesson, Alma 27:27.