Gospel Principles 31: Honesty

One of the lines in the manual that jumped out at me was this:

Honest people love truth and justice.

I’ve been in more than one lesson on honesty where hypothetical WWII-Era German families hiding Jewish neighbors in the attic are brought up as thought experiments on what it might mean to always always always be honest. I think that little line lays that thought experiment to waste, more on that in a minute.

The rest of that initial line I quoted goes on to say:

[Honest people] are honest in their words and actions. They do not lie, cheat, or steal.

The manual then goes on to outline just exactly what it means to lie, cheat and steal. On the first read, this section seems almost insultingly basic, there are however a few gems in there.

Under the section on lying, there is this line;
“Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”
This leads me to think that people who are deeply committed to honesty will always be seeking after the most accurate and complete information possible. They will always be seeking for more knowledge, and will be continually reviewing thing they already ‘know’ for new information.
For example, I receive a fair amount of forwarded emails, many of which are exaggerations at best. Were I to pass along those emails with falsehoods in them, that would be a form of dishonesty. Perhaps it isn’t the worst form of dishonesty out there, but it is spreading untruths. For people truly committed to honesty, simply not knowing about the untruths isn’t much of an excuse.
When viewed in that way, we all ‘lie’ all the time, and all of us have room for improvement.

Under the section on stealing is this line:
“Taking more than our share of anything is stealing.”
To be honest the very first thing I thought of after reading that line was candy. My grandma used to bring us a bag of candy on Sunday evenings, and one of my earliest memories is dividing those bags into perfectly even portions for all us kids. One thing I learned pretty early on is that more for me, meant less for someone else. Many things in our adult lives are like that as well, though quite often the ‘someone else’ who gets less may be someone we’ll never meet, perhaps even being on the other side of the world. The consumption habits of many developed nations is, in a fashion, taking more than our fair share.
When viewed that way, we all steal all the time, and all of us have room for improvement.

Under cheating is this line:
“Providing inferior service or merchandise is cheating.”
Inferior. Inferior to what? Inferior to what other people expect? Inferior to what we promised? Inferior to what we are capable of? A reasonable standard would be to say that providing service or merchandise that is inferior to what we promised or implied is cheating. But I don’t think we necessarily have to stop at being reasonable. I, personally, am of the opinion that if we do things that are inferior to what we are capable of, then we are cheating ourselves. Doing less than our best is a form of cheating, and therefore dishonesty.
Say it with me now; When viewed that way, we all cheat all the time, and all of us have room for improvement.

I bring these things up, not to make us feel like we’re bad people, or to feel riddled with guilt. Instead, I can be pretty prideful, and am often inclined to think, “Honesty? I’ve got that in the bag! I am all set, and have no problems there.” And while on some level that is true, the main thing is that there is always room for improvement.

So coming back to that line

Honest people love truth and justice.

If I love truth, I’m never going to be content with knowing a little bit. I will want to know everything there is to know. If I love justice than I am never going to be content with something that is unfair happening to anyone, especially if I play some part in that injustice. I will want to root out every unjust thing that could possibly happen in this world. So if I’m going to be an honest person then I will always have room for improvement.

Now for the hypothetical German family with their Jewish neighbors in the attic. Honest people love justice and will do what is necessary to make it happen. In this particular case justice is served by saving those people’s lives.

Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.

Starfoxy

Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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25 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Brilliant, Starfoxy. I love how you take a simple lesson and find the deeper questions and meaning. Just fantastic.

  2. Starfoxy,
    I would attend RS in my ward if you were there to teach that lesson. You have provided much food for thought with an often overworked topic.

  3. Rachel says:

    I teach the 3rd Sunday so I always look forward to these posts. One thing I was thinking about discussing is how we lie to ourselves.
    “I’ll start my diet tomorrow”
    “This is discussing sisters’ needs, not gossiping”
    “I was just catching up with him on FB, not flirting.”
    “I spend enough quality time with my children/spouse.”
    Or whatever it is that we don’t really want to look at closely–the stuff that is in our peripheral vision that we prefer to not turn to look at with scrutiny.

    • spunky says:

      Great comment, Rachel. I agree– we are lying to ourselves when do these things… I tend to do the “I can eat a bag of M&Ms and the calories are okay because I had a smaller lunch, ect” all the time. Its a good reminder of the integrity involved in being honest with ourselves.

      As usual, Star Foxy, this is BRILLIANT. As the RS presidency in my branch are away right now there is no RS, so I love reading these because it gives me a type of discussion that otherwise I would not get.

  4. MJK says:

    Amazing post, thank you!

  5. Corktree says:

    Wonderfully done Starfoxy!

    I often wonder how honesty fits in with how much we communicate to others about how we feel toward them and think about them. Is it dishonest not to say outright that we are bothered by someone or something someone has done? Is it unjust to not give someone a chance to prove themselves or make up for something?

  6. EmilyCC says:

    Fabulous lesson!

    Starfoxy, teaching the whole ward this week 🙂

  7. CatherineWO says:

    Thank you for this post. Since I am unable to attend RS, I really appreciate the discussion of the lessons here.
    As for honesty, I always struggle with the fine line between being truthful with people and being hurtful. I have one daughter who was always blurting out what was on her mind before thinking about its affect on someone else. I used to say to her, “Just because it’s true doesn’t mean you have to say it.” Yet, I find myself in circumstances where I feel a need to say something that has the potential of causing discomfort in others. If I err on the side of silence, I often later regret that I didn’t speak up, but just as often, if I speak up, I later regret that too. It’s a hard line to walk.

  8. Laurie M. says:

    What good insight I find here for my lessons. Catherine, thank you for your thought on communicating honestly with others and “the fine line” between telling the truth, as at times it can either be helpful or hurtful to others. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

  9. Rachel says:

    I don’t know if anyone is still working on this lesson, but I thought I’d share a couple more things I may use. In the old RS manual on Brigham Young, there is a lesson titled Cultivating Gratitude, Humility, and Honesty–a lesson I taught back then–maybe I’ve got a long way to go in this area?
    In any case, here is a paragraph I especially liked, and think it goes along with the charity theme in GC :
    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 (DBY, 232).

    And, another quote which goes with what I had said earlier, about focusing our discussion about self-introspection, about being totally honest with oneself, is this little tidbit:
    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 (DBY, 231–32).

    • Shanan says:

      I really love your additional materials here (the first piece from DBY). The opening question in the lesson is “What would society be like if everyone were perfectly honest?” Kind of a silly question (like many) in my mind, so I wasn’t going to ask it. However now I am going to add it to the conclusion of the lesson and answer it with your quote. I think it sums up things very beautifully. Thank you for sharing! (I teach tomorrow)

      • Rachel says:

        Me, too. Just putting the final touches on it. So tempted to use a clip from The Invention of Lying but I’ll restrain myself.

  10. rbrown says:

    Starfoxy,
    FALSE DOCTRINE is that which contradicts the revealed word of the Lord found in scripture and the words of his prophets.

    It seems to me that your comment:
    “The consumption habits of many developed nations is, in a fashion, taking more than our fair share. When viewed that way, we all steal all the time, and all of us have room for improvement.”

    … directly contradicts:
    “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.” (D&C 104)

    The phrase “our fair share” should not be confused with “our share”. The first one is undefinable. What each of us considers our fair share is just a matter of opinion. The second, what is “our share”, is that which we have earned, or with which the Lord has blessed us. The Lord has given this to us as a stewardship, “to be agents unto themselves”, to see if we will use it to care for those in need. To take more than we have earned, or is rightfully ours, is certainly theft. To earn, purchase, or own more than someone else is not theft. To have more than someone happens to think is our “fair share” is not theft.

    The first one is a socialist doctrine, called “scarcity mentality”. It is based upon the idea that, for someone to be rich, someone else must be poor. It pretends there is a limited supply of bread, clothing, or other needful things, which must be shared equally, rather than encouraging production of an abundance of such things. It is used to persuade people to support forced redistribution of wealth. It logically follows that we are being irresponsible by having too many children, or by having children at all! The more children we have, the more children will starve somewhere else! Socialism teaches that “We must take from the rich (always by force) to give to the poor!” This is not the Lord’s way. If someone has to be forced to give to the poor … “he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.” (Moroni 7:8)

    When the Church welfare program was first announced in 1936, the First Presidency made this statement:
    “Our primary purpose was to set up, insofar as possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, THE EVILS OF THE DOLE ABOLISHED, and independence, industry, thrift, and self-respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as a ruling principle in the lives of our Church membership.” (Conference Report, October 1936, p. 3; emphasis added.)

    Only when the “curse of idleness [is] done away with” can we have the abundance of ancient Zion. “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”

    The socialist claim of leveling the wealth, making everything “fair” is Satan’s counterfeit to the Lord’s welfare plan. From the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball manual (Ch. 11), we learn something of the “evils of the dole”:
    “The Lord’s way builds individual self-esteem and develops and heals the dignity of the individual, whereas the world’s way depresses the individual’s view of himself and causes deep resentment.

    “The Lord’s way causes the individual to hasten his efforts to become economically independent again, even though he may have temporary need, because of special conditions, for help and assistance. The world’s way deepens the individual’s dependency on welfare programs and tends to make him demand more rather than encouraging him to return to economic independence.

    “The Lord’s way helps our members get a testimony for themselves about the gospel of work. For work is important to human happiness as well as productivity. The world’s way, however, places greater and greater emphasis on leisure and upon the avoidance of work.”

    The question of church welfare versus government welfare is one of AGENCY versus FORCE.

    “Here is a struggle against the evil, satanical priestcraft of Lucifer. Today, the devil, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing is enticing some people, both in and out of the Church, to parrot his line by ADVOCATING PLANNED GOVERNMENT GUARANTEED SECURITY PROGRAMS at the expense of our liberties. Latter—Day Saints should be reminded how and why they voted as they did in heaven. If some have decided to change their voted, they should REPENT, throw their support on the side of freedom, and CEASE PROMOTING THIS SUBVERSION.”
    (Pres. Ezra Taft Benson – CR Sept 30, 1961; emphasis added)

    Considering your statement “people who are deeply committed to honesty will always be seeking after the most accurate and complete information possible.”, I thought you’d appreciate more accurate information.

  11. Caroline says:

    Note from the Exponent blog administration:

    Please do not feed trolls that comment on this thread by trying to engage with them. Thank you!

    • rbrown says:

      Good advice … especially when you cannot refute them.

      • amelia says:

        rbrown: you are wielding the words of church leaders as if they were clubs (complete with SHOUTING) in order to shut down someone else’s ideas because they are “FALSE DOCTRINE” (again with the shouting) in your view. That is a violation of our comment policy #4 and is simply not welcome here. If you want to SHOUT and carry on while swinging church leaders’ words wildly overhead, do it elsewhere.

  12. rbrown says:

    Amelia,
    No shouting intended. However, some parts need to be emphasized to show the parts that I think most apply (sorry if you take that as shouting). The prophets words are quite clear on the topic. It is up to you if you will choose to believe them. If you actually want to know (versus just defend a position), Moroni 10:3-5 promises those who seek with real intent can know the truth OF ALL THINGS. (emphasis, not shouting) We are counseled to apply this to the scriptures, teachings of the prophets, etc. We don’t need to simply accept it because a prophet said it. I wish you well in your journey seeking truth.

    • amelia says:

      rbrown, customarily italics or * asterisks* or bold or some combo of all three are used for emphasis while ALL CAPS are used for volume/shouting when participating in online dialogue.

      I recognize and appreciate the graciousness of your well wishes and I return them. I think you and I (and most of the women at The Exponent blog) likely have different ways of finding the truth, but I think we are all genuinely seeking it. I respect all seekers and hope that they find their way. I appreciate your sharing that same hope. Thank you.

  13. Chris says:

    Another insightful post. You present many truths that touched my heart. Thank you for your wisdom and inspiration.

  14. Raingirl says:

    First of all, I SO appreciate the ideas given on this website, and I have been struggling with how to teach this lesson. I’ve gleaned several good ideas, both from Starfoxy and from the comments following. Thank you!!!
    Having said that, I admit I was immediately taken aback by the comment “The consumption habits of many developed nations is, in a fashion, taking more than our fair share.
    When viewed that way, we all steal all the time, and all of us have room for improvement.”
    This statement felt wrong to me and very close to many of the discussions I’ve been hearing in the media about “Redistribution of Wealth.”

    While rbrown’s entry was lengthy and could very well have been perceived as an attack on an innocent opinion, I personally found the info very relevant with all that is going on today in our society. I’d like to thank rbrown for a terrific explanation of the struggle going on right now in America and how it all relates to agency clear back to the decision to follow Christ’s plan, not Satan’s. Yes, it is evil to be rich and have abundance if it’s been stolen from another; it is not evil to be rich and have abundance it it’s come from hard work, good life choices, and the Lord’s blessings on a righteous land (which unfortunately we’re at risk of losing as righteousness in our land decreases).

    I’ve learned from all the posts today and I appreciate that knowledge very much. Thank you so much!

    • Starfoxy says:

      Hmm. It seems that line is going to be consistently misunderstood so I’m going to clarify what I meant.
      Look at it this way: We’ll all agree that not paying your employees a fair wage is a form of stealing right? (The manual even says so “Some employers are not fair to their employees; they pay them less than they should.”) Why is buying something produced by someone who doesn’t pay their employees a fair wage any different?
      So I buy a shirt, and I get a great price on it because the person who assembled it is a wage slave. Is that set up something a person committed to honesty is going to be comfortable with?
      So, I don’t care how many kids you have, or how your big your house is, or whatever. Buy a big screen TV. Who cares? What I do care about (and what I believe God cares about) is that no one was taken advantage of in the process. Did the company that built your house employ illegal immigrants and pay them a pittance because they could get away with it? Did the company that produced your big screen TV dump dangerous chemicals into the water supply because it was cheaper than processing them properly?
      It is completely possible to believe that the earth has enough and to spare while understanding that cutting production costs can have detrimental effects on people and their communities. I believe that people who are committed to honesty will care about making sure what they buy doesn’t hurt other people.

  15. bobs your uncle says:

    wow…way to go on the over analysis. Just try to do your best. Don’t intentionally deceive people to hurt them is the message I got while reading this lesson. We will be judged according to our works–not the analysis of others interpretations of the gospel doctrine.

  16. Jerrell says:

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