How important is honesty? How important is honesty to you? How important is honesty in a marriage or other close relationship? How important is honesty to God?
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quote an item of faith that is sacred to us: “We believe in being honest.” We believe in being honest in our marriages and families; we believe in being honest in our business and personal dealings.
The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ contains a story about a group of people who were “distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27; emphasis added). It was their total honesty that brought these people recognition by their fellow human beings; their honesty was also noted by God.
All people must understand that we must have complete honesty in order to qualify for salvation. According to Elder Mark E Peterson who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Honesty is a principle of salvation in the kingdom of God. … Just as no man or woman can be saved without baptism, so no one can be saved without honesty” (Conference Report, October 1971, p. 63).
We know that God is honest and just in all things (see Alma 7:20). If we desire to become like our Heavenly Father, we must be honest in all we do and say. We also know that Satan is a liar and is called the father of lies (2 Nephi 9:9). Elder Peterson added, “Those who choose to cheat and lie and deceive and misrepresent become [Satan’s] slaves” (Ensign, December 1971, p. 73).
In order for us to be an honest person, we must love the truth. We must be honest in our words, actions, and dealings with other people. We must not lie, steal, or cheat in any way.
When we intentionally deceive another person, we are lying. When we bear false witness, we are lying. When we speak untruths, we are lying. When we intentionally deceive other people by a gesture, look, silence, or half-truths, we are lying. Whenever we lead someone to believe something that is not the truth, we are being dishonest. God is not pleased with us when we are dishonest, but Satan rejoices and wants us to believe that it is okay for us to lie. If we are honest, we will recognize Satan’s temptations and speak the truth even if telling the truth will get us in trouble.
Stealing is taking something that belongs to another person. Whenever we take something that belongs to another person, a business, a government office or property, we are guilty of dishonesty. There are many ways we can be guilty of stealing: taking merchandise, supplies, etc. from an employer, accepting more change or goods than we should, or taking more than our share of anything. Stealing is dishonesty.
Cheating is another form of dishonesty, and there are many ways to cheat: giving less than we owe, getting something that we do not deserve, not working a full shift but accepting pay for it, paying employees less than they deserve, taking unfair advantage of another person, providing inferior service or merchandise, cheating to get a better grade in school.
There are many excuses for being dishonest, but no good reasons. The truth always comes out in the end. We can afford great embarrassment and potential legal trouble simply by being honest in our dealing. We must remember that there are no acceptable reasons for dishonesty in the Lord’s eyes.
President Spencer W. Kimball explained that we cheat ourselves when we offer excuses. The Spirits ceases to work with us, and we become more unrighteous (see Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 234).
We can be completely honest with ourselves and with other people. In order to do so, we must have the courage to look carefully at our lives and to face the whole truth. If we find that we are even a little bit dishonest, we must began at once to repent and change our lives.
One of the blessings of being totally honest is that we cannot be corrupted. Such a person is true in every area – trust, duty, agreement, or covenants – even if being truth costs money, friends, family, or life itself. When we are truly honest, we can face ourselves, other people, and even God without shame.
President Joseph F. Smith recognized the importance of honesty: “Let every man’s life be so that his character will bear the closest inspection, and that it may be seen as an open book, so that we will have nothing to shrink from or be ashamed of” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 252).
I was pleased when I learned that one of my daughters was known for her honesty. Something happened at school, and the teacher questioned some of the guilty students but got lies. She discussed the situation with another teacher and was told, “Ask … [my daughter] ...; she will tell you what happened.”
We must be honest in order to have integrity, and we must have integrity to be approved by God as well as those who know us. No one likes liars, thieves, or cheats, but every person enjoys associating with a truly honest person. Honesty truly is the best policy!