A false statement or action made with intent to deceive is a lie.
“Nothing else is quite so despicable and cowardly as a lie,” said President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
In the revelation recorded in the forty-second section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the Prophet Joseph Smith “specifies … as embracing the law of the Church” (D&C 42: Headnote), the Lord says, “Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.” (D&C 42:21.) This means excommunicated from the Church.
Unfortunately, lying is currently a widespread practice. It is one of the most disturbing and peace-destroying practices in our society.
The sad fact is that there is a growing trend to regard “getting caught” as worse than “lying.”
There are many individuals among us who, as a consequence of lying, are bereft of composure and happiness. Society generally is suffering for the same reason. Lying is one of the cardinal evils of our day.
No one is justified in lying because someone else has lied. The Lord gave the Prophet Joseph a lesson on this point at the time the 110-page manuscript copy of the Book of Mormon translation was lost. Knowing that the lost manuscript was in the hands of enemies and that they had altered it, the Lord told Joseph not to translate the same material again. He also told him:
“Satan stirreth them up, that he may lead their souls to destruction.
“Yea, he saith unto them: Deceive and lie in wait to catch, that ye may destroy; behold, this is no harm. And thus he flattereth them, and telleth them that it is no sin to lie that they may catch a man in a lie, that they may destroy him.
“And thus he flattereth them, and leadeth them along until he draggeth their souls down to hell; and thus he causeth them to catch themselves in their own snare.
“And thus he goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of men.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, wo be unto him that lieth to deceive because he supposeth that another lieth to deceive, for such are not exempt from the justice of God.” (D&C 10:22, 25–28.)
The fourth and fifth chapters of Acts give an account of the unusual fate of two liars—Ananias and Sapphira. The believers of that day “had all things common. …
“Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
“And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
“And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
“Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
“And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
“And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
“And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
“And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
“Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
“Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.” (Acts 4:32, 34–35; Acts 5:1–10.)
Not every lie brings such swift and final physical retribution. In the end, however, every unrepentant liar suffers spiritual death. According to the scriptures, he is doomed to dwell with some rather slimy associates. The Lord has said, for example “… that the fearful, and the unbelieving, and all liars, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, and the whoremonger, and the sorcerer, shall have their part in that lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (D&C 63:17.)
Six months later, identifying those who will, in the resurrection, inherit the lowest degree of glory, the Lord said:
“These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.” (D&C 76:103.)
One of the really sad things about a lie is that it feeds upon itself. One lie calls for another; two call for a third, and so on ad infinitum.
In the thirtieth chapter of Alma there is a graphic account of how far a confirmed liar will go in defending his lie. It concerns an anti-Christ by the name of Korihor.
By his own admission, Korihor knew there was a God. But being possessed of a lying spirit, he went about among the people preaching and arguing that their belief in Christ and God was “the effect of a frenzied mind” (Alma 30:16), saying that there “never was nor ever will be” such “a being” as God. (Alma 30:28.) He created such a disturbance that he was “brought before Alma, and the chief judge … [of] the land.”
When “Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
“… He answered, Nay.”
Korihor further “said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.
“Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.
“Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
“And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? …
“And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I also knew that there was a God.
“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.
“Now when he had said this, he besought that Alma should pray unto God, that the curse might be taken from him.
“But Alma said unto him: If this curse should be taken from thee thou wouldst again lead away the hearts of this people; therefore, it shall be unto thee even as the Lord will.
“And it came to pass that the curse was not taken off of Korihor; but he was cast out, and went about from house to house begging for his food.” (Alma 30:29, 37–38, 43, 49–56.)
There is no practice on which the Lord and Satan are farther apart than that of lying.
Satan was a liar from the beginning and is the father of lies. The following scriptures so testify:
Moroni, speaking of secret oath-bound organizations, says that they are “built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning. …” (Ether 8:25; italics added.)
In the ninety-third section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord, having defined truth, adds:
“And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.” (D&C 93:25.)
By way of contrast to Satan’s role as a liar from the beginning and as the father of lying, both the brother of Jared and Enos testify that the Lord is incapable of lying. In that great theophany in which the Savior appeared to the brother of Jared, it is recorded that “the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?
“And he [the brother of Jared] answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
“And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
“And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou are a God of truth, and canst not lie.” (Ether 3:9–12; italics added.)
Some 1800 years later, as Enos “cried unto him [his Maker] in mighty prayer and supplication for [his] own soul …
“… There came a voice unto [him] saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
“And I, Enos,” he wrote, “knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.” (Enos 1:4–6; italics added.)
In this last dispensation the Lord, having reminded the brethren of promises he had made to them, said:
“I, the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie.” (D&C 62:6.)
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.” (The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table.)
“A lie will bring you quick results but no premiums. A lie will look well for an hour but show shabby for a year. A lie will bring you cash but cut your credit. A lie will bring you velvet for a moment but hard circumstances for a decade. A lie is a commercial fake, a social fraud, an intellectual makeshift, a theological blunder, and a universal failure. Don’t lie.” (Anon.) Tell the truth.