Honesty and the ability to be trusted are qualities of character that everyone can develop. So important is the trait of honesty that our Heavenly Father included it in the Ten Commandments where it is written, “Thou shalt not steal.”
There are other ways of stealing besides taking money or property from people without their knowledge. Not doing a job that we are being paid for is stealing both time and money from our employer. If an employee wastes 30 minutes a day on a job, he will dishonestly take from his employer a little over three weeks’ time in a year.
Honesty means keeping your word and living up to any agreement you make. Paying 10 percent of whatever you earn to the Lord for tithing is also a test of honesty.
When I was six years old I learned a valuable lesson. My father had traded his farm for an interest in a general merchandise store in Driggs, Idaho, and he was to be the store manager. Father had been managing the store just a short time when he received a bulk shipment of candy packed in wooden pails. One morning I went into the storeroom and found all the pails had been opened so that the candy cases in the front of the store could be filled.
All that luscious-looking candy was such a temptation that I helped myself to several kinds and then filled my pockets. But to leave the store, I had to pass through the front part where my father was working. He spotted my bulging pockets and, putting his arm around my shoulder, took me into the back room and talked to me about the importance of being honest.
Then Father asked me to empty my pockets, explaining that he owned only half of the store and that whenever any member of his family took anything from the store it must be paid for. If things were just taken without being paid for, we would actually be stealing from his partners.
Recently, our grandson, Adam, was traveling with Sister Stone and me on a trip to California. About noontime we stopped for lunch. When the waitress brought the bill I didn’t pay very close attention and after she gave me my change, I realized that she had charged me for only two sandwiches instead of three.
I knew that the girl would be short at the end of the day, and there suddenly flashed into my mind the thought of how my father had taught me to be honest. I felt this was a good time to talk to Adam about honesty, and so we sat down and I explained what had happened. I told him we had a problem.
I said we could leave now and keep the extra change and no one would ever know the difference, or we could tell the girl that we still owed her for a sandwich. Our decision wasn’t at all difficult to make when we decided that if we kept money that did not belong to us that we would be breaking the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” We agreed that our Heavenly Father would be displeased with us and we would be unhappy too because we would know in our hearts that we had not been honest.
Adam and I approached the girl at the counter, and I explained to her that she had undercharged us and that we owed almost a dollar more. Her face flushed in embarrassment for a moment, and then she thanked us for telling her of the mistake. We continued on our way with a good feeling, and I am sure our Heavenly Father approved of what we had done.
If we learn to be honest in small dealings, it becomes a habit so that it will be easier to be honest when we handle large transactions. During my lifetime in business, I have been entrusted with very large sums of money. I am grateful that I have never disappointed those who depended on my honesty. Opportunities for growth and advancement would never have come to me if I had been dishonest.
I pray you will always remember the excellent advice from Shakespeare who once wrote:
“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”