Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice: Honesty: A Moral Compass

James E. Faust


James E. Faust
Speak the truth in soberness (D&C 18:21).

Honesty: A Moral Compass

Every prophet has taught the importance of being honest. President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, shares some examples of young people who told the truth when it would have been easier to lie.

We all need to know what it means to be honest. Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving. John, a nine-year-old Swiss pioneer child who was in one of the handcart companies, is an example of honesty. His father put a chunk of buffalo meat in the handcart and said it was to be saved for Sunday dinner. John said, “I was so very hungry and the meat smelled so good to me while pushing at the handcart that I could not resist. I had a little pocket knife. … Although I expected a severe whipping when father found it out, I cut off little pieces each day. I would chew them so long that they got white and perfectly tasteless. When father came to get the meat he asked me if I had been cutting off some of it. I said ‘Yes. I was so hungry I could not let it alone.’ Instead of giving me a scolding or whipping, father turned away and wiped tears from his eyes.” …

Honesty is a moral compass to guide us in our lives. … I would like to tell you a story of an excellent athlete—a young man with superb character. He never went to the Olympics, but he stands as tall as any Olympian because he was honest with himself and with his God.

The account is told by a coach in a junior high school. He states:

“Today was test day in climbing the rope. We climb from a standing start to a point 15 feet high. …

“The school record for the event is 2.1 seconds. It has stood for three years. Today this record was broken. …

“For three years Bobby Polacio, a 14 1/2-year-old ninth grade … boy, [trained and worked, consumed by his dream] of breaking this record.

“In his first of three attempts, Bobby climbed the rope in 2.1 seconds, tying the record. On the second try the watch stopped at 2.0 seconds flat, a record! But as he descended the rope and the entire class gathered around to check the watch, I knew I must ask Bobby a question. There was a slight doubt in my mind whether or not the board at the 15 foot height had been touched. If he missed, it was so very, very close—not more than a fraction of an inch—and only Bobby knew this answer.

“As he walked toward me, expressionless, I said, ‘Bobby, did you touch?’ If he had said, ‘Yes,’ the record he had dreamed of since he was a skinny seventh-grader and had worked for almost daily would be his, and he knew I would trust his word.

“With the class already cheering him for his performance, the slim, brown-skinned boy shook his head negatively. And in this simple gesture, I witnessed a moment of greatness. …

“… And it was with effort through a tight throat that I told the class: ‘This boy has not set a record in the rope climb. No, he has set a much finer record for you and everyone to strive for. He has told the truth.’

“I turned to Bobby and said, ‘Bobby, I’m proud of you. You’ve just set a record many athletes never attain. Now, in your last try I want you to jump a few inches higher on the takeoff.’ …

“After the other boys had finished their next turns, and Bobby came up … for his try, a strange stillness came over the gymnasium. Fifty boys and one coach [watched] breathlessly [as] Bobby Polacio … climbed the rope in 1.9 seconds! A school record, a city record, and perhaps close to a national record for a junior high school boy.

“When the bell rang and I walked away, … I was thinking: ‘Bobby, … at 14 you are a better man than I. Thank you for climbing so very, very high today.’”

All of us can climb high when we honor every form of truth.

(Ensign, November 1996, pages 41–44.)

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dan Burr