Lesson 31: Being Honest

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 257–64


The purpose of this lesson is to teach us the importance of being honest.

Introduction

Elder Howard W. Hunter wrote about a young man who learned a very important lesson:

“I recall a young man who … traveled around with a crowd that thought it was smart to do things that were not right. On a few occasions he was caught in some minor violations. One day I got a call from the police station and was told he was being held because of a traffic violation. He had been caught speeding. … Knowing the things he was doing might prevent him from going on a mission, he straightened up, and when he was 19 years of age, he received his call.

“I shall never forget the talk we had when he returned. He told me that while he was in the mission field he had often thought of the trouble he had caused by the mistaken belief that the violation of little things was not important. But a great change had come into his life. He had come to the realization that there is no happiness or pleasure in violation of the law, whether it be God’s law or the laws that society imposes upon us. …

“I was impressed by the great change that had come over this young man while he served on his mission and studied moral principles. How unfortunate it is that he had to learn his lesson the hard way, but what a great blessing comes when there is the realization that one cannot be in violation and feel good about that conduct” (“Basic Concepts of Honesty,” New Era, Feb. 1978, 4–5).

  • Are we being dishonest when we break the laws of the land? Why?

  • Write on the chalkboard We believe in being honest.

The thirteenth article of faith, written by the Prophet Joseph Smith, states, “We believe in being honest, true, … virtuous, and in doing good to all men.” In this and many other scriptures the Lord has commanded us to be honest in our personal lives and in our dealings with others.

  • What does it mean to be honest? (It is doing what we know is right. If we make promises, we keep them. If we have a debt, we pay it. Honesty is to speak the truth and act truthfully. It means that we do not lie, steal, or break the laws of the land. It means that we do not deceive in any way.)

The Importance of Honesty

Being honest is necessary if we are to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we know the truth but do not live it, we are dishonest with ourselves and with God. To be honest with ourselves and the Lord, we must keep the covenants we have made. We must be honest to have the Holy Ghost as our companion.

Being honest with ourselves and God means that we must also be honest with those around us. If we are, the Lord will bless us with His Spirit, and we will earn the trust, honor, and loyalty of those with whom we associate. Our honesty with others will enable us to serve them and magnify our callings.

  • Read the following situations. Discuss as a class what you would do in each situation.

Example 1

Elder O. Leslie Stone recalled this experience: “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.”

  • What was the honest thing to do? If this happened to you, how could you teach your children about being honest?

Elder Stone continued:

“I knew that the girl would be short [of money] 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” (“Be Honest,” Friend, Jan. 1975, 7).

Example 2

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley recalled: “Recently we rode a train from Osaka to Nagoya, Japan. At the station were friends to greet us, and in the excitement my wife left her purse on the train.”

  • If you had found Sister Hinckley’s purse, what could you do?

Since Elder Hinckley believes that most people are honest, he “called the Tokyo station to report it. When the train arrived at its destination some three hours later, the railroad telephoned to say the purse was there. We were not returning via Tokyo, and more than a month passed before it was delivered to us in Salt Lake City. Everything left in the purse was there when it was returned” (“An Honest Man—God’s Noblest Work,” New Era, Oct. 1976, 47).

  • What does the Lord expect of us when we find someone else’s property?

The Lord has said, “If thou shalt find that which thy neighbor has lost, thou shalt make diligent search till thou shalt deliver it to him again” (D&C 136:26). The Lord expects us to be completely honest. To Him, anything that is not completely honest is dishonest; there is no such thing as partial honesty.

  • How can we recognize what is honest and what is not? Have a class member read Moroni 7:16–17.

  • Who is the source of good? What are the results of honest acts? (Good, belief in Christ, service to God) Who is the source of evil? What are the results of dishonest acts? (Evil, unbelief in Christ, denial of Him, disservice to God)

  • Have class members discuss the following situations. They should decide if the person involved is being completely honest.

    1. 1.

      Dad has never had a traffic ticket. He is a good driver. He always watches carefully and tries to obey all traffic laws.

    2. 2.

      While at work, John uses company stamps to mail letters to his sick mother (see D&C 42:54).

    3. 3.

      Jack and Leo are the best of friends. They are willing to let each other borrow anything. After one borrows something from his neighbor, he promptly returns it. (See Mosiah 4:28; D&C 136:25.)

Honesty in the Family

Priesthood holders should not only strive to be honest themselves but should also teach their children to be honest. President N. Eldon Tanner said: “This training in honesty begins in the home. Each of us has personal possessions which … should not be taken without the consent of the owner. A child who respects such honesty in the home is not apt to violate the principle outside the home. On the other hand, lack of such training fosters disrespect for the rights and property of others” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 64; or Ensign, May 1978, 44).

  • What can we do in our families to teach and encourage honesty?

President Brigham Young said:

“Be honest. Woe to those who profess to be Saints and are not honest.

“Honest hearts produce honest actions” (as quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, in Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 234).

When we are interviewed to receive a temple recommend, we are asked if we deal honestly with others. An experience of one member of the Church, President Ruben Dario Pacheo of Caracas, Venezuela, illustrates the kind of honesty expected of us:

President Pacheo and his family wanted to go to the temple. After much sacrifice and spiritual preparation, he and his family raised the money for the long trip. President Pacheo sent his daughter to the bank to get 500 U.S. dollars. He said:

“My wife took the envelope and put it away without counting the money. The night before leaving, I asked for the money and noticed that the envelope was unusually heavy. We counted the money. They had given us $4,065. I was astonished. … The bank receipts indicated a purchase of only $500—that meant that the bank had erred some $3,500 in our favor!

“Some nonmember friends at our home that night tried to persuade us to use the money to enjoy our trip to the United States. To be honest, I myself had never seen so much money in my life. However, I energetically said, ‘We cannot keep this money because it is not ours. The purpose of our trip to the temple is to make covenants with the Lord. What good will they do if we are dishonest?’

“We returned the money to the bank; they had noticed that they had lost funds but had no records indicating to whom it had been paid. Some bank clerks asked me that day, ‘Why did you do it? Nobody knew that you had that money.’ My only answer was: ‘Because I am a Mormon’” (as quoted by Mario G. Echeverri, in “Venezuela,” Ensign, Feb. 1977, 30).

  • How did the Pacheo family show honesty? How do you suppose the family felt as they were sealed in the temple?

  • Invite class members to share some recent examples of honesty they have experienced or observed.

The Blessings of Honesty

We receive blessings when we are honest with others, ourselves, and the Lord. Some of these blessings include the following:

We Develop Trust

Other people will trust us when we are honest. They will know that they can come to us for help and guidance. Elder Spencer W. Kimball told of such a man:

“On one of the trips to Mexico City I was asked by one of the stake presidents to ordain a bishop who had been called. I was glad to do so. The President and the newly called bishop came to our room and we visited and got acquainted. As I remember it, this small but impressive man was introduced as a full-blooded Aztec Indian. This itself pleased me greatly since I have always had such a special interest in the Indians.

“I was told about him and his family and his occupation. It seems that he was employed by a man with a rather large business, and our new bishop was entrusted with the keeping of the accounts. The employer had decided to take his wife to Europe on a rather extended vacation, and he called in this dear brother and turned over the total responsibility to him and admitted that this was the only one of his employees in whom he had confidence sufficient to turn over his bank accounts.

“As we laid our hands on the head of this young man, my heart swelled with pride and I thanked the Lord for men who could be trusted, for men who could inspire confidence and affection” (in Conference Report, Mexico City Area Conference 1972, 32).

  • What is the value of being trusted by friends, associates, and employers? by the Lord?

The following story, told by the son of an early pioneer, illustrates the confidence and trust others have for us when we are honest with them: “One day my father sent me to trade a horse with an old Navajo Indian Chief. I was a little fellow and I went on horseback, leading the horse to be traded. The old chief came out and lifted me down from my horse. I told him my father wanted me to trade the horse for some blankets. He brought out a number of handsome blankets, but, as my father had told me to be sure and make a good trade, I shook my head and said I would have to have more. He then brought two buffalo robes and quite a number of other blankets and finally, when I thought I had done very well, I took the roll on my horse and started for home. When I gave the blankets to my father, he unrolled them, looked at them, and then began to separate them. He put blanket after blanket into a roll and did them up and told me to get on my horse and take them back and tell the chief he had sent too many. When I got back, the old chief took them and smiled. He said, ‘I knew you would come back; I knew Jacob would not keep so many; you know Jacob is our father as well as your father’” (told by Le Roi C. Snow, “Honesty Means Character,” in Preston Nibley, comp., Inspirational Talks for Youth [1954], 101).

We Please God

We please God when we are honest. Elder Howard W. Hunter told how honesty pleases God and blesses us: “There is a joy that comes to one from being honest. Let me tell you how. By this means you can have the companionship of the Master and you can have the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. Violations of the code of honesty will deprive you of these two great blessings. Could you believe that one who would lie or cheat … could have the companionship of the Master or have the Spirit of the Holy Ghost?” (New Era, Feb. 1978, 5).

Priesthood holders displease God when they are dishonest. A dishonest man or boy cannot represent an honest, truth-loving God.

We Feel Good about Ourselves

When we are honest, we feel good about ourselves.

  • How does being honest increase our self-respect?

An honest man has self-respect. He has nothing to hide and can look anyone straight in the eye. A dishonest man, however, feels cheap, ashamed, and often afraid. And he should, because dishonesty never goes unrecognized. Elder Howard W. Hunter asked: “Do you think you can be alone when you commit a dishonest act? Do you think you can be unobserved when you cheat in an examination, even though you are the only person in the room?” (New Era, Feb. 1978, 5).

We Influence Others for Good

Our honesty has a positive influence on others. President Spencer W. Kimball told of an instance when a member’s good example influenced a nonmember:

“On the train from New York to Baltimore we sat in the dining car with a businessman whom we engaged in conversation.

“‘Have you been to Salt Lake [City, Utah]? Do you hear the Tabernacle Choir?’ And these questions led us naturally into the golden ones. ‘How much do you know about the Church and its doctrine, practices, and people?’

“‘I know little about the Church,’ he said, ‘but I know one of its people.’ He was [building houses] in New York. ‘There is a subcontractor working for me,’ he continued. ‘He is so honest and full of integrity I never asked him to bid on a job. He is the soul of honor. If the Mormon people are like this man, I’d like to know about a Church which produces such honorable men.’ We left him literature and sent the missionaries in New York to proselyte him” (in Conference Report, Mexico City Area Conference 1972, 30).

Conclusion

The Lord has commanded us to be honest. We must therefore distinguish between honest and dishonest acts. We must practice honest thoughts, words, and actions in our homes, our neighborhoods, and the Church. We must also teach our children honesty. If we do these things we will have a clear conscience, peace of mind, a feeling of self-worth, and the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

  • Read Mosiah 4:30. What does King Benjamin warn us to do?

  • If you feel inspired to do so, bear your testimony of the principle of honesty.

Challenge

During the coming week, evaluate your thoughts, words, and actions to test your honesty. Seek the Lord’s help to speak the truth and act truthfully.

Fathers: Counsel with your wife to find ways to teach your children honesty.

Young men: Determine now to be honest with your parents and Church leaders and to obey the laws of God and of the land.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Review Gospel Principles chapter 31, “Honesty.”

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.