The Importance of Being Honest

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Alice Grayson was to bake a cake for the Baptist Church ladies’ group bake sale in Tuscaloosa, but she forgot to do it until the last minute. She remembered it the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets she found an angel food cake mix and quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing and helping her son Bryan pack up for Scout camp. But when Alice took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured.
She said, “Oh dear, there’s no time to bake another cake.” This cake was so important to Alice because she did so want to fit in at her new church, and in her new community of new friends. So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake. Alice found it in the bathroom — a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and then covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfect!
Before she left the house to drop the cake by the church and head for work, Alice woke her daughter Amanda and gave her some money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the minute it opened at 9:30, and to buy that cake and bring it home.
When the daughter arrived at the sale, she found that the attractive perfect cake had already been sold. Amanda grabbed her cell phone and called her Mom.
Alice was horrified. She was beside herself. Everyone would know, what would they think? Oh, my she wailed! She would be ostracized, talked about, ridiculed. All night Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people pointing their fingers at her and talking about her behind her back.
The next day, Alice promised herself that she would try not to think about the cake and she would attend the fancy luncheon/bridal shower at the home of a friend of a friend and try to have a good time. Alice did not really want to attend because the hostess was a snob who more than once had looked down her nose at the fact that Alice was a single parent and not from the founding families of Tuscaloosa, but having already RSVP’d she could not think of a believable excuse to stay home. The meal was elegant, the company was definitely upper crust old South and to Alice’s horror, the CAKE in question was presented for dessert.
Alice felt the blood drain from her body when she saw the cake, she started, out of her chair to rush to tell her hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, the Mayor’s wife said, “What a beautiful cake!”
Alice, who was still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess (who was a prominent church member) say, Thank you. I baked it myself.”Alice smiled and thought to herself, “GOD is good.”( )
Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you. These words were sung by Billy Joel in 1978. If these words were true then, they are even more so now.

Why do we need to be honest? First of all, it is a commandment from the Lord. As part of the 10 commandments, the Lord gave the children of Israel several involving dishonesty: Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, and thou shalt not bear false witness. (Exodus 20:14, 15,17,16) I know the Lord has given us these commandments to help us be happy and live peaceable lives.

Honesty is a principle we are taught to follow from the time we are young. I remember once when I was little I hit one of my brothers, making him cry. My mom was in the bathroom fixing her hair and hadn’t seen what happened. She asked me if I hit him and, not wanting to get in trouble, I told her no. She asked me several times and I kept telling her no. Somehow she knew I was being untruthful and I knew it too. I don’t remember if I was punished for it or not, but I do remember my mom’s feelings of disappointment in me and I felt very dirty inside for having told such a lie.

Another story that illustrates how dishonesty can affect a person’s happiness was told by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the Oct. 1990 Ensign. He says, “Among many unsigned letters I have received was one of particular interest. It contained a twenty-dollar bill and a brief note which stated that the writer had come to my home many years ago. When there had been no response to the bell, he had tried the door and, finding it unlocked, had entered and walked about. On the dresser he saw a twenty-dollar bill, took it, and left. Through the years his conscience had bothered him, and he was now returning the money.

“He did not include anything for interest for the period during which he had used my money. But as I read his pathetic letter I thought of the usury to which he had subjected himself for a quarter of a century with the unceasing nagging of his conscience. For him there had been no peace until he had made restitution.”

Imagine what a different world we would live in if everyone were honest. In his same address, Pres. Hinckley said this:

“I remember when our local papers carried a similar story. The state of Utah received an unsigned note, together with two hundred dollars. The note read: “The enclosed is for materials used over the years I worked for the state—such as envelopes, paper, stamps, etc.” Imagine the flood of money that would pour into the offices of government, business, and merchants if all who have filched a little here and there were to return that which they had dishonestly taken.
The cost of every bag of groceries at the supermarket, of every tie or blouse bought at the shopping center includes for each of us the burden of shoplifting.”

Some other words associated with the word honesty are dependability, integrity, sincerity, trust, true, and truth. I like these words because they are strong, firm, and immovable. I know these are important values that are diminishing in today’s world, which makes them even more important to maintain in myself.

In his address in the April 1997 General Conference, Elder Sheldon F. Child said,

“Honesty and integrity are not old-fashioned principles. They are just as viable in today’s world. We have been taught in the Church that:
When we say we will do something, we do it.
When we make a commitment, we honor it.
When we are given a calling, we fulfill it.
When we borrow something, we return it.
When we have a financial obligation, we pay it.
When we enter into an agreement, we keep it.”

Honesty involves every aspect of our lives.

Elder Child also said, “We are all familiar with the statement “Honesty is the best policy.” For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, honesty is the only policy. We must be honest with our fellowmen. We must be honest with our God. We are honest with God when we honor the covenants we make with Him.

There’s a story in the Book of Mormon of a group of people who honored their covenants with God. These people were the Anti-Nephi-Lehies who were converted from their wicked Lamanite ways because of the good examples and preaching of Ammon and his brethren. Their conversion was complete and Alma 27:27 says, “for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.” When I read that verse it inspires me to become more like them, perfectly honest and upright and to have a firm, faith-filled testimony.

We make covenants with the Lord throughout our lives as members of His church. Some of those covenants are made in the temple, but before we even get to the temple, we are asked a question about our honesty in the temple recommend interview: Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen? To me this means that honesty is very important to the Lord and we need to be honest and true throughout our lives. If we aren’t honest with our fellowmen, how can we be honest with ourselves and with our Heavenly Father?

Any one of any age can be honest and show integrity. There’s a story in the Feb. 2006 FRIEND magazine about a little boy who was honest. He was attending parent teacher conference with his mom and was feeling very uncomfortable because his grades were not as good as they should have been. He had received several low quiz scores in English and his teacher explained to his mother why. On every quiz, he asked the students if they had read the story. If they hadn’t, he automatically took away half their points, even if they’d answered all the questions correctly. Daniel had answered all the questions correctly, but he hadn’t read any of the stories and had lost many points because of it. As Daniel and his mom drove home, Daniel was feeling very badly. He knew his mom was disappointed in him. However, as they drove, his mom told him that she was proud of him, not for his grades but for his integrity. How easy it would have been for Daniel to mark that he had read the stories, even though he hadn’t. But he was honest even though he knew he would lose half his points. His mother gave him an A in integrity and told him she hoped that would never change. What a good example Daniel was for being honest even when it was hard.

Being honest and maintaining our integrity bring great blessings in our lives, even though it may not always be evident. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin tells us: “The rewards of integrity are immeasurable. One is the indescribable inner peace that comes from knowing we are doing what is right; another is an absence of the guilt and anxiety that accompany sin. Another reward of integrity is the confidence it can give us in approaching God. . . . The consummate reward of integrity is the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. . . . Let us live true to the trust the Lord has placed in us.”14

I would like to add that honesty not only brings blessings to our individual lives, it brings blessings to those around us and society as a whole. It would be a wonderful feeling to know we can trust our neighbors, people we work with, and those we come into contact with each day.

Honesty is becoming less common in our day in age, but that doesn’t make it less important. Heavenly Father has commanded us to be honest and that will never change. Dishonesty brings sorrow and guilt. If we are honest we will be blessed with inner peace, confidence in the Lord, the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and many other blessings. I would like to encourage each of you to strive for honesty and integrity every day so you can receive these blessings.


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