To some in the world, honesty and integrity are outdated ideas that hold people back from success. The Mormons teach their people to be honest in all their doings, with God, with others, and with themselves. Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often referred to as Mormons, shares his thoughts on the subject of honesty in a modern world.
For some, there will come the temptation to dishonor a personal standard of honesty. In a business law class at the university I attended, I remember that one particular classmate never prepared for the class discussions. I thought to myself, “How is he going to pass the final examination?”
I discovered the answer when he came to the classroom for the final examination, on a winter’s day, wearing on his bare feet only a pair of sandals. I was surprised and watched him as the class began. All of his books had been placed upon the floor. He slipped the sandals from his feet; and then, with toes that he had trained and had prepared with glycerine, he skillfully turned the pages of one of the books which he had placed on the floor, thereby viewing the answers to the examination questions.
He received one of the highest grades in that course on business law. But the day of reckoning came. Later, as he prepared to take his comprehensive examination, for the first time the dean of his particular discipline said, “This year I shall depart from tradition and shall conduct an oral, rather than a written, test.” Our favorite, trained-toe expert found that he had his foot in his mouth on that occasion and failed the examination.
Thomas S. Monson, “That We May Touch Heaven,” Ensign, Nov 1990, 45
A few days after his prayer in the Sacred Grove, Joseph Smith gave an account of his vision to a preacher with whom he was acquainted. To his surprise, his communication was treated with “contempt” and “was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase.” Joseph, however, did not waver. He later wrote, “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true. … For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.” 3 Despite the physical and mental punishment at the hands of his opponents which the Prophet Joseph Smith endured throughout the remainder of his life, he did not falter. He taught honesty-by example.
Thomas S. Monson, “The Prophet Joseph Smith: Teacher by Example,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 67
In our time, when otherwise honorable men bend the law, twist the law, and wink at violations of the law, when crime goes unpunished, legally imposed sentences go unserved, and irresponsible and illegal conduct soars beyond previously recorded heights, there is a very real need to return to the basic justice that the laws provide when honest men sustain them.
Coming as I do from the world of business, I also mention obedience to the laws, not theories, of economics. One cannot continually spend more than he earns and remain solvent. This law applies to nations as well as to men. A worker cannot, in the long run, adhere to a philosophy of something for nothing as opposed to something for something. Nor can management dismiss as optional the necessity of an adequate corporate profit and a reasonable return to shareholders if an economy of free enterprise is to flourish.
When economic decisions are based on theory rather than law, we find the chaos experienced a number of years ago in Uruguay:
“Labor wanted higher wages; industrialists wanted bigger income; but nobody wanted to do any work. Citizens thought more of their rights than of their obligations. The country’s vast web of social legislation redistributed wealth but did not create it. … Nobody had the vision to see that what Uruguay needed was production.” (John Gunther, Uruguay-Utopia Gone Wild.)
One person of wisdom observed, “Laws are the rules by which the game of life is played.” In reality, they are much more; for obedience to law is an essential requirement if we are to be successful in our quest for the abundant life.
Thomas S. Monson, “In Quest of the Abundant Life,” Ensign, Mar 1988, 2
Years ago the Church brought help to young men and young women with a program featuring posters and wallet-size cards which contained specific messages of truth and encouragement. The series carried the heading “Be Honest with Yourself!” One message featured was the provocative and penetrating truth “Virtue is its own reward.”
“Learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” 2
Temptation is a part of life and will be experienced in one way or another by every traveler through mortality. However, the Apostle Paul, acknowledging this truth, gave us this assurance: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 3
It has been said that conscience warns us as a friend before it punishes us as a judge. The expression of one young man is a sermon in itself. When asked when he was happiest, he replied, “I’m happiest when I don’t have a guilty conscience.”
Thomas S. Monson, “Happiness-The Universal Quest,” Ensign, Oct 1993, 2