Honesty and Wisdom

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the April 1982 Conference.
Three of the talks in this session were really hard-hitting ones about honesty and deceit. It made me wonder what was going on in the church at that time to cause this emphasis to be needed! A couple of the talks specifically mentioned "get-rich quick schemes" and people being gullible because they wanted something for nothing, so I wondered if there was some scam making the rounds in Utah in the early 80's? But the other thing that struck me was how relevant these subjects still seemed right now.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton's talk, "This is No Harm," was probably my favorite of the three. I thought it was interesting that he spent equal time condemning those who lie, and warning people not to become victims of lies that others tell! He said,
In today’s world, where deceitfulness is so widely practiced in advertising, promoting, and marketing, a worthy prayer could well be, "Help me, O Lord, to be free not only of personal deceit, but grant me also the wisdom to avoid those who would damage me or mine through devious means."
He went on to say that one way to avoid being tricked by others is to avoid selfishness and greed, because "greed can make a person both dishonest and gullible."

I also liked this advice:
A wise person will not allow himself to be victimized by the unscrupulous because of false pride. Oftentimes people are swindled because false pride prevents them from asking questions and seeking additional information. For fear of embarrassment or being thought ignorant, a prospect ofttimes nods his head in the affirmative when he really doesn’t understand the glib salesman’s line of chatter. “What does that mean?” “What are the risks?” “What are the pitfalls?” “What is the history of the company?” “What references do you have?” are questions worthy of pursuit.
But here is the part that most struck me as relevant for today:
We are living in a day and time when the “gentle lie,” the “soft lie,” the “convenient lie,” the “misleading lie,” the “once-in-a-lifetime deal,” the “opportunity for a few selected friends” are being vigorously advocated and promoted. Designing promoters of questionable schemes have and will continue to prey on the gullible… 
It should be the goal of every Latter-day Saint to become the kind of person of whom it can be said, “His word is his bond.” In all of our words and deeds we should ask ourselves, “Is it right? Is it true?” not “Is it expedient, satisfactory, convenient, or profitable?” Just, “Is it right?” The wise will consider, “What is right?”; the greedy, “What will it pay?”
The extent to which dishonesty has become "institutionalized" or expected in our world is a frequent topic of discussion over at the Jr. Ganymede blog. And I don't think Elder Ashton's words here ignore the fact that it might be difficult, even counter-cultural, to live the kind of life where we refuse to even suggest a lie. He says:
If a lie is any communication given to another with the intent to deceive, we will all do well to seek God’s constant help in understanding and finding the truth. People of integrity will neither foster, nourish, embrace, nor share the lie. People of wisdom will not let greed, fear, or the desire for quick riches lead them into the snares of the dishonest and unscrupulous who prey on the gullible in order to maneuver from them valuable possessions.
I'm glad I don't have to think about getting promoted or impressing a boss or anything like that. :) But I know so many good men who DO have those concerns, who still manage to do their work with honesty and integrity. It makes me happy to think of these good men out in the world combatting the idea that "everyone" lies a little, and "this is no harm."

And in my home, I want to do my best to reinforce these principles too. The lies my kids tell are still mostly obvious and funny. But I want them to absorb the ideal of honesty deep down, and make it part of themselves, so that they'll be able to go out and be lights in the world someday as well.

Other posts in this series:

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