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RS/MP Lesson 31: “Honesty” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by joespencer on April 3, 2011

This is, perhaps naturally, one of the most straightforward lessons in the whole Gospel Principles manual. After making clear that “honesty is a principle of salvation,” the lesson lists a few specific forms of dishonesty (lying, stealing, cheating—note that the new edition has added a reference to “copying music, movies, pictures, or written text without the permission of the copyright owners” to its discussion of stealing), criticizes excuse-making concerning honesty, and concludes with a word about how “we can be completely honest.”

To be honest, I have nothing much to say in response to this lesson. But I’ll see if I can’t just point in a few directions that might be of interest, though I won’t commit to spelling out their implications here.

(1) Among the “additional scriptures” is D&C 50:17. I wonder if this verse couldn’t be used to produce an interesting discussion: What is “the spirit of truth,” and what is the relationship between teaching the gospel and honesty?

(2) The lesson refers to Alma 27:27, in which certain people were “distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things.” Some interesting discussion could be generated by trying to think about this connection between public distinction and honesty. Isn’t the very possibility of public distinction precisely what usually keeps us from being honest?

(3) The lesson makes reference to the scriptural claim (see 2 Nephi 9:9) that Satan is the “father of lies.” What does this attribution mean? Much thought could be given to that point, I think.

(4) The lesson says: “We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth.” This is nice point, principally because it makes clear that language is more than verbal, and that honesty is a question of that broader sense of language. Honesty is a way of being in the world, not a question of propositional content. This could be a nice point for further discussion.

(5) While avoiding overly heated political discussion, it might be interesting to take a closer look at this statement in the lesson: “Some employees cheat their employers by not working their full time; yet they accept full pay. Some employers are not fair to their employees; they pay them less than they should.” Most of us are involved in one of these two situations, whether as employer or employee. Does honesty essentially work against today’s work ethic?

(6) Finally, a warning from my perspective. Most every lesson and talk I’ve heard on honesty tries to establish the rule by delineating the exception: “We all know what we shouldn’t say when our wives ask whether that dress makes them look fat, but honesty doesn’t cover that kind of thing.” I think this rhetorical move is a mistake. Lessons on honesty should call us behind facile rule/exception distinctions to living the kind of life where we are honest enough with ourselves not to think there are exceptions.

What thoughts have you all on this lesson?

3 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 31: “Honesty” (Gospel Principles Manual)”

  1. Ben S said

    I’m not sure it’s always as clearcut as the manual presents.

    http://michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/2010/03/does-god-lie/
    http://michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/2010/03/lying-and-deception/

  2. Ama said

    I used to get all caught up in trying to decide how to define honesty, like in how brutally honest are we called to be? Tact? White lies? I laid them all to rest after I read the intro to “Arm the Children” by Arthur Henry King. In it Terry Warner discusses what the definition of truth is. He defines it by reading the scripture “I am the way, the truth and the life”, so in his eyes Truth is anything that leads us to Christ, because Christ is the Truth. Now in my relationships with others I ask myself to respond to them in a way that would invite them toward Christ – sometimes this means saying something that isn’t outwardly what we would define as “true”. But it has helped me in much deeper ways than that. Now I also don’t feel obligated to feel like my feelings of resentment/anger/frustration need to be hashed out because they are “true”. They’re not true, they’re lies from Satan that he would have me believe are real – but once I recognize that I’m living a lie while I feel them I can change easier.

    I’m teaching this lesson Sunday and haven’t decided if I want to touch on this idea or not. Sometimes my lessons go much better if I ask questions that I don’t have such a strong response already in my head.

  3. Robert C. said

    Ama, I think 2 Ne 28:8 in the “To Lie is Dishonest” section would be a good one to focus on and discuss in context since the following verses suggest at least a thematic link for Nephi regarding honesty and pride. Because of the danger of self-deception, thinking that we are completely honest when perhaps we are not, I think it’d be helpful to link dishonesty with another, much more common vice like pride (that, plus I just really like 2 Nephi 28, perhaps since I think we’re often very inclined to feel too much at ease in Zion, etc.).

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