Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Anatomy of Honesty

February 02nd, 2016 by G.

What is honesty? Brother Petersen answered the question in his Ocrober 1971 general conference address from the Saturday morning session, Honesty, a Principle of Salvation.He taught that honesty was essential to salvation.  He taught honesty as a broad principle that went beyond simple lying.

  • He repeated several times that most sins of lust involved dishonesty.  Either because the two lie to each other in the process of bringing the barriers down–seduction as dishonesty–or because they lie to themselves.  I think they always have to lie at least to themselves because sexual love wants to be forever and lust wants to be love.  To indulge purely in lust, one has to wall off part of oneself.
  • Theft is dishonesty.  Concealing information in business transactions is dishonesty.
  • Hypocrisy is dishonesty.  Our culture lies a lot about dishonesty.  First we made a muddle of the vice and then we used the muddle to promote more vice.  But hypocrisy is still a deadly vice.  Elder Petersen teaches that hypocrisy is a fundamental disconnect between the life we profess and the life we live.
  • He also teaches that impenitence is a serious form of lying.  The failure to repent means embracing the sin, embracing the lie.  Repentance is what explains why not all sin is hypocrisy.  The person who is trying to repent is making their whole life, including their sins, comport with their faith.  The individual who is “faking it until they make it” is orienting their actions towards the gospel, even if they are not exemplars yet.
  • He preaches a stern reminder that the Devil is the  source of the lie.  Lying is not a purely local, human phenomenon.
  • He teaches that the lie comes from selfishness.  So, ultimately, pride.  I admit from my own sad experience that there is a kind of sick pleasure in getting away with a lie, a sense of having put one over and having raised oneself at the expense of who you lied to.  Lying is a form of contempt.

I see two other reasons people lie, which ultimately tie back into Elder Petersen’s teaching about the Devil.  First, I see people lying as a way to avoid the consequences of their own choices.  Second, I see it as a way of controlling others by controlling the information they have.  I said two reasons, but then you step back and consider the two, and you see that they are really one.  Both are attacks on agency.  The first reason for lying is an attack on one’s own agency.  Trying to wriggle out of consequences other than through repentance is a denial of meaningful choice.  The second reason is an attack on the agency of others.  One lies because one does not like the decisions people make and wants to coerce them into another decision.  Both are attacks on agency and so it is appropriate that it is the old enemy of agency who is the father of lies.

Other Posts from the Saturday Morning Sessions of the October 1971 General Conference

The Word is Mightier than the Sword http://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2016/02/02/the-word-is-mightier-than-the-sword/
LDS Conference October 1971 – Cultural, Intellectual, and Spiritual Fads http://www.sixteensmallstones.org/lds-conference-october-1971-cultural-intellectual-and-spiritual-fads/
The Guiding Light https://symphonyofdissent.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/the-guiding-light/
Sincerity, Signs of the Times, and South America http://goodgazette.blogspot.com/2016/01/sincerity-signs-of-times-and-south.html
The Fullness of the Gospel for the Fullness of Life http://patheos.com/blogs/soulandcity/2016/02/the-fullness-of-the-gospel-for-the-fullness-of-life/
“God…is at the Helm” http://mormonwoman.org/2016/02/02/god-is-at-the-helm-ldsconf-odyssey/
Love and Lies http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com/2016/02/love-and-lies.html
Prophets Forewarn: Stand in Gospel Light http://www.ldswomenofgod.com/prophets-forewar…-in-gospel-light/
Comments (29)
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February 02nd, 2016 07:30:38

[…] Anatomy of Honesty (G at Junior Ganymede) […]

Bruce Charlton
February 2, 2016

Could I be a bit ‘controversial’ here; and say that I suspect (on general principles and *not* from any personal knowledge) that dishonesty may be *the* major sin for active Temple-worthy Mormons?

Not because they are Mormons; but simply because so many of them work, successfully – and attain high status – in typical modern institutions, organizations and corporations where dishonesty is normal, expected, and increasingly enforced.

This was not the case in 1971, but it is the case now – and I suspect that it happened so slowly, incrementally and so universally that many/ most people are simply unaware that they are being seriously dishonest (by the standards of 40 years ago, and about important matters too) for much of their professional lives.

Nowadays a person in a senior managerial/ administrative/ professional role just IS dishonest – or else they do not reach or survive in that role. And many (in general exemplary) Mormons currently occupy such roles.

Sooner or later this will come to the fore, I suspect, in official teachings; and may another factor in bringing an end to the century of successful workplace/ educational/ public sphere assimilation that has been so characteristic of Mormons.

I simply raise this matter for people to consider with respect to themselves – I am not wanting or hoping for people to defend themselves against this implicit ‘accusation’, nor am I expecting inhuman perfection.

My point relates to a comparison with the public honesty standards of 1971.

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February 2, 2016


I suspect honesty is one of many issues in which faithful LDS are gradually being wedged away from the dominant culture. Our rejection of gay marriage is another. Others will doubtless come up.

I find it significant that the wedging is not something we are deliberately seeking, as a Church; it is being more or less forced on us, on pain of ceasing to be meaningfully active LDS.

el oso
February 2, 2016

I have seen your comments/columns on this subject before. I have also seen many examples of this in my 20 years in the business world.
I am still not convinced that dishonesty is an absolute requirement to “play the game” in big business. Many do so, but some other business leaders seem to not do it. Either that or I am so used to it that I do not even recognize the dishonesty that the most upstanding and virtuous still display.

Can you give examples of what needs to change or what honest behavior would be required that is generally not evident?

[…] Anatomy of Honesty (G at Junior Ganymede) […]

Bruce Charlton
February 3, 2016

@el oso – If you look at the section on Jacob Bronowski in this mini-book you may see my point of view


It is the ‘habit of truth’ and the recognition that it is difficult to hold to truthfulness *at all* unless it is recognized that truth is indivisible. If you stop trying to be truthful in everything, then it becomes difficult to aim at truth at all.

When I say that most institutional environments are dishonest, I mean that they are not even trying to be truthful. Being truthful is not, for them, a transcendental value.

For modern organizations, dishonesty is treated like illegality – being truthful is of no more interest than working in the spirit of the law. They are pursued in a negative sense; the organization regardes law breaking (dishonesty) as something to avoid being caught and punished for, not law-full-ness (truth-full-ness) as a positive goal to be pursued.

Part of this, and a way in which what is happeing is disguised, is that these transcendent concepts are made into words, and the words are reframed in bureaucratic procedures.

So a ‘high quality’ product means follwing approved prcedures, and ‘approved procedures’ are assumed to be good because they have been approved – and there is no further legitimate enquiry possible: bureaucratic consensus is the bootom line.

So, truthfulness means doing nothing contrary to what is (currently) recognized as proper procedure, and proper procedure is proper because it is agreed to be proper (eg. it conforms to what external regulators have imposed).

Organizations are untruthful through and through, because they do not consider actual real human individual truthfulness to be a legitimate goal, let alone an absolute necessity.

I think this can be tested against experience. When filling in a form at work (every form), giving a presentation, answering a memo, devising marketing, is the primary consideration that the content be truthful and not misleading?

To put it another way, does ‘the boss’ *want* you to be truthful, or something else? Probably the clearest example of dishonesty comes when ethe organization is being audited managerially (I mean in the modern sense of quality assurnace auditing, the organization being ‘inspected’). In such procedures honesty is neither expected nor wanted by and of the boss – and will probably be punished. Instead an elaborate and dishonest facade is contrived and constructed, and participants rehearsed in the fiction – the assumption being that failure to do so wil be fatal.

Since such audits and inspections are central to modern institutions, propbably their primary survival task (organizations are always preparing for the next one) this cause of dishonesty has infected everywhere.

While a lowly carpenter or scene painter on the job may be honest; the person who actually devises and supervises the construction of a Potemkin village – ie. the manager, administrator or other Boss – cannot be honest, because he is planning and executing a deception.

February 3, 2016

Bruce C.
Unfortunately, honesty is the biggest stumbling block for corporate Mormonism, as well.

Throughout history, Mormons have preached honesty, except for when the federal government was investigating polygamy.

Today, the Mormon church throws “militia members” under the bus for a peaceful protest, and tells the world it instructs its members to obey the law. Yet, the church bends over backwards to allow illegal immigrants to serve missions. Somehow, honest with your fellow men doesn’t encompass following immigration laws and identity theft.

This is something where I feel corporate Mormonism could do a better example of leading by example.

February 3, 2016

I am inclined to believe that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are collectively smarter than me, better informed than me, and closer to God than me.

So when they do something that puzzles me, such as allowing illegal immigrants to serve missions, I try to remind myself that perhaps I am the one who doesn’t get it, rather than them.

The “militia members” thoroughly deserved to be thrown under the bus, so that one doesn’t much trouble me.

February 3, 2016

And this, Bruce c, is the scary part of brain off Mormonism.

If church leaders ever so something that is not consistent with their other sayings, certain folk claim they’re allowed to do it becausr they’re smarter or more righteous.

Perhaps as an outsider you can press some folk here to explain how ignoring illegal immigration is honest? As background, illegal immigrants are allowed to attend the temple, and the churches mission department calls illegal immigrants stateside because they can’t fly, and has members drive them to avoid being caught and deported.

February 3, 2016

Perhaps if the LDS church were to change their definition of honesty to telling the truth except when it hurts your immigration status, then it could logically be considered consistent. But you cannot logically require complete honesty one side, and allow for dishonest illegal immigration on the other without being (accurately) viewed as capricious.

February 3, 2016

Is it your view, then, that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are liars?

February 3, 2016

And hypocrites too.

February 3, 2016

laserguy, you will find that this is not a congenial site for visitors who brand the Brethren as liars and hypocrites. Perhaps you would be more comfortable posting at Times and Seasons.

February 4, 2016

LG: it appears the Lord tries all His saints, right wing as well as left wing.

I trust the Q15 are led by revelation. I believe them when they say they get specific and clear revelation on where to send each missionary. Therefore, if the Q15 say the Lord wants illegal border crossers to go to the temple, and go on missions, then I accept that as the Lord’s will,

After all, it’s His “army”, and it’s His temple. Who am I to say who the Lord calls to serve in His army? Who am I to say who the Lord invites into His house?

As I ponder these things, it occurs to me that national borders are man-made constructs, and the Lord may not give them the importance that we do. National borders may not even exist after the start of the Millenium when the Lord reigns personally on the Earth.

The Millenium starts or is the establishment of Zion on Earth. My understanding is that the inhabitants of Zion are going to live the United Order. (I don’t know if that means the entire population on Earth at the Second Coming +1 day). As I understand it, borders would not really mean anything to two groups of people on opposite sides of the border if they are collectively living the United Order as one group of brothers and sisters in the gospel.

The Lord just might be starting to prepare us for a time when there are no more national borders. I dunno. Just thinking out loud.

On another tack, my own schooling in various forms of revelation leave me in awe. Such that I have no doubt that the Lord is able to make known His will to the Q15 in a very clear manner in those situations where He wants to to needs to. Whether the prophet initiates the inquiry, or whether the Lord or Holy Ghost comes knocking and says “Hey, listen up”, revelation in important matters is a very real thing. And we humans don’t get to say what is important to the Lord. And, the Lord doesn’t owe anyone explanations. Sometimes the Lord gives reasons to the petitioner or to the recipient of the knock, sometimes not. Sometimes the Lord allows the Q15 to publicize reasons, sometimes not.

(Aside: the Q15 has to play a very careful and diplomatic public relations campaign these days. The church can’t afford to scare off potential converts, has to be careful to not provoke persecution, and not pluck up the tares before it’s time to.)

Then, there are those muliple passages in the BoM about when modern Lamanites are going to tear through and tread down this land like young lions in the latter days. Maybe the church, and church members, should get on their good side before that happens.

Who could have supposed that polygamy was a righteous and godly thing to do back then? You had to get revelation on your own to believe it was correct, or have confidence that JS was a prophet, which also required personal revelation.

I received personal revelation that JS was a prophet and that the BoM is true. At a time when I was wondering if the line of authority continued through BY, the Holy Ghost confirmed that the apostle I was listening to at the time, Elder Haight, was a true apostle. And that logically required authority through Brigham Young, and that logically requires President Monson to be the legitmate successor.

So just as the left-wing has their assumptions challenged by the prophets, and we on the right encourage them to trust the prophets, so must we on the right be prepared to trust the prophets when our right-wing assumptions are challenged by the prophets.

“Dip seven times in the Jordan River?” “March seven times around Jericho?” “Cut off my ___WHAT___??!!” “Watch the same movie over, and over, and over, and over, and over…..?” The Lord sure asks some strange things of us.

el oso
February 4, 2016

Thanks for the more detailed explanation.

Jacob G.
February 4, 2016

The US, as represented, hardly cares about illegal immigration. Why should the church fall on its own sword when the country itself hardly lifts a finger? Should it be more nationalistic than, you know, an actual nation?
Nay, brother, the time is coming and is not far off when this nation will be one with Nineveh and Tyre. Yet still will stand that ancient sacrifice.

You know, in a way this is a perfect illustration of Mr.Charltons point. The system is dishonest – so you can either withdraw, work within the system as it actually is, or smash your head against the wall, because it is called a door.

February 5, 2016

“The US, as represented, hardly cares about illegal immigration. Why should the church fall on its own sword when the country itself hardly lifts a finger? Should it be more nationalistic than, you know, an actual nation?”

Hear, hear.


The church is not primarily an instrument to effect political change.

February 16, 2016

Been lurking here for a while…
I’m not sure I understand.

You can claim to follow the law.
You can claim that immigration doesn’t matter to God, and shuttle illegal immigrants around to skirt the law.

But you cannot claim both at the same time and remain consistent and logical.

I would personally like to see either evidence or refutation of these facts.

Does the LDS Church indeed turn a blind eye to immigration non-compliance?
If yes, is that considered a matter of policy (political expediency), or is it, as Mr. Bookslinger implies, a revelation from God.
If it is a revelation, then why isn’t the LDS Church more open and honest about it, like the inspired Pope is?

These are some continuing questions about Mormonism that lead honest seekers like myself to hold on a while…

I’m also somewhat disturbed by the lack of free-discourse. Bruce Charlston, are you happy aligning yourself with those who silence dissenting discourse?

Inspector Javert
February 16, 2016

There, out in the darkness
A fugitive running
Fallen from god
Fallen from grace
God be my witness
I never shall yield
Till we come face to face
Till we come face to face

He knows his way in the dark
Mine is the way of the Lord
Those who follow the path of the righteous
Shall have their reward
And if they fall
As Lucifer fell
The flames
The sword!

In your multitudes
Scarce to be counted
Filling the darkness
With order and light
You are the sentinels
Silent and sure
Keeping watch in the night
Keeping watch in the night

You know your place in the sky
You hold your course and your aim
And each in your season
Returns and returns
And is always the same
And if you fall as Lucifer fell
You fall in flame!

And so it must be, for so it is written
On the doorway to paradise
That those who falter and those who fall
Must pay the price!

Lord, let me find him
That I may see him
Safe behind bars
I will never rest
Till then
This I swear
This I swear by the stars!

February 16, 2016

>But you cannot claim both at the same time and remain consistent and logical.

Fair enough. It certainly appears to me that we’re not consistent or logical on this point.

But I think this misrepresents the process. The First Presidency do not write out a list of principles and check everything against them to make sure everything is internally consistent. Rather, feeling the weight of responsibility of representing the Lord, they see their job as to be messengers rather than rulers. As such, on any issue, their primary concern is: “What is God’s will?”

I am, well, here, so I’m unusually nationalistic, and I definitely get hot/bothered about illegal immigration. I do wish the Church took it more seriously.

But I am not God; I do not know what is best; the Church will someday face judgment before God on this matter among others, and then we will see what He thinks.

As a voter and citizen, I get really militant about this. As a Christian, I am more live-and-let-live.

Bruce Charlton
February 17, 2016

@’TS’ – I do not know of any large group, institution, organization or church in the Western world today that comes anywhere near to the CJCLDS for honesty.

Silencing dissenting discourse/ lack of free-discourse… these phrases, and what they imply, I regard as being themselves characteristically disingenuous, subversive, and dishonest.

But this is not the place to discuss such matters – so we shall say no more. Please regard this conversation as closed.

February 17, 2016

[We do not speak evil of the Lord’s anointed at this blog, and do not tolerate those who do.]

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