An Examination in Honesty

I’m running a week behind on my general conference odyssey posts, so I’m going to be posting two posts this week.

In the Sunday Morning session, there was a strong focus on the importance of honesty and integrity that really stuck out to me.

Elder Perry told of a professor who gave his students very special instructions before a difficult exam:

In giving an examination one day, a trigonometry teacher said, “Today I am going to give you two examinations: one in trigonometry and one in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. But if you must fail one, let it be trigonometry. For there are many good men in the world today who cannot pass an examination in trigonometry but there are no good men in the world today who cannot pass an examination in honesty.”

Honesty is a virtue that is unfortunately underrated in today’s society. It has become far more acceptable for politicians and media personalities to lie with abandon. Unfortunately, this has led to the fatal undermining of trust.

If these words were true in the shadow of Watergate, they are even more true today:

Every healthy society needs a common core of values based on the divine law of the Lord. This core of values should be a fundamental upon which all laws governing human conduct are based. Societies which have governed themselves by this fundamental set of values have found peace, prosperity, joy, beauty, morality and fulfillment. Societies which have thought themselves beyond these basic principles have literally destroyed themselves.

Are we not now seeing in our society today the lack of a responsiveness to teach these basic values? Are we not seeing a growing harvest of public and private crime, irresponsibility, vandalism, shoddy work, immorality and the lack of personal discipline? Because of our unwillingness to get involved in the preservation of these values, small, radical, Godless groups are literally stealing from us our rights to enjoy the freedom to choose our own value system.

Elder/President Gordon B. Hinckley also spoke on a similar theme:

In our childhood we were told the stories of George Washington’s confessing to chopping down the cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s walking a great distance to return a small coin to its rightful owner. But clever debunkers in their unrighteous zeal have destroyed faith in such honesty; the media in all too many cases have paraded before us a veritable procession of deception in its many ugly forms.

What was once controlled by the moral and ethical standards of the people, we now seek to handle by public law. And so the statutes multiply, enforcement agencies consume ever-increasing billions, prison facilities are constantly expanded, but the torrent of dishonesty pours on and grows in volume.

In a society where trust is corroded, there is no common source for information, values, and guidance. The dissonance that results tends to destroy the social fabric and lead to conflict. 

In the Church, we are blessed to have a single source of moral and spiritual authority. Great efforts are taken to shake confidence in our leaders because a loss of trust in our leaders fatally undermines the Church. We need to resist that temptation.

We also have an obligation to be an example of honest, rectitude and trust to those around us. We must be people of unquestionable integrity in order to stand against the increasing loss of integrity in society.

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