Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lesson: Honesty

Gospel Principles, Lesson 31, Honesty, taught by Ellen King

Of all the kinds and colors of marble, the milky white Carrara is the rarest and most costly. Sculptors who lived during the Golden Age of Tuscan Sculpture claimed that it was the purest substance God ever created, and they longed for the feel of it beneath their hands. Any sculptor who was commissioned by a wealthy patron of the arts to create a statue of Carrara marble felt himself to be highly favored.

Sculpting in marble was neither fast nor easy. In addition to innate talent, it required both careful analysis and tedious, backbreaking work. The artist would have to study the block of marble to determine its essential nature. He would then need to discover the direction of the grain and ascertain the presence of any flaws. He had to make careful and precise plans and drawings which were in accord with the structure of the marble itself. Then, with consummate care, he would begin to chip off the superfluous marble, layer by layer, until he revealed the form he had envisioned.

Any mistake could be disastrous. If the sculptor went against the grain he could crack the marble; if he struck a blow with too much force he could mash the crystals beneath the surface, creating holes and ruining the sculpture. This seldom happened with the greatest of sculptors, who labored with infinite care and supreme sensitivity. Those with lesser talent and little patience, however, would occasionally be confronted with such a disaster. Rather than admit their blunder and lose their commission, some would resort to subterfuge.

Soft, white wax, skillfully applied, could usually disguise the damage. In outward appearance the sculpture appeared to be flawless and the defect was seldom discovered until well after the work had been accepted and the commission paid. As the practice became more common, patrons of the arts became more discerning. They refused to accept a piece of marble statuary until after a careful examination had been made to ensure that it was undamaged and contained no wax-covered flaws.
The highest standard of excellence for works of white Carrara marble came to include the distinction, ‘sine cera,’ meaning ‘without wax.’

Eventually these two words merged to become a single word, ‘sincere,’ meaning ‘pure, unadulterated, whole, intact, uninjured.’ When the word was used to refer to marble works of art, the emphasis was on the fundamental wholeness of the statue, not just on its superficial or outward appearance. Source. 
The statue was expected to be good, not just to look good.”

Be good. Be honest.

Latter-day Saints are expected to be good and not just look good. To be pure, whole, intact. To be like Jesus Christ.

As part of Article of Faith 13, we state, “We believe in being honest, and true.”
God is honest and just in all things (see Alma 7:20). We too must be honest in all things to become like Him. The brother of Jared testified, “Yea, Lord, I know that thou … art a God of truth, and canst not lie” (Ether 3:12).

In contrast, the devil is a liar. In fact, he is the father of lies (see 2 Nephi 9:9). “Those who choose to cheat and lie and deceive and misrepresent become his slaves” (Mark E. Petersen, in Conference Report, Oct. 1971, 65; or Ensign, Dec. 1971, 73).
To be dishonest is to lie, steal or cheat. The lesson was very specific about the definition of these terms. As several of you pointed out, we each of levels of understanding depending on how we were raised and the extent of our knowledge and experience. So it's good to get specific. This lays it all out.

Did you feel a prick to your conscience? I know I did. Repentance may be in order.

It's also good to do a daily check and repent of the words and actions we say that may have been dishonest. Really paying attention is the key.

So, why is it important to be honest? Why is it good?

Honesty is the beginning of repentance, bringing into the light, before God the failings and shortcomings we have. Recognizing our need to repent is the first step.

Dishonesty is a form of pride. It can be something we do to save face, avoid consequences, save or make money, or avoid pain. Pride and honesty cannot coexist. Pride sets up enmity toward our fellowmen and puts us in opposition to God.

Instead of depending on our own cleverness and strength we learn to come to rely on God. As Ammon says, “I do not boast of my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but...I will rejoice in my God.”

Satan is the father of all lies. Joining him in that endeavor entraps us, makes us his slaves.

Honesty takes courage, but it builds self-esteem. In Proverbs it says “...they that deal truly are [the Lord’s] delight. (Prov. 12:22)

Most importantly our eternal life depends on honesty and covenant-keeping

Elder Richard J. Maynes: Ensign, The Eternal Importance of Honesty, April 2010.
Being honest with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ binds our basic gospel knowledge with our willingness to apply that knowledge in our lives. In other words, when we are honest, we act upon our knowledge by obeying the commandments.

Showing our love to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by being honest with Them means we are true to the covenants we have made with Them (see Deuteronomy 6:2–5; 8:11). We make promises to the Lord when we are baptized, and we make additional promises to Him as we participate in temple ordinances.

There is nothing more important than being true to the covenants we have made with the Lord. Our eternal life depends on the principle of honesty.

...When we are honest with others, we are keeping our covenants. When we keep our covenants, we are being honest with the Lord. We cannot separate the two.
Being honest blesses our lives.

One example comes from Elder Cook: Oct 2010 General Conference, Let There Be Light!

Many years ago when I was practicing law in California, a friend and client who was not a member of our faith came in to see me and with great enthusiasm showed me a letter he had received from an LDS bishop of a nearby ward.

The bishop wrote that a member of his congregation, a former employee of my client, had taken materials from my client’s work site and had rationalized that they were surplus. But after becoming a committed Latter-day Saint and attempting to follow Jesus Christ, this employee recognized that what he had done was dishonest.

Enclosed in the letter was a sum of money from the man to cover not only the cost of the materials but also interest. My client was impressed that the Church through lay leadership would assist this man in his effort to be reconciled to God.

Think about the light and truth that the shared value of honesty has in the Judeo-Christian world. Think about the impact on society if youth didn’t cheat in school, if adults were honest in the workplace and were faithful to their marriage vows. For us the concept of basic honesty is grounded in the life and teachings of the Savior.
For me, I try to be honest at work with my time coming early, staying late, giving my employer a full work week. This when others are not so careful. Because of this I’m free to set my schedule, have flexibility with my hours. I have my manager’s trust.

In John 8:32, Jesus Christ has promised, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

What blessings have you seen from being honest? How has the truth made you free? Share your story with us in the comments.

Let’s be a little more honest with ourselves, with our fellowmen, with God.

Being honest with ourselves leads to repentance, humility, forgiveness, increased self-esteem, peace of mind. It’s about loving truth and holding tight to it.

Being honest with our spouse and family creates strong trusting lasting marriages and children who are ready to make covenants and stronger relationships. It also leads to greater compassion, understanding and growth in our families.

Being honest with our fellowmen has an impact on our society and our reputation. Our examples are known to others. It’s one way we reflect the light of Christ to others. It’s keeping the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Being honest with God is done through keeping covenants, and renewing covenants each week in the sacrament. It gives us a clear conscience, peace of mind, and strengthens a trusting relationship with God. And, it “delights” God. And who doesn't want to be God's delight?!

To conclude, from lesson, p. 182:
When we are completely honest, we cannot be corrupted. We are true to every trust, duty, agreement, or covenant, even if it costs us money, friends, or our lives. Then we can face the Lord, ourselves, and others without shame.

President Joseph F. Smith counseled, “Let every man’s life be so that his character will bear the closest inspection, and that it may be seen as an open book, so that he will have nothing to shrink from or be ashamed of” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 252).
The closest inspection will show no concealing wax. We’ll be sine cera, without wax, through and through. We will BE good and not just look good. The Lord will see and know us because we will be like him.


Photo by Ellen King

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