As a young boy, I went on a family outing to a park where an entrance fee was required for each person in the car. The amount of the fee was dependent on the age of each occupant. I was about thirteen years old. I noticed that if I said I was twelve then my father could pay less for a ticket. So, I said something like, “Dad, why don’t you tell them that I am twelve,” thinking I was doing him a favor. His response is one I have never forgotten as he said, “Why would I do that? You are thirteen!” The message was clear. In no way would my father call into question his honesty or integrity by saying something that was not true to save money. I am grateful for that example of my father shown to me fifty-two years ago. It is one that I will never forget.
The Lord said of Hyrum Smith, “...I the Lord love him because of the integrity of his heart and because he loveth that which is right before me...” 1 What does it mean to be loved because of the integrity of one’s heart? Elder Richard Maynes defined integrity this way, “Being a man of integrity simply means your intentions, as well as your actions, are pure and righteous in all aspects of your life, both in public and in private.” 2
A person of integrity is one who is trusted of the Lord. The Lord knows what that person will do in any circumstance. The Lord knows that he or she will always make decisions that are honest and consistent with gospel principles. Because the Lord can trust them, He will bless them with His Spirit. His Spirit cannot dwell in unholy temples, but when we live a life of honesty and integrity we are promised that His Spirit will be with us. As we live according to the principles of honesty and integrity, we will receive the blessings promised to us through the covenants we have made with the Lord.
Sometimes we think we can justify unrighteous actions because of our circumstances. Such was the case with Ananias and Sapphira, his wife. They had committed to live the law of consecration. In this case, that meant to consecrate any gain obtained by the selling of their possessions to the Lord. After having sold some land, they gave only part of the proceeds to Peter but claimed they had given all. Why did they hold back? Did they think the Lord did not know? Where were their hearts? Peter asked Ananias the question, “...why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost and to keep back part of the price of the land?” 3 Ananias and Sapphira paid a heavy price for their lack of integrity and dishonesty as they both were struck dead.
It is unlikely that we will pay such an immediate price for our misdeeds. But if we do not learn from wrongdoing, then, one day, we will pay the ultimate price when the day of judgement comes. Rather than stand in humble confidence gazing into the Savior’s eyes, we will want to shrink from His presence. Remember the words of Alma to Zeezrom, “...our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless...and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence”. 4 We know that He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. 5 He cannot. Nor should we.
Sometimes, because of the environment, we have been raised in, the line between right and wrong, between honesty and integrity and dishonesty and a lack of integrity, appears unclear. We may seek to justify our own actions because of what we have seen others do. There is no justification for wrongdoing. The Lord taught Joseph Smith, “...when we undertake to cover our sins or to gratify our pride...behold the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved...” 6
Take the case of an elders’ quorum president or a relief society president that has been given money by the bishop to purchase food for a needy member. After purchasing these items and finding money leftover, what if the leader decides to keep the change, justifying the decision by saying that valuable time was taken purchasing these items? Perhaps, subconsciously saying to themselves, “I have seen others do it. Surely no one will care.”
What if a church member finds himself in a position to personally benefit because of his church calling? For example, what if a church leader who has his own construction or excavating business is able to influence work contracts to be directed to him? Is that honest? How can that person know he can stand before the Lord at the last day “with a pure heart and clean hands”? 7 What good does it do us if we “gain the whole world” only to lose our right to eternal life? 8
The story is told of a professional driver who applied for a job driving high-level government officials to their various destinations often on dangerous winding mountain roads. The interviewer asked each applicant the following question, “How close can you drive a car to the edge of a dangerous mountain road and remain safe? The first applicant responded, “I can get within ten centimeters and still be safe.” The second said, “I can get on the edge and still be safe.” The third driver stated, “I can get one wheel over the edge and still protect the passenger.” Finally, the last driver said, “I will stay as far from the edge as possible.” It is he who got the job.
So it is with us. When dealing with issues of honesty and integrity there is too much at stake. We must stay as far from the edge as we possibly can. Risking our eternal salvation or that of our family is not worth any earthly benefit we might gain.
Parents, what do our children learn from our examples of honesty and integrity? Do we realize that they are always watching us? Do we understand the impact of our examples on the eternal destiny of our children?
I take two contrasting examples. First, the words of Enos, “...I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man-for he taught me...in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” 9 Because of the example of Jacob, Enos’ father, Enos was able to turn to the Lord in mighty prayer. To know Him. And to pattern His life after Him.
The second example is also instructive but in a different way. We remember the wicked priests of King Noah in the Book of Mormon. His priests, when faced with danger, abandoned their wives and children to save their own lives. Years later, when their children had escaped and had been led to the righteous followers of Alma, we read, “...the children of Amulon...were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi...” 10
We must never forget the power of parental example. Consider the words of the Savior, “...Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” 11 And so it is with our children.
Why is it that we follow the footsteps of Jesus? Because that is the sure way by which the Father will lead us, His children, back to Him. For it is His work and His glory to give us the sacred opportunity to live with Him again. To receive eternal life. 12 May our lives follow those sacred principles of honesty and integrity that will qualify us and our posterity to have the Holy Ghost with us at all times. That we may be led back to Him whose desire it is to give us all that He has.
1) D&C 124:15
2) Richard Maynes, October 2017 General Conference, Earning the trust of the Lord and your family
3) Acts 5:1-10
4) Alma 12:14
5) D&C 1:31
6) D&C 121:37
7) Alma 5:19
8) Matthew 16:26
9) Enos 1:1
10) Mosiah 25:12
11) John 5:19
12) Moses 1:39