For several months now I have been reading and studying about truth, the power and peace that accompany this great virtue and how important it is to our overall happiness and eternal salvation. Scriptures are clear that unless we are honest and truthful, we will not be able to dwell in God’s presence–no matter how exemplary we may be in other areas of our lives. “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (Psalms 101:7).
The increased awareness I’ve gained of the eternal consequences for not speaking truth, has motivated me to scrutinize my own level of honesty. Although I consider myself to be a truthful person, I do stand guilty of falling into the trap of the little “white lie.” I rationalize my indiscretion by telling myself “Better a little white lie than to disappoint, offend or hurt someone’s feelings,” thus perpetuating the even greater lie … that there are times when it’s okay to be untruthful.
The oxymoron “white lie” shows how clever Satan–the father of lies– is at marketing his version of truth. How cunning to persuade man into believing that it is acceptable to link the word white, symbolic of purity and light, with the darkness and deception that one associates with the word lie, for “No lie is of the truth” (1John 2:21).
If Satan can convince us that there is any justification at all for the so-called little, white, merciful, kind, necessary lie or a lie that doesn’t really matter, it then is easier for him to lead us into committing greater deceptions such as half-truths or complete dishonesty void of conscience!
“And thus he flattereth them, and telleth them that it is no sin to lie…and thus he flattereth them, and leadeth them along until he draggeth their souls down to hell; and thus he causeth them to catch themselves in their own snare. And thus he goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of men” (D&C 10:25-27).
Therefore knowing Satan’s plan is to destroy our souls by persuading you and me to lie, it becomes absolutely critical–for our spiritual safety–to live by God’s law of truth; which is a lie is a lie no matter how small, and that nothing but absolute truth can abide a Celestial glory (See D&C 76: 98-103). It is only with total and complete commitment to this standard of truth that we will be able to overcome Satan.
In an effort to more fully understand the power of truth, I have sought answers to the following questions: What is truth? Why do we lie? What is truth’s place in the Universe … with God? Is truth a principle of power and how important is it to our progression in the eternities? What happens to us if we lie and don’t repent?
The following compilation of scriptures, thoughts and insights is my attempt to answer these questions.
What is Truth? Deceit versus Truth
Deceit is at the root of all sin. Just as it was in that famous encounter in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago, so it remains today.
The definition of a lie is to intentionally make a false statement, deliberately meaning to deceive or present a false impression. The definition of truth is the exact opposite–the absence of deceit in any form.
In truth we find actuality, forthrightness, sincerity and honesty. In lies we find deception, deviousness and guile.
Truth can stand alone; it needs no help sustaining itself. Whereas lies need backup and cohorts … lots of them!
Lies seem to have a quick growth pattern, mushrooming until they exhaust themselves and die, while “…the truth abideth forever and ever” (D&C 1:39) unchanged and constant.
Why We Lie
People tell lies for different reasons and the gamut runs far and wide. Some people lie to get gain. Others lie to hide wrong and sinful behavior; managing, for the time being, to avoid the fall out and consequences of such wrongdoing. Some people lie to enhance or escape reality and others lie out of pure habit or fear of disapproval.
Exaggerating, embellishing or “stretching” the truth is probably the most common form of lying. However, if we are going to speak complete truth we must choose what we say very carefully. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Never state for a fact that of which you are not completely sure, if you want to be known as a man or woman of truth.”
Then there are those with evil intentions who lie to demean, bear false witness, discredit or bring harm to another. But whatever the motive behind the lie, lying destroys the light of truth, brings darkness and most of the time heartache and devastation.
Truth is Eternal
Truth is the very foundation upon which every great man and woman’s character stands. It is the cornerstone of integrity. It isn’t something you take out and use only on special occasions; it is a virtue that should show everyday wear from extensive use. It is the compass of the soul, a personal North Star.
Truth is gnolaum–eternal (see Abr. 3:18). Like God, it has no beginning and no end (see Moses 1:3). It is the ancient of virtues. Truth is power, one of God’s greatest powers. God remains God and in control of all creation because He is a God of truth and cannot lie (see Ether 3:12). Thus the elements honor, trust, are obedient to and ruled by the light and power of truth; which light and power doth emanate from the throne of God unto all of creation (see D&C 88:6-13).
It Takes Courage to Tell the Truth; Telling the Truth is Empowering
As mortal beings we come strapped with a whole host of insecurities, which make us vulnerable to the opinion of others. Always speaking the truth in the face of critical or potentially damaging opinions takes courage and self-mastery. It is much easier to conjure up some false excuse for our actions, or lack of, (e.g. the dog ate my report, my alarm didn’t go off, the traffic was awful, etc. etc.) than be truthful and risk exposing our weaknesses and failings.
But if we desire to dwell in the presence of our Savior Jesus Christ, after leaving this existence, we must live His code of truth, find the courage and determination to be like Him and speak the truth at all times without hesitation.
I have discovered that if I am able to overcome the temptation to lie, follow the example of Jesus and speak the truth–no matter what–I experience a tremendous surge in self-respect. I feel instantly empowered and spiritually stronger.
But if I am weak, give in to Satan and succumb to lying, I feel bad about myself. I even feel some darkness inside, like a portion of my spiritual light just went out, that “…Spirit which giveth light to every man that cometh into the world…” (D&C 84:46).
Lying Destroys Spiritual Light, Causing Spiritual Darkness–Spiritual Black Holes
Years ago when I was young and foolish, I yielded to a temptation I should not have. As a result of my dishonesty and unrighteous behavior I caused people I loved and cared about a lot of heartache and disappointment.
One night after going to bed I had a dream that I was free falling into an enormous black hole. I awakened with a jolt, absolutely terrified, my hair soaking wet, and with complete awareness that I had better clean up my act or I’d be swallowed up by darkness. Needless to say I made some serious changes, repented, and got my life back on track.
It was like coming out of a deep dark dungeon into the light of day. Once again I could see clearly and discern between truth and error. That whole episode turned out to be one of the most painful but profound learning experiences of my life.
The bottom line is that lying takes an awful toll on us, and everyone around us. Lying robs us of peace; it can cause physical, emotional and spiritual illness, extreme unhappiness, loss of self-respect, fear and anxiety of discovery, retribution, and a whole host of negative emotions and destructive outcomes.
George Bernard Shaw, the Nobel Laureate for literature in 1925, made the comment that in his opinion, one of the most severe punishments for lying is not that the liar can never be believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.
Scripture confirms Mr. Shaw’s opinion that such mistrust is indeed the liar’s burden and condemnation. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, wo be unto him that lieth to deceive because he supposeth that another lieth to deceive, for such are not exempt from the justice of God” (D&C 10:28).
No one wins where lies are involved. We either blame others for pushing us to prevaricate, or resent and loathe ourselves because we are weak and morally deficient. It is definitely a lose/lose situation. Darkness and anger brood in us and soon we find ourselves void of the spirit– standing on the precipice of a spiritual black hole–right where Satan wants us.
Truth Removes Darkness, Heals and Strengthens Us
But truth, on the other hand, is healing, liberating. Truth sets us free! “Know now the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Truth bathes our wounded sinful self in the light of Christ (see D&C 50:24; 88:6); that glorious light, which destroys all darkness, invigorates our souls, strengthens and empowers us … every whit. “And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you” (D&C 50:25).
With truth as our guide and companion, we need not ever fear anything or anyone. There isn’t any challenge we cannot endure or any storm we cannot weather. We can walk uprightly and confidently before God and man, knowing that the power of truth is our guardian and keeper.
In the beautiful words of William George Jordan “If you have truth on your side you can pass through the dark valley of slander, misrepresentation and abuse, undaunted, as though you wore a magic suit that no bullet could enter, no arrow could pierce.” Sounds like a suit we all could use!
Commitment to Truth
After pondering these thoughts and scriptures, my personal conclusion is this: If we want to become Celestial sons and daughters of God, worthy to live in His presence, we must be men and women of truth. We must live lives of truth not lies, sincerity not guile, light not darkness.
Truth must become an intrinsic part of us; it must define who we are, dictate our thoughts and actions even if there were no other human being living. Truth must become part of our very being, engraved upon our inward parts. “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts…” (Psalm 51:6).
We must develop a love for and commitment to this Godly virtue that cannot be shaken. Speaking the truth must become a top priority in our lives. And though we will probably fail to do so from time to time, we have, in God’s great Plan of Salvation, the cleansing power of repentance through the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to help us get back on the divine path of truth.