From the moment, Sister Nash and I arrived in the Africa West Area, we have strongly felt of God’s profound love for His people in this Area. Born of that love and the hope of a bright future for every Latter-day Saint in West Africa, I will attempt to explain in this article why integrity and honesty are vital for our future in this life and in the next.
An honest person is truthful—even when it is not easy or convenient. An honest person does not lie or steal for any reason. A person of integrity is true at all times to the principles and commandments of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Such a person will be true to God at all times even when no one sees but God. The Savior values integrity, for he can trust those who have integrity of heart.[i]
In order to understand why honesty and integrity are so important, I will share two versions of a story. After you have read both versions of the story, pick the one you like best.
Now, the first version: There once was a boy who lived with his mother and father. Their family was poor. The father got a job with a company that processed mangos. The man thought the rich owner of the business would not miss a few mangos. So, the father stole three mangos one day for himself, his wife, and their boy. He said to his wife and boy: “What difference do three mangos make to the business? The owner will not miss them and we like mangos.” The boy knew that his father did not pay for the mangos, but he ate one anyway because he was hungry. The father continued to bring three stolen mangos home to his family every day and they continued to eat the stolen mangos. The boy grew up and had a wife and a boy of his own. He got a job with a company that builds bridges, and helped to build a long bridge across a large river. He thought that the rich owner of the bridge building business would not miss a few building materials. So, while he was working on the bridge, he stole materials to build a house for his family. Because he took many materials that were supposed to be part of the bridge, it lacked structural integrity when it was finished. Many people (including the man’s wife and boy) celebrated the completion of the bridge by gathering together on the bridge for a ceremony. However, because the bridge lacked materials that were supposed to be used on it, it was not as strong as it looked. It collapsed during the ceremony and everyone—including the man and his family—were very sad.
Now, the second version of this story: There once was a boy who lived with his mother and father. Their family was poor. The father got a job with a company that processed mangos. The man thought the rich owner of the business would not miss a few mangos. So, the father stole three mangos one day for himself, his wife, and their boy. He said to his wife and boy: “What difference do three mangos make to the business? The owner will not miss them and we like mangos.” The boy and his mother knew that his father did not pay for the mangos, so they told him that they should not eat the mangos, and that he should return them. The boy’s father at first was angry, but after he thought about it he realized that his wife and son were right, so he agreed. The next day he returned the mangos to the business owner and felt good inside. Over time, the owner noticed the man was honest and because he could trust him, he promoted him to have a better paying job at the mango processing plant. The boy grew up and had a wife and a boy of his own. He got a job with a company that builds bridges, and helped to build a large bridge across a large river. He wanted to take some of the bridge building materials to build a house for his family but remembered the lesson his father had taught him by returning the mangos many years before, so the boy (now a man) resisted the temptation to take any of the building materials for his own house. When it was finished, it was built of all the necessary materials and had structural integrity. Many people (including the man’s wife and son) celebrated the completion of the bridge by gathering together on the bridge for a ceremony. It was a beautiful day and the man felt very happy and proud.
If you are like me, you probably like the second version best!
Let’s consider two lessons from these stories. Lesson one: families can choose what kind of tradition they will pass to the next generation. They can perpetuate a wicked tradition of dishonesty or they can choose to perpetuate a righteous tradition of honesty and integrity. In the first version of the story, the boy continued his family’s wicked tradition of dishonesty when he became a man. As a result, the bridge collapsed, leading to misery for many, including the man. In the second version, the boy carried on with the righteous tradition of repentance, honesty, and integrity he had learned from his family. As a result, the bridge stood strong, was useful, and the man was happy. The Lord states: “men…in their infant state [are] innocent before God. And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers. But I have commended you to bring up your children in light and truth.”[ii] You see in the two versions of the story and in this scripture that family traditions have great power for good or for bad. Knowing this, our Heavenly Father commands us to establish traditions of “light and truth.” Any tradition inconsistent with the gospel should be abandoned and repented of so that we can help the rising generation live with ever greater integrity.
Lesson two: our character will only be strong to the degree that we are honest and live with integrity. The bridge in both versions was only as strong as the materials that went into it. In the first version, the man decided to take some of the materials for his own house and not use them on the bridge. As a result, the bridge in the first version lacked structural integrity, and collapsed under a heavy load. In the second version, the man chose to put all of the proper materials in the bridge. As a result, the bridge in the second version of the story had the structural integrity to stand strong when a load was placed upon it. This is how the Lord’s “law of restoration” works—what we chose to think and do will be restored to us: we will become what we choose to do, say, and think. As Alma taught his son: “the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful. Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again. For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.”[iii]
This is important because each of us is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.[iv] Before this world was created, our Heavenly Father instituted His plan whereby we could receive the greatest of all the gifts of God: eternal life.[v] Eternal life is God’s life, and to receive eternal life is to become like Him and to live the kind of life God lives.[vi] In order to receive this greatest of all gifts, we must become like Him. It is for this reason that we have been sent to earth and live in mortality so that we can have the opportunity to grow and progress by obtaining a physical body, gaining experience, living by faith, and learning to choose good over evil. Our Heavenly Father knew that everyone on earth (except children under eight years of age) would be made impure by sin. Since nothing impure can dwell in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father anointed Jesus, his firstborn Son, to be our Savior. The Lord suffered for our sins so that justice could be satisfied and mercy could be given to those who exercise their faith unto repentance.[vii]
As part of the Plan of Salvation, when our mortal life ends, we will be judged of our works. Importantly, we will be judged by what we have become as a result of our choices.[viii] Those who are in a state contrary to the nature of God are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.[ix] The more like God we become, the happier we are! The sort of person we become in our lifetime will entirely depend upon on how honest we have been and whether we live our lives with integrity so that the Holy Ghost can sanctify us to make us better, more holy, more like Christ. The Holy Ghost sanctifies those who have the integrity to live the Doctrine of Christ, who exercise faith in Christ unto repentance, are baptized, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end in keeping the associated covenants.[x]
If we live with integrity to this doctrine, we will through the Savior and His Atonement be found spotless, guiltless, joyous, and pure at the time of judgment and receive eternal life.[xi] However, if we have not lived with integrity, we will be like the bridge in the first version of the story: we will sadly fail to fulfill our divine potential. Importantly, those with integrity recognize that no one is perfect is all things, so they willingly repent when they do not live as they should. Repentance brings us “unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of [our] souls.”[xii] It is through repentance that people will have their integrity fully restored to them!
A few years ago, I stood in the ancient ruins of the city of Pachacamac in Perú, South America. Pachacamac was magnificent in antiquity: the ruler made it a grand, impressive place. It included a gold-covered Temple of the Sun situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It must have been amazing to behold. Now, a few hundred years later, what remains of Pachacamac are lumps of eroded adobe, some rock walls, and some terraces and staircases. I commented to Sister Nash that I imagine that the Inca ruler of Pachacamac must have thought he was a big and important man, but that in the end, all of the splendor of Pachacamac was reduced to dust. There are too many of us who sell their divine potential for what they will discover in the end has no more meaning than what remains today of the ancient ruins of Pachacamac: eroded lumps of mud.
In contrast, our Savior, who has all power in heaven and earth,[xiii] promises that He will cause that those who obey His law with sacrifice shall “bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit.”[xiv] And that tree will produce fruit that is “most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet…and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.”[xv]
In light of these truths, how can we do anything other than strive to live honestly and with integrity? Anyone who choses dishonesty over integrity and fails to repent will cheat himself of the resplendent blessing of “peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come.”[xvi] This is because we cannot fake integrity: “Thou are none the holier if praised, and none the viler if criticized. Thou are what thou art.”[xvii]
Although we can limit though our dishonesty and lack of integrity what God can make of us, the converse it true: if we live with honesty and integrity, there is no limit to what He can make of us! Those who choose to be honest and live with integrity will walk with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, in the company of angels, enjoy peace in this world and inherit eternal life in the world to come—ultimately receiving all that the Father hath! They will walk amongst poverty but will not be in poverty, for “the riches of eternity”[xviii] are theirs as they endure to the end with integrity. My invitation is that each of us live with integrity so that we can with joy press forward with a “perfect brightness of hope.”[xix]
[i] Doctrine and Covenants 124:15, 20
[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 93:40-41
[iii] Alma 41:13-14
[iv] The Family: A Proclamation to the World
[v] Doctrine and Covenants 14:7
[vi] See Harold B. Lee, “Eternal Life,” Instructor, 101, no. 10 (October 1966): 378; see also Bruce R. McConkie, CR, April 1970, 26.
[vii] See Alma 34:11-17
[viii] See, Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign (October 2000): ____.
[ix] Alma 41:11
[x] See 2 Nephi 31:5-21
[xi] See 3 Nephi 27:13-22
[xii] Helaman 5:11
[xiii] See Matthew 28:18
[xiv] Doctrine and Covenants 97:8-9
[xv] Alma 32:42
[xvi] Doctrine and Covenants 59:23
[xvii] Thomas A Kempis
[xviii] Doctrine and Covenants 78:18
[xix] 2 Nephi 31:20