Honesty: The Worth of a Peso

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What is the worth of a peso? How much would one be worth to you? A peso is not worth much to most people but there is one in particular that is worth a lot to me.

When I was young my family and I visited an old Spanish mission in Arizona. There were a lot of coins in the fountain. Many of the coins were pennies, nickels, and dimes; all glittered and sparkled in the sunshine and through the water. But some of the coins were different, some were from Mexico, which was not unexpected because we no more than an hour from the Mexican border. I liked one of the pesos and took it. I remember looking at it in the car on the way home. Within the next couple days my parents discovered I had the coin and asked where I got it. I told them I had taken it from the fountain. I guess I knew what I had done was wrong because I remember hiding the coin from my parents but it also did not seem like a big deal. However, my father sat down with me and had me send the coin back to the director of the mission. Sometime later I received a letter from the director of the mission. In the letter he thanked me for my honesty in returning the coin. Within the envelope and in addition to the letter he included a few coins – including the one I returned – from around the world that had been tossed into that fountain. I was rewarded for my honesty (or at least the honesty of my parents). This was the start of my small collection of coins from around the world.

What is the worth of this coin to me? It is worth a lesson of the importance of honesty. It was a powerful lesson at the time and still is. The Lord blesses and loves those with honest hearts: “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:2). Jesus was heartened (and still is) by those who were without guile and lies, in part because He faced so many who were full of deceit: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). This was a man to be trusted! This was a pure man. Jesus loves the pure in heart. Honesty is a building block of purity.

I love this description of the honest in heart: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). The honest are like good gardeners who watch with patience until their efforts bring forth good fruit. Honest hearts are good hearts; honesty and integrity imply a lack of spiritual cardiac disease. For those who do suffer from spiritual cardiac disease, there is hope – the Lord promises a heart transplant to those who need it: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekial 36:26). Continued honesty and integrity bring the Spirit, which serves as anti-rejection medicine for this new heart.

The Lord expects His people to be honest and upright in their dealings with Him, others, and themselves. Of one group of righteous people in the Book of Mormon it is written: “And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27). These were the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, those whom were converted by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the sons of Mosiah, rebellious and wicked youth turned righteous and powerful missionaries to the Lamanites. So righteous were these new church members that they were described as “perfectly honest…even unto the end.” They lived their lives in righteousness and holiness because they were perfectly honest.

We can similarly be perfectly honest in all we do and inspire honesty in others. Elder James E. Faust told the following story of the power of honesty:

“I wish to speak to you frankly about being honest. Honesty is a moral compass to guide us in our lives. You young men are under great pressure to learn the technology that is expanding and will continue to expand so rapidly. However, the tremendous push to excel in secular learning sometimes tempts people to compromise that which is more important—their honesty and integrity.Cheating in school is a form of self-deception. We go to school to learn. We cheat ourselves when we coast on the efforts and scholarship of someone else.
A friend related this experience her husband had while attending medical school. ‘Getting into medical school is pretty competitive, and the desire to do well and be successful puts a great deal of pressure on the new incoming freshmen. My husband had worked hard on his studies and went to attend his first examination. The honor system was expected behavior at the medical school. The professor passed out the examination and left the room. Within a short time, students started to pull little cheat papers out from under their papers or from their pockets. My husband recalled his heart beginning to pound as he realized it is pretty hard to compete against cheaters. About that time a tall, lanky student stood up in the back of the room and stated: ‘I left my hometown and put my wife and three little babies in an upstairs apartment and worked very hard to get into medical school. And I’ll turn in the first one of you who cheats, and you better believe it!’ They believed it. There were many sheepish expressions, and those cheat papers started to disappear as fast as they had appeared. He set a standard for the class which eventually graduated the largest group in the school’s history.’

The young, lanky medical student who challenged the cheaters was J Ballard Washburn, who became a respected physician and in later years received special recognition from the Utah Medical Association for his outstanding service as a medical doctor. He also served as a General Authority and is now the president of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple.” (Ensign, Nov. 1996).

What courage that man had to stand up to his classmates and demand their honesty! What integrity and honor! There were blessings because of this honesty – more medical students graduated in that class than previous classes had graduated. Without cheating, the students had to work harder, which meant they learned more and could do better. The world would be a much better place if more people were like that man. The pain and suffering caused by dishonesty in our world is great.

The summer after my mission I needed a summer job before I went back to BYU to resume school. I got a job as a car jockey at a dealership. I drove cars that people brought in for repairs from one lot to another and back. It was not hard work but I was out in the sweltering Arizona heat much of the day and it seemed like most of the cars needed air conditioning repairs. One car I got in was a 1980s minivan with a mattress on its side in the back, which meant I could not see out the back on the passenger side of the car. As I backed up I heard and felt a crunch. I thought, “Oh no! What did I hit?” as I pulled forward back into the parking space and got out of the car. There was a new gray Corvette with a gash in its front driver’s side wheel well. Corvettes (at least this 2001 one) have fiberglass bodies, which means the car body tore instead of denting. The minivan was not even scratched (not that it was really possible to tell anyway – it was old and a bit beat up). I thought of my options: I could go tell my boss or I could drive away and not tell anyone. The second choice was not an option so I went and found my boss. When I told him about the accident his first question was, “What color was [the Corvette]?” I said, “Gray, it wasn’t the yellow one [a fancy Z06 in for a tune-up].” “Oh, that’s good then. Thanks for letting me know.” And that was it. I went back to work driving cars around. Later that same boss went out of his way to find me as a driver for his wife’s car (a BMW) that was in for repairs because he trusted me. I am always glad I told the truth. It is always better to tell the truth, regardless of consequences.

There is an interesting scripture in the book of Moses. It reads, “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4: 3-4). The interesting thing is Satan is called “the father of all lies”; he could have been called many other things (and he can be called many things) but the Lord chose to call him the father of all lies. Satan’s self-proclaimed work is to deceive and blind men and lead them down to captivity, pawns to his will and whims. All lies come from Satan; he is their creator. Those who lie preach the devil’s gospel and spread his bad word. Those who are dishonest become Satan’s children. Is not it better to become sons and daughters of God?

Continuing on in Moses 4 we read the following (I will add some commentary in brackets):

“6 And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world. [Satan thought his lying to Eve would frustrate God’s plan when in fact it furthered God’s plan].
7 And he said unto the woman: Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.)
8 And the woman said unto the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
9 But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
10 And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die; [a lie].
11 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. [This is true].
12 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
13 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons.
14 And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
15 And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?
16 And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself.
17 And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?
18 And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.
19 And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
20 And I, the Lord God, said unto the serpent: Because thou hast done this thou shalt be cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life;
21 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall [crush] thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Moses 4:6-21).

Satan tried to lie to Eve. He tried to destroy God’s plan but he didn’t know that he was actually furthering God’s plan; what Satan did was without authority or permission but Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit was part of God’s plan – whether they eventually partook of it by themselves, or someone else gave it to them. In any case, when Satan realized that he was cursed for what he had done (he already was cursed but in this case he was upset he had not actually frustrated God’s plans but furthered them). Satan became very angry and has been ever since. He rages against God and all of us. He tries to cause the nations to rage furiously together, brother against brother, father against son, daughter against mother, neighbor against neighbor, and people against people. I do not believe that Satan is so angry that He cannot think properly – to the contrary, he thinks very clearly – but he is angry because of what he lost and angry at us mortals on earth who have opportunities for progression he will never have. And so Satan lies and deceives and encourages dishonesty in others. He knows that when we are dishonest we are not godlike or godly. He knows the pain and suffering lies cause and so he encourages them and laughs at the suffering of others. He rejoices in our failures and sins and sorrows. God does not.

[The image at the top of the post is the coin I took from the fountain].

Mormon Identity Podcast Notes – Women in the Scriptures

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From the latest Mormon Identity podcast entitled Women in the Scriptures (part 1) with Robert Millet and Camile Fronk Olson.

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons.” (Moses 4:13; emphasis added).

I’ll quote Camille Olson’s insight:

“I suddenly saw that where they had no recognized that they were unclothed before, they now saw a need to be covered. And knowing in Hebrew the word for covering or to cover is kaphar that is also sometimes translated as atonement. Suddenly this had a new meaning to me because they realized they have need of a covering that only Christ can provide. You notice that in that same verse they start looking at fig trees to try to make them a covering and it doesn’t work…. So what happens? The Lord finds a covering for them. He gives them the covering…from an animal skin. You think what does it cost the animal to provide that covering? And it is his life. And suddenly you can see a lamb that has given its skin, its covering to cover Adam and Eve and as they leave the Garden. And suddenly you get the imagery of the way the Lord protects us, the way He covers our sins through repentance, the way He covers our debts when we come to Him in a whole variety of ways that He covers us and that there is no other covering that will do that.”

Robert Millet and Camille Olson go on to talk about how the faithful are clothed with power from on high or clothed in the robes of righteousness. What I think was the key insight in what Sis. Olson said was her comment about how Adam and Eve saw that they had been naked and that they now needed covering. They had transgressed the law of God and so were no longer completely pure. Their covering of fig leaves was not sufficient; they had need of garments of animal skin that not only covered more of their bodies but also were symbolic of the covering of sins (atonement) the Lord provides. In other words, the sacrifice required by the animal(s) to make the coverings of skin was in similitude of Christ’s sacrifice.

Now on to Rebekah, wife of Isaac. [All words are (mostly) Camille Olson’s]:

“I think an important piece to remember is what takes place two chapters before [the issue of the birthright], before those boys are even born. Isaac and Rebekah have been married 20 years and not had any children. Isaac prays on behalf of his wife that she can conceive a child and she does. But Rebekah is the one who feels something seems very unusual inside of her as she is carrying what – she doesn’t know at the time – will be twins. And interestingly, it’s clear in chapter 25 of Genesis she prays to the Lord and the Lord answers her directly…. It was between Rebekah and God, and God reveals to her that she is carrying two children and more than that it will be the younger one who will be the leader. And there is nothing that says she ever told anyone that or if she was given permission to tell anyone. All we know know is they [Jacob and Esau] get older; the assumption is that the elder one will receive the birthright, Esau will receive the birthright. Isaac and Esau seem to have a camaraderie, they relate to each other, it seems to be his favorite one. Rebekah feels an affinity towards Jacob and you wonder if that didn’t start even before they were born because of this revelation.

“But Isaac is old, he can’t see really clearly and he is ready to give the birthright blessing. Rebekah knows what’s going to happen; Isaac has sent out Esau to get him something to eat and Rebekah springs to action to make sure that the one that the Lord wants to receive the blessing actually does…. I think there is a tremendous responsibility [about if we receive a revelation that we do all we can to make it come to pass]. We love the Epistle of James. Faith without works is dead. And we think faith and works is praying but as I read that epistle it is faith is praying with true faith but then the works are that we are willing to act on what we receive and it takes great faith in what we received by way of an answer and Rebekah does it!… Revelation from the Lord automatically assumes action [on our part]…. Well Rebekah is ready to act and so while Esau is away she puts her plan into motion. Jacob is a little concerned thinking, ‘I’ll look like I’m a deceiver.’ And Rebekah is willing to take all the responsibility. So she sends Jacob to get – the wording in Genesis chapter 27 is – ‘the goodly raiment’ that belongs to Esau. And along with this is a description of Esau being very hairy and Jacob not being hairy and Rebekah having goat’s hair put on Jacob’s hands and neck.

“I’m telling you; I’m reading this and I’m thinking as hairy as some men I know I don’t know anyone that’s more like a werewolf; I mean this is hairy! But I found something. Once in a while in Rabbinic literature you come across some things that really seem to resonate with what we know from revelation in modern day. [In other words,] legends of the Jews. And here’s one that that goodly raiment was the same covering that Adam and Eve had been given as they left the Garden and it had been handed down from generation to generation, now given to Abraham, then to Isaac and Isaac now giving it to the birthright son who will be the priesthood leader to govern in the affairs as Adam was originally called to do that. [It is sometimes called the garment of light]. And if it is what we’re seeing from the Garden it is an animal skin. Well no wonder it would feel like a goat or a lamb! And he is covered with that. Isaac, not seeing puts his hands on Jacob or this son or this son that he knows is to receive the birthright. I love Hebrews chapter 11 where it says “by faith Isaac blessed Jacob” with that birthright blessing. I think the idea that he [Isaac] is not doing this because this is the son he would like to give it [the birthright] to but he is being led by the Spirit to do it…. Isaac [still] gives Esau a wonderful blessing, he could have retracted [Jacob’s] blessing but he reiterates it.”

I like how Sis. Olson points out that Rebekah was only being “tricky” because she was fulfilling revelation. Jacob was the chosen one and was to receive the birthright. Isaac recognized this finally and Jacob’s birthright stuck. Esau was not someone who held his birthright as very dear and was unfaithful to it by selling it. Jacob was faithful. Even more, Rebekah was faithful to the revelations of God. The other specific part I enjoyed of the previous quote was the discussion of the animal skin that was either that given to Adam or made after its fashion (and with the same symbolism and power). This is a teaching Sis. Olson and Bro. Millet revisit.

“Joseph gets the birthright [from Jacob] and incidentally, the covering, the robe [the coat of many colors], which we don’t know what that means, what exactly that is describing but it seems to be the same covering or at least the same symbolic covering that has been so desired in previous generations. [Bro Millet now: ‘Two clarifications here. We’re talking here about not necessarily about the same garment being conveyed {from Adam} but we’re talking about a symbol, a message, a doctrinal message that’s being conveyed that the Lord is passing through the generations the rights of priesthood governance and supervision and oversight of a family to worthy people…. Personal righteousness actually supersedes birth order {in obtaining the birthright and priesthood blessings}’]. The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers in heaven…. A lot of people got confused with the symbolism of an animal skin and the actual power. Later in Zechariah chapter 13 verse 4 we read about evil men who wore a rough garment with the intent to deceive. Now if you think about Elijah the prophet who wore an animal skin garment and that’s very similar to what John the Baptist wore. The Savior said of John the Baptist [paraphrasing], ‘What did you expect to see? A man in royal raiment? They’re in the palaces but here is a prophet.’ In the Sermon on the Mount the Savior gave a warning that false prophets were wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some could get caught up with the symbol being the source of power rather than Christ and the Atonement truly being the source of power; thinking you could just put on an animal skin [and] you would have that power.”

This is similar to themes Hugh Nibley wrote about in his great book Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol 12 : Ancient History). I really like the connection Camille Olson makes between the garments given to Adam and Eve, the hairy clothing that Jacob wore at his mother’s encouragement, the special clothing Joseph was given, the garments of Elijah and John, and the Savior’s cautions about wolves in sheep’s clothing. Throughout the scriptures, the Old Testament (and Book of Mormon) in particular, certain articles of clothing have often held special and symbolic meaning. The doctrines, rites, ordinances, and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a continuation of this. These garments are symbolic of priesthood power; they are symbolic of covenants; they are symbolic of the covering that Christ’s Atonement provides for us and our sins.

I enjoy all these Mormon Identity podcasts but this one had a few parts that really jumped out at me.

The Divine Role of Motherhood – Part 2

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Woman’s role as mother is under attack. Satan wages a war on families, on motherhood, by trying to paint and portray it in such dreary colors that women feel drawn elsewhere. There is much that is gaudy and flashy in the great and spacious building, which can appear so appealing and even uplifting; however, by lusting after Satan’s showy society, we devalue raising children and thus devalue the family. This leads to the destruction of the one potentially eternal component of society. Civilizations rise and fall and societies crumble but the family can be eternal. Women need to escape the “tugs and pulls of the world” (Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 2000, p.35) by realizing, to paraphrase Pres. Harold B. Lee, that “the greatest of the Lord’s work…brethren [and sisters] will ever do as fathers [and mothers] will be within the walls of [their] own home[s]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 130).

While there are many worthwhile things for women to do outside the home, none of those can take the place of being a successful parent. Pres. David O. McKay said, “She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration…of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family…deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God” (Improvement Era, 1953, pp. 453-54). On a similar note Elder Maxwell so eloquently states, “Some mothers in today’s world feel ‘cumbered’ by home duties and are thus attracted by other more ‘romantic’ challenges. Such women could make the same error of perspective that Martha made. The woman, for instance, who deserts the cradle in order to help defend civilization against the barbarians may well later meet, among the barbarians, her own neglected child” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p. 219). The titillation of the great and spacious building does not compare with the tranquility of a humble home.

When mothers are there for their children, fulfilling their stewardships, they have great impact on the lives of their children and consequently on future generations. As a result of this, mothers have played some of the most important roles in history. There is Mother Eve, who fearlessly stood by her husband’s side, facing a desolate world, and who was both the mother of the human race and the “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). It was she who reminded Adam of the necessity of the Fall, of becoming mortal in order to have children and fulfill the Lord’s first commandment to “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth” (JST Gen 1:28). Eve knew her role as a mother.