More and more, honesty is not a virtue our society prizes but fails to live.  More and more, it is a virtue that we reject as for dupes.  And more and more, it is.

What I failed to realize when I was younger is that honesty is a societal virtue.  It is a virtue whose purpose and sense is in relation to society at large.

Here is President Hinckley:

Fortunately there are still those who observe such principles of personal rectitude. Recently we rode a train from Osaka to Nagoya, Japan. At the station were friends to greet us, and in the excitement my wife left her purse on the train. We called the Tokyo station to report it. When the train arrived at its destination some three hours later, the railroad telephoned to say the purse was there. We were not returning via Tokyo, and more than a month passed before it was delivered to us in Salt Lake City. Everything left in the purse was there when it was returned.

Such experiences, I fear, are becoming increasingly rare. In our childhood we were told the stories of George Washington’s confessing to chopping down the cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s walking a great distance to return a small coin to its rightful owner. But clever debunkers in their unrighteous zeal have destroyed faith in such honesty; the media in all too many cases have paraded before us a veritable procession of deception in its many ugly forms.

What was once controlled by the moral and ethical standards of the people, we now seek to handle by public law. And so the statutes multiply, enforcement agencies consume ever-increasing billions, prison facilities are constantly expanded, but the torrent of dishonesty pours on and grows in volume.

Clever debunkers and the regulatory-criminal complex have grown and grown, and honesty has gone small.

Although honesty only makes sense as a virtue in a society where people recognize and respond to it, it is still a virtue we should cultivate.  Honesty is a token pointing to a better world.

To those within the sound of my voice who are living this principle, the Lord bless you. Yours is the precious right to hold your heads in the sunlight of truth, unashamed before any man.

Other Posts from the April 1976 General Conference, Sunday morning session

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