I gave a talk at church today. It isn’t formatted very well into an essay, but below is the text of it more or less:
Integrity is one of those basic principles which is so simple, and yet means so much. It is a deep eternal aspect of the way things are. We often refer to it as truth, being aligned with truth, honesty in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.
In D&C 124:15 the Lord said of Hyrum Smith:
And again, verily I say unto you, blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.
What does that mean, that Hyrum had integrity of the heart? Did it mean he was perfect in his thoughts? I don’t think so. I think it meant that Hyrum constantly measured his thoughts and actions against the Gospel truth as he new it and strove to align himself with it.
Heavenly Father has told us that truth is everlasting. Possessions may be lost, fame may fade, governments may topple, the earth may be destroyed, and yet Truth will continue. Given that, can we align ourselves with anything but truth?
In D&C 88:67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
What does it mean to have an eye single to God’s glory? It means to put, above all else, our allegiance to God. To what our Father in Heaven, and his Son Jesus Christ would have us do.
God is a God of Truth.
He knows the truth of all things. And with that, He knows the truth of who you were, who you are, and who you can become. Can you say that of anyone on this earth?
If you follow Him, He will guide you through a course that is true. You will become glorified in him: the best that you are according to your unique self and the eternal principles of truth.
Along this path are many temptations. It is for no casual reason that another name for the Adversary is the Father of Lies.
What are the kinds of lies we might encounter?
The lie of happiness through social acceptance. If we act against that which we know is right in order to feel like we fit in more, to get someone to like us more, we will have given up our integrity: our allegiance to the truth, for people who do not have our best intentions in their purpose. Friendships forged or strengthened though sinful actions are doomed to fail, fade, disappoint us so that we’re left alone.
Another lie of social acceptance is to deny our testimony and destroy our testimony in order to gain acceptance among peers. This is the intellectual lie that science has discovered data which disproves the Gospel. The interesting thing about is that when one actually gets involved in discussion, rarely does follow a line of logical discourse. Instead, it usually turns into ridicule. When I was a teenager at a science fair banquet, we came to talk about something related to the Gospel, and I was told that my conclusion was stupid, intellectually weak. It was a hurdle I had to get over, but if I had thrown away my testimony during this time in my life for the acceptance of these people I would have ironically been following social conventions rather than being a “free thinker” as they like to call it.
So it was not sin that was tempting, but the denial of faith in order to gain respect among my peers.
Another lie that besets us is the lie of getting gain through dishonest behavior. If we cheat, in school, in our business practice, as employers treating or paying their workers poorly to increase profits, or employees shirking or stealing, as citizens avoiding taxes, we are selling our eternal salvation for a mess of pottage. Gains that will soon spoil and leave us destitute with nothing to show to our Father in Heaven but those souls whom we’ve hurt for reasons of gain.
Addictive behaviors are another form of lie. Engaging in activities such as drugs, pornography, games, gambling, sometimes shopping can give us feelings of accomplishment or pleasure that we did not earn.
Sometimes, while writing, I have often turned to playing a puzzle game on the computer when I get stuck. Recently, I found myself doing this a lot, playing a card game much more than I was actually writing. Doing it because I was “stuck” was the lie. I wondered why, when I so want to write, was I using my precious time playing a game. I determined that it was for the tiny pleasures of solving the puzzle. It gives a temporary sense of accomplishment, and yet I’d accomplished nothing.
We may not even think it is bad because, in moderation, such activities may not be harmful. They can stimulate our thinking. But if we find ourselves playing games instead of doing our work, then we need to consider that we should stop playing the game at all.
Addictive behaviors can go further than the lie in our thoughts, the little shots of pleasure, and start harmful chemical changes in our brain that themselves a lie: the lie that the body or self cannot live without the addictive behavior. We probably need help to overcome this lie.
We may not seek such help because of another lie: the lie of unworthiness.
But it isn’t just in poor behavior that we may find these harmful whispers that we are not good enough assaulting us. Discouragement and feelings like others see us as bad people are also lies that we must overcome. Sometimes such lies can lead us into depression. One of the helps for depression is what is called cognitive therapy, in which we learn to stop thinking things like “I’m a bad mom. I don’t know why he loves me, I don’t deserve it.” And sometimes, the lie is once again in the chemicals of our brain. Heavenly Father has inspired men in medicine through the light of Christ to give us helps to overcome these organic misfires of the brain.
To overcome all of this, we have the Truth of the Gospel. Our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ who know our thoughts, our desires, our sorrows and love us. They want us to be happy. It is through this truth that we can gain the eternal joy that they have in store for us.
It takes courage. We must fortify ourselves with the truth. We must prepare in advance to meet these lies with the truth.
In Ephesians 6:13-14 it says:
13. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.
Our loins, in case you didn’t know, is that part of our body between our hips and our ribs. Where we are most vulnerable. And it is with truth that we protect ourselves from the Father of Lies.
Where do we find these eternal truths that will bring us real and lasting joy? In the scriptures. In the council we receive at general conference and through the church publications. On our knees.
“Let us diligently strive to understand the wonderful things of God. The jewels of the gospel of Jesus Christ are within our reach. But we must seek – ask and strive for – and live the principles of truth. When we do so, we will become better men and better women and contribute to a better community, a better nation, and a better world, for which I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
And that is my prayer too, brothers and sisters. Heavenly Father loves you. Seeking after the truth, following the truth, acting with integrity will improve your lives and bring you joy.