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Ronald Craven
September 26, 2023 11:15 AM

"Honesty is a requirement to enter into the Lord’s Holy House where the highest and most sought-after blessings are received. Honesty is also closely connected to the covenants we make and which we renew each week at the sacrament table."
Thank you Brother Tripp. Father wilt thou lead my learning as I give my best efforts. A beautiful introduction to today’s meeting. Thank you very much. Dear Brothers and Sisters, we love you with all of our hearts. It is a remarkable privilege for us to be with you today. and are grateful for the opportunity to be with you today. I testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is our redeemer and because of his gift of the atonement, we have the ability to grow, to improve, to change and to develop those characteristics that will qualify us to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. We love President and sister Kusch. How fortunate you are to have their leadership. We first met the Kuschs many year ago at a mission leadership conference. We were called to serve as mission presidents. We were in the same class and we have known them since that time and we consider them dear friends. Oh how we love them.

I would like to share the following story from a talk given by Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Quorum of the Seventy. The talk was titled “Your Refined Heavenly Home.”

“I once heard a story about an imaginary king whose wife gave birth to a baby boy. The parents knew that the lad would someday inherit the kingdom. Desiring that their son be a wise king, fully familiar with the needs of the people over whom he would reign, the king and queen took the infant into the country to be raised as part of a peasant family. He was to be told nothing of his secret destiny until he became a man.

At the appropriate time the king and queen returned to the country to confer on their son the kingdom. They were greatly disappointed. Having been told nothing of his appointed destiny, he was exactly that which life had prepared him to be. He understood the proper care of animals and the gathering of crops, but he knew nothing of armies and palaces and courtyards and presiding. He had lost his vision.”

“It should not be difficult for you to glean the truth in this story. Another King, your Father in Heaven, has sent you away from His presence to have experiences you would not have had in your heavenly home—all in preparation for the conferral of a kingdom. He doesn’t want you to lose your vision. You are children of an exalted being. You are foreordained to preside as kings and queens. You will live in a home and environment of infinite refinement and beauty, as reflected in the language, literature, art, music, and order of heaven.” [1]

Over a lifetime, I suspect I have read hundreds of conference talks and articles by General Authorities and General Officers of the Church. Even today, I know of no talk that has had more of an immediate and profound influence on my life than the talk that was given by Elder Callister. When I was reading those words it caused me to reflect on my own lack of physical and spiritual refinement. It cultivated within me a deep desire to change and improve. I wanted to be more like our Heavenly Father and the Savior in thought and deed. I wanted to be worthy to enjoy the refined society of angels and heavenly parentage. The thought of divine refinement has affected the way I speak, the way I dress, the way we decorate our home, what we watch, what we listen to, even picking up after myself to keep our home clean and orderly. I simply can’t imagine a heavenly home environment that is sloppy, disorganized or dirty. Nor can I imagine a Celestial home filled with dishonest, selfish and less than saintly beings as we peer through the veil and ponder what the Celestial Kingdom is like and reflect upon the godlike character, dignity, and demeanor of those who occupy that exalted sphere. One of the godlike characteristics that we are sent to earth to develop and refine is honesty. My focus today is on honesty and honesty’s cousins, lying, stealing and cheating.

The 13th Article of Faith reads, in part:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men… If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

Honesty is a requirement to enter into the Lord’s Holy House where the highest and most sought-after blessings are received. Honesty is also closely connected to the covenants we make and which we renew each week at the sacrament table.

In addressing honesty, I am aware that most of you in the audience are exemplary in honesty and integrity and have the desire and commitment to please the Lord. However, one only needs to spend a few minutes on the news or social media to come to the sobering realization that society in general is in an honesty crisis.

In the book of Moses we read, “I (the Lord) caused that he (Satan) should be cast down; And he became the father of 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.” [2]

The Prophet Joseph Smith included “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” as among those who were to “suffer the wrath of God on earth,” [3] and will be assigned the telestial kingdom which is the lowest degree of glory.

My dear brother and sisters, are you catching this? Lying is one of the most grievous sins we can commit! We simply cannot be complacent or casual in our approach to honesty. Our very eternal progression and happiness depends on it.

In comparison to Satan (the father of lies), listen to the words of The Brother of Jared as he proclaims: “Yea Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and cannot lie.”

We have the agency to make choices, but ultimately, we will be accountable for each choice we make. We may deceive others, but there is One we will never deceive and that is our ultimate judge even Jesus Christ.

As President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “Let the truth be taught by example and precept—that to steal is evil, that to cheat is wrong, that to lie is a reproach to anyone who indulges in it.” [4] Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that “Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.” [5]

Lying is more than not telling the truth. It’s also not telling the whole truth.

Let me give you an example:

As a former mission leader, I had far too many experiences where young men and young women came into the mission field only to realize that their pre-mission repentance was inadequate. They had not been completely honest with their priesthood leaders when asked about worthiness. They had “Glossed-over” their confessions.

What’s a gloss-over? A gloss-over is when you tell only part of the truth, leave out important details, or purposely minimize the wrongdoing. Eventually some of these “gloss-over-missionaries” caught the spirit of their mission and the Spirit also caught them. Their hearts became broken and contrite. They knew they were not “right” with the Lord so they humbly sought counsel and direction from their mission president.

One of the most grievous forms of lying is a lie to a Bishop, Stake President, or Mission President. A lie, or half-truth to a priesthood leader is a lie or half-truth to the Lord.

Just because a priesthood leader does not ask a specific or pertinent question does not create an excuse for not disclosing all that needs to be confessed. The same is true in our relationship with others, when we purposely conceal the truth or misrepresent the facts, we are engaging in a form of lying.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Half a truth is often a great lie.” [6]

Are there times in our personal relationships, in school, or business, when we succumb to “glossyitis”? My sweet, talented, exceptional and might I add beautiful wife, spoke at a BYU devotional a few years ago. I quote from her address:

“How many times do we look in the mirror and believe the lies, half-truths, or exaggerations we tell ourselves and others? What prompts this need to exaggerate? Maybe it’s a desire to elevate one’s position or to diminish another’s. When someone consistently exaggerates, it doesn’t take long before he loses credibility. After all, isn’t exaggeration a form of lying? Regardless of what causes this type of behavior, it is inconsistent with the dignity, demeanor, and integrity of discipleship when those who love the Savior choose to exaggerate and not speak honestly.” [7]

Hannah Arendt, a political scientist, said this about lying: “If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.” [8]

Because of the overwhelming negative effect of lying to society, it is not a surprise that many research studies have been conducted to see what dishonesty does to the brain. One study was led by the university of Notre Dame. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or MRI), researchers tracked the portions of the brain associated with emotions. The conclusions to the study suggest, the more you lie, the easier it gets. Small lies become larger lies and the brain adapts and becomes desensitized overtime. [9]

Thomas Jefferson observed:

“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, ‘til at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.” [10]

Yes, lying negatively affects the brain and the body in a negative way. The greatest harm however is to the spirit.

At a time when personal revelation is so important and so necessary, we would never want to do anything that would draw us away from the Holy Spirit.

Whenever I hear a person argue that it is only a “little lie,” I think of the criminal who approached an employee and asked, “Would you help me steal your employer’s property if I paid you one million dollars?” After a moment’s thought, the surprised employee said that he supposed he would, for one million dollars. The criminal replied: “Well, I will give you twenty dollars, so let’s get started.”

The employee angrily replied, “What do you take me for, a thief?”

“We have already established that,” the criminal responded; “now we are just haggling over the price.” [11]

“There are different shades of truth telling,” says President James E. Faust. “When we tell little white lies, we become progressively color-blind. It is better to remain silent than to mislead. The degree to which each of us tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth depends on our conscience.”

David Casstevens of the Dallas Morning News tells a story about Frank Szymanski, a Notre Dame center in the 1940s, who had been called as a witness in a civil suit in South Bend, Indiana.

“Are you on the Notre Dame football team this year?” the judge asked.

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“What position do you play?”

“Center, Your Honor.”

“How good a center are you?”

Szymanski squirmed in his seat, and said firmly, “Sir, I’m the best center Notre Dame has ever had.”

Coach Frank Leahy was in the courtroom. He knew the young Szymanski always had been modest and unassuming. So after the court hearing, he took the young Szymanski aside and asked why he had made such a statement. “I hated to do it, Coach,” he said. “But, after all, I was under oath.”

Brothers and sisters, now let’s now consider the pandemic of stealing. Thou shalt not steal; and he that stealeth and will not repent shall be cast out” (D&C 42:20)

Stealing, in the form of shoplifting, is surging across America with a reported $100 Billion price tag to retailers annually. [12] In some parts of the country governments have tried to decriminalize some forms of shoplifting. Just because it may be legal does not mean it is right! What about stealing someone’s good name by repeating rumors, or gossiping?

Have you been hurt by someone falsely accusing you of something or have you been a victim of false rumors? I have and the hurt and pain is hard to describe. What about stealing someone’s words by plagiarizing. Consider how AI has made this form of stealing much more accessible! How about buying something on credit with no intention of paying the debt, or skipping payments for rent, utility bills, or student loans, leaving others to carry the burden? Have you considered that tapping into someone else’s paid services or subscriptions is stealing?

A colleague pondered out loud to me recently, “if I start paying my student loans back I will not be able to make my house payments and I will lose my home. I assured him that his wife would much rather have a husband that honored his commitments than living in a new home. Are we stealing from our government when we are not honest with our taxes? Are we stealing from God when we are not honest in paying our tithes and offerings?

We owe our employer an honest day of work for honest pay. Anything less is a form of stealing. In an age where there are work-from home options, are we completely honest to our employer? Are we giving our best efforts or are we stealing time from those that employ us? Isn’t the lack of punctuality a form of stealing? Whose time are we wasting? Whether large or small, if you steal something, it is still stealing.

A few days ago, I was listening to a news program and a story was told about Conner, a ten-year-old boy from Minnesota. Conner was out fishing with his dad and caught what he thought was a whopper of a fish. When he reeled in his catch, he found that it was a wallet containing two-thousand dollars in cash! There was a business card in the wallet belonging to a farmer in a neighboring state. Conner contacted the farmer and gave him the good news. The farmer had been fishing in the lake a year earlier and lost his wallet. He made arrangements to pick up the wallet and offered a reward. Conner refused. [13]

As I tell the story, how many of you quickly put yourself in the place of Conner? Two-thousand dollars, wow that is a lot! Would you keep the money? After all, “finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers,” right? How long would you think about it before you made the call?

Good on Conner and thank Heaven’s for a father that obviously was mentoring a young son.

Can we talk for a minute or two about cheating?

President James E. Faust shared this story about a friend:

“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 served as a General Authority.

Quoting again from President Faust:

“In reality, we are only in competition with ourselves. Others can challenge and motivate us, but we must reach down deep into our souls and call forth our God-given intelligence and capabilities. We cannot do this when we depend on the efforts of someone else.” [14]

Brother and sisters, the adage that honesty is the best policy is indeed the best policy. The relationship with our spouse and family, looking at pornography or being unfaithful or cheating or stealing, we need to develop Christlike characteristics. Follow your conscience, follow the Spirit and be honest in every way.

I testify that God lives and Jesus is the Christ. May we stay on the covenant path is my humble prayer,

in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Douglas L. Callister, Your Refined Heavenly Home, BYU Speeches, Sep. 2006 

2 Moses 4:3-4

3 D&C 76:103–6; D&C 63:17

4 Ether 3:12

5 James E. Faust, Ensign, Oct. 1996 

6 Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Chambered Nautilus 

7 Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, p. 90 

8 Rebecca L. Craven, BYU Speeches, Oct 2021 

9 Hannah Arendt, in an interview with Roger Errera, October 1973, for Un Certain Regard, Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française (ORTF), broadcast in France, 6 July 1974; “ Video. Hannah Arendt and Roger Errera, 1973 ,” Hannah Arendt Center for Political Studies, University of Verona, 1 November 2016,; extracted comments. 

10 The Neuroscience of Behavoral Change, Notre Dame News, University of Notre Dame, Jan 31, 2023

11 [Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Peter Carr, 19 August 1785, quoted in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 13th ed., p. 373]

12 Dallin H. Oaks, BYU Speeches, Jan 1973, Be Honest in All Behavior

13 James E. Faust, A Moral Compass, Ensign, Nov. 1996 

14 Opinion: The plague of shoplifting is not harmless. The Deseret News, Jan 4, 2023 

15 Fox News, Janis Dean, Sep 2023

16 James E. Faust, Be Honest as a Moral Compass, Ensign No 1996) 

17Dallin H. Oaks, Be Honest in All Behavior, BYU Speeches, Jan 30, 1973 

18Gospel Topics, Honesty

About the Speaker

Ronald Craven

Brother Ron Craven served his mission as a young man in London England. Halfway through his mission the mission boundaries changed. He was one of several missionaries assigned to the new mission. Brother Craven was devastated. A new mission meant a new mission president, different culture, lost friends, and strange surroundings.

What seemed like a significant trial at the time ended up being a tremendous blessing. In the new mission, Elder Craven was assigned to serve with Elder Mitchell. When the two got home, Elder Mitchell set Elder Craven up on a blind date with his little sister—his very beautiful little sister—Becky! If you can imagine, they went to a mission reunion on the initial blind date. Love at first site? Not quite, but close. Ten months later Ron and Becky were married with Elder Mitchell as the best man!

When Brother Craven served as president of the North Carolina Charlotte Mission, he would tell his missionaries that his mission keeps giving and giving! Thus far it has given him five children and 22 grandchildren. 

Brother Craven is married to Sister Rebecca L. Craven, former second counselor in the General Young Women’s presidency. Brother Craven has served in bishoprics, high councils, and stake presidencies. For seven years he taught institute and loved his interaction with young singe adults. Professionally, Brother Craven is a Partner with The Boyer Company, which develops, manages, and leases commercial real estate throughout the Intermountain West. He has a finance degree from Brigham Young University. The Craven’s love to travel and have participated in many humanitarian projects throughout the world.
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