Stretching the Truth

“Stretching the Truth,” New Era, Apr. 1992, 4

The Message:

Stretching the Truth

You can stretch your muscles, your mind, even your money. But when it comes to the truth—well, remember Pinocchio?

When Ben Pantoja of Santiago, Chile, was six years old, his parents went to a nearby city to buy groceries for the family. After they had gone, Ben’s eight-year-old brother said, “Let’s go get an ice cream cone.”

Now, an ice cream cone for Ben and his little sister Mercedes was a special treat. They asked their brother what they would do for money. He said their father had told him if they wanted a treat he could take the money from the chest where they kept the family budget. Ben knew in his heart that was not the truth, but the anticipation of the ice cream overwhelmed his sense of what was right.

They had their ice cream cone. When their parents returned home, Ben’s mother went to the chest to return the change from their trip to the market and noticed that money was missing. The children were questioned and the truth discovered.

Ben Pantoja made up his mind that night that he would never be dishonest again, that he would never go contrary to what he knew to be right. Today he is one of the Lord’s chosen leaders in South America because he has kept his resolve.

When Ben made the decision that he would never be dishonest, he established a limit he would not break. The Savior taught that it is a wise man who builds his house upon a rock. In construction it is not always possible to find a rock to build on. When this happens, wise builders drive pilings or posts into the earth with a pile driver until the steel, concrete, or wooden piling stops. Even with repeated battering by a tremendous weight the post refuses to sink deeper into the earth. This is called the point of refusal. It will go no farther; that is the limit.

To build your house upon the rock, you must decide when you will say no. You must establish your point of refusal which you will not move or break, no matter how much temptation or pounding Satan may deliver. The Lord has promised you that Satan cannot tempt you beyond your power to resist. Your integrity and honesty depend on your personal points of refusal. There can be no softening or caving in. There can be no maybes or compromise. You must be prepared to say no to any temptation.

The feeling Ben had when his brother lied comes from the light of Christ. This light is given to everyone. And when we are baptized and confirmed, we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. When you have choices to make, if you will listen to the Spirit, the same feeling that Ben had will prompt you to choose the right.

Remember the story of Pinocchio? Each time Pinocchio failed to follow his conscience and would tell a lie, a physical change would take place. His nose would grow. As children of God, when you are dishonest a change takes place. It shows in your facial expressions, in your eyes. It affects your thinking and the way you talk. But most seriously, it affects your spirit. The Savior taught, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness” (JST, Matt. 6:22–23). The consequence of dishonesty is loss of the light of Christ. It brings darkness, sadness, and sorrow to your life. Honesty invites the presence of the Holy Spirit and fills your soul with light. It increases your capacity to learn and enhances beauty and personality.

Let’s examine some of the most difficult challenges in being honest:

Self-justification: How many times have you heard, “I didn’t get a good grade in that class because the teacher doesn’t like me.” “We lost the ball game because of the referees.” “I watched that R-rated video because it only had violence, not much skin.” “I didn’t know it was wrong; the Church leaders never really explained that to me.” Don’t blame others. Be responsible for your own actions.

Exaggeration: It’s easy to stumble into this pitfall. We may feel a need to impress others by saying things always happen or never could be. Or we may speak of thousands—even millions—when we really mean three or four. Sometimes we may be tempted to make ourselves look important by overstating our own accomplishments. I remember the expression “to gild the lily.” This refers to those who exaggerate or try to make something better than it really is. It literally means to plate the flower with gold. But by so doing, the real beauty of the lily is destroyed. Tell the truth; it is much more believable.

Deceit: This is one of Satan’s best tools. Deceit is covering, hiding, or avoiding the truth. “The thoughts of the righteous are right: but counsels of the wicked are deceit” (Prov. 12:5). So-called little white lies to your parents to receive permission, the phony excuses, the subtle innuendos of gossip to hurt someone who may have offended you, the presenting of another’s schoolwork as your own—these are all forms of deceit. Your conscience is very good at recognizing deceit in others and in yourself. Listen to it.

Selfishness: Self-centered conduct causes you to be dishonest with your parents, your friends, and your Father in Heaven. Don’t try to build yourself by destroying others. Love can reach fulfillment only through honest giving. Joy comes through honest expression of our feelings of love and caring for others. Forget yourself by learning to care about others.

The gospel contains the teachings to guide you in setting your limits before experiencing the heartache of mistakes. As members of the Church you can receive priesthood blessings from your father, Church leaders, and patriarchs. These blessings will give you spiritual strength and a clear vision of your future.

We build our lives by the examples we follow. These must be carefully chosen, because there are many opportunities to imitate dishonest and unworthy models. Not long ago I spent three days in meetings with President Howard W. Hunter. As I sat in his presence, I was impressed with the thought of the Savior’s words about Nathanael: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). My heart was filled with the desire to become like President Hunter.

In his first epistle, Peter wrote, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9). There is no doubt you are a chosen generation, real children of God the Eternal Father. You must be different, peculiar to the world in your choice of honest actions. Just as the pilings and posts for a great building will go no farther, you must establish your point of refusal. Then you will always be on firm ground and standing tall.

Photography by Welden Andersen