Friday, September 14, 2007

The Ninth Commandment Thesaurus

As I shuffled papers on my desk this morning and rechecked some remarks in emails and on various message boards, I found, to the point of amusement, that we have many ways to obscure the word "lie." We are masters of the art. I say we, because I freely confess to an occasional falsehood (please note the absence of the actual word, lie.) Any married man who can answer the question, “Honey, do these pants make me look fat?” without a violation of the commandment is either a fool, or else, blessed with an extremely trim spouse. Without looking, I routinely answer my wife in the affirmative and it has become a family joke. Rarely do the pants actually contribute to the appearance of “looking fat.”

Like all the commandments, the ninth is unambiguous: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Gen. 20:16) The Bible does not speak to error, misunderstanding, or bad information. We all clearly know what it means. If you know the truth and then tell another tale, it is false witness, i.e. lying. I do not apologize if the word offends. God tells us clearly that He is offended by the action and He commands us not to do it. In my opinion, I see more violation of this commandment than possibly any, other than the first.

I often hear the excuse; “It’s for the greater good.” Yeah, right! For the greater good for God or for the greater good of the speaker is the next logical question. If God saw any “good” in it, I doubt He would have included it in His commandments. If you see the commandments on a sliding scale of importance then you might say it’s number nine and dismiss its importance. Therein you trivialize the importance to Him.

In scripture, and especially the entire Restoration canon, how many calls do we see to verification by several witnesses? We put great stock in the testimony of the “three witness.” Given the command not to be false, we are then left with—true. Upon this premise we treasure the Book of Mormon. We also accept the Doctrine and Covenants and its revealed word for the same reason. On that sound platform, I also accept your testimony and the revealed experiences of others speaking in the spirit based on the day-by-day observation of your obedience to the ninth commandment. It is this common thread which allows us to share our encounters with the Lord at all levels.

When I catch someone in a lie, and it’s all too frequent, I feel the affront as a wound. When I hear it from a fellow saint, or worse, priesthood, I grieve! What affect must it have on God? In the course of repentance, I have acknowledged to Him those occasions of false witness with fear and trembling. I should! I well know the promises which follow repentance and His promise of forgiveness and “to remember it not,” but do I wish to face the final judgment with my memory of these offenses? I trust Him to keep his covenant. I can only pray that my repentance is sufficient that He can see me keeping my end.

One demonstration of the near universal popularity of holding the ninth commandment in contempt is the sheer number of words used to describe the activity. With very little research I easily came up with 66 nouns, 91 verbs and 47 adjectives as synonyms for lie or false witness. Do you think you find as many for covet? Kill? Steal? Who knows? Some of these substitute words imply a measure of degree, which I question. You can put lipstick on a pig, but, you know the result. I do think I have heard nearly all of these weasel words when confronting someone with an untruth. “Well, it was just a little white lie so I wouldn’t hurt your feelings.” “Puhleeeze!” I am a big grown up boy now and I can take it. Tell me the truth.

Do not forswear, perjure, misstate, miscite, misreport, falsify, pervert, distort, disguise, color, exaggerate, palter, varnish, embroider, invent, fabricate, hatch, concoct, dissemble, feign, assume, pretend, simulate, or counterfeit the facts to make me feel better. If you don’t like something I write on this blog, fine, tell me straight. I might even take a lesson from it. If you do like it, tell me that also so I can get the big head. In the process, you may find God is immensely pleased that you are paying attention to His word. If you choose not to take this advice, you may find your baggage on the way to judgment just a shade heavier. I have personally decided that the minor pain of hearing and saying the truth are petty compared to having to answer for false witness.

In the confusion of competing organizational structure in the emerging hierarchy, a lot of issues are put forth, plans are made, and sometimes leadership lets their guard down. In the rush to qualify, occasional issues of a former life bob to the top. A former association may be viewed in some quarters as worthy while among others, it is despicable. In the distrust generated by the apostasy it behooves every man who would lead to be scrupulous in openness about his associations, both today and yesterday. As members, we need to know exactly what you believe today. It’s immaterial if you were wrong in the past. We all were somewhere along the line. What is important now is open denunciation of former ill-considered associations and doctrine. This is not a time for equivocation. It is time to stand foursquare for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of His church to achieve a Zionic condition of the people here and now. And that’s no lie.

In His abiding love

Cecil Moon

No comments: