17 Nov 2015

On my Honor

Honesty, truth, and hoping for more of it

This has been an interesting week. Sometimes it takes me a while to find a story or scripture that sticks in my mind, and sometimes it comes quickly. Usually that determines how easy it is for me to write something here - which I've heard from a few people that they enjoy reading so I hope that I can continue this. But this week I found a verse or two very early on, and I spent a while thinking about it, and everything else seemed to go well with this idea . . . until it came to write.

For some unknown reason, writing was harder for me this time. I'm not sure if that's meaningful, or if it's just that things are hard sometimes. Either way, I'll be sure to finish this time so that those who say they enjoy reading this actually can read it.

Thanks again for being here, I hope you can get something out of it.

Like I said before, I found a scripture that stuck out to me early on in the week. It comes from the story of Captain Moroni, in Alma chapter 44. In the prior chapter Moroni's army and Zarahemna's army have been fighting for some time. At the crux of the battle, when Moroni could have easily swept in and killed all the Lamanites, he instead does this:

1 And it came to pass that they did stop and withdrew a pace from them. And Moroni said unto Zerahemnah: Behold, Zerahemnah, that we do not desire to be men of blood. Ye know that ye are in our hands, yet we do not desire to slay you . . .

3 But now, ye behold that the Lord is with us; and ye behold that he has delivered you into our hands . . .

6 . . . I command you by all the desires which ye have for life, that ye deliver up your weapons of war unto us, and we will seek not your blood, but we will spare your lives, if ye will go your way and come not again to war against us . . .

8 And now it came to pass that when Zerahemnah had heard these sayings he came forth and delivered up his sword and his cimeter, and his bow into the hands of Moroni, and said unto him: Behold, here are our weapons of war; we will deliver them up unto you, but we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break, and also our children; but take our weapons of war, and suffer that we may depart into the wilderness; otherwise we will retain our swords, and we will perish or conquer . . .

10 And now when Zerahemnah had made an end of speaking these words, Moroni returned the sword and the weapons of war, which he had received, unto Zerahemnah, saying: Behold, we will end the conflict . . .

Alma 44: 1-10

Kind of a long section, so I condensed it greatly. It's a good story if you want to go back and read all of it. But the idea that I'd like to point out is the honesty of both parties in this conflict. This story is often read with the intent of showing how even Zarahemnah, the leader of the Lamanites, would not make an oath knowing he would break it. It also stands out to me each time I read it that Moroni returns the weapons after Zarahemnah rejects his offer. These men both knew that this exchange was not about the weapons.

It really stands out to me here that in the middle of their war - in the combat to defend their lives and their liberty - their discussion was about an oath. Moroni wanted no prisoners, nor did he want to kill or disarm them. He only wanted their word.

At the same time, Zerahemnah's fear was not that they might be incarcerated, and not that they may lose their weapons. Of course he was concerned for their lives, but he would not lie - even in exchange for their lives. Both of these men knew the value in their word.

Honesty is a godly attribute, and as we see here it is not exclusive to those who follow God. One of my favorite scriptures about honesty comes from Ether chapter 3. When the brother of Jared is asked by the Lord whether he believes what the Lord will say, he says this:

Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.

Ether 3:12

Interesting, isn't it? Among all the other things that the Lord is, he certainly is a God of truth. How far have we gone from the days when a man's word was his oath? How far will society continue to travel into the darkness of deception?

In the BYU testing center there is a poster placed on each of the doors to enter the testing area. It reads:

I have been asked what I mean by 'word of honor.' I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls–walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground–there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I’d die first!

Karl G. Maeser

What a noble statement. The more I think upon this idea of honesty and honor, the more I start to see the problems that arise from it. In society at large a spoken promise is meaningless unless it has been recorded - or better: to have it in writing! Why? Because recording provides a means of consequence. Neither party trusts each other until they know they can seek retribution if they're wronged.

Gone are the days when a business agreement was sealed with a handshake. Now it takes a whole team of lawyers, and still has a fair chance of being broken.

Say goodbye to loyalty - if a man cannot be loyal to his own word, what makes you think they could ever be loyal to someone else? Degradation of partnerships, friendships, marriages, and all else come when people no longer hold honor before personal gain.

The good news is that we can continue to honor our word. We can make a change - a small but very real one - by trusting and being trustworthy. Do not be so quick to distrust, but do not dismiss it lightly when your trust is broken. Perhaps as we each place upon our word (and the word of others) the weight it truly should have, others will notice and uphold theirs as well.