"Without [honesty], there can be no salvation."
—Honesty, a Principle of Salvation by Mark E. Petersen
"Everyone lies sometimes. I never understood why liars were treated the same in scriptures as murderers and adulterers until I met [one]. Now I understand."
What is the difference between someone who tells a lie and a liar? Neither are good, but until I spent many sleepless nights trying to come to terms with the truth of my marriage, I had no idea there even was a difference.
But since my education in the school of hard knocks, I've learned to see the threads of deception which weave themselves through the fabric of our culture, our lives, and our very identities. We lie to ourselves constantly. Sometimes, we try to avoid hurting someone, and sometimes we are simply trying to cover our own weaknesses.
But there are people who have willingly and earnestly immersed themselves in lies to the point where they are nothing else. All their relationships are false, because they are built on lies. They live in a constant state of brazen insecurity, as they layer one lie upon another until they convince themselves that they are good people. And the hardest part to understand is that these people are everywhere. To an extent, they are even us.
I've had a rough decade. Once, I peeled back layers of lies I had built around myself in order to face who I really am. It was a painful process. In my naïveté, I supposed that it would happen once, that I would be able to build my life from that moment on, with a newfound sense of honesty. It was very difficult for me to find myself in a situation where I was crumbled atop a mountain of lies, fallen to ashes inside.
And, to be honest, I'm still very hollow.
But I have dedicated myself to honesty. In some cases, it has cut to my very core. I do not tell all things to all people. But it has become a hunger for me to always be honest about what I say, and to not deceive anyone, even if it paints me in a bad light to my children and the people I love.
In his talk, Elder Petersen outlines dozens of ways lies have crumbled souls and destroyed lives. I'm going to make it a bit more personal, and uncover some of the lies we sometimes teach as gospel which are still cutting me to the core.
- "You are a chosen generation."
Growing up, I was always told I was unique, chosen, a choice spirit daughter of Heavenly Father. It wasn't until I hit my thirties that I realized that I am a "unique and beautiful snowflake"...just like everyone else. Now, the generation of children and youth are coming up behind me, bright eyed and full of promise. They are told they are the chosen generation just like I once was.
I think we do our children a disservice by telling them this. The truth is that we are ALL chosen, even the liars and the murderers among us. We are choice because we chose to come to this earth. It isn't being chosen that makes us special, it is choosing. We should not tell people they are of a "chosen generation" because it means nothing.
- "Marry in the temple. Keep yourself pure until marriage so you can give that gift to your spouse."
In this lie, I could never have guessed that I would do everything right: wait a year, marry in the temple, keep my covenants, only to be objectified and used in my marriage. It wasn't a gift that he cherished, it was one he exploited. I'm not saying you shouldn't be chaste, but I am saying that there is no guarantee that being chaste will make sex a wonderful experience to share with your spouse.
I thought if I married someone who loved God and loved me, I would be able to be a good wife, a good companion, and a worthwhile person. I thought if I was patient and Christlike and giving, that things would work out in the end. My covenants became the bars of my jail cell in a nightmare of a marriage. It was only at the commandment of God to break the sealing covenant that I could become a person again. And I don't think I've made it yet.
- "You are beautiful."
I was never classically beautiful, but I once believed that someone would find me that way. In that lie was the promise that when someone found me beautiful, I would be cherished and cared for. The truth was that beauty comes with expectations. You are expected to be grateful for being beautiful, you are expected to give that beauty to the one who admires it. Beauty is a commodity, one that fades quickly. If I hadn't been beautiful at one point to one man, I could have remained myself. Being empowered as a disciple of God is far, FAR more important than being aesthetic. We fail to teach our men and women that their value in each other lies only in righteousness.
- "God will not test you beyond what you are able to bear."
Oooh, this lie still hurts. Many long nights have been spent beating myself up for being weaker than God expected me to be. Because I can't bear it. I just can't. It has gone so far beyond what I, in my pathetic weakness, can bear that I don't remember what it was like to not be afraid. The truth is God WILL push you until you break. He has to have you broken, sorrowful, in order to build you into what He can make of you. I'm still working on the last part.
- "It will be okay in the next life."
Granted, this one hasn't been PROVEN a lie just yet. But the lie in this is insidious. On the outside, it looks like truth. But behind the truth of God's love and care for each of us, it disguises the chastisement that because it will be okay in the next life, you should find comfort and peace in this one. But this is not a world of peace. Promises of bliss in the next life, whatever form that might take, cannot rob mortality of its sting, no matter how much faith you have. If you put your faith in everything "working out in the end," your faith is not in the Savior. I do not believe in nebulous future promises. But I believe in Him. Not in the next life, but NOW.
There are other lies, but I think that is enough to purge my soul for now. Elder Petersen is right. We can't worry about what we will get from others, we just have to give and trust that God will fill us with His power when we need it. That is love. In the end, only His love can pull us through the pain given us by the liars.
And at the end, even they will be redeemed.