Tuesday, July 28, 2009

She Said: Is it True? Is it Kind? Does it Improve on the Silence?

When Dr. B. told me he was going to write on this topic (being honest) and the perspective he was going to take, I replied that I would take the position that "Some things that are true are not very useful!" This was a bit of a joke at the time, since I'm not the hugest fan of how Boyd K. Packer employed that statement.


Upon reading Dr. B.'s post I am beginning to believe, for the first time, that Elder Packer had a point!

OK, I admit it. I fudge the truth. One, I had to edit out that part in DH's post where he told my ACTUAL weight. That certainly wasn't very useful. And I'm not so sure the part about the wrinkles and bags under my eyes was useful either.

I think that we all want to make ourselves look good. We want to emphasize the parts of ourselves that are virtuous, lovely, and of good report, and we want to make sure that, if we are discussing our foibles, that our friends will understand our motivations and mitigating circumstances that led us there. In terms of a temple recommend, I'm not really sure that it is necessary to discuss and confess every little piece of unworthiness that exists in our soul. We are all unworthy to enter into a perfectly pure place. But the questions are there to establish basic boundaries, and to help us examine ourselves gently. Our leaders don't probe into exactly how we calculate our tithing, or how we define the Word of Wisdom--and I think there is a reason for that. What Dr. B. calls the "macro view" isn't necessary in passing a temple recommend interview. I learned that the Bishop doesn't want to hear that I told my husband I spent $20.00 at WalMart when I actually spent $50.00. This is something I need to deal with on my own, and is between myself, my husband, and the Lord.

The most eloquent (and attributable) quote on this subject is one from the controversial nineteenth-century guru Sai Baba: "Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?" This is very similar to the story of Socrates' "Triple Filter."

Can these "truth tests" be applied to a temple recommend interview? How detailed are you when you answer the questions? How necessary is it to admit that you took a pen or some paper clips from work, or that you yelled at your children? How best shall we honor the truth in our lives while "improving on the silence?"


  1. I assume you and your husband have worked out the $ at Walmart issue and this won't cause any problems. In my marriage, I would consider it very dishonest for my husband to lie and tell me he spend $20 when he spent $50. It would be slightly different if he didn't tell me about spending $50....unless it was something he was intentionally hiding because he thought I would disapprove. Not as bad as outright lying but an intentional lie of omission to cover up an intention act that would cause problems in the marriage. If the $50 is no big deal then it isn't a lie of omission. If he mistakenly said $20 instead of $50 also no big deal.
    Another way to think about the lying being dishonest is not only is it lying, but it is stealing. Stealing money from your spouse is when you consider that your rights to the money trump your spouse's. Therefore, if you are spending $ at Walmart, and lying about it, and then your spouse doesn't get to spend money (or your spouse doesn't get to save for retirement) also dishonest stealing.
    For me, these would be major issues in a marriage. How could it not be an issue in the temple recommend interview if you haven't repented and stopped?

  2. I really like the triple filter idea. By that standard, telling an occasional white lie ("My, that's a lovely hat!") could be perfectly moral if it is more kind.

    It used to bother me that in almost every one of the temple recommend questions there were standards I didn't live up to. Once when the bishop asked the question about conduct towards family members I paused and told him I wasn't always kind towards my family. Without skipping a beat he replied "If you're not committing abuse, you're fine. Everyone fights with their families." If we all had to perfectly live up to the standards set, the temples would be empty.

  3. So, Anonymous, do you think that this type of lie would disqualify an individual from attending the temple, let's say if it hadn't been confessed and repented of?