Freedom and Honesty

Stephen Marsh Mormon 34 Comments

I was reading and I came across the following, years ago, and then again recently.

We need complete freedom to express our honest feelings [to God]

Freedom is an essential factor in the healing process because recovery is based on the practice of honest with ourselves and with [God].

Who, besides God and ourselves, do we need to have that level of honesty with?

How can we be sure that our honesty truly is honest?

After all, the old question “do these pants make me look fat?” has as a meta question “do you love me, am I still desirable to you” and to answer the question the wrong way is to send the false message that you don’t love the person asking it, that they no longer fit in your life.  God can see through that all, but how much should we expect of others if we can not see the false messages in our “honesty” ourselves?

Yet, how can we find forgiveness, restoration, the full healing of the atonement without it?

Comments

comments

Comments 34

  1. I’d be interested to know where that quote comes from. Freedom in the classic sense of political freedom or freedom of movement seems disconnected from any communication with God, since that is an entirely internal and meditative realm.

    Of all the communications, internal honesty seems to be extremely difficult, yet we blithely go on believing that we are true to ourselves and true about ourselves. Self-deception in the realm of working out a relationship with a divine being seems particularly fraught with potential pitfalls. This site has a ton of information on self-deception:
    http://www.skepdic.com/selfdeception.html

    Now, I, as any male, understand the double bind of the “Am I fat?” question, but the classic double bind of Mormonism is Moroni 10:4-5. Study it out, pray about it and you will get the answer. What happens when the answer doesn’t conform to the societal group? Just like your spurned woman who has packed on a few pounds, the person getting the wrong answer doesn’t feel loved and accepted by the community.

    For whatever reason, Mormonism has eliminated the ability to come to a different conclusion than the group in working out your honest relationship with God. This leads to group think as described by Cass Sunstein in his numerous books, because by eliminating dissent and discussion it creates an echo chamber and cascade effect of “I know this Church is True” by those who are not being honest with themselves, don’t feel the freedom to be honest with themselves and have to conform to maintain societal and cultural acceptance. They have to say, “No honey you look absolutely fantastic in those pants” even if she looks like a cow. How is that freedom to be honest?

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    The quote comes from some twelve step literature I’ve been reading but it relates to grief recovery very well.

    Saying “you look like a cow” sends a wrong meta-message (unless what you mean to say is “I don’t love you and I don’t like you” — then it is a very cruel way to say that) and in its own way is not truthful either. The proper answer is “You really look better in the brown pants” or a number of other responses, in case you are curious of how to respond to such a question and tell the direct truth and properly communicate the truthful meta-message as well.

  3. “For whatever reason, Mormonism has eliminated the ability to come to a different conclusion than the group in working out your honest relationship with God.”

    No, it hasn’t.

    There are lots of ways to be creatively honest. I try really hard to be honest in everything I do. I don’t succeed all the time, but I try. I have yet to be disappointed in the effort, but I’ve had to be creative in how I express myself honestly on lots of occasions – most of which have absolutely nothing to do with religion directly.

  4. Ray

    What about Santa Clause – is that the one area where dishonesty is acceptable ?

    Ulysseus – I think you raise a really good point, the culture that surrounds Mormonism can be very restrictive. clothing, hair styles, social non-religious beliefs. it is difficult to be truly honest to yourself.

  5. #5 – Yet I am not sure that I think the wider society is much different. Professionally I find it difficult to be honest about my believe in God because of the fear I have of what others will think and how it could effect my career. Moreover, I think that such restrictions cause dissonance that is essentially a productive thing to experience both within and outside the Church. In this regard I like a statment by Truman Madsen who said, I am paraphrasing, to penetrate the heavenly veil we must first penetrate the inner veil. I feel that the confessional aspect of the atonement and forgiveness is supposed to teach us this type of openness and honesty that brings healing and fellowship.

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  7. It is from ‘Christ and the Inner Life’ and the essay is ‘Christ and Prayer’… I have the ‘five classics’ set so page number might not help but it is p. 146 in that edition.

  8. “What about Santa Clause – is that the one area where dishonesty is acceptable?”

    It’s not dishonest, if it’s viewed and used as a symbol – and there really was a St. Nicholas. When my children are old enough to understand the symbolic way in which we view the story and practice, we explain it to them and they become Santa’s elves for their younger siblings. They love it, and they don’t view the overall story as dishonest in the slightest – because it’s not.

    Was Jesus being dishonest by referencing Jonah or Job, if those stories aren’t of actual people? I’m not saying they are or aren’t, but the question remains, since their reality is debated.

  9. My dad and I used to sing in church together–a song called “Lord Are You There?” It is a “conversation” between a girl/young woman and God. One of the lines “God” sings is this:
    “Child, I love you so-
    but sometimes the answer is ‘no’;”

    No one has addressed this point from Comment #1. What if the answer is NO? What if a person sincerely prays, and they do not receive a spiritual witness? How does one become ‘creatively honest’ with that one? ( BTW, my husband and I have another term for creatively honest–it’s called lying.)

    The wife who looks like a cow and honesty with others is a softball, guys. Come on. It’s not that tough to say “Um, honey I like your other pants better.” But let me ask you this: how do you say to God, “Well, I prayed and I had a bit of a tingle, but it was a little gas, but hey, it could have been the Spirit”?
    What’s the “meta message” to God when, in your internal dialog?

    But, the ubiquitous ‘they’ say, if you aren’t getting the “right” answer, it must be a problem with YOU. Problem solved.

    But it isn’t solved. I didn’t leave because I was angry or offended. I left because it never made sense, it never jibed with what I believed or thought, and I never got that burning in the bosom. And the Mormon paradigm does not allow for dissent. It does not, by it’s very inception, allow for a different experience from the members who do receive their ‘witness’.

    “For whatever reason, Mormonism has eliminated the ability to come to a different conclusion than the group in working out your honest relationship with God.”

    If you are to have a relationship with God and be Mormon, everything depends on that burning bosom. If it doesn’t happen, then the blame is placed squarely on the querant’s shoulders and not on the possibility that the Mormon Church is NOT the One and Only True Church–at least not for everyone.

    I’d really like to know your (Stephen’s) take on this since the blog brings out this interesting quandary. Honesty with others is easy for the most part. Honesty with self is harder due to paradigms and ego, and honesty with God? We don’t need to be honest with God because God supposedly knows our hearts. So wouldn’t it make more sense to strive for personal honesty with one’s self because that would equal honesty with God? And if a person can honestly say “I do not believe the Church is true; there was an absence of a witness for me”…is there room, a place in Mormondom for THAT person?

  10. Who, besides God and ourselves, do we need to have that level of honesty with?

    The freedom we need to be truly honest is the freedom from reprisal, judgement or ridicule. this simple does not exist in this imperfect world from others or ourselves.

    In fact we are not honest with anyone; including ourselves. We only allow out what we want others to see we fear there judgements. even more so we fear ourselves, our true nature our natural desires the “Natural Man”. This part of us we hide from the world lying through our teeth trying to hide our true selves. imo dishonesty is better in certain circumstances.

    God has conducted a Grand social experiment, Would you steal something if you thought no one was looking? Would you help someone in need if you thought there was no reward? etc…

  11. “For whatever reason, Mormonism has eliminated the ability to come to a different conclusion than the group in working out your honest relationship with God.”

    “No, it hasn’t. ”

    I’m not sure I agree with that, Ray. I think the church essentially is a group that has reached certain conclusions about God. The group usually doesn’t actively expel people for reaching different conclusions, but it does, intentionally or unintentionally, make it hard for such people to belong in more than name. That’s probably half the reason the Bloggernacle exists — because so many people with different conclusions have difficulty belonging.

    I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing, either. All groups have boundaries, and maybe the church’s boundaries are reasonable enough. But I think one of those boundaries is the conclusions people come to about God.

  12. JulieAnn #9 raises a good question: And if a person can honestly say “I do not believe the Church is true; there was an absence of a witness for me”…is there room, a place in Mormondom for THAT person?

    I’m afraid the answer to that is NO. It’s dangerous to have people with non-mainstream views in an organization–their ideas might be contagious and draw others in. From early Christian times, through the Reformation and even the Restoration, persons with new ideas have been persecuted at worst, marginalized at best–and have left the mainstream organization to form their own groups.

  13. “How does one become ‘creatively honest’ with that one? ( BTW, my husband and I have another term for creatively honest–it’s called lying.)”

    *sigh*

    I hope you can understand, JulieAnn, why I won’t be responding to any of your comments anymore. You seem to have a caricature stuck in your mind, and I simply won’t respond from the perspective of that caricature.

  14. kuri, I have MANY opinions and perspectives that are extremely heterodox, and yet “the church” hasn’t eliminated my ability to come to different conclusions about God while remaining solidly active in it. I express those heterodox opinions regularly – from the pulpit and in leadership meetings – and I haven’t been reprimanded or chastised or had pressure brought to bear on me in the slightest.

    As I’ve said in other places, I’m not a threat, so I’m not seen as a threat, so I’m not treated as a threat – and I know literally hundreds of other people who are just like me in that regard.

    The statement I and you referenced is an extreme statement. I don’t disagree at all that ANY large organization must have a common standard that becomes the generally accepted norm – and the LDS Church absolutely has that type of communal standard, with the natural pressure to conform that comes with such standards. It’s not a good or bad thing in and of itself, and there are BOTH good and bad manifestations of it in the LDS Church. I’ve never disputed that, and I’ve said it myself many times.

    That is far different, however, than saying that “Mormonism has eliminated the ability to come to a different conclusion than the group in working out your honest relationship with God.” I know WAY too many members who have come to different conclusions than “the group” to accept such a sweeping statement as legitimate.

  15. Ray,

    I suppose agreeing or not agreeing with the statement simply depends on what sort of “conclusions” one has in mind. If the statement means one is not permitted to reach any conclusions different from the group’s norms, then it is definitely false. But if it means the church has little room for people whose conclusions differ from the group’s on certain “big” questions, then I think it is at least somewhat true.

  16. #13 on #9: “But, the ubiquitous ‘they’ say, if you aren’t getting the “right” answer, it must be a problem with YOU. Problem solved.”

    If that’s a “caricature,” then an awful lot of Saints (tho’ few here) are acting like caricatures.

  17. This is probably a late entrance to the conversation, and I’m going to pull people in who haven’t even been put in.

    On some of the ex-Mormon boards, it’s really just *AMAZING* to see the adverse reaction to John Dehlin. Like wow, just get out the popcorn! It’s like…he comes up in a topic once a season, and then the topic explodes with charged opinions. The guy just appears to have no friends outside of the areas he has personally touched (like this site and of course the monumental Mormon Stories project and outreach).

    What was interesting to me one of the last go-arounds was that he at one time said — and perhaps I’m mangling his words, because right now FLAK is down and I can’t pull up the quotation — that whenever so much attention is brought up about him, he feels it is more difficult to continue to keep his resources online.

    Why is that?

    Why is it that FAIR (or whoever it was) called out John? Why is it that he is seen as shady, when he has a project called Stay LDS? I mean, it would make sense for FLAKers to be opposed, but it wouldn’t make sense for FAIR. And it wouldn’t make sense — if the church truly hasn’t eliminated our abilities to come to different conclusions while remaining solidly active in the church — to feel motivated to take down the material from the internet.

    I don’t know. It leads me to suspect the worst. It leads me to suspect that really, the church isn’t as accepting of heterodoxy, but the issue is is that most of us never get “big” enough to cause a blip on the radar. Yet, when we do — or when we become at risk — the game changes…we feel we have to tread carefully.

    I’ve seen creative honesty…I can’t help but feel it is dishonest. Because honesty is a part of communication, and communication is between two people. The very concept of “creative honesty” implies twisting meanings and obscuring communication, because the “creatively honest” person fully knows what the other person expects words to mean, and so the “creatively honest” person phrases his statements in such a way that would pass…even though the statements might not pass muster without the rephrasing.

  18. Just to clarify – John’s pressure to take his stuff down is more along the lines of not having time to deal with all the direct contact people immediately attempt to make with him when it starts getting press again. To my knowledge the church has not ever officially asked him to do anything (take it down, leave it up, whatever). Doubtless, there are members (as well as ex-Mos to your point) who don’t like his stance, but there’s been no official response from the church. But both parties hate independents too (while secretly wanting to woo them to their ideology), so it seems like the nature of the beast.

  19. “The very concept of “creative honesty” implies twisting meanings and obscuring communication.”

    No, it doesn’t – not when you parse the actual words, like I do with almost everything. (Sound familiar everyone? The resident parser is back. lol) The phrase is “creative honesty” – with the root word being “honesty”. If it’s dishonest, it’s NOT creative honesty. It’s creative dishonesty – and I don’t advocate that and never have.

    For the record, when I speak of creative honesty, it is finding ways to phrase things HONESTLY but in ways that don’t cause misunderstanding or unnecessary pain and are focused on finding legitimate consensus. I know how ironic that is given the lack of consensus in the recent conversations in which I’ve been involved, but I do believe passionately that there generally are ways to approach topics HONESTLY that avoid much of the tension and bitterness caused by “blunt honesty”. Both “bluntness” and “creativity” have their place, and honesty can be approached in both ways.

    For example, with regard to the classic question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” there are two basic approaches that can be taken – bluntness and creativity. The blunt and cruel answer might be, “Yes, it makes you look like you have two pigs wrestling on your butt and another one trying to hide on your stomach.” A blunt and factual answer might be, “Yes, it does make you look fat – because, really, you are fat.” A blunt but dispassionate answer might be, “Yes, it does.” A creative answer might be, “It doesn’t trim your figure quite like the blue dress you like to wear.” Another creative answer might be, “If you want to wear that general color / pattern / length / style / whatever, you might want to consider _________.” Another creative answer might be, “You know I don’t like that color very much. What about ____________.” Finally, my favorite creative answer for some people is, “You know you don’t like my fashion advice. I think you look beautiful in anything.”

    Every, single one of those answers might be honest, but only some of them are creative (and I will grant that the first one is creative). Not one of them is dishonest; not one of them is a lie.

    I believe there generally are ways to find creative approaches to totally honest answers – and that those types of creative answers often are much more kind, gentle and merciful than bluntness and directness. That’s not always the case, but it is often enough that I think it’s important to be aware of the possibility.

    Finally, I have found I am able to be creative in this way in Church almost every Sunday – intentionally and consciously trying to find creative ways to phrase things that will make sense to people and help them understand what I believe without ever being dishonest. Life isn’t black and white, and neither is communication – and the more someone attempts to understand and be creative in their communication, the more likely they are to be understood. (Frankly, one of the reasons for the flare-up on the other thread that led to no mutual understanding is that neither one of the main participants – including me – tried to be creative and careful in their phrasing of their feelings. Both sides took out the howitzers and blazed away, when some careful and thoughtful and creative writing might have produced different results.)

  20. Re: “creative honest,” I suppose it’s only truly honest when both parties to the conversation are in on the game. I can conceive of situations where that might be the case.

  21. Thomas, it’s not a game – and it can be totally one-sided. If you can’t get past the phrase “creative honesty” then just change it to a different phrase that means to you what “creative honesty” means to me. Maybe it’s just “creativity” – or maybe it’s “tact” – or maybe it’s “gentleness in speech” – or lots of other options.

    I’m not trying to insist on one phrasing that should work for everyone. What I care about isn’t the words, but rather the concept – and I can understand totally why some people reject the words I choose if others they know use those words to mean “dishonesty”. I’m fine with different words.

    Actually, that lies at the heart of lots of disagreements – the fact that some people use the same words but sincerely mean different things. That happens all the time in religious conversations – which is one of the reasons I try to find “creative” ways to phrase my own beliefs. If a creative but honest phrasing helps someone realize they and I believe essentially or even exactly the same thing, while a “standard Mormon phrasing” would lead them to believe our views were radically different, I will avoid the standard Mormon phrasing like the plague and employ creatively honest words to convey my beliefs. If there really are differences, I’m not going to hide or deny them in any way, but I’m also going to try to phrase things in such a way that I don’t exaggerate those differences, either.

    This isn’t the thread to develop that further, but the whole grace/faith/works/fruit debate is a great example of this.

  22. Ray: Thanks for clarifying what you mean by “creative honesty.”

    An example of “creative honesty” meaning “dishonesty” would be something like a doubting member answering “yes” to the question, in a temple recommend interview, to the question of whether he has a testimony of the Restoration, when the person knows the authority asking the question will take that “yes” as a representation that the person is thoroughly convinced of the story. That, I believe, is deceptive.

    Likewise, while I agree it’s not deceptive to try and use words to describe Mormon concepts to other Christians that would help those Christians not see differences between our theology and theirs that aren’t there, it’s another thing to tailor language with the expectation that the hearer will come away with the impression that there is common ground when there actually isn’t. It’s possible to be so ecumenical that you give off the impression, for example, that the Church has rejected the content of the King Follett Discourse across the board — which as far as I know, isn’t quite the case just yet.

    When I referenced a “game,” I have in mind something like a situation like this: A bishop is interviewing a faithful, lifelong member for a temple recommend. He knows that the interviewee has doubts about some major aspect of Church teaching about the Restoration, but also that he is willing to overlook those doubts and keep living a good Mormon life — possibly with some fading hope of having his mind changed about the doubted things. Furthermore, each party knows what the other person knows about each person’s thinking.

    In that case, the interviewee might answer “yes” to the “testimony” question without being deceptive. Since he knows what the bishop knows about the state of his testimony, he can be confident that the bishop will hear the unspoken subtext “and when I say I have a testimony, what I mean is that I’m willing to remain orthoprax.” It’s then up to the bishop to decide whether that’s good enough. As I said, this is only true when both people are aware of the unspoken subtext; otherwise, a person is being led to believe things that aren’t, which isn’t compatible with integrity.

  23. Thomas, I agree with your general point, that using words to cloud meaning–especially when you know full well a hearer will take your response to mean something other than you intend–is generally shady.

    Regarding the temple recommend interview specifically, however, I wonder if you think it’s possible that the questions are ambiguously-worded on purpose? For example, I’m not sure it’s dishonest to answer “yes” when asked about a testimony of the restoration…even if you’re aware that your bishop has a different understanding of what it all means than you do. Why unpack the baggage when a simple one-word answer will suffice?

  24. re 18:

    Hawkgrrrl,

    Well, I guess the answer has carefully pruned over time (and the entry with this quote had this part edited out, so I guess it’s no longer even fair game), but still I’ll quote, because the internet does not forgive; the internet does not forget:

    To be able to leave stuff up like I do — there’s an extent to which I must stay off of some people’s radars (like my local leadership). It’s a tricky balance to walk…and frankly…I’m continually amazed at how long I’ve been able to go. Stuff like your video, or FAIR’s public denunciation of me — just make it harder for me to stay out of trouble, and more likely that at some point I’ll have to yank it all down again.

    The church doesn’t have to have ever asked him to take stuff down (so this is the wrong goalpost) for him — or other members — to feel he “must stay off of some people’s radars.” This feeling is the real issue. Why do we feel this way in the church? Is it acceptable to feel this way? Is it acceptable to us to continue to live this way in the church? For some members, it is. For others, not so much.

    This can be the nature of the beast, but that still means it happens.

    re 19:

    Ray, I knew, I knew, I knew parsing would come up.

    The issue is if the word “honesty” can be modified by the word “creative,” and what such a term (creative honesty) as opposed to plain honesty would entail. Obviously, creative honesty implies something different about honesty…specifically, it implies something different about the honesty part that makes the honesty part inadequate (for example, plain honesty could be disappointing…it could be a liability.) The creative honesty part, when we parse the MOTIVES behind using it, implies something different from regular honesty…or else we would not use it.

    So we next have to evaluate whether this departure from regular honesty or plain honesty effectively is dishonest. I would think that to the extent we are trying to lessen the blow of plain honesty (e.g., disappointment, the liability, as mentioned before), it is dishonest.

    For example, consider what you have described regarding the difference between “blunt honesty” and “creative honesty.” You say creative honesty is used to avoid misunderstanding or unnecessary pain while finding legitimate consensus. But here’s the problem: the meaning of our blunt honesty was to cause some pain…that is why it is blunt. So, to the extent that we want to avoid pain (because we say it is unnecessary), we immediately value “avoiding pain” over “honesty.” We immediately do create misunderstanding…because if we intended to say something in a bluntly honest way, then we intended the bluntness, however painful. When we say things creatively and avoid bluntness, we are being dishonest with our intentions to the other person. We may be achieving consensus (to this creative narrative we have communicated), but it differs from the consensus we originally intended (which was to a blunt narrative.)

    This on its own does not say “creative honesty” is better or worse than “blunt honesty.” It’s just a value judgment we must make…whether we *do* value avoiding pain or whether we *do* value bluntness.

    Let’s take your blunt and creative example with the weight. To the extent that we truly mean to say, “Yes, you are fat,” then any answer that diverges from this intention is dishonesty. If we try to be creative, “Well, it doesn’t flatter your figure as much as the blue dress,” we are BETRAYING our intention…we are deciding that honesty to ourselves and honesty to our intentions are not as important as maintaining relationships. This is OK; I’m not saying to devalue relationships, but please, don’t be fooled; you are being dishonest. You cannot parse yourself around this.

    The ONLY way is if your intentions are congruent with the narrative you will present. If you truly believe the other person doesn’t look fat, then say it like it is. That is honesty. If there is any incongruence, this is dishonesty. The question is if you feel this incongruence is valuable or destructive.

    Your yourself have just stated that you value kindness, gracefulness, gentleness. I do not oppose you. But I would have to say that the ideal is not to engender these values through “creative honesty,” but rather to change the INTENTIONS of the person so that they actively THINK and FEEL the same thing as they are saying.

    Unfortunately, we can’t do this with everything. When we profess beliefs, if we don’t THINK and FEEL the same, we will know the incongruence. We will know our dishonesty unless we dull ourselves to it.

    Communication most certainly isn’t black and white; I agree. It’s because we *can* tell when our intentions mismatch with others’, and then on the fly, we evaluate whether it’s more important to maintain these appearances or to maintain our internal integrity. When we are at odds with a community, we might respectfully decide to bow down. But the very virtue of the fact that you want to call this thing of yours “creative honesty” instead of just…say…”honesty”…speaks volumes.

    I don’t want to have completely derailed this topic, so I’ll make a remark on how I feel this topic applies to me for the topic at hand.

    For years, I was not honest with myself. I wanted to maintain appearances, I wanted to maintain relationships, and I wanted to be tactful. It tore at me. It tore at me to say I believed when I didn’t believe. Even though I could answer a great many questions with no problem, because I didn’t have problems in other areas — I don’t have Word of Wisdom problems; I don’t have Law of Chastity problems; I don’t have problems attending meetings — I knew that couldn’t make up for the critical part. Because I knew that a religion wasn’t just this doing…but the believing.

    For a while, I tried creative honesty (although perhaps I still don’t understand). I didn’t want to be shut out, but I didn’t want to have to lie. So, I tried to explain things in a way that everyone would understand, without causing heartache…but here’s something I quickly realized…the other person had very different things in mind when I used certain words and explained certain things to them, so by creatively phrasing my positions, when those words and phrases got to the other person, they still didn’t completely understand the impact of my position. We had misunderstanding at the end of the conversation…but it was fleeting. And it actually tore at me more than the pure dishonesty did. Because I always had this feeling that I was making some progress…that maybe I could make things work out…but things wouldn’t work out. I wouldn’t be able to express myself freely if I kept this up.

    Now, I say things as I believe them. Sometimes, they are blunt, and I’m ok with that. Sometimes, I decide honesty isn’t worth all its salt…believe me, I think some people put WAAAAY too much emphasis on literalism.

    But I’m not going to tone this down. I will not apologize. AT BEST, here’s what I will do. Here’s where I know to improve. I don’t want to just APPEAR as if my bluntness is creative. I want to BECOME less blunt. That way, my honesty won’t have to be “creative.” It will just be “honest.”

  25. #23: “Why unpack the baggage when a simple one-word answer will suffice?”

    It may be that some people can safely dispense with “unpacking the baggage.” I worry that I may be too good at post-hoc rationalization to do so safely.

    Maybe the recommend questions are worded intentionally vaguely. I can’t assume every bishop (the guy who makes the decision) knows that. If there’s winking and nodding going on, I think it better be exaggerated enough that both sides are fully informed about that fact.

  26. Andrew S, as I said, sometimes it’s the wording that gets in the way – sometimes it’s perspective and definitions. It appears that you and I agree about much of this conversation, while it appears we disagree about parts of it. I’m fine with that, but I have to reiterate that finding a way to say something that others will understand rather than relying on ways that will cause misunderstanding, as well as avoiding answering questions I don’t want to answer (like Jesus ducking questions by providing parables, refusing to answer questions and allegations or in multiple other ways that are recorded in the Gospels) . . . I just don’t see that as being dishonest.

    To me, that stretches the definition of honesty so much that it loses all power, frankly – since it puts total control of my responses in the hands of others. If I MUST answer everything asked of me bluntly and directly and fully in order to remain honest, I am at the mercy totally of others to provide whatever information they demand. In essence, I have become a puppet on their string, with no choice of my own in how I choose to explain myself – or if I choose simply to avoid doing so.

    I know that’s an extreme, and it smacks of a slippery slope, but it’s the end result of defining honesty in such expansive terms. I simply believe there are multiple ways of phrasing things and remaining honest – which is why I personally term it “creative honesty”. Obviously, there are better terms for others, and perhaps for many “honesty” by itself is enough. I wish that was enough for me, in many ways, but, unfortunately and too often, that leads to people being called dishonest simply because others can’t understand what they are saying – and I know many people who claim Mormons are inherently dishonest based on nothing more than the fact that those people don’t believe we mean what we say in many situations.

    Again, given those personal experiences, I’d rather find creative ways to phrase things in order to make my meaning clear – knowing I am being completely honest, even if others feel I’m being dishonest based on their own perceptions. Ultimately, I can’t help how others end up seeing my efforts and beliefs, but I still can try to help them see those efforts and beliefs as accurately as possible – and sometimes that takes some creativity.

    Fwiw, every classroom teacher who has had to find multiple ways to phrase something in order to help her students understand a concept recognizes what I mean when I speak of this type of creativity and freedom to speak honestly using different words.

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    to the extent that we truly mean to say, “Yes, you are fat,” then any answer that diverges from this intention is dishonesty.

    But, to the extent we did not mean to say “I hate you” or “I despise you” or “You are ugly and unlovable” then any answer that conveys that message is dishonest and bears a false witness.

  28. When a follower of Christ calls upon His maker with complete honesty the veil is made thin. Complete honestly is rare. Before we can be completely honest with the Lord we have to be honest with ourselves, and that is rare. All of us have a complex system which is part of the natural man that protects us from complete honesty. Complete honesty is a rare because it is extremely painful.

    The Lord refers to complete honesty with Him by teaching us to offer the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit(2 Nephi 2:7).

    I don’t think a person can reach a place in their soul where they can begin to have the experience of a broken heart and a contrite spirit without being compelled. It take a crisis of some kind to allow the natural man/women to be able to touch that part of their soul–but when they do, they will experience the Lord and His love in a very profound way.

  29. Is the church accepting of different views?

    I mentioned to someone in a three minute private conversation about some of my unorthodox views on church history. In short order, I was released from my calling and found myself being questioned by my bishop for a few hours with the threat of losing my temple recommend if I couldn’t give sufficiently orthodox responses.

    At the time, I used enough creative honesty to keep my temple recommend. Since then, I’ve largely lost interest in belonging to a church where I feel like I can’t share my opinions–even in private conversation–without risking discipline from the local leadership.

  30. re 26:

    Ray, when Jesus answered questions, here are two things that I’ve noticed…others either didn’t get what he was saying initially, or they got what he was saying and didn’t like it…and so others chafed at his answers. At the end of the day, for example, the Pharisees didn’t say, “That Jesus guy is swell. We are in consensus.” Or rather, if they did come to any consensus, it was the consensus that both sides didn’t like what the other was doing. However, at other times, I would say that Jesus most certainly *did* rely on unclear ways (his parables often had stinging aftereffects that people didn’t realize at the moment…). The apostles were so out of the loop on several occasions. People are still out of the loop on what Jesus has meant on several issues (and yet each of the denominations is fully convinced that it has really gotten it right.)

    To me, that stretches the definition of honesty so much that it loses all power, frankly – since it puts total control of my responses in the hands of others. If I MUST answer everything asked of me bluntly and directly and fully in order to remain honest, I am at the mercy totally of others to provide whatever information they demand. In essence, I have become a puppet on their string, with no choice of my own in how I choose to explain myself – or if I choose simply to avoid doing so.

    And yet, get this…this is communication. We do this every day. But I’ll tell you…I will concede something. After thinking about it, I don’t think we need to state things bluntly, directly, and fully in order to remain honest…however, I do believe that control of your responses is still related to the hands of others.

    For example, let’s say you are being sarcastic. To someone who doesn’t realize you’re being sarcastic, they will interpret your message a completely different way. If any heartache is caused…sorry. That is communication. That is life.

    But that is not to say you need to be blunt and un-sarcastic to be honest. Rather, you simply have to make sure that the other person is aware that you are being sarcastic (when you are being sarcastic). That the message you send is the message you receive. (The problem is you have to do this without ruining the joke. The great thing about satire in particular is that we can imagine that someone — maybe even you — actually believes like that.)

    This is still a problem for things like temple interviews (to state the least). While not directly stated, the implicit understanding is that the message should be a certain thing (saying you believe in the Restoration is implicitly understood to mean certain things about the Restoration. I understand that this implicit understanding isn’t very specific — after all, we aren’t committed to one specific, particular historical account. However, whatever we could narrow things down to, there is an implicit understanding). Creaative honesty to say “yes” when you actually don’t believe in the Restoration in the same way the other person infers you do and you KNOW the other person won’t get the difference is not honesty at all. It is like using a sarcastic tone when you KNOW the other person doesn’t get that you’re being sarcastic, and then not filling them in on the joke.

    I guess I will concede a second point to you, based on some of the specific things I said in that last paragraph. Honesty or dishonesty is based on intentional misunderstanding. If someone just doesn’t get the joke…they just don’t get the joke. But if you knew that they wouldn’t get the joke and you intended it to be that way, that is dishonesty. I don’t know about your heterodox views, but mine would be quite a bit worse than heterodox, and for me to try to appear a faithful, orthodox member through creatively rephrasing my beliefs, I would have to rely on intentional misunderstanding.

  31. re 27:

    Point taken and duly noted…I agree.

    I guess we should be trying to figure out a way to minimize undue reactions from the hearer of a message (so they understand that “you’re fat” =/= “you’re unloveable and ugly and I despise you.”) On the other hand, I doubt this will be likely.

    This also actually complicates the final part of my comment to Ray. Because when we are considering whether to say, “You’re fat,” we do it because we know that they won’t get it. So, blunt honesty would be dishonesty if we still were using that model, which, as Ray said, would trivialize the very concept of honesty…

    At the same time…I can’t help but feel there’s something to the idea of distinguishing the speaker’s intention to create misunderstanding from the listener’s mere accidental misunderstanding…

  32. Andrew S, I think we are in agreement overall – and perhaps even in full agreement, based on your last couple of comments.

    Sometimes, having to use words to convey complex thoughts really sucks. 🙂

  33. Post
    Author

    Jarad: The Lord refers to complete honesty with Him by teaching us to offer the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit(2 Nephi 2:7).

    Amen.

    And Ray and Andrew S, glad you got on the same page 😉

  34. Pingback: The role of parsing in Mormonism « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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