Being a Liar for the Greater Good

Many years ago I served a two year term as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church). As missionaries, our goal was to convince people of the truthfulness of our message and to get them Baptized as members of our Church. Mormons believe that although all churches contain some truth, all of the truth, or shall I say, the fullness of the gospel, is found in the Mormon Church. Mormons believe that you must be a baptized member of the church in order to return to God’s presence.

As a missionary I wanted to make sure that my brothers and sisters here on earth were able to have all of the blessings of the only completely true church that I had. My whole focus was to help others and serve the Lord. One of the things we were taught to do as missionaries was to not talk about certain aspects of the church that might sound too strange or weird to them. The idea was to give them milk before the meat. If anyone asked about the past practice of polygamy, or why blacks at the time could not hold the priesthood, why we wore special under garments, or embarrassing historical facts about the origin of the church, we skirted around the question and quickly changed the subject in order to focus on the important main message about the restoration of truth.

One of the apostles at the time, Boyd K. Packer made a statement that it would be better to omit some of the true facts about Mormon Church history that might be damaging to the faith of the membership.  The idea was that if you are doing what God wants you to do, and you are fighting his war on his side, you can say or do anything that will help convince others of your views to get them on your side.  So when we talked about how Joseph Smith translated the golden plates into the Book of Mormon, we told them that he did it by the gift and power of God. We showed a painting of him in our flipcharts, studying the gold plates with his fingers on the characters, and a scribe writing down what he deciphered. This was actually a deception. The real way that he claimed to have translated it, according to his own history, was to use a smooth “seer stone” (a round glacier polished metamorphic rock) that he found several years earlier while digging a well.  He put the rock into a hat, and then put his face into it to block out all of the light. He said that the characters appeared on the stone in English. Often the plates were never even in the vicinity. So it wasn’t technically a translation at all. It was just what God made appear on the rock.

As a young missionary trying to convince people of the truth of the Book of Mormon, I was not about to tell them details about how the translation happened. It sounded crazy. It would divert them away from my very important message. I believed the story, but I didn’t think that they would swallow it. So I lied. Yes, that is right. I lied for the Lord. I was not the only missionary that did this. We all did it. We were doing it for the greater good. In a war you do whatever it takes to win, right?

Since then, I have determined that, for me, I can’t live with myself if I have to be deceptive in order to convince people to believe in my views. What if my beliefs and perceptions are flawed?  Certainly some of them are. It is nearly impossible in this world these days to even figure out what is fake or opinionated news and what is real.  We have an information superhighway that is cluttered with garbage and litter.

I am not trying to slam the Mormon Church or its beliefs. I continue to believe many of the things that the Church teaches, particularly when it comes to building strong family units, and giving of service to everyone. It makes lots of people who are members happy. Being a happy person is a good thing. The L.D.S. Church contains many truths as do all religions. I would always stand up for the rights for people to believe in anything, even in fairy tales and folk lore, as long as it is not hateful or hurtful to other people.

I was taught that the master of deception was someone called “Satan”. So…is it really a good thing to use his techniques in order to convince others of truth? The best way to be deceptive is to make most of your story true, but put a small alteration to it to make it better or more accepted. Another technique is to tell all of the truth but leave out some details so that it leads the other person to believe something else. That way you can rationalize that you didn’t lie.  I say, it is deception to purposely lead someone into a false belief from what you said, even if what you said is the truth. Lawyers are expert at these techniques by the way.

In religion, once you are a member, you are invested in it. If you are a strong member who wants to stay that way, you will overlook those things about your church that are troublesome. You will think to yourself, “I will just have faith because it is all about believing”. Just follow and ignore anything that might hurt that faith, even if it is true.

In politics the best way to win votes is to just tell people what they want to hear. Honesty about what you are going to really do when elected has nothing to do with it. So you say anything and do anything to get elected. People of your party will support you no matter what you say. They will spin your lies into something more plausible and will forgive anything that you say that is wrong. Your supporters are only interested in getting a win for their party, so they will look the other way when you lie or say stupid things. It is a war against the other ideology and it is okay to use whatever tactic that you can for the greater good.

Sorry if this makes people upset, but I just do not agree with these kind of tactics. I refuse to march in lock-step with everything from any political party, leader, or religion. I will use my own brain to study and form my own unique views based on what I think is the best and true.

You may get an idea that I am more than just a little bit disgusted with society these days. Integrity is out the door. Civility is gone. Greed and self centeredness is the rule of the day.  Acceptance and tolerance have become a thing of the past. Welcome to our brave new world of hate. I was a child when the slogan, “Make love, not war” became popular.  Today’s slogan might be, “Do whatever it takes to get what you want”. I wish that we could have the slogan, “Love one another”.  Oh well, I am just a dreamer. Nobody would ever ask us to do that, or live by it, would they?

“As I have loved you, love one another” (Quote by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago)