The Book of Mormon teaches plainly that lying is wrong (2 Nephi 9:34, 2 Nephi 26:32, 2 Nephi 28:8, Alma 16:18, 3 Nephi 30:2, 4 Nephi 1:16, Mormon 8:31). God does not tell lies (Enos 1:6, 3 Nephi 27:18, Ether 3:12). The devil is “the father of all lies” (2 Nephi 2:18, 2 Nephi 9:9, Ether 8:25).
Under the reign of the judges, lying was a crime, but it was difficult to enforce. It was defined as saying something you don’t believe to be true. Therefore, if there was any uncertainty about what the individual actually believed, it was difficult to prove that he or she was lying (Alma 1:17, 32).
In the eighth year of the reign of the judges, two residents of the city of Ammonihah—Amulek and Zeezrom—were both accused of lying. The two cases are very different, and they provide some insight into what we should do if we suspect someone of dishonesty. Here is a summary of the two cases:
|Who was accused?||Amulek||Zeezrom|
|What did he say?||The people thought he had criticized their law. He clarified that he was criticizing their lawyers, not their laws (Alma 10:26).||He offered to give Amulek a large sum of money if he would deny the existence of God (Alma 11:22).|
|Who accused him of lying?||The people of Ammonihah||Amulek and Alma|
|On what basis?||They were unwilling to accept his explanation. “He hath lied unto us; for he hath spoken against our law. And now he says that he has not spoken against it” (Alma 10:28).||God revealed Zeezrom’s thoughts to them by the power of the Holy Ghost (Alma 11:22-25, Alma 12:3, 7).|
|What was the outcome?||Alma and Amulek were imprisoned (Alma 14:2-4).||Amulek avoided being defrauded by Zeezrom (Alma 11:23-25). Zeezrom was convinced of the power of God (Alma 12:7).|
As I’ve thought about these examples today, I’ve learned a few lessons:
- We should be cautious about accusing people of lying. We usually don’t know what is going on in their minds, so we should be slow to judge.
- It’s often wisest to give others the benefit of the doubt. Like the citizens of Ammonihah, we may be tempted to accuse others of lying just because we don’t want to listen to them any more. Taking the time to really understand them would be a better approach.
- On the other hand, people are not always honest. God can warn us through the Holy Ghost when another person is not trustworthy and when we need to be careful.
Today, I will strive to give other people the benefit of the doubt. I will take the time to understand what they mean when they say things I don’t understand or agree with. I will also seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help me distinguish between truth and error.