Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 5: Truth Telling

Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 5: Truth Telling

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 26, 2012

Ethics for Young Girls

Young Woman’s Journal, 1900-1901

Lesson 5: Truth Telling

A young woman asked her lover if he ever told falsehoods. He stammered for a short time and then said he did tell falsehoods occasionally. His sweetheart then laughingly replied, “If you had said to me you never told falsehoods I wouldn’t have believed you, because everybody tells falsehoods.” Is her statement true? is there one of us who can say, “I never tell falsehoods?”

Mrs. Jones, looking out of the window, sees the coal-dealer coming for his pay. Not having the money with her, she says to her little daughter, “Run to the door and tell the man mamma is not at home.” After a look of surprise, Mary does as she is told.

Johnnie runs into the house asking for five cents. “I haven’t any money, dear,” says mamma, who knows very well she has.

Jennie’s lover calls on her unexpectedly in the morning while she is in her working clothes. “Run and tell John I went down town this morning,” says she to her little brother, and poor John goes away disappointed.

“I can’t go to the party tonight for I haven’t a thing to wear.” “I am tired to death.” “I can’t pay you today but will pay you Saturday,” but when the day comes the money has been spent for something else.

Are the preceding instances so very rare? “Oh, that is not speaking untruthfully. No one was injured by it. Those were only slight exaggerations,” someone says.

What is a falsehood but an exaggeration? One seldom hears absolute falsehoods. They are merely “inversions of the truth.” Whatever name they go by, they have the same effect upon the soul of the one utters them.

It is a principle of psychology that after the mind has acted once in a certain direction, it is more easy for it to act in that direction the second time. After the mind has acted in the same direction many times, a habit is framed. A habit is the most difficult of things to change. If it is a good habit, it is desirable not to change it, and for that reason we try to have children form right habits.

If the habit of exaggerating small things is formed, it is easy to exaggerate about large things, and even to tell absolute falsehoods.

Much harm is done by falsehoods, not only to the person who tells them, but to others.

A young girl employed in the house repeated to her mistress what a neighbor had said. It was of such a nature that her mistress was hurt and angry, but she went immediately to her friend and kindly asked for an explanation. The young girl had changed one or two of the words that had been uttered and misinterpreted the thought. Thus two friends might have been parted by an exaggerated statement.

Oftentimes falsehoods are told without utterly a word, – a nod, a wink, an upturned nose, the posture of the body, all may tell falsehoods just as surely as words can.

This habit of exaggerating may seem such a small fault to some. No fault that hinders the development of character is a small one.

Thus minor evil tendencies in our natures are often harder to overcome than the greater ones, for this reason: When we have large faults, we put all the energy of our souls to get rid of them. We think we can easily overcome small evils and for that reason do not exercise our will-power to overcome them and the result is, they remain with us. Another reason is our great faults show themselves at greater intervals than the lesser evils, and the soul has time to prepare itself to crush out the fault when it manifests itself.

Many of us no doubt think we haven’t this fault of exaggerating.

A little band of Latter-day Saints met for the purpose of finding out whether they were living their religion as perfectly as they knew how. they decided that during one week whenever they performed an act, no matter how trivial, they would first ask themselves the question, “can I as a Latter-day Saint consistently do this?”

At the same kind of meeting a week later, one young lady said, “I have never been so tempted in my life. During the past week I have been tempted at every opportunity to speak evil of people, and I never was before.” “Don’t you think you had the same desire before you made the resolution, only you didn’t watch yourself then as you do now, and consequently didn’t know you had that fault?” asked a friend.

The young girl acknowledged that this might have been the case.

Let us look deeply into our own souls and see if we can say truthfully, “I always speak the truth.”


1. Repeat the commandment which tells us to speak the truth.
2. Recite “The Order for a Picture,” by Miss Carey.
3. Find in the Bible six passages which condemn the telling of falsehoods.
4. Tell what effect the action of the mother would have upon her child in the second incident related in this lesson.
5. How do mothers often unconsciously train their children to speak untruthfully?
6. What effect has telling falsehoods upon the confidence of friends? Lovers? Husbands? wives?
7. Give the meaning of the words “falsehood” and “lie,” as defined in dictionaries.
8. How can nature teach us lessons of truth?



  1. It’s kind of weird to read the word “lovers” in a church publication.

    This lesson reminded me of a lesson on truth-telling we had in Elder’s Quorum recently. We didn’t focus so much on little exaggerations, but on situations where telling the truth would have an undesirable outcome, pitting our Kantian leanings against our Utilitarian ones. I wonder whether such a change in focus is prompted by changing concerns over time (1900 v. 2012), by the likelihood that young women are likely to be tempted to tell falsehoods that are different from those elders are tempted to tell (adolescent females v. adult males), or some other thing.

    Comment by Capozaino — June 26, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

  2. I looked for the poem, “The Order for a Picture,” by Alice Cary. I only found an audio recitation.

    It’s very pretty, and tells a story about how mother glanced at a lying child, and the child never forgot that reproach.

    I would love to discuss poetry like this in class.

    Comment by Carol — June 26, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

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