Oaks (1987): "it is wrong to make statements of fact out of an evil motive, even if the statements are true"

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Oaks (1987): "it is wrong to make statements of fact out of an evil motive, even if the statements are true"

Dallin H. Oaks

This is an edited version of a talk delivered at a Latter-day Saint Student Association fireside in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on 4 May 1986.

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The critical consideration is how we use the truth. When he treated this same subject in his letter to the Romans, Paul said, “If thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy him not with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” (Rom. 14:15.) A Christian who has concern for others exercises care in how he uses the truth. Such care does not denigrate the truth; it ennobles it.

Truth surely exists as an absolute, but our use of truth should be disciplined by other values. For example, it is wrong to make statements of fact out of an evil motive, even if the statements are true. It is wrong to threaten to reveal embarrassing facts unless money is paid, even if the facts are true. We call that crime blackmail. Doctors, lawyers, and other professionals are forbidden to reveal facts they have received in confidence, even though those facts are true.

Just as the principle of justice must be constrained by the principle of mercy (see Alma 42), so must the use of truth be disciplined by the principle of love. As Paul instructed the Ephesians, we “grow up into” Christ by “speaking the truth in love.” (See Eph. 4:15.)[1]

Notes

  1. Dallin H. Oaks, "Criticism," Ensign (February 1987).