…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

The Not-So-Honest in Heart

For Whom We Pray

By Rex Goode


Today in sacrament meeting, the man offering the opening prayer asked that the missionaries would be lead to the honest heart. I have heard those words several times over the pulpit in public prayers. Something about it has always sent a small ripple of unidentifiable discomfort through me.

It isn’t that I think there is anything wrong with it as an item in a public prayer. There is nothing unrighteous or untoward about it. It is something I also hope for, but still, something seems incomplete about it.The theme of the meeting was “Mercy” and as the talks commenced, it became clear to me why the sentiment expressed in the prayer has always felt a little off to me. The question that formed in my mind was, “But, what about the not-so-honest in heart? Do we not also hope that the missionaries find those who need the gospel of Jesus Christ in more dramatic ways than the so-called golden investigators?”

My understanding of the gospel tells me that it takes much more than merely being honest and good to get into the highest degree of glory in the Celestial kingdom. I wrote about this many years ago in Because of the Covenant, where I tell my story of returning to the Church and the important influence of a Sister Reed and the Book of Mormon.

It is not simply being a good person that gets us into heaven. There are good people all around us, doing the best they know how to do with the light and knowledge they have. My work as a social worker has taken me into the worldviews of many people who are doing the best they know how to do and the best they know how to do is far less than what we expect of honest people.

This simple story illustrates an important teaching of Jesus:

And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

The Doctor by Luke Fildes (1891)

While it is true that some people are more internally prepared for the acceptance of the gospel, I am not so certain that the only way God prepares people is through what we might call honesty in heart. The Book of Mormon itself holds many examples of some pretty shady and dishonest characters dramatically turning their lives around: the Alma’s (elder and younger), the sons of King Mosiah, both King Lamoni’s, their subjects, and even the poor among the Zoramites.

Family of origin issues, enslavement to addictions, abuse recovery issues, and simply having been raised in a secular, non-religious world have created a culture that is far from the ideals of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches. For that matter, traditional Christianity since the time that we Mormons call the Apostasy has also created a culture of people who do not believe as we do. There are even people for whom dishonesty is part of their culture.

In all of these groups, there are people in whom there exists an internally consistent honesty. The way they do things and the way they think are because they are not instructed as we are, yet they are striving to be the best people they can in the best way they know how.

The only thing that really sets us apart is not honesty in heart. That exists widely throughout the world. What sets the gospel of Jesus Christ apart from all other creeds is the making and keeping of covenants administered by the authority of the priesthood of God. On this one thing we differ from all other creeds. This means that the honest in heart and the not-so-honest in heart are on the same footing insofar as the gospel teachings are concerned. For that reason, it seems to me that we ought to pray equally for the salvation and redemption of the honest and not-so-honest in heart.


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2 Responses to “The Not-So-Honest in Heart”

  1. Mike said:

    Sometimes I feel that in my ward anyways, that people want the “honest in Heart” to replace those of us that struggle with being honest with ourselves. I was going to complain here but maybe not. Just frustrated I guess with people praying for these golden converts instead making an effort with those that struggle to just make it to meetings. I have had two members of the bishopbric as my home teachers and I can count the number of times combined on one hand that they were willing to fulfill their duties. Yet they stand in judgment of me. Very frustrated with this whole idea of just worry about the “golden” converts.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Nice rant, Mike. It IS frustrating! I’m all for missionary work, but it seems like a missing sheep is just as important as a sheep that isn’t part of the fold yet.

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