A few years ago a young person I know took the ACT and scored a 34. Or 35. I don’t remember.
To those who may not know, that’s a high score. And in the case of my young friend, the score was a reasonable representation of their academic acumen. This young friend reported this score as part of their application to the only school they wished to attend: BYU.
I remember talking with this friend about other possibilities: Stanford, MIT, Harvard. This young person would just shrug their shoulders.
I heard that when they submitted their combined BYU/BYU-I application, they were accepted by BYU-I within hours. It took BYU considerably longer to tender an offer.
This episode came to mind as I read about the college cheating scandal, where dozens of individuals, several of them famous people, paid tens of thousands of dollars for professionals to take entrance exams on behalf of their college-bound children. One woman paid $50,000 and in turn was able to provide her son a 35 on the ACT to use in his college applications.
In another story that caught my eye, fentanyl is now killing enough people that America’s life expectancy is on the decline. The stories related to that headline are filled with those who have lied. In this case, their lying is associated with thousands upon thousands of deaths.
In a third story, Venezuela is tumbling into fatal disarray. The root cause: fraud and corruption (fancy words for lying).
Exodus 20 doesn’t actually include, “Thou shalt not lie,” as one of the commandments. We are warned against two similar sins: stealing and bearing false witness against a neighbor. Leviticus 19 explores the various deceits that are related to unrighteousness that are to be avoided (Leviticus 19:11 specifically mentions lying). Suffice it to say that anyone raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition has learned from their infancy that lying and deceit are bad.
On the other hand, I have in my day been entrusted with sacred or personal or state secrets. My failure to shout these secrets from the housetops does not constitute lying. Or, at least, were I to disclose such secrets in public, I would lose my friends, affiliation with my faith, my job, and my liberty.
There are those facts which need to remain hidden in order that the world may be healed. This is the purview of holy individuals, friends, and nation states.
Then there are those facts which were created in order to rend the fabric of the world for the unholy benefit of the few. These must be exposed. This is the purview of honest individuals (whistleblowers), law enforcement, and the United Nations.
I would offer a third category: facts which were hidden to heal the world of the past, but which need to be revealed in the present so that a proper understanding of the past can be had for the benefit and healing of the present world. This is the purview of historians.
Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal or kill or bear false witness. Obedience to these things is not childish, nor does it matter if surveys suggest modern folks don’t care as much. The outrage against the college cheaters is proof that modern folks do indeed care very much.