What is Bearing False Witness?

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just me
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What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by just me » 03 Jun 2009, 14:59

This is a concept that is probably important to understand. I'm going to admit that part of my journey has including becoming extremely black and white on "lying."

HOWEVER

I think I could be mistaken about what it is to bear false witness. All the conversations I have had about lying haven't satisfied me to why it is okay. But I think it may be because nobody really defines it right.

Maybe some of you would like to help me explore this.

First, I come from the belief that the law not to bear false witness is part of the preparatory gospel. It is a "letter of the law" kind of thing. Those who are under the law are bound to (try to) keep it. The letter of the law always is taken literally and black & white.

I also believe that the scriptures are symbolic and that the literal meanings are not what we should strive for.
Most of us, sooner or later, find that at critical points in our lives we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.~Elaine Pagels

Ultimately, you are the path-the path begins and ends with you.~Stephan Bodian

He who think he knows, doesn’t know: He who knows he doesn’t know, knows.~Sanskrit proverb

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Heber13
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by Heber13 » 03 Jun 2009, 15:34

Can I ask some quetions so that I can better understand your position: (I'm gonna anyway)

So what if you lie? What's the downside of lying in your opinion?

Why is the letter of the law about lying important to you?

What if I lied and my name really isn't Heber13 (psst...it isn't.)?
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 03 Jun 2009, 15:47

I'm not sure if it is where you are headed, but I did a post on white-washing about a year ago at Mormon Matters that might be relevant to your train of thought: http://mormonmatters.org/2008/06/24/white-washing/

I guess there are some questions about what it means to be truthful in the following situations:
- when you know what you are saying is false (that's clearcut lying)
- when you wish what you were saying was true (what does your driver's license say you weigh? is it a lie or a goal or something you think might be possible before you renew your license?)
- when you are a little confused about the specifics, but you have a general sense for the "truth" or some larger principle that you consider more important anyway (I'm not sure that's lying, but it's irritating on some level)
- when you don't care about the truth (that seems intellectually dishonest, but may not be lying)
- when the truth will hurt someone (personally I'd prefer not to say anything in such a case, or to change the subject, but there are those who feel it's better to tell the "kind" lie - you could also consider that if someone feels the truth is damaging it fits into this bucket).

And I'm sure there are other cases that are less clearcut. Now, that was about "honesty."

But "bearing false witness" as proscribed in the ten commandments seems more specifically to me to be about rendering false testimony in a legal sense in order to gain something, usually monetary, but sometimes punitive towards others (based on the mosaic law anyway - to exact revenge through a false testimony).

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just me
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by just me » 03 Jun 2009, 16:28

Heber13 wrote:Can I ask some quetions so that I can better understand your position: (I'm gonna anyway)

So what if you lie? What's the downside of lying in your opinion?

Why is the letter of the law about lying important to you?

What if I lied and my name really isn't Heber13 (psst...it isn't.)?
Well, that's just it. What happens when you lie?
It appears that science has proven that lying has a real (negative) physical impact on your body. At least, I believe that the responses that can be detected by science are negative.
The word has power. At least there seems to be some kind of mystical power attached to words. I've seen reactions to them.
Do we do spiritual harm to ourselves by lying? I think we do. Can I prove it with science-probably not.
Is Satan really the "father of all lies?" Can God lie?

I did this exercise on lds.org and it was interesting. I will say that everyone wants to hold on to the idea that some lying is good.
We love to bring up the Nazi's! :lol: Would you lie to save Jews from the Nazi's???

I'm not sure why this is important to me. I guess because I am on a quest to find God.

What if we bear false witness every time we do something not in line with our True Path? I'm interested in the similarity between "false witness" and "special witness." Is there an in between witness?

In our lives we have to make choices. If faced with a choice of protecting the innocent by lying or sending them to their death by telling the truth, of course I will choose to lie.
Does that get me out of the consequences of lying?

I don't know. These are all my rambling thoughts. :D
Most of us, sooner or later, find that at critical points in our lives we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.~Elaine Pagels

Ultimately, you are the path-the path begins and ends with you.~Stephan Bodian

He who think he knows, doesn’t know: He who knows he doesn’t know, knows.~Sanskrit proverb

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just me
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by just me » 03 Jun 2009, 18:54

hawkgrrrl, thanks for the link. White-washing does end up getting wrapped into this issue, but it's not really my main concern.

I know my initial desire is to figure out what bear false witness means, however, I think we have to include lying because:

2 Ne. 9:34 Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.

2 Ne. 26:32 And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.
Most of us, sooner or later, find that at critical points in our lives we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.~Elaine Pagels

Ultimately, you are the path-the path begins and ends with you.~Stephan Bodian

He who think he knows, doesn’t know: He who knows he doesn’t know, knows.~Sanskrit proverb

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Orson
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by Orson » 03 Jun 2009, 21:29

I dunno, I was always a little confused about the Nazi reasoning relating to polygamy. It's kind of like comparing the US govt. or Illinois state govt. to the Nazis (in a way). If not then it was the polygamy practice itself that created the situation.

This is one of the areas I just can’t wrap my head around. I’m glad I’ll never be asked to live the principle!! In the end that’s where I let it rest – it’s not relevant to me and my immediate life in the church. Yes, I would say the leaders at the time met my criteria for "lying" - they intentionally misled people from the truth of what was happening. I have to say we're all human, people make mistakes. We need to make our own decisions in wisdom, that's how I look at it.
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I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Heber13
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by Heber13 » 04 Jun 2009, 15:09

Orson wrote:I dunno, I was always a little confused about the Nazi reasoning relating to polygamy.
I guess, to me, the validity of using this argument is to establish if there is ever a situation where one can say it is ok to lie.

If one can reason, lying is acceptable in certain cases, then you can switch gears to argue polygamy may or may not have been a reason. Not that polygamy is anything like the holocaust in any way, simply in establishing a situation where lying would be ok.

If lying is never acceptable, then that would mean you would be ok with telling the truth, even to Nazis.

2 separate issues, but establishing a philosophical foundation on how one thinks about lying. That's all. There is probably a better way to do that.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

swimordie
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by swimordie » 04 Jun 2009, 16:56

Sorry to insert a "philosophy of man" notion here but I can't help but interject that there is a spirit of this law that certainly supersedes the letter of the law: ethics. In fact the ethicist at the NYTimes did an article recently, you can read it on the NYT website. He even mentioned the "hiding Jews from Nazis" analogy and showed that the ethical act of hiding the Jews overwhelms the argument for never lying.

I agree with hawkgrrrl, "bearing false witness" is most likely a legalese term as the Ten Commandments were most likely the "law of the land" in a very legal sense of the term. (Which is why the separation between church and state is so important, imo)
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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Heber13
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Re: What is Bearing False Witness?

Post by Heber13 » 04 Jun 2009, 18:24

swim,
are you sure you're not a lawyer?? even if you're not, good post. :D
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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