Like pride, "deceit" is something we see much more easily in others.
To be sure, deceit is a very grave sin in others and we are to be constantly on guard against deception. Satan himself is the great deceiver. However, like pride, our biggest problem with deceit is self-deception.
Deceit comes from the root to grasp, hold, catch, ensnare. It has the sense of to "catch in a trap" (The Roots of English). Or to catch by guile or to get the better of by fraud. Deceit is the action or practice of deceiving, the concealment of the truth in order to mislead, deception, fraud, cheating, false dealing.
Deceit comes from the same root as deceive and is essentially the same, with the added notion of to take unawares by craft or guile; to overreach or get the better of by trickery; to beguile or betray into mischief or sin (Oxford English Dictionary).
The scriptures are full of discussion about deceit and deception. Paul notes that, "We faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully" (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).
James admonishes. "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26).
Nephi, in explaining the requirements for baptism, teaches, "I know that if ye follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent" then you will go "down into the water ... then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost" (2 Nephi 31:13).
In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are warned that "the covenants are being broken through transgression, by covetousness and feigned words" (D&C 104:52).
It is very difficult to see our own self-deception. It is not just our overwhelming desire to justify our actions, but as the Apostle James noted above, the problem starts in our heart. Jeremiah reinforces this idea "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Of course, there is also the deeply inborn temptation to "cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition" (D&C 121:37).Elder Neal A. Maxwell gives us a good way to think about our natural inclination to deceit. "If we peeled away from our many verbal communications the ego driven portion (things said thoughtlessly or for effect, or to achieve advantage) how much substance would then remain?"
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org