Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New, Deadlier Sins

The Ten Deadly Sins of Mormonism
Before we could Google, we guessed.

As a result, personal remembrances, public addresses, newspaper articles, and college term papers were error-prone and inevitably naive.

Which accounts for BRM's vague recollection of the seven deadly sins.

Now that we can Wiki the World's Wisdom, we can afford to be a bit more confident about our assertions. To wit:

Catholicism's Seven Deadly Sins is a faulty and incomplete list. BRM was correct in hoping the Saints were unfamiliar with it.

Let us examine and correct the list:
  • Pride. Since ETB's 1989 Conference address, Pride has headed the list of popular Deadly LDS Sins. On this one, the Saints and the Catholics agree.
  • Envy. We propose that Envy is merely a subset of a greater sin: Ingratitude. Latter-day Saints believe that gratitude is a saving principle of the gospel; the correlary to that position is that ingratitude (including envy of other people's blessings) is a damning one.
  • Anger. Psychiatry agrees: Anger is a secondary emotion, a cover for something else. Anger serves just one purpose: manipulation and Unrighteous Dominion. It is unrighteous dominion (seeking to control and manipulate others), not anger itself, that is the true sin. Frankly, if anger were ineffective in controlling people, it would be merely silly. And we'd call it what it truly is: A tantrum.
  • Sloth. In our lovely Deseret, we revere industry, cooperation, and putting our collective shoulder to the wheel. We have no truck with laziness. And yet. We perceive that laziness, sloth, is simply an adjunct to the larger sin: Complacency. With complacency does the Adversary "pacify and lull them away into carnal security...wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion." (2 Ne. 28:21, 24-25)
  • Greed. Greed is a stupid sin, a character defect. But is it a deadly one? Greed -- Winona Ryder's shoplifting is the classic example -- is the sign of an unbalanced personality. The drive to possess more, more than what one earns or needs, is part of a larger sin: Faithlessness. Faithlessness is the expectation that this life is all you've got, so get everything you can before you die. It's manifest as one-upsmanship, hoarding, theft, refusal to share, selfishness, and, yes, greed. Elder Maxwell's 2002 address on consecration is instructive.
  • Gluttony. Overindulgence a sin? It ain't on the temple recommend question list. But in 1990, when he was first counselor to the Prophet, President Hinkley seemed to suggest it ought to be.
    "Is observance of the Word of Wisdom necessary? The Brethren have long felt that it certainly must be. Observance of the Word of Wisdom is concerned with the care of one’s body, which, the Lord has assured, is of itself a temple, a tabernacle of the spirit. He has said, 'Yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.'” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Keeping the Temple Holy,” Ensign, May 1990, 49).
    The larger sin, then, isn't gluttony. It's Defiling Holy Places.
  • Lust. The natural man is an enemy to God. We come to this earth to learn self-mastery. Which is why we say: Lust isn't a separate sin. It falls squarely under the heading of Defiling Holy Places, just like gluttony. (Besides, within the bounds of marriage, lust is a gift. It promotes unity.) Which brings us to:
  • Contention. It ain't on the Catholic list. It should be. Another purpose to mortality is learning to live in harmony and unity with God and one another. Disunity, disharmony, refusal to forgive, evil-speaking one another. It's all a deadly sin. Don't argue with us! Elder Nelson's talk on contention will persuade you of the truth of our position. And if that doesn't work, try President Monson's talk on Hidden Wedges.
  • Pessimism. "“Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve." So says GBH, while urging upon the Saints a "Spirit of Optimism." So quit 'yer dooms-dayin' and your belly-achin'. The Prophet said so.
  • Obession. Am I perfect? (Sex. Sex. Sex.) If I'm imperfect, will I burn in hell? (Eat. Eat. Eat.) Am I a little more perfect than my visiting teacher? (Porn. Porn. Porn.) Am I thin enough? (Sports. Sports. Sports.) Is my house clean enough? (Chat. Chat. Chat.) Stop it! We're an equal-opportunity nag: Women, stop obsessing over the superficial. Men, stop your stupid addictions. Both habits keep you away from the profound holiness that comes of contemplating God, rather than obsessing over your own (or someone else's) body parts.
  • Deception. Lying and stealing aren't always wrong. But deception with the intent to cover sin or gain an unfair advantage is. Thus, during a natural catastrophe, you may scrounge bread to keep your children alive. But under no circs may you embezzle money from your boss or shoplift Manolo Blahnik shoes. You may lie to a rapist about the whereabouts of your daughter; you may not phony up your resume to get an advantage over people who are honest about their credentials. The former is sad, but necessary. The latter is wickedness.
Our proposed list of Mormonism's seriously deadly sins, then, is:
  • Pride.
  • Ingratitude.
  • Unrighteous Dominion.
  • Complacency.
  • Faithlessness.
  • Defiling Holy Places.
  • Contention.
  • Pessimism.
  • Obession.
  • Deception.
Shall we discuss it over a cup of tea?

--The Practical Mormon

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