Twice Remembering the Blog

November 17, 2004 | 10 comments
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I’ve decided to fight the forgetfulness of a blog by resurrecting a couple of old posts in time for the anniversary. In this April post, I admit that social pressures against sinful behavior are painful and unmerciful to the repentant sinner and unjust to the person who acts from pathology and not from sin. And yet . . .

Eat, Drink, and Fling
What’s mercy for the early bird’s not mercy for the worm. So I’ve favored strong social norms against immoral behavior: they bruise the repentant sinner but give the young and the weak a better chance of avoiding the sin. If you want to avoid bruises, fine, don’t sin in the first place. Now Gordon Smith relays a suggestion that these norms may do not only unmercy but also injustice, because our norms assume that all bad behavior is voluntary. It is not.

Take philandering, say, a grave evil. We Mormons condemn it and put social consequences on its practitioners. But some men might get caught up in the net of social condemnation who just can’t help themselves. Some men, say, might have such an overriding urge to philander and an upbringing so little-calculated to teach self control that they can’t help but philander (The same may be true, mutis mutandi, for some people with homosexual attraction or violent tempers). I don’t know how many men fall into this category. Only God knows whether our free will is a flame or a flicker. But among the billions of mankind and the millions of the brethren there must be some who only have pathologies where the rest of us men have sins. They cannot help having flings more than we can help eating or drinking.

Our social attitudes condemning immoral behavior and treating it as voluntary certainly help the majority of men. They need the spur to righteousness that consequences provide. They need a clear societal voice contradicting the devil’s whisper that chastity and fidelity must be impossible because they are hard. This majority of men benefits greatly. The men who cannot help themselves do not. They get all the scorn and the fury and the self-hatred but none of the benefits. I feel for these men. I want to keep up our social scorn for sexual sin but I feel bad making the people who can’t control themselves suffer in innocence so that other men do not perish in promiscuity.

I draw this consolation: I think of the resurrection day. I think of these miserable men, brought despite themselves to face the throne of Grace. I see the King there, asking them if they have any desire to end their sins. They turn their heads, thinking they are mocked. Of course they do! but its hopeless. He asks again. Some answer. And all in an instant the chains they thought were as integral as bones are lifted from them, they stand in wild surmise and freedom, can it be, can it be, and now they dare to look up. They see the tears in the Face. Then their eyes are opened and they see a great concourse of Saints, of the holy and mighty ones, who are praising them and giving thanks, and they know that these Saints are those who were able to overcome the flesh while in the flesh, and they know in an instant that these Saints were saved because they, the chained ones, bore the burden of the sin on their own backs. Now the chains are broken. Now the backs are straight. Now they join the Saints.

Comments
Do read the multiple high quality comments from Kristine HH, Julie in A., Clark Goble, and Gary Cooper. They’re the best part of the original post.

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10 Responses to Twice Remembering the Blog

  1. Larry on November 17, 2004 at 3:17 pm

    Adam,

    On your initial blog you wrote:

    “I think I’ve just written myself into an answer to Kristine’s question, all unwitting. It simply isn’t true that all men will be punished for their own sins. Christ will be punished for many of mine; it’s just that he won’t be held to account for them, just as I won’t be held to account for Adam’s transgression.”

    I think you should give serious thought to a name change. This is too rich for words. :)

    On a serious note you pose some interesting questions. This is worth further discussion and insight.

  2. Adam Greenwood on November 17, 2004 at 3:21 pm

    “This is worth further discussion and insight. ”

    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know discussion and insight from Adam.

  3. Larry on November 17, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    Look for skin and bones (and possibly some sin) . Anything else is discussion and insight.

  4. An investigator on November 17, 2004 at 8:25 pm

    As someone who’s been investigating the Church, this post strikes at the very heart of a contradiction that nobody has been able to resolve to my satisfaction. Salvation requires faith, repentance, baptism, and confirmation. However, exaltation requires endowment and sealing, both of which require a temple recommend. Since the philanderer can’t get a temple recommend, how can they ever “join the Saints?”

  5. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 17, 2004 at 9:58 pm

    “I think I’ve just written myself into an answer to Kristine’s question, all unwitting. It simply isn’t true that all men will be punished for their own sins. Christ will be punished for many of mine; it’s just that he won’t be held to account for them, just as I won’t be held to account for Adam’s transgression.�

    That is a beautiful quote.

    Salvation requires faith, repentance, baptism, and confirmation. However, exaltation requires endowment and sealing, both of which require the ordinances of the gospel, either in this life or the next, thereby being enabled to “join the Saints?�

    Hope that clears this up for “An investigator”

  6. Larry on November 17, 2004 at 10:09 pm

    Investigator,

    You said,
    “As someone who’s been investigating the Church, this post strikes at the very heart of a contradiction that nobody has been able to resolve to my satisfaction. Salvation requires faith, repentance, baptism, and confirmation. However, exaltation requires endowment and sealing, both of which require a temple recommend. Since the philanderer can’t get a temple recommend, how can they ever “join the Saints?â€? ”

    You have said it all. The most important principle we can learn in this life is that which you have outlined, because they are the saving principles of the Gospel.
    Adam’s point is not to state categorically that this is what is going to happen, but rather, I believe, it reflects his hopes and desires with regard to the atonement and the mercy that will be extended to those who carry a burden here that could not be lifted in mortality. It is an expression of love, not of absolute doctrine.

  7. Adam Greenwood on November 18, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    Persons who, for reasons beyond their control, are not able to do the temple ordinances for themselves will have the temple ordinances done for them. This is usually because they didn’t have a chance to join the church in life or, possibly, because behavior they could not control kept them from those ordinances.

  8. Lisa on November 18, 2004 at 5:51 pm

    Adam,
    I think your writing is great, but want to ask what do you mean by “these Saints were saved because they, the chained ones, bore the burden of the sin on their own backs?” If I do not suffer particular addiction, is it because others do? I have never considered that before, and it doesn’t click yet. At the risk of introducing an Oprah-ish element here, I am sealed to someone who has a pretty serious addiction — I am, I think, a living breathing Ensign article. I alternate between believing that the addiction will not be licked in this life (because the challenge is too great — which is not much fun to believe), or believing that he is simply acting according to what he truly desires, and pondering where that leaves me. That is not too cheerful either.

  9. Adam Greenwood on November 18, 2004 at 6:26 pm

    “If I do not suffer particular addiction, is it because others do? I have never considered that before, and it doesn’t click yet.”

    You’re right. It’s silly to say there’s a limited supply of addiction to go around and, hey, lucky one person is addicted because now I don’t have to be.

    There is a connection, though. I don’t know, but maybe you don’t have your addiction in part because our Mormon society doesn’t cosset or coddle or approve people with addictions. That might have helped you in your formative years. So maybe the bad situation your husband has ended up in will help other people by scaring them off. But that’s all in the future, when God sorts things out and shows us what caused what. Right now there’s nothing good about the situation you’re in.

  10. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 18, 2004 at 9:35 pm

    At the risk of introducing an Oprah-ish element here, I am sealed to someone who has a pretty serious addiction – I am, I think, a living breathing Ensign article. I alternate between believing that the addiction will not be licked in this life (because the challenge is too great – which is not much fun to believe), or believing that he is simply acting according to what he truly desires, and pondering where that leaves me. That is not too cheerful either.

    I’ve had a lot of thoughts on those topics. OSC wrote a novel on the topic (the one where one of the “piggies” rids himself of the terraforming virus that also holds him together, in order to die a “free man”), and it is a nice exploration of just what part of what we do is our free will (with the context of how we are judged being how we exercise the freedom we have, not some sort of abstract behaviorism).

    On the other hand, at one point I had an ex-in-law (extended families can lead to all sorts of collections) who left his wife because he just needed a large breasted blond for a wife and his wife, even after extensive plastic surgery, couldn’t make a convincing blond. He used the same language that guys who leave their wives in order to come out of the closet (e.g. the Utah prison guard Albert Walles), which I found fascinating (though I am by no means convinced that because someone uses an argument that there is some sort of guilt by association that goes with it, just sematic contamination sometimes, which is a listener problem, not a logic one).

    I really don’t know.

    We’ve had Ensign articles on suicide and loss of free will and depression and the lack of sin in those events. I’ve had strong spiritual experiences confirming that (though, luckily, no suicides in my own family to deal with — and I think it is as much luck as anything else). But I wonder some times.

    Without answers.

    But with faith and hope, and the sermon in Mosiah that tells me I have a duty to help and remember that we are all beggars.

WELCOME

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