mormonism and moral absolutes

for the past year or so i’ve been carrying around a lot of anger about the mormon church, and i haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why.

i never wanted to be one of those disgruntled ex-mormons with an ax to grind, belligerently pointing out doctrinal flaws at a moment’s notice. yet here i am – i leave church feeling angry, and i even can’t stand being around my wife’s family without feeling rage bubble up. (her family is extremely devout, and her father is well on the path to becoming a mission president or area authority).

today i think i had a moment of clarity as to why i feel this way – bear with me, this idea is just germinating.

mormons love to see things in terms of moral absolutes. this goes back to the whole “if you are lukewarm i will spew you from my mouth” idea. good vs. evil. believer vs. apostate. active vs. inactive. and this isn’t limited to their religious perspective – it colors their entire worldview.

this is what made prop 8 so difficult. it was no longer a political issue after the church got involved. it was a moral issue, with a good and evil side. this could be just me talking with a chip on my shoulder, but after prop 8 it seems like it became OK to moralize political issues outside of prop 8 – health care, taxes, immigration, etc.

I took to the Internet to validate my hypothesis, and came back with a grab bag of religious vitriol courtesy of my favorite mormon – mr. glenn beck. my favorites are the ones in which he repeatedly suggested that progressives and liberals are “enemies of God” and “enemies of Him,” and declared that they “don’t have [God] on their side.” (via mediamatters.org)

maybe i’m oversensitive, but i don’t like people thinking i’m evil just because we have a policy disagreement. and i’m not sure to what extent that these ideas are commonplace in general LDS attendance, i just checked and a good portion of my LDS facebook friends are fans of mr. beck (i know, hardly research).

in any case, after i made this realization i stopped feeling angry, since i was able to at least put a finger on why i was feeling this way. if anyone has any insight, let me know.

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About unorthodox

i live in LA, work in advertising and am the father of three kids. i'm don't belong to a political party, but i have left-leaning political views. i love the beach, loud music and video games. i grew up mormon, but haven't been a believer for the past 6 or so years. i love what the church has done for my life, and am concerned about what the church is becoming.
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3 Responses to mormonism and moral absolutes

  1. KMW says:

    Short answer, yes. It’s been going on here in Utah for many years. My mormon relatives from the SE area of the USA are also like this. So are the vast majority of the mormons I grew up with in the Phoenix, AZ area.

    Interestingly, I tend to find that while many, if not most, mormons think of themselves of having “principled morality”, a lot of the time they actually have nominal morality.

    An experiment to do with LDS friends (suggested by an acquaintance):
    1. Take the entire Fanny Alger story and change the names of the people involved, the year and dates, the locations, etc. – all of the identifying information. However, keep the story exactly the same: that a 27 yr old man has an affair with his wife’s 16-17 yr old housekeeper, their “adopted daughter”, most likely gets her pregnant, and years later explains that God commanded him to engage in the affair and to behave as he did.

    2. Listen to how they judge this situation.

    3. Inform them that the man involved was really Joseph Smith Jr. and that the story occurred, even according to LDS historians, as you described it.

    4. Observe the litany of rationalizations employed to explain why the story is now different, how different principles apply.

    5. Say nothing. Let the rationalizations linger in the air.

    It’s a great story to explain the difference between nominal morality vs. principled morality. That is, when you justify immoral behavior only because the names get changed, it is nominal morality. (E.g. excusing American torture because it is Americans who did it; being softer on a Republican or Democrat philanderer because they belong to your party; thinking LeBron is still a great professional only because you’re from Miami, etc.) Principled morality shouldn’t make any differentiation as to the names of the actors involved. It’s not an easy pill to swallow when you are already convinced you have airtight ethics.

  2. Jason Allan Combs says:

    Unorthodox:

    I find your blog to be very insightful and I want you to know that I really appreciate your thoughts.
    I can’t help but envy your gift of writing.

    I guess I’m your typical Baptist. I find it difficult to articulate my feelings and thoughts when it comes to very tenuous topics as other people’s beliefs. From what I’ve learned from the Bible is that Jesus expects us to love each other without esteeming ourselves better than our neighbors, regardless of there beliefs. That we are to speak in a way that is flavored with love. Conversely, if we start becoming a asshole, and start to talk down to people, we are not showing love but the very ugliness of which Jesus fought in his ministry….pride and arrogance.

    My mother-in-law practiced Mormonism for about 3 years because of one reason. The missionaries showed her love. They didn’t beat her over the head with there dogma, just showed her love. She started reading the Bible more and became more closer to God during that time.
    She also began to have doubts with the Mormon doctrine and has since stopped really believing in God. I hope to help change that.

    I haven’t really had a chance to go in depth in a study of Mormonism but have always been curious about it and intend to read a lot more of your blog.

    Two things I’ve wondered about are something called the baptist of the dead and the Adam-God doctrine.
    I personally don’t believe that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young’s doctrine was anything more than confusion brought about by the Adversary. The Adam-God Doctrine was one idea in particular that I found unsettling. I believe I have it right when I say that these are doctrines that are more prevalent in Mormon Fundamentalism?

    Again I really appreciate your blog. It’s very insightful to read of the struggles of a young family man like myself. Thanks again and may the Lord bless you in your journeys.

    Jason Combs

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