Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Hierarchy of Sin?

Sometimes I feel that culturally (if not religiously) we Mormons have our own hierarchy of sins. But I have to question whether or not that hierarchy is really right. For example, is smoking worse than lying? Both of them are temple interview questions (Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men? Do you obey the Word of Wisdom?) But it seems like so much more weight is put on smoking than lying. Maybe it’s because smoking is a quantifiable sin that it is sometimes perceived as a worse offense. Or maybe because it is a “newer” commandment and particular to the LDS religion. Whatever the reason, it is something that as a culture and religion we should really re-evaluate. Theoretically, I would much rather be friends with an honest, kind smoker than a rude, conniving non-smoker. But realistically would the former really feel welcome at church? Or in any LDS social circles?

What is the real source of this hierarchy? Is it just the effect of our cultural upbringing? Is there scriptural backing for it?


At 9/15/2004 03:18:00 PM,

I think you hit it right on the head with the 'quantifiable' comment...

Smoking is easy to quantify--you smoke or you don't. Honesty is a lot harder, because there are many different levels of honesty and virtually everyone can be said to be 'less than honest' in many situations. You can't just stick black-and-white labels on people that say "Honest Person" and "Dishonest Person". I think that certain categories of commandments (Word of Wisdom, Tithing) have risen up in the 'hierarchy' simply because they of some of the few that can be followed 'perfectly', while others like honesty, and love for your fellow man are more difficult to quantify...


At 9/15/2004 04:24:00 PM,

I wonder how much the hierarchy is related to the punishments which correspond to certain actions. It seems logical that greater punishments are doled out as sins get worse. A hierarchy might therefore develop with sins higher up the list which warrant more serious disciplinary action.

However, if the disciplinary actions themselves are based on a hierarchy that is culturally-determined and heavily influenced by visibility and quantifiable factors, then how do we determine the true nature of a sin on the "eternal scale?"

At 9/16/2004 03:17:00 PM,

Maybe some of you have heard the cop-out answer that I have heard: the most important sin is the one you are struggling with right now.

Do we need a hierarchy? What purpose does it serve other than to establish a hierarchy of righteous individuals? If this is the only purpose, I could do without the inherent and literal “holier than thou” motivation. I think such a motivation is the result of people’s insecurity with their own spirituality.

Besides, as Doug pointed out, one would have to include the eternal consequences to evaluate the magnitude of a sin’s consequences. The total value of a sin’s consequence is probably more heavily weighted in the eternal perspective than anything that can be done in mortality.

At 9/16/2004 04:32:00 PM,

Mark - I agree with you that a hierarchy serves little purpose other than to quantify how I'm better than others (this gets back to Kevin's point).

Other than Christ's statement about the "first and great commandment....and second is like unto it" as well as Alma's counsel to Corianton about the 3 "most abominable" sins, I don't think that a hierarchy has any scriptural basis. In other words, I agree with you that we don't need them. However, I think that's the whole point - we CREATE these hierarchies and, as far as I can tell, their structures are not only flawed, but they only perpetuate bad behavior (i.e. the "holier-than-thou" syndrome, etc.).

At 9/23/2004 06:11:00 PM,

If the act of creating hierarchies were, itself, a sin, where would it rank on that hierarchy?

Furthermore, have I just sinned?




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