Friday, July 10, 2009

We Call Good Evil Far Too Often

Article of Faith 12 (excerpt) -- "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

I think we nearly always define this too narrowly. I agree completely with the idea of tension between the spiritual and the cultural - and the need to consider it in all things, but I would err on the side that says, "If there is no demonstrable negative, it is a positive."

Moroni 7 (excerpts) -- "That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ."

I understand that the verses I did not quote in Moroni 7 add an elemental focus on Christ which can be problematic for some, but the basic point appears to me to be that we need to fight the natural tendency to label good as bad - thereby missing an expansiveness that can add richness to life and unite rather than divide. The admonitions about calling evil good are important, but, in this chapter, they appear to be a necessary subordinate to the overall objective of avoiding getting narrow-minded and exclusionary.

1 John 4:18 (excerpt) -- "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear."

Again, I think we err far too often on the side of rejection (usually out of fear of the result) and end up calling evil that which is good.

For example: I served my mission in Japan. The issue of ancestral shrines came up regularly. One of the bishops where I served said the following, to the best of my memory:

"'Ancestor worship' is a terrible translation of what our shrines mean to us. We do not 'worship' our ancestors in the way that foreigners usually assume. We honor them for their influence on our lives - for their dedication and love and service - for the connectedness we feel long after death. Our shrines are like our personal temples, places that show our desire to turn our hearts to them and recognize that their hearts are turned to us. How much more Mormon can you get than that?"

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