Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Transgression and Sin Are Very Different Things - and Victims Commit Neither

"transgress" -- "err, trespass, contravene, disobey."

We use the word too much in the Church to mean "disobey" as an active verb, but there are plenty of cases where there is no disobedience involved - and changing the definition choice to "contravene" and the verb from active to passive changes the meaning dramatically for victims.

"be transgressed" -- "put into error; contravened; not be obeyed"

This usage focuses solely on the law itself and says nothing more than that a standard has not been followed.

"transgression" -- a breach of a law, etc; sin or crime

We use the word too often to mean "sin" or "crime", but the way we use both "sin" and "transgression" in the 2nd Article of Faith doesn't allow them to be conflated. Thus, the only workable meaning for "transgression" left is "a breach of law" - which, in legal terms, doesn't equal "a crime" in many situations.

When I talk about transgression and transgress, I am talking about instances where a law has been breached but no crime (or sin) has been committed by the victim. There is a perpetrator of a crime (a sinner), and there is the person upon whom the crime or sin is committed.  In such a case, it is impossible for the person who is present but not the perpetrator of the breach (particularly the victim) to "commit a transgression". The only people who can commit transgressions are those who are the primary perpetrators of the breach but also are not capable of understanding that their actions are illegal / immoral.

For example, in the case of rape, that would be someone who is mentally disabled following the directions of someone else or following nothing more than biological urges. They would be "transgressors", but their victims still would not be.

I use rape to explain this principle, because rape might be the best example of how we too often misunderstand this principle.  Rape victims have not sinned, nor have they been transgressors.  Others have sinned or transgressed.  The victims remain clean and pure (unspotted and unstained) - and that is crucial to emphasize.


Richard Alger said...

Does this post fit your idea of the definitions?


Papa D said...

Thanks, Rich.

I had forgotten about that address. It fits the general theme of what I have addressed in this post, but it's a good example of how we often use words differently than other people.

I don't equate "sin" and "transgression" in the way Elder Oaks did in that talk, largely because of the wording of our second Article of Faith - that we won't be punished for (the effects of) Adam's "transgression" but rather for our own "sins". Therefore, I equate "transgressions" and "mistakes" and see them as different than "sins" - but, again, I agree with the primary message Elder Oaks delivered, even though I have phrased it differently.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for that clarification, I so hope those who need to see this come across it. I have often been disturbed by victims view of themselves inflicted upon them by those who do not understand. God bless all those who feel tainted by the actions of others.