Monday, May 20, 2013

What Is Sin?: The Case of the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center Bombers

My own definition of sin is, basically, the definition in James 4:17.

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

In other words, it's not doing something I "know" I should do. Just to be clear, ALL things can be phrased this way. Murdering someone is not doing something I feel I should do - the "something" being abstaining from murder - or, from a more "enlightened" perspective, not loving someone enough or controlling my temper enough to avoid murdering them.

I believe this mostly because I accept the idea of being judged by how I live according to my conscience - which I believe is the "pure Mormonism" definition of how we are judged.

We really aren't judged against a universal standard that is easily defined and exactly the same in all particulars. If I go out and blow up a building, killing people in the process, it absolutely is sin to me - and I believe I will be judged accordingly. However, I can't be certain every person who was involved in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/2001 will be judged as I would be if I had done that - since I can't say they acted contrary to their consciences and the indoctrination they received in their formative years.  In other words, I can't say for certain that they "knew to do good" in that regard and acted against such knowledge. 
I understand the potential problems with such a definition, but I also believe the distinction between "transgression" (the broad category of things that are contrary to the will of God - or "all things that are wrong") and "sin" (the sub-set of transgressions that we choose consciously to do - meaning we have to see them as wrong) is central to the concept of an Atonement - since we are told we will be punished only for our unforsaken sins and not for Adam's transgressions (which I interpret to mean the mistakes we make in ignorance as a result of what we inherit through being born into mortality).

Hence, again:
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

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