Monday, August 26, 2013

A Comment on Faith and Sin

I posted the following comment here:

Sometimes participants on one side of a debate sloppily and erroneously believe that all of the people on the other side of the debate hold the same positions on all issues pertaining to the questions under debate. I think that may be happening here to you. Because, while it is not your position, I do think many Mormons believe the only reason people leave the church is because they are sinners.

A story I remember from a BYU religion class illustrates this. A Church leader (I think Elder McConkie, but don't quote me on this) came across a group traveling in a car bearing an ex-Mormon bumper sticker at a gas stations. The interaction ended with the leader asking the ex-Mormons, in essence, which of the commandments they didn't want to keep? The takeaway (at least as I understood it) was that people leave the church because of a desire to justify personal sin.
I don't think this is right. In fact, I'm sure causation runs in the other direction in some instances--that is people reject the doctrine first for intellectual reasons, and violate the commandments next as a result of having rejected the doctrine and the Church.
But there's a certain logic to that position. If we are on Earth to test our adherence to the commandments, we need to know with some certainty what the commandments are, otherwise the test is meaningless. Members who are convinced the Church is true through spiritual experiences assume that others must have had similar spiritual confirmation, and are exercising their agency to reject that truth. If that's not the case then how can the test-taker be held accountable for failing to follow rules he never knew existed?

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