Serious Transgression Miscellany

The following is a list of grievous sins:

Kidnapping
Human trafficking
War profiteering
Physically abusing a child
Torture
Securities fraud
Pimping
Psychologically abusing a child
Grinding the faces of the poor
Affinity fraud
Sexually abusing a child
Owning slaves
Conspiring to cover up any of the above sins

Who can tell me, apart from being bad, what they all have in common?

Comments

  1. They all start with seeing your fellow man as something other than another child of God.

  2. Correct, but, alas, not the answer I’m looking for. :)

  3. None of them are asked about on a TR interview. None of them are emphasized as much as gay marriage.

  4. General ballpark, joe. But I’m definitely looking for a more unifying category.

  5. Besides pride or a sense of entitlement?

  6. Benjamin says:

    They all involve a sort of classism (I know there’s a better word for that). The powerful or rich are preying on the weak or poor.

  7. All good answers. But no bellringer yet…

  8. patriarchalism?

  9. They are all excommunicable offenses.

  10. Eric Russell says:

    All less serious sins than committing adultery/fornication.

  11. They all are far more an affront to God than showing my shoulders or my knees.

  12. They’re daily events in the paradise that is Somalia?

  13. Ron Madson says:

    The “blood and sins of our generation” that we have on our hands individually and as a faith community to the extent that we have supported/pledged allegiance to the United States of America’s imperial war policies from Viet Nam to the present. Probably not what you are looking for, but I could not resist.

  14. Eric, I would disagree. Slavery? Human trafficking? Sexually abusing a child? All more grievous than an adult breaking a vow with another adult.

  15. They all seriously impede the agency of another or many others?

  16. Eric nails it, but with the wrong end of the hammer, so to speak. The point here is that these are all indisputably far more wicked acts than consensual extramarital intercourse. And I’ll add another to the list:

    Non-consensual marital sex.

  17. I don’t even know what “grinding the faces of the poor” means, but I’m pretty sure you’re not going to get excommunicated for doing it.

  18. Love this Brad — I can’t wait to hear what you have in mind.

  19. MCQ- yeah I missed that one on my initial pass.

  20. Also, there is no outward manifestation of these sins that that can be seen on the sinner, superficially anyway.

  21. And they all occur right here in River City (U.S. of A.) as well.

  22. oops, Brad wrote his # 16 while I was typing # 18.

    MCQ, I think Brad is on to something by listing “grinding the face of the poor” as a more serious sin than consensual sexual intercourse between two adults, whether married or not. I do not say this as someone who would condone extra-marital or pre-marital sex but rather from a scriptural point of view — the Book of Mormon presents a case that one of the fundamental sins that contributes to the downfall of civilization is grinding the face of the poor. This is one of the ingenious ways that the Book of Mormon appropriates and reveals the true power of Isaiah.

  23. “Non-consensual marital sex”??? Sounds like the only kind of sex I ever get.

  24. Jonathan Sherman says:

    All fit under the heading of secret combinations.

  25. I’m thinking more along the lines of spousal rape.

  26. By the way, I happen to know a lot of Mormons around my age who would conveivably agree with this notion that these sins are all indisputably more downright evil and wicked than consensual sex between adults. But interestingly, I suspect that our parents’ generation would not agree with that and would classify sexual intercourse outside of marriage as worse than all of them except murder.

  27. Maybe, john f, but I still don’t know what it means. Do you?

  28. My #27, is responding to your #22 john f.

  29. It’s not too hard to imagine. And I am certainly guilty of it as are 99% of other Mormons. Maybe that’s what President Benson meant when he said we are not yet taking the Book of Mormon seriously in the Church.

    For instance, I still opt to buy a suit over giving the value to a charity for building stoves in Nepal. I’m still trapped in the suburban American mindset that fulfilment in life comes from working slavishly until the next vacation when we can go to some European destination, when the monetary value of that trip is multiples of what a family the size of my own (or larger) in Latin America makes in a whole year. I’m still tempted to move into a 5,000 sq ft house on days that my current 1400 sq ft row house feels too tight for a six person family.

  30. “Correct, but, alas, not the answer I’m looking for.”

    Brad does his best impression of the classic, and much-loathed, Sunday School approach to teaching.

  31. Re #27—ask Senator Hatch.

  32. Cynthia, lolz.

  33. I’m sure the “answer” has something to do with the difference in perspective between this list and something X the Church focuses on to a greater extent.

    However, that difference from a “relative morality” perspective also means we can argue a few entries on your list being considered equivalent in the first place (if I can do so without derailing the entire comment thread).

    Why is “war profiteering” on the same list with physical and sexual abuse of a child (for example)? Simply having a business that legally “profits from warfare” somehow (which doesn’t necessarily need to involve selling weapons that are used to kill people) doesn’t seem to be as morally culpable as other entries. Is that fundamentally different than owning shares of companies that create alcohol or tobacco products?

    Likewise, “owning slaves” and “human trafficking” are vastly different things. The latter is illegal and frequently involves kidnapping and sexual abuse as well. Simply “owning” slaves legally in pre-Civil War US may be still morally suspect (even presuming humane treatment), but still not equivalent to a rapist or a child molester. (A direct comparison to someone who has an abortion today? Something that still raises direct moral questions, but is still legal and common?)

    This comment may prove to be pointless when the “answer” is given, but it’s revealing that even an attempt to list sins generally considered by everyone to be “grievous” is still relative and arbitrary, with a lot of room for discussion and complaints about how specific terms are defined and how they really rank on a morality scale.

  34. It can’t mean that, john. Just not giving your money to the poor and instead spending it on yourself? That’s not “grinding” anyone’s face. If that phrase means anything at all it must mean more than simply “not giving as much as you could.”

  35. Perhaps. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope it doesn’t mean not providing universal health care when we, as a society, have the means to do so! (Assuming President Romney will act to repeal Obamacare first thing after taking office and assuming further that some states, like Utah, will not then enact their own improved and more fiscally responsible health care solutions.)

  36. Yeah, I’ve never liked the interpretation of Alma 39:5 that puts ALL sexual sins in a category as next to murder – behind only denying the Holy Ghost. I just don’t think it fits the actual passage very well. Some sexual sins – absolutely. All of them – nope.

    If anyone cares, I wrote about that last month on my personal blog:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/06/sexual-sins-are-not-next-to-murder.html

  37. Eric Russell says:

    Tracy, I wasn’t saying that I thought so. I was just suggesting that Brad was offering a critique of the popular interpretation of Alma 39:5.

  38. Yes, and that’s why you, Eric, get the gold star.

  39. Isn’t the real point here that we shouldn’t be “ranking” sins in seriousness in the first place? As in my previous comment, some entries on the list are clearly less serious than others, but that doesn’t make them “okay”. From an eternal perspective, there really are no “small” sins and “big” sins, since any sin acts as an obstacle to eternal progression.

    I don’t support the notion that sexual sin is next to murder either, but isn’t it obvious that part of the reason the Church spends a disproportionate amount of time and energy emphasizing sexual “sin” is because it is a reaction to societal norms? Like the internet nerds who spend a lot more effort complaining about popular films that are “overrated” rather than films that are objectively worse (but generally considered as such by everyone), the Church is primarily reacting to the fact society teaches consensual sex to be “okay”, whereas most entries on the original list are uncontroversially immoral to both religious believer and unbeliever alike.

    That doesn’t excuse the lack of perspective, but does explain why we seem to hear more about those kinds of topics in church meetings compared to other, more serious topics that society is already in agreement with.

  40. KMB, Brad’s underlying point might be that we have a serious and perhaps not fully doctrinally justified hang-up/preoccupation with consensual sexual intercourse as the worst possible sin that can be committed, second only to murder or denying the Holy Ghost. This is what most of us were taught through CES channels in seminary-level Gospel Doctrine lessons. But this is just a guess — Brad will have to explain his own motivations.

  41. Consensual premarital sex is probably not what was being emphasized as a sin next to murder. What do we know about the culture of the time? If it was a sexist society where women were vulnerable (as many cultures were/are), then having sex with an unmarried woman ruins her in the eyes of society unless you have married her first. Our past western society has called premarital sex “taking advantage of” the woman. Perhaps the passage refers to men who cared only for their own selfish desires and didn’t care about the consequences (a woman’s life being ruined, childbearing, the child conceived without a father to support him) and possibly didn’t even care about a woman’s life or her desires or even her consent being necessary. Which puts it somewhere in the category of rape and abuse of both the woman and the often resulting children. They aren’t playing on a level playing field so it is wrong for the man to do it.
    In our modern society we view things a little differently.

  42. KMB, I think it is important to “rank” sins – at least broadly, especially as an attempt to avoid the type of misreading I believe occurs in the common interpretation of Alma 39:5. I don’t like it when it becomes Pharisaical and ends up being an excuse to commit less serious sins or elaborate innumerable sins, but I think it actually is extremely important to be able to see distinctions in degrees of sin.

    To use crime as an example, if someone points a gun at me, I want to be able to say, “Take everything I have, but if you pull that trigger you are committing a MUCH worse crime that doesn’t need to be committed to get what you want.” More fundamentally, some sins really are more serious than others – and I can’t fathom a reasonable argument against that statement.

    The most important reason to rank sins, for me, is to be able to discuss what truly is sin and what might not be sin – to avoid an unthinking condemnation of some things that don’t deserve condemnation. Please don’t read any specific thing into that statement. I don’t mean it to be about any particular issue; I just mean to point out that lots of things that are cultural end up being classified as sinful by those who simply don’t understand and are appalled on an instinctive, gut level.

    I think we classify way too much currently in our culture as sinful that isn’t, and having an initial conversation around seriousness of sin is a good starting point for that broader conversation.

  43. I forgot to emphasize that the passage is probably only speaking to men of the time, not women, where premarital sex is considering taking advantage of women because women were more vulnerable in their society because of bearing children and the physical aspects of supporting a family.

  44. Frank Maxwell says:

    Brad, are these all examples of unrighteous dominion as described in D&C 121?

  45. jks, there is a difference between likening all things to ourselves and interpreting what the passage actually said and to whom it actualy was addressed.

    Alma 39 was addressed to one person. It wasn’t speaking to men or women or any other group of people. That’s obvious, but it’s important – since likening it to ourselves, in this instance, changes radically the meaning.

    The post I wrote about that passage (linked in #36) is about the focus of the actual passage – it’s entirety, not just that one verse. Rip that verse out of context, and you get, “(All) sexual sins are next to murder in seriousness” – rather than, “These things (plural – the totality of what Corianton did) are next to murder.” (in the eyes of his father, Alma, the Younger, given his own background and previous actions)

    Those are two very, very different conclusions, and realizing they are very different is important, imo.

  46. Being of “the other” generation, and being very happily married for 46 years: the sin of consensual sex is not so great compared to those greater sins. But, in context, it has very unpleasant overtones. It is an insult and denigration of the very person who should mean the most to you and for whom you should be most willing to sacrifice everything. “Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friends…” It is a denial of the greatest love. When a so called “spiritual” person does this it is a shocking denial of that core issue.

    Those other sins are the sins of the telestial kingdom, i.e., anyone doing these will go there. (I would be willing to take them out and shoot them to help them along, but of course God loves them more than this.) This particular sin is a sin of the celestial kingdom which demonstrates the lack of love and concern, mirroring God’s love and concern, for his children. We if we can not love a spouse, a person with whom we share our lives, with this love, how can we love the least among us?

    Of course the situation is complicated. We choose our mates in youth and ignorance and repent in age and knowledge. But knowledge should bring a cure because life is just long enough. (I am continually amazed by people who have reached older age and have learned NOTHING. These go to the terrestrial kingdom?)

  47. I don’t get what you mean by a “sin of the celestial kingdom” RW.

    As I recall, Corianton was chasing after a hooker when his father, Alma, made the statement about “these things” being next to murder in seriousness. I don’t know why we broaden the meaning of that passage to include all sexual sins, but Corianton certainly wasn’t “taking advantage” of any innocent woman, as far as I can discern. We aren’t told whether he was married at the time.

  48. JKS- very, very good comments. MCQ- I don’t think that Alma referring to his son’s sexual partner as a harlot necessarily rules out her having been taken advantage of, nor does it necessarily mean she was gainfully and autonomously employed as a prostitute. It could have just been an epithet used by an angry and powerful man in a society that devalues and subordinates women. And even if she were a prostitute he would still be taking advantage of her.

    All in all I’m pleasantly surprised at how this conversation is going.

  49. That’s only because so many people think “next to” means “only next to” and we commonly drop the last clause off of “extramarital sexual conduct when one is supposed to be teaching the gospel.” There are a LOT of sins that can be next to murder.

    Your point in the OP doesn’t invalidate the scripture in context, just the extrapolation from it.

  50. Re 47 and 48, there is some scholarly thought I remember reading once that Isabel was a temple prostitute, and so the seriousness had to do not just with sexual sin, but with defiling the temple as well.

  51. 50 We can’t really know. She could have been a professional prostitute or she could have just been a loose girl. Although to actually be named in the Book of Mormon seems to indicate a well known prostitute a la Heidi Fleiss. After all, how many women are mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon?

  52. # 50 – I graduated high school seminary and I have never heard of a temple prostitute. How did that work?

  53. Swisster says:

    Yes, Isabel of Siren, I mean Siron.

  54. Yeah, please extrapolate on what a temple prostitute might be and how Corianton might have been defiling the temple by chasing her around.

    I am of the opinion that words mean things. When a modern day prophet uses a word, we generally assume that he means the usual meaning of that word, all other things being equal. But when a dead prophet uses the word “harlot” in scripture, I guess we are entitled to assume that he didn’t mean the usual meaning of that word at all.

    Not trying to pick a fight here, it’s just that I think it’s most probable that Alma meant what he said. When talking to your son, you might call the girl he was infatuated with a “harlot” if you don’t approve of her as a companion (and really, which of us dads, in a moment of pique, is above that kind of behavior?) But if you are a prophet, and if you are writing these words to your son into a book of scripture, and futher, if you are actually undertaking to engrave these words onto a metal plate, you are going to have some time for reflection, and my guess is, in that situation, you are going to say exactly what you mean, not engage in hyperbole or mud-slinging.

  55. MCQ, also not to pick a fight here, I think it’s important to remember that Alma did NOT write / engrave these words into a book of scripture, onto metal plates. Alma 35 was written by Mormon, and verse 16 says:

    “Therefore [because he was grieved for the iniquity of his people - vs. 15], he [Alma] caused that his sons should be gathered together, that he might give unto them every one his charge, separately, concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness. And we have an account of his commandments, which he gave unto them according to his own record.”

    Iow, Mormon had access to Alma’s record of what he told his sons. Alma didn’t write what he told his sons as part of his scriptural record. It was included as scripture by Mormon in his abridgement of all of the records to which he had access. Alma apparently recorded what would become Alma 36-42 in his own diary – or priestly record – or letters to his sons recording what he had told them verbally – or something else like that.

    Interestingly, the chapter heading to 39 starts with, “Sexual sin is an abomination” – NOT, “Sexual sin is next to murder in seriousness.” All that means is that such an interpretation is merely that – an interpretation, not “scriptural” in and of itself.

  56. Harlot could be an approximate translation of a term used in Nephite society to designate an unmarried, non virgin, someone who had had her virtue taken from her. His way of condemning his son’s actions and laying on the guilt, basically saying “you made a whore of her, because that’s how she’ll now be seen.” The conversation does seem to be presuming that the sexual relationship is somewhat publicly known. But, again, even if she is a prostitute, C would have still been taking advantage of her, exploiting the vulnerability that led her to such a life in the first place. Like most sex workers today, but to an even greater and more tragic degree, the distinction between prostitute and sex slave would not have been very meaningful.

  57. “according to his own record” Ray. I have always understood that to mean that Alma made his own plates, which Mormon was abridging from. Otherwise, how was that record preserved for Mormon to have, all those years later? Are you saying he wrote paper (or leather, vellum, payrus) letters to his sons which he made a copy of and kept in a place that was separate from his scriptural record, and yet somehow was preserved so that Mormon could use it? That sounds unlikely. More likely, Alma preserved the record of these words the same way he did the record of his other doings as High Priest, in his scriptural account on the plates of Nephi, which Mormon later abridged.

  58. Reality check:
    1) Securities fraud? Affinity fraud? Seriously? In the real world that’s just called theft. One dude lying to another dude in order to take his stuff. Indeed, I think that one could make the case that stealing a little bit from a lot of people is less grievous of a sin than many other types of theft.
    2) With regards to post 16: “Indisputably more wicked?” Seriously? Last I checked, there was no definitive list of which sins were the worst. The existence of 53 posts in this threat (at current count) would seem to indicate quite a bit of dispute. Either way, it’s an exercise in futility unless you’re auditioning for the post of Chief LDS Rabbi.
    3) What’s your point? If you have something to say, man up and say it. Perhaps you don’t like how the church continues to emphasize its now somewhat outmoded and old-fashioned notions of chastity as incontrovertible divine revelation? I feel you on that–I’m surrounded by people (my friends and colleagues) who regularly have sex with other consenting adults it usually makes for entertaining stories on Monday morning. They seem happy, i.e. not immediately feeling God’s wrath. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to romp around a little bit before I settled into my somewhat monotonous family life. Is it the gay issue? I’ll admit, the church’s strong stand against homosexual marriage seemed somewhat disingenuous to me, especially since a scant century ago we were the ones fighting for “alternative” marriage arrangement. The “one man and one woman” mantra seems kind of strange coming out of SLC. Either way, I would be very careful about minimizing what now the world and apparently you see as “no big deal” i.e. sexual relations outside of marriage. Remember, God decides what a sin is–not humanism. There are a whole litany of sins, including that which we are taught is THE most grievous sin, which one can commit without offending another human being in the slightest degree.

    Sorry about the ambush—longtime reader, not so much on the posting.

  59. That certainly is possible, MCQ – and I overstated when I said it wasn’t recorded as scripture. It might have been. I just don’t read it as something Alma recorded as “scripture”; I see it as something he recorded in a personal history – as the advice he gave his sons, more as patriarchal blessings. My “onto metal plates” was meant to be a descriptor of the book of scripture; I have no problem believing Alma kept separate records on separate metal plates. That was sloppy wording.

    I might be totally wrong on that, and framing it so absolutely was a mistake.

  60. Joshua, as a longtime reader, do you seriously think that Brad is encouraging consensual, non-marital sex? Really?

  61. I’m certainly willing to admit that “harlot” could have been translated from a word that meant something different in that time and place than “harlot” means to us. But if the meaning were too radically different, I have to assume that Joseph would not have translated it into that word.

    But note the context:

    “Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.

    Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.”

    And then later:

    “Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish thing; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicked harlots.”

    He calls her “wicked” and notes that “she did steal away the hearts of many.” In other words, not innocent in this deal, not a poor soul entrapped by circumstances, but a wicked person actively pursuing these actions. Not saying he’s certainly accurate in his assessment of her, just that his words don’t really leave much room for an interpretation other that a prostitute actively pursuing her trade.

  62. Ray, I think you’re misreading Joshua.

  63. Thinking about the translation issue further: We have Alma writing his words to his son, presumably, then we have him or someone else making a copy of those words, then we have Mormon making another copy of those words in his abridgement, then we have Joseph translating those words into English. If the idea expressed by the English word “harlot” was not an accurate concept to describe Isabel or the situation she was in, it seems to me that there was a lot of opportunity to correct that word, which apparently never happened. I think we’re pretty safe in assuming she was a prostitute who enjoyed her profession.

  64. Y’all are falling for a lie of the mainstream media of Alma’s day. If you’d read your B.H. Roberts home literature story “Corianton” in The Contributor, you would know that Corianton was lured into the house of a Zoramite by Isabel, who was pretending to be a chaste young lady; she plied him with wine, and he, being unused to drinking, fell asleep after only a few sips. He woke up the next morning to signs that he had missed an orgy, and to the sound of hired criers (that’s where the MSM comes in) calling the news through the streets of town that Corianton the missionary had spent the night with Isabel. The ridicule of the missionaries stirred up by this report caused them all to flee from the city.

    No sex at all, folks, at least not by Corianton. And only a very little alcohol; Roberts hastens to assure us that it only made him sleepy, not drunk. I for one will not challenge Roberts on this.

    ;)

  65. Ray, I’m throwing the BS flag high on the whole pseudo-intellectual basis of this thread: that not only can we somehow “rank” the sinfulness of any given, well, sin, but that sexual promiscuity has somehow been accorded more weight than it should have been. Again I ask, what is the point of debating which is more grievous to God between robbing his children of their life-sustaining material goods, denying them material freedoms, or abusing what we as LDS as the sacred powers of procreation? As there is no theological point to this, and as the declared “correct answer” seems to blatantly seek to minimize the sinfulness of promiscuity by saying, “See, look at all these things that are ‘indisputably’ much, much worse” I’m simply trying to tease out what Brad is really trying to say. Maybe I’m completely off the mark, in which case I again invite him to say what he really means rather than dancing in rhetorical circles and seeing if anyone agrees with him before he’ll take a stand. Or maybe the whole thread really IS intended as just a meaningless exercise in pseudo-intellectual (and pseudo-theological) LDS rabbinical nonsense (in which case, my point #3 above is moot).

  66. “I would be careful about minimizing what now the world and apparently you see as ‘ no big deal’ i.e. sexual relations outside of marriage.”

    Reality check: saying consensual extramarital sex is not as wicked as child abuse or human trafficking is not remotely the same as saying that extramarital sex is no big deal. And, should you take the actual time to read them, you’d realize that the number of comments here is not indicative that the sentiment which underlies the original post is under serious dispute. Come to think of it, your little fit of insipid self righteousness is the only comment so far to (attempt to) seriously dispute it.

    I would be careful about making stupid ass and judgmental presumptions about what I see or don’t see with no foundation whatsoever in anything you’ve ever seen me write our heard me say.

  67. MCQ, why on earth, even if we assume she was a prostitute, would we assume she enjoyed her profession!?!?!

  68. Because she lead away the hearts of many. To be good and effective at something, you have to really enjoy it. Just ask Steve Covey.

  69. Plus her profession involved sex. I’m operating under the assumption that sex is enjoyable. Your experience may have led to different assumptions, of course.

  70. I really hope you’re kidding. See my comment #56.

  71. Anon for this one says:

    Brad, I’m a long-time reader whose been reading BCC longer than youve been around–Ive probably read everything youve ever posted–and I understood your post the same way Joshua did. Exactly the same way. After a while, you start to recognize where someone is going with something.

  72. Brad, your #56 has already been refuted. Keep up.

  73. Sigh. Saying that consensual extramarital sex is not as wicked as the sins listed is not remotely the same as saying it’s no big deal. It’s not rocket science…

  74. I’m not talking about the transmission/translation stuff. Read the whole comment.

  75. I get it Brad, but the whole of Alma’s words don’t really leave room for the idea that she was taken advantage of. I understand that you are saying that anyone who has sex with any prostitute is by definition “taking advantage” of them, but Alma makes pretty clear that Isabel knows what she’s doing, and in that context, I reject your implication that all prostitutes are somehow victims of everyone who patronizes them. Surely prostitutes sometimes prey on the young and naive, and it seems to me that Alma is describing that situation here. Not a situation where Isabel can be described as a victim.

  76. Kristine N says:

    Brad, perhaps your point is more opaque than rocket science.

    (fwiw, I agree with you–consensual sex between unmarried adults seems a less serious sin than the others you list, yet we hardly discuss the others, even though some of them are certainly happening in our communities, probably more commonly than we’d like to think)

  77. Ron Madson says:

    #64, Ardis,
    Nice try by Roberts, but I got the straight scoop on this whole affair IIRC…this is what really happened:

    A young missionary named Corianton went missing after he was allegedly abducted from the steps of a synagogue. A few days later a freed Corianton made a report to the local authorities that he had been abducted and imprisoned against his will, chained to a bed where Isabell, a former Miss Ammonihah World had abducted, attempted to seduce, and then raped him. The case became known by many sobriquets, including “The Case of the Manacled Missionary” (various Zarahemla tabloid stage morality plays told the story for decades). That is how I remember it. Between Mormon’s editorializing, Joseph’s modern interpretation followed by latter day correlation, the simplified version of the story we have today has become far too predictable and boring.

  78. Incidentally, there’s nothing particularly elusive or tricksy being teased or danced around here. I made a list of sins and then straightforwardly came out and claimed that the sins listed were more obviously wicked than consensual non marital sex between adults. You don’t have to be Kreskin to discern in my cleverly opaque mind that this is far, far from being an argument for the moral neutrality or irrelevance of fornication or adultery. There’s no hidden pro-promiscuity or anti-fidelity or aquarian-free-love agenda here, and you’d have to stretch things pretty far to try reading anything like it into anything I’ve written here.

  79. Oh yeah? Then why do I hear the musical “Hair” playing in the background?

  80. You’re clearly pro-sex and pro-harlot Brad. Just own up to your proclivities and get pilloried like a man.

  81. And as for the dismissive attitude toward securities fraud, there’s a good chance you know someone who has had premarital sex. If you sincerely believe that that alone makes that person a more grievous sinner than Bernie Madoff, you are mentally ill.

  82. MCQ, you ignorant slut…

  83. Yeah but Bernie Madoff? The sexual equivalent of Bernie isn’t someone who had premarital sex. It’s more like Tiger Woods.

  84. Brad, I won’t stand for that kind of language.

    And what do you mean by “slut” anyway? Isn’t that just someone who has been taken advantage of? Over and over and over again?

  85. Probably true, except in a moral universe in which all sexual transgression is the mostest evilest form of abominable wickedness, the distinction between that young couple in your ward who screwed up a week before their wedding and Tiger Woods is hardly meaningful. The least among sexual sins is worse than the most titanic defrauding of friends, family, or the general public.

  86. Is that really true in a practical sense? I know a lot of people who screwed up before their wedding and still got married in the temple. You never heard of that?

  87. I think that’s exactly the point, MCQ. That extreme, puritanical moral universe (which, unfortunately, many of us lds have been taught and conditioned to defend in abstract terms) is both practically non existent and theoretically ridiculous.

  88. I am apparently biased with my whole “taking advantage of women” comment but to some people (like me) the world “HARLOT” or “PROSTITUTE does not equal “evil sexually promiscuous woman.” To some of us, we think of women who have probably been abused in some way, who are trapped in a life where they are used by men, who are likely to be raped & physically assaulted or murdered, who either started out addicted to drugs or mentally ill or end up in that condition, etc. And when looking at historical prostitutes/harlots we realize that many were are starving or homeless who sold their bodies because they felt like they have no choice. Most prostitutes are not Heidi Fliess, and I am guessing that most harlots back then weren’t either!

  89. We agree then, sir. Turn off the comments, this thread is done!

  90. jks, just read the damn scripture! we’re not talking about harlots in a vacuum, we’re talking about one specific harlot named Isabel. The girl had it goin’ on, and she knew it, and she used her powers for evil. End of story. Don’t invent some backstory that makes you feel better about her. She was wicked. She stole many hearts. You know, like that.

  91. “Most prostitutes are not Heidi Fliess”

    How did Heidi get to be the go-to hooker? She was a madam, not a prostitute, wasn’t she?

  92. Even having many clients does not a Heidi Fliess one make. It would be entirly possible, particularly in a premodern context, for her to have what would be for us considered a pretty horrifying backstory and even for her to be the functional equivalent of a sexual slave and still have a reputation, carefully managed by her overseers, which would lead someone in Alma’s position to assume that she’s a predatory harlot who routinely seduces nice, wholesome young men like his boy. What percentage of high priced sex workers, the kind who steal away the hearts of many a powerful man, even today do you think perform their jobs with more personal autonomy than an indentured sexual servant (much less thoroughly enjoy their work!)? Do you think that percentage was higher or lower 2100 years ago?

    It’s not jks’ backstory which stretches credulity. It’s the idea that Alma (who is angry, lives in an obviously misogynist culture, and, as an embarrassed member of an elite, literate, aristocratic, priestly caste has a strong interest in creating a record which minimizes his son’s culpability and shifts blame largely onto the girl that EVERYONE knows is a whore anyway) should be taken at face value as a reliable description of the modern myth of the fully autonomous, sexually unsatiated, sexually aggressive prostitute who seduces weak men for fun and money.

  93. Holy mother of pearl, Brad. That is the funniest thing you have ever written. Sexually adhesive? What does that even mean?

    Your projecting of your modern world view onto Nephite civilization is absolutely precious. You should write a screenplay for this. It could be called Nephite Hooker Diaries. It would play well on the CW.

  94. Wait you changed it to “sexually aggressive.” Yeah, that makes more sense, but sexually adhesive was funnier.

  95. It was an autocorrect typo. And what modern worldview did I project onto nephite culture? The whole point of the comment is that your projection of the modern myth of the sexually pleasured and sexually autonomous prostitute onto nephite culture is exactly that.

  96. Your casual, snickering dismissal of the likely horrifying life led by most sex workers, even including ones referred to by an ancient prophet as a harlot who brazenly lures away otherwise good men like his son, is disappointing.

  97. I figured you were saying she was sexually adhesive because she stole away so many hearts!

    Alma = angry powerful CEO/priest type in a mysogynistic culture covering for the mistakes of the wayward sion of the clan.

    Isabel = poor, downtrodden hooker with a heart of gold, just trying to scrape by while being victimized by society’s elite.

    That world view?

  98. Mommie Dearest says:

    I love BCC.

  99. Brad, I’m just reading what Alma said. You’re the one inventing a story to go along with it.

  100. Mommie Dearest: Word.

  101. Steve Evans says:

    Brad, your #81 is curious. Why should the frequency of a sin be determinative of its gravity?

  102. Kristine says:

    Actually, MCQ, you’re reading Joseph Smith’s translation/midrash of Mormon’s editing of Alma’s words which were probably taken down by a scribe. There’s no “just” about that–you’re inventing a story, too. We all have to. It’s called hermeneutics, my friend!

  103. Alma was angry. He was embarrassed. He was a member of an elite, literate, aristocratic, priestly caste. He was trying to tell the lasting and definitive version of the Corianton-Isabel affair. And he did have an interest in spinning things. None of that is a modern story. And you’re wildly misrepresenting my description of Isabel.

  104. I don’t understand why it’s even a question, Steve.

  105. Committing lots of securities fraud is worse than committing a little securities fraud. Having lots of extramarital sex is worse than having a little. But if sexual sin is in its own special category of uber wickedness, just beneath murder, worse than any- and everything else, then even a little sexual sin is worse than Madoff levels of defrauding people. That’s the logic I’m saying is patently absurd.

  106. This thread made my day.

  107. I thought you were going to say that all of the sins on your list are arguably given tacit or explicit approval in the Bible.

    Kidnapping/Human trafficking — carrying off maidens captured in war permitted by Law of Moses
    War profiteering — also explicitly permitted
    Physically abusing a child — “Spare the rod….”
    Torture — see Job
    Securities fraud — parable of unjust steward.
    Pimping — see Lot
    Psychologically abusing a child — does attempted sacrifice of Isaac count?
    Grinding the faces of the poor — forcing Hagar and Ishmael into desert?
    Affinity fraud — Israelites “borrowing” jewelry of Egyptian neighbors before exodus
    Sexually abusing a child — how about those carried off young maidens?
    Owning slaves — “Obey your masters”

  108. At the very least, Alma was a man who had committed what he called spiritual murder – and he saw his son starting down that same path. Anger might or might not have been a part of it, but deep, long-repentant, harrowing agony was his memory of the effect on him. I am positive he didn’t want that for his son – or, worse yet, to have Corianton get to where Alma had been and NOT to have an angel appear and shake it out of him.

    All issues of Isabel’s life and motives aside, there is a very easy way to ascribe a “noble” motive to Alma’s words to his son – a deep desire to save his soul and save him from unspeakable pain and suffering.

  109. I’m certain that Alma’s motives toward his son were extremely noble. But that does not mean that his perception of Isabel was fair, impartial, or at all reflective of her actual lived reality, or that no motives beyond the noble parental ones influenced what he wrote in the official record for posterity.

  110. Also, Alma’s own experience with “spiritual murder” makes his view of Corianton’s actions (leading away the hearts of many, spiritually, since they no longer believed Alma’s words) being next to murder much more understandable – if it was the totality of Corianton’s actions (“these things”) and not just his chasing of Isabel to which Alma referred.

  111. Thing is, Tim, to the list of sins tacitly given some form of approval in the bible you would also add all forms of extramarital sex as well as prostitution.

  112. #109 – I agree, Brad. There is no guarantee of that, whatsoever.

  113. But there is even less evidence for this:

    “Alma was angry. He was embarrassed. He was a member of an elite, literate, aristocratic, priestly caste. He was trying to tell the lasting and definitive version of the Corianton-Isabel affair. And he did have an interest in spinning things.”

    That is not found in the text anywhere. It’s your spin on it, and yes, it’s influenced by your modern perspective of things because you have little or no knowlewdge of Nephite perspective.

    Kristine is right, in #102 but my story comes from Alma’s language. Yours doesn’t. That’s the difference between us, and that’s why my story is better.

  114. It’s not a verbatim quote of Alma’s self description, but it’s all in the text.

  115. Gol Darn It, don’t let the b-t—s get you! Return with honor! How many men have been utterly destroyed by women, their lives ruined. This is the death of the spirit by the temptations of the flesh when women arouse the natural man. Cover them up, hide their faces lest we be tempted, those objects of lust.

    This is why it is next to shedding of innocent blood, it is the killing of a man’s godly nature, right next to denying the Holy Ghost. Women are the gateway to heck, dad blame it! Alma was so right.

  116. Mark Brown says:

    RW: Word to your mother.

  117. Brad, sorry about my delay in getting back to you. Time zone issues. Anyway…
    #66–Getting right to the point, the word that betrays you is “indisputably.” You’re trying to ram something home here, and since you seemed a bit shy about putting it out there, I was just trying to figure out what it was. I’ll take your word for it (#78) that you had no underlying purpose (I was sure it was the gay thing!), in which case you’re just flailing about.
    Sounds like you’ve got some specific sins in mind–i.e. not just “securities fraud” but “Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme that happened to destroy the life’s savings of many people and honorable institutions” vs not just sexual promiscuity in general, but “my two super-righteous friends who were totally humiliated after they were told they couldn’t marry in the temple following one night of poor judgement.” My position is, you don’t know and I don’t either (I know, I know, INCREDIBLY self-righteous on my part).
    Post #105 really exposes the issue at hand: “That’s the logic that I’m saying is patently absurd.” Ah, but my friend, since when did sin or the severity thereof ever have anything to do with logic? As Mormons, we rely on the revealed word, do we not? Indeed, lacking direction/revelation from God on the matter, sexual promiscuity is not a sin at all! And the number game is pretty silly as well in the context of Mormon theology–after all, we believe Cain, a dude who murdered one guy (that we know of) to be more wicked than, say, Stalin or Hitler, who murdered millions. How could denying the Holy Ghost be worse than murdering millions of people, you seem to ask? I dunno–but God says so. I know, I know, another little bit of insipid, simplistic, anti-intellectual, self-righteousness. Okay, so are sexual sins in a huge, horrid category of perniciousness by themselves? Again, I don’t know. I do know that when I go to a really nice building and watch a movie, they seem to make a big deal about specifically mentioning only forbidding sexual relations outside of a legal and lawful marriage (not mentioning other “sexual sins” such as masturbation, pornography, necking), and to me that elevates it in importance.

    By the way, I got a good chuckle from the guy who used the word “indisputably” calling me a self-righteous dumbass. You stay classy.

  118. So, your points are:
    1) you misread my original post and purpose (something about the gays, I think).
    2) you don’t know if Madoff is more wicked than someone who had extramarital sex.
    3) Cain is more wicked than Hitler.
    4) sexual relations outside of marriage are still bad, especially when in violation of temple covenants.
    5) using the word “indisputable” disqualifies someone from pointing out that you have written extremely self righteous and stupid comments here.

    That about sum it up?

  119. Another thing, you seem rather singularly hung up on my inclusion in the list of fraud (forms of fraud which usually involve either enormous sums of money with large numbers of victims or the abuse of personal, intimate relationships of trust). You haven’t been wringing your hands and gnashing your teeth over child abuse or torture or human slavery. How is it, exactly that the inclusion of particularly egregious and abusive forms of theft led you to see beyond my intended and rather obvious point (that there do, in fact, exist forms of human wickedness worse than consensual non marital sex) to something vaguely sinister possibly involving teh gays and/or some imagined friends of mine who I believe were unjustly denied temple recommends?

    If I hadn’t included fraud, would that have better concealed my hidden intent of convincing the world that fornication and adultery are ok? Would you have been less inclined to pick up the proverbial sword of truth and justice by writing extremely perceptive, not at all self righteous comments in defense of some grand principle which you have yet to make remotely clear?

  120. Mark Brown says:

    With regard to the was Isabel teh harlot led away the hearts of many righteous men: The only reason Corianton and his companions would ever even talk to her was because she looked like a TOTAL PROSTITUTE.

  121. Well, that and she was totally hot.

  122. Tim, I would suggest that although your points are aptly made, they all occurred during Old Testament times when people were living under the law of Moses. I would hope that Christ’s higher law of love would supercede or even eliminate some–if not most–of those references.

  123. But Katie…the lower law is so much easier.

  124. omoplata says:

    #117 – I would certainly hope that eventually ALL of God’s laws are based on logic. We may be not know all of it now, but while we see darkly now, one day we will see it clearly. So I hope you’re not claiming that zero logic can be applied to sin and we should just use revealed word to do our thinking for us…because, something about a slothful servant comes to mind.

    I think OP’s implied point is that whether you or anyone else claims otherwise, one way or another, a hierarchy of sin forms. It is human nature to rank everything. And because of one BoM passage and the near exclusive emphasis on sexual sins in the Church, we tend to believe it is practically the worse thing a person could ever do. But emphasis does not always = seriousness. Urgency, priority, yes.

    As for my own hierarchy, I say that a collective theft of billions that is currently the cause of our (and worldwide) ruined economies is FAR worse than two consensual adults having sex, regardless of what a temple ceremony based on creating and propagating families, omits to say regarding such economic destruction.

  125. This was dope… Thanks guys, thanks Brad….

  126. Here’s my take (and glad to see the comments still open – I would have LOVED to comment on the modesty post, but Tracy prematurely – for me, anyway – closed the comments. Great post, btw, Tracy.):

    I think Brad is on to something. I realize there’s been a more than a little sarcasm in the comments that followed, but we LDS have a strangely finnicky way of having tunnel vision on a few things. These things, today, seem to be gay marriage, modesty, tithing and sex, among others, but those are the main ones.

    I don’t get why we don’t hear more about fraud (as in, there are a pile of ways I can defraud or be defrauded (and have been) my neighbor in business, but we tend to only think of ponzi style schemes), child/spousal abuse (especially verbal or psychological), grinding the faces of the poor (i.e. buying that $500k+ house on the bench because we deserve it while we ridicule some on welfare or in beat up cars), etc. I actually had a good friend, who happens to be ridiculously wealthy, invite me to some sort of MLM thing at an even wealthier member’s house just last month (June). In prefacing the invite, this friend described this person as having a 30,000 sq. ft. house (he does) and being “really successful” (financially, it’s ridiculous). I ignored the invite because I didn’t want to get MLMed, but was intrigued by the logic so prevalent in the church today, as characterized by my friend (i.e. that success in life is based on things we possess and things that are visible to others – houses, cars, jobs, money – and that it’s OK to make lots of money and spend just as much on the fine things of life), all the while feeling justified when we pay $100 in fast offering money every month and call it good to on our charitable donations. I don’t know how much people donate in our ward, but I do know we have more than our share of $500k+ houses and Cadillac Escalade XL’s dotting the parking lot on Sundays.

    Of the records we have in the bible, Christ was rather silent on sexual proclivities – especially in the instance of the woman taken in adultery (sidebar: we LDS tend to add a LOT to that story about what Christ meant when he spoke to her, assuming the words that were transcribed 30-40 years later are/were even correct), but much more demonstrative of those who had some issues with greed, power and, especially, merchandizing the temple.

    In fact, I might put war profiteering at the head of the entire list, if I were in charge. That, to me, is particularly disgusting, and yet many (most?) LDS are pro-war. Go figure.

    That said, and I’ll retire, there’s an interesting set of “records” (loosely defined) that has an add-on to the Alma/Corianton story. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the records anymore than Brad’s post-script of why Alma wrote what he did (though I agree with large portions of that post-script). Many/most LDS have never heard of these records and, if given the chance, would sooner turn up their noses at it, but I was (at least) entertained when I read them. They’re called the Mentinah / Nemenhah records and purport to be authentic scripture (cue: chuckles all around) handed down from Hagoth to some tribe and translated and then someone tried to hand them off to some church leaders or something or other. It’s been a long time since I read them (i.e. 2009-ish). But in all seriousness, it’s an interesting read. You can read them here, online. In the story, Alma is taken aback, upon reflection, about the shame he caused to Isabel (and Corianton) and has a sort of reconciliation, realizing he was wrong to chide them the way he did. I wish I could remember more details, but it was an interesting story. What did happen to Alma after he said/wrote what he did? Did he ever make amends with Isabel, Corianton? Did he regret anything he said/wrote?

    It dovetails with some thoughts I’ve been having lately and our strange fixation with certain categories of sins, while passively forgetting others.

  127. Brad:

    I’ll take a stab at this, with my limited understanding:

    2) you don’t know if Madoff is more wicked than someone who had extramarital sex.

    Madoff is screwed up, but I highly doubt he was the only one involved to the extent he was. And, if pressed, we could point to even more wicked people (like those who finance wars of aggression and/or profit when the killing begins and continues for decades on end). I might even assign some culpability to those investing in his schemes, especially when they were doing it merely for the “guaranteed” returns or however it was sold. People joined because of exclusivity, because of peer pressure/invitations, because of riches … and likely other reasons. That said, Madoff wouldn’t have been able to screw the entire retirement portfolios of a large swath of people without those people being, in a similar manner, blinded by the promise of riches.

    3) Cain is more wicked than Hitler.

    That’s an interesting question, though I’d clearly put Hitler near the front of the list. Is Cain that much worse than some we find today in the business or political world? Cain killed to get gain, power. Are we convinced that doesn’t happen today, and yet we focus on sex a lot more than profiting on nothing (i.e. idler eating the bread, etc)? What’s interesting is whether there people today who would approach Hitler’s wickedness? How about the warlords in Sudan? Political or financial leaders who approve wars of aggression based on fear or financial reasons?

    @ Brad, #103:

    Maybe Alma was doing to his son (Corianton) that which he had seen his father do to him back in the day… a funny way of history repeating itself, or of father’s seeing in their sons that which they did themselves, or wanted to do. ;)

  128. The only reason Corianton and his companions would ever even talk to her was because she looked like a TOTAL PROSTITUTE.

    I lived in a city on my mission that had a veritable street filled with brothels which we occasionally strolled up/down on the way to our apartment. In another city (a more high class city), we would see prostitutes out on the street at night while we were walking up/down contacting people.

    I never wanted to talk with the women who actually looked and dressed like prostitutes. I did however, talk to those who were good looking but not standing on the corner looking for some cash.

    I’d be some money that Isabel wasn’t looking like a prostitute, but was “totally hot” (thanks, MCQ) and had a way of hitting on men. Plus, Arnold Freiburg painted all Nephites/Lamanites as being ripped beyond belief [so it must have been true], so Corianton probably had no trouble hooking up with a cute girl. It’s a love story for the ages.

  129. Glass Ceiling says:

    Cain was worse than Hitler because he sold his soul to the devil. Hitler thought he was saving his country and the human race. Hitler was was also an evil murderer.
    We cannot forget that God judges men’s sins in light of their hearts.
    With regard to sexual sin, an affair may not ruin a person, but porn can ruin an entire civilization, let alone and individual or a family. Sin is sin, and it is tricky. Best to believe the Scriptures at their word.

  130. Brad, hi again! In order…
    1) Yep, I misread your original purpose. Well, actually, turns out you didn’t have one…silly me.
    2) Exactly. I don’t know if Bernie Madoff, or any other thief, child abuser, adulterer, torturer, etc., is any wickeder than someone who has extramarital sex. If I were involved with any of the aforementioned, I would attempt to help them all repent.
    3) Cain as more wicked than Hitler…Hmm…Again, while I’m not really willing to put my foot down in absolute certainty, I think it should, if nothing else, serve as a cautionary against trying to judge relative wickedness. Is there a points system or something for murderers now?
    4) Yes, but that’s not me saying that.
    5) This last one’s a little tricky… I’m not sure what you’re seeing as self-righteous here. I don’t see where I’ve proclaimed anything but my humble belief in the revealed word. Stupid, well, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it’s completely dumb. Indisputable, however…The word reeks of arrogant certainty that has no place in a serious discussion of ideas. I returned your arrogance with sarcasm and snark, it is true, but that makes it no less obvious. It seems, my friend, that you have learned beyond the point of wisdom.

    As far as getting hung up on the securities fraud thing…Low-hanging fruit. The rest of your list is unfortunately too vague or simply the result of modern social constructs that have nothing to do with sin or wickedness. Psychologically abusing a child? Is that what happens if he doesn’t get a participation ribbon, or did you have another specific example in mind that you did not deign to reveal? Physically abusing a child? What you and I might call abuse a century ago was called upbringing. I do not think that God will hold everyone who has whipped their child a sinner. I do have other things to do, so I’ll sum it up for you.

    Just because Brad thinks it’s bad doesn’t mean it’s a sin. Just because Brad doesn’t understand why it’s bad doesn’t mean it’s okay. Brad does not get to determine which bad things and sins are worse than others.

    Nod your head yes if you understand. (Now THAT’S being a prick).

  131. Where’s Steve or gst when you need them? Actually, it’s been entertaining – in a Rupert Murdoch sort of way.

  132. Josh doesn’t need banning, Ray. Sometimes the worst punishment you can give a person is just giving them a public forum to speak their mind and embarrass themselves. I’m more than comfortable letting what I’ve written here stand alongside Josh’s attempted criticism, such as it is…

  133. Joshua, if you think the appeal of the post, its effectiveness, or the motive behind it depended on a general perception (or my own self perception) that Brad is empowered to authoritatively and arbitrarily declare which acts are more wicked than others, then you are indeed as stupid as your comments are making you sound. These sins aren’t more wicked than consensual fornication merely because I say so. They are because they are. You’re the only person morally bankrupt enough to engage in the outlandish intellectual gymnastics required to argue otherwise, reducing large scale fraud to petty theft and the psychological abuse of children to a silly social construct. You are, of course, welcome to continue commenting here, but you should do so with an awareness that your comments thus far have severely weakened your intellectual and especially your moral credibility.

  134. it's a series of tubes says:

    I’d be some money that Isabel wasn’t looking like a prostitute

    Les, I do believe you need to listen to more early 90’s rap. Then the genius in the post you quoted will become apparent.

  135. Anon for this II says:

    Brad, you probably won’t notice while you’re living in the BCC amen chorus echo chamber, but the weakest part of your argument is precisely your assertion that your list of sins is obviously more wicked than adultery. But open your eyes and look at history. Nearly everything on your list has been permitted or even celebrated at some point. There’s no reason that the widespread agreement you get now would apply to any other time or place, or that it tells us anything useful about the severity of sins in an eternal perspective.

    Hey, but feel free to keep abusing commenters who disagree with you, ’cause that just shows all your fans how cool you are.

  136. As a fan of Brad, I am well aware that he is not cool. Sheesh, give us some credit.

    People who bitch about BCC as an echo chamber lack reading comprehension skills.

  137. funny, funny stuff. thanks for the thread.

    I always assumed the emphasis on sexual sin was because it is much more common or likely to be a temptation.

    I also find it silly and disengenuous to use the worst of one and the least of the other to compare. Love the sunday school, guess the answer teaching.

  138. #135—I haven’t abused commenters for disagreeing with me. I took one commenter to task for being a total, and admitted, prick.

    I can only assume that the discomfort of conscience associated with questioning whether or not human trafficking or child abuse is really more fundamentally wicked than consensual sex outside of marriage (even on the grounds that in some different cultural and historical time and place planting different crops next to each other was considered more sinful than owning another human being) is behind your choice to post anonymously.

    One thing I didn’t at all expect from this thread was a defense of orthodoxy and challenge to the premise of the original post grounded in absolute cultural/moral relativism…

  139. Aaron B says:

    Well, I don’t care what anyone else says, I think Joshua is really really smart and perceptive.

    I mean REALLY SMART and PERCEPTIVE.

    Case closed.

  140. That does it, Aaron. You’re a very, very, very bad person and probably either a communist or a mahomedan. Either way, you’re violating the norms of the bcc Brad-worshiping echo chamber and will be duly and justly abused and punished, with demerits, flogging with canes, and vicious rhetoric.

  141. Aaron B says:

    Oh, I’ve already been punished: Someone rudely removed my last comment to Joshua. Which is too bad, because now I’ll have to dispense my medallions to random passers-by.

  142. So far, I think that KMB (#39) has the most reasonable response to this issue, in my opinion:

    I don’t support the notion that sexual sin is next to murder either, but isn’t it obvious that part of the reason the Church spends a disproportionate amount of time and energy emphasizing sexual “sin” is because it is a reaction to societal norms? . . .

    That doesn’t excuse the lack of perspective, but does explain why we seem to hear more about those kinds of topics in church meetings compared to other, more serious topics that society is already in agreement with.

    Another way to put this point is that extramarital sexual relations are a more common sin that Church members commit than the others and so they are more often discussed in our meetings in an attempt to discourage committing them.

    But I think it was Kristine N. who pointed out above that the sins referred to on Brad’s list might happen far more often in our LDS communities than we care to admit or consider. Perhaps we are doing ourselves a disservice by reducing “morality” to a sexual context and speaking of consensual sexual relations between adults in such strong terms. This is a serious sin, to be sure, but I do not think it is a stretch to argue, as Brad has done, that each of those sins on the list is indeed morally worse than consensual sex. For one thing, each of those sins has a victim whereas consensual sex between adults does not (both parties are sinners and in need of repentance but neither is a victim in this scenario).

    MCQ, I do not think that the text supports the inference that Isabel was living the life and enjoying her trade. My sense is that Brad’s assumption, though worded with strong rhetoric, is a sound one — namely, that Isabel, as a prostitute approximately 2100 years ago had a miserable job and was most likely not a free agent engaging in such a trade. This is rarely the case today and I think it is safe to say that it was even less the case in any society 2,100 years ago. We don’t need to know a lot of specifics about Nephite society to draw this conclusion based on the plight of women and sex workers in any ancient society.

    By the way, MCQ, acknowledging that as a sex worker in an ancient society Isabel was likely not the author of her own destiny actually enhances the immorality of what Corianton did. He voluntarily committed fornication, while on a mission thus setting a bad example and through his hypocrisy causing people not to believe in the Gospel that he was preaching, and he did so with a prostitute, not a girlfriend, meaning he contributed to the sex industry of his day perpetuating the victimization of women that is now and has ever been at the root of prostitution. This last bit is of course projecting modern sensitivities about morality as a philosophical construct knowable by both religious and irreligious alike and you are almost certainly right that Alma would not have seen it in this enlightened manner. He meant what he said — she was a filthy harlot causing his son to follow/chase after her and gratify his lust with her. In fact, I think it is almost certain that Alma was a product of his times and society. It is anyone’s guess how sophisticated his society was in understanding the causes and mechanics of the sex industry and that a prostitute is very likely not to be pursuing that line of work as her preference for earning a living.

  143. Ron Madson says:

    teacher, I know, I know….your list is what will happen once we allow same sex marriage culminating in “dogs and cats living together” —the final sign of the apocalypse…

  144. John f – I agree with your sentiment, but it’s approaching a bit “whatsoever a man does is no crime”.
    “For one thing, each of those sins has a victim whereas consensual sex between adults does not ”
    It all hinges on your definition of victim (not to mention adult):
    1. A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.
    2. A person who is tricked or duped: “the victim of a hoax”.
    And as I see it, consenual sex from an LDS perspective as both as victims. I don’t mean this to belittle your point that the childrape is truely heinous and we should be far far more outraged over that than the neighbors across the street who live together. But I think they are both still victims. Both are harmed as a result of their consenual action, and both are tricked or duped in a sense in believing that what they do is no crime. They are victims of the hoax put on by the natural man within them, by the world at large, and by the adversary.

    You could even go the next step to characterize the concept of “consensual sexual relations between adults”. Adult according to whom? Society or God? Does it become “ok” now that you’re an adult, and it wasn’t “ok” the day before your birthday? In the eyes of man perhaps, but not God. And even in government, the standard can change with the stroke of a pen. So clearly its just as arbitrary as that immodest dress… In a sense, I think we’re all still like little children, lacking the eternal persepctive God wants us to acquire after this life. So it’s almost hubris to consider ourselves adults when examining the moral laws given by God. Yes, I agree that for the sake of actually accomplish anything, we need to draw the cut offs here, but our vision is so poor to judge on issues of morality — which is all the more reason to stay within the bounds the Lord has set.

    I definitely agree that KMB has a good point. I have no idea the degree to which sexual sin was being ranked, per se, in the BoM, but KMB adds a good perspective. It was a terrible thing for Corianton to have done because perhaps those were exactly the kinds of sins the saints were trying to overcome. Had he gone off and murdered someone, the condemnation would be severe, but no one in the church would be confused about the standard of him murdering people — it’s wrong and he should be punished for it. We can all agree on that. But him running off with the prostitute? Well, that was victimless, and whatsoever a man does is no crime…. It seems to me that’s what Alma was talking about as being the serious issue for society to convince themselves they ened to overcome then. And now. We don’t need too much convincing (I hope) that the things on the list above is wrong.

  145. “convince themselves they ened to overcome then.”

    “convince themselves they needed to overcome then.”

  146. chris, adultery or fornication is not okay. Neither Brad nor I suggested that it was.

    If both parties consented to sexual intercourse voluntarily, there is no victim. This does not mean that it is okay. But speaking from a moral perspective that is accessible from both a religious and a non-religious perspective, crimes or sins that have victims are morally “worse” than a sin that has no victim but that is morally wrong by its nature, like adultery or fornication.

    It does not become “ok” because you are an adult. On the face of it Brad’s post does not suggest that adultery or fornication are okay, neither do any of my comments.

    Running off with a prostitute is not the same as running off with a girlfriend. I think there is a strong argument that there is a victim in a prostitute-john relationship — the prostitute. MCQ does not think so and has made his point against the idea, which shows that this notion is up for debate. But I view the prostitute-john relationship as different and a morally more serious sin than two lovebirds who make a bad choice and given in to the natural man, as you say.

  147. I definitely agree that part of the reason for the continued emphasis on sex outside of marriage is that it is much more likely to be a potential problem and a serious temptation for most of us, particularly as compared with other, far more serious forms of wickedness. And I think that the existence of a specific temple covenant of chastity, quite rightly, plays a role. But there is nevertheless another element—the widespread (though apparently waning in cultural prominence) belief that consensual sex outside of marriage really is the most wickedly sinful thing you can do besides murdering someone. Sexual transgression is clearly a more common problem than murder, and we emphasize the need for avoiding it considerably more often than the need to avoid committing murder, and we manage to do it without perpetuating the belief that sex is worse than killing. It is entirely possible to place greater emphasis on more common sins without portraying them as more intrinsically grievous and abominable than less common but still more demonstrably serious and fundamentally wicked acts. It doesn’t do anyone any good for someone who has committed a sexual transgression to believe that they are more wicked in the eyes of God than a kidnapper or parents who beat their children.

  148. Brad, I think that we don’t continuously preach against committing murder because, given the obvious presence of a victim, it is clearly a grievous sin and morally wrong. That is obvious to most people even absent any religious or moral instruction. This is actually perhaps the same reason why we rarely preach against the sins on the list in your original post. There is an obvious victim in each of those sins and we intrinsically know that they are wrong precisely because of the presence of that victim.

    Consensual sexual relations, however, do not seem to have a victim and, in fact, absent revealed knowledge and/or moral teaching to the contrary, would perhaps not be readily identifiable as morally wrong. For this reason, perhaps, disproportionate time and energy are devoted to discouraging Church members, and people in society more generally, from engaging in such conduct.

    As to how we got to where we are culturally in the Church in believing that consensual sexual intercourse outside of marriage really is second only to murder in seriousness of sin, it is probably a mix of the need to dissuade people from doing it and Alma’s letter to Corianton which can seem to be read as implying that sexual sin in general is second only to murder. I think a good case can be made that Alma isn’t really saying this in his letter to Corianton but that he is speaking to Corianton in the context of what Corianton did specifically and in light of Alma’s past experiences, as Ray and others have pointed out rather insightfully on this thread.

  149. “I think there is a strong argument that there is a victim in a prostitute-john relationship — the prostitute. MCQ does not think so and has made his point against the idea, which shows that this notion is up for debate.”

    no, non, nyet.

    All I was saying was that we don’t know anything about the culture or the situation described in this scripture other than what’s written in the scripture. That description says explicitly that Isabel was wicked and stole away many hearts. That is all the information we have about her. Given that, to assume she was a victim and that she had a tragic backstory and was forced into the sex trade as a virtual slave is assuming way too much and imposing a modern spin onto the story that simply has no foundation in the scripture. That’s all.

  150. Exactly, MCQ. You’re practically an apologist for apostate nazi rapists!!!

  151. john f. –
    Are you using the word victim the same way I am? I do not see consensual, individual, or voluntary, as being mutually exclusive from victim. If one volunteers, can you no longer be a victim?

    Again, going off the definition I supplied, two people acting consensually can still harm one another through their actions. They would both be victims and it would still be a tragedy from God’s perspective, and presumably those who are trying to become like him.

    On the other end of the spectrum of whom to follow, we have “The adversary is subtle, cunning, he knows that he cannot induce good men and women immediately to do major evils so he moves slyly, whispering half truths until he has his intended victims following him…” (Spencer Kimball)

    I do see and understand your using of the word, which is the way it is commonly used, but I was trying to inject another perceptive into this decidedly religious conversation. The two are indeed victims from that perspective.

  152. What an amazing thread.

    I think sinfulness has more to do with its effect on the sinner’s soul than on the lives of people around.

    In a moment of inattention an airline pilot can end hundreds of lives.
    An angry man aims his gun at another man, fires and misses.

    Who is the murderer?

    If we believe that adultery is nigh unto murder, it is for its effects on the individual who commits it, and not just its effects on the victim or on society.

  153. “You’re practically an apologist for apostate nazi rapists!!!”

    Okaaaaaay…

  154. That comment of mine should have included a smiley face, MCQ…

  155. Oh, i get it now.

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