The reality of the appearance of evil

Thessalonians 5:22: ‘Abstain from all appearance of evil.’

This was used, in my youth, to explain why you should not, among other things, drink ginger ale in a bar, go to drive-in movies with a girl even if you are completely virtuous, go into a liquor store to buy candy or pretend a Tootsie Roll is a cigar. Maybe some of you could add to this list. The idea was, you shouldn’t even LOOK like you’re sinning, even if you’re behavior is innocent.

One day I came across the scripture and saw a footnote for the word appearance, and it says, ‘GR kinds.’ So according to my LDS KJV, the Greek translates as, ‘Abstain from all kinds of evil.’ I looked at my school’s American Standard Version, and it gives us, ‘abstain from every form of evil.’ Hmm.

Maybe everybody else knew this already. Maybe I misunderstood the warnings about virgin margaritas and having friends that looked like they used drugs in high school. But it struck me as significant that the scriptural justification for giving half a damn about what the neighbors might think appears to be a dodgy translation.


  1. Ugh…my mom used the same scripture on me. Where were you 25 years ago when this would have helped me! :-)

  2. My house is full of the appearance of evil. A big teapot with “tea” written on it in big letters, a Nescafe jar for gentile visitors, several cans of Null Komma Josef on display. And, worse of all, copies of Dialogue and Sunstone on the coffee table. (The latter two being truly evil rather than only the appearance thereof.)

  3. Right under the GR “kinds” it says TG Apparel. So avoid all kinds of evil clothes.

    I vote any kind of clothing that produces butt-cleavage as evil, as well as nearly every kind of spandex. Here we see that the Bible teaches that we should avoid these things.

    All at once, I feel better.

  4. But what about the good kind of evil?

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Here’s the note I wrote on this passage for my NT Footnotes project:

    OR every form of evil. This passage is commonly misunderstood to be saying that we should avoid things that might appear to others to be evil, even if they are in reality not. While perhaps a good principle, that is not what this v. is saying. This mistaken reading is based on a misapprehension of the import of the word “appearance,” which here means simply “occurrence,” not that which superficially seems to be real but is not.

    The Greek word used there is eidos, which literally has to do with that which strikes the eye, that which one can visually behold, and so the word can indeed refer to mere external appearance. In this sense, the word can refer to beauty or comeliness, the physique of a body, shapes and patterns. But the word can also mean form, kind or nature, and it is clearly in this latter sense that the word is intended in 1 Thess. 5:22.

  6. 5 — Kevin, I can’t believe you’re not with me on the butt-cleavage issue. Don’t you think Paul would preach against butt-cleavage at every opportunity?

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t know, Blain, the appearance of evil in butt-cleavage is at least to some extent a function of just whose butt it is that is being cleaved.

    When I was a teenager I wouldn’t walk into a bar based on the “appearance of evil” principle. Now I go to bars all the time, for lunch downtown or to see a band play.

  8. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’ve always disliked the elevation of that principle. It always seemed to me that it hightened an already unhealthy fixation on mere appearance over substance – right along with pharisaical (sic) obsession over the precise length of one’s hair or hemline.

    What, I always thought, we should be trying to do is to avoid actual evil, not on how things might seem. What’s more: appearing evil to whom? For some people it might appear evil that I am sitting in a bar, for someone else it might appear evil if I’m talking to a black woman. Or, literally, whatever. Don’t you right away think of the Pharasees questioning Jesus’ disciples over the fact that he dined with ‘publicans and sinners.’ How about instead of living on egss shells, woryying about how someone might misunderstnad us, we develop the ability to turn away someone’s goodness, geuineness, honesty, a willingness to be completely forthright in our responce to them.

    Anyway – I’m glad to see that the scriptural basis for the mother hen gadfly doctrine is flimsy.


  9. Thomas Parkin says:

    Read before sending, read before sending, read before sending.

    This “How about instead of living on egss shells, woryying about how someone might misunderstnad us, we develop the ability to turn away someone’s goodness, geuineness, honesty, a willingness to be completely forthright in our responce to them.”

    Should read something more like this: Instead of living on egg shells, worrying about how every action might be misunderstood, we develop the ability to turn away someone’s mistake with true goodness, honesty and a willingness to be completely forthright in our responce to them.

    Crikey, Thomas.


  10. Kevin, I wouldn’t walk into a bar when I was a teenager because they wouldn’t let me in because I was under 21. :-)

  11. Read nineteenth-century Protestant materials, and you’ll see an intense focus on respectability, sending the message of piety, and the like. While the scriptural referent is clearly murky, the historical precedent is quite strong. Victorianism worried about this too.

    Incidentally, if you’re trying to communicate something to unsophisticated listeners, the easiest way to derail your attempted communication is to engage in “appearance of evil”. Thankfully I’m not usually doing this thing, but this represents a real concern for people whose job it is to encourage others who are not prone to Ronan/Kevin levels of thoughtfulness.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Ian, that didn’t seem to stop my friends any. (g)

  13. I’ve got a story that should trump all.

    My old bishop denied my fiance and I a temple recommend for appearing to be living in evil, even though he had full confidence that we were not actually doing anything wrong. He said that my fiance was looked up to by the other girls in the ward, and because of this the appearance of evil actually was evil.


  14. I always call those the busybody sins (IE: the only people that care about them are busybodys).

    My wife told me yesterday that she was chewed out as a kid because they used a condom to make a water weenie. Her neighbor complained to her mom, which said it was “inappropriate”. Which, if you don’t happen to have surgical tubing, I’d say is a pretty good substitute.

  15. My mom never minded about this stuff but I got into all kinds of trouble with Church people. We went camping, boys and girls though not even in the same tent, and we were banned from ever camping again because it appeared bad. Because small groups of teenage girls camping is a good idea.

    Also I had purple hair in high school and although I was also Laurel president I was not allowed to date any of the young men bc I looked evil. Also, when I un-dyed it, everyone said I looked like I was full of the Spirit, that it had vacated me and then come back. I mean, purple may not have been flattering on me but come on.

    To whom was it not supposed to appear as evil? Bc my leaders would always say, Now, Amri, I know you’re not doing anything wrong but other people don’t so….

  16. I’m so glad to read about this being a translation error! I have been a little bit worried about what happens if someone sees this convert buying wine for my mom (don’t ask), or keeping tea in my cabinets for family and friends to use when they visit. Or if I ask my sister what she wants me to bring to the family gathering and she says “will you grab a six-pack of beer?” There’s no sense in my getting upset about these things, and I certainly believe in my family and friends exercising their free agency to drink what they choose. But I wasn’t sure if my visiting teachers would be appalled or not, if they happened to see, or if I’m supposed to give nobody reason ever to suspect I might do things that in fact I don’t do.

  17. Left Field says:

    It’s not really a translation error, it’s just that the King James translators chose a construction that (at least in modern English) is ambiguous, and which makes it easy for people to pick the wrong meaning. It should be read as “avoid evil whenever it appears” or “avoid evil no matter what appearance the evil has.” The second choice is probably closest to the original intent.

  18. I’ve always felt stronger antipathy toward those who project the appearance of “good” — but aren’t.

  19. I agree that the “appearance of evil” scripture is misunderstood.

    But elsewhere Paul makes a point about being careful about behaviors that could be misunderstood. In 1 Cor. 8, in particular verse 9 states, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.” Paul was speaking about being careful about eating meat at an idol’s temple. I do not think he advocates a ban against our doing anything that might be misunderstood (or “appear” to be evil), but I think he means that there may be times when we should take potential inferences from our behavior into account in our decisionmaking calculus.

  20. I love Starbucks hot chocolate and orange cranberry scones, and I’ve done a lot of business meetings at Starbucks locations. Fifteen years ago I pretty much would not have gone into one. That was when I first moved from Utah to the Puget Sound area, and noticed that every grocery store smelled like coffee. Now I never notice it.

  21. It would be really useful to have a scripture that deals with evil that appears to be respectable.

  22. All those years wasted in my youth when I could have been chewing candy cigarettes. *shakes fist at heaven*.

  23. “… And, worse of all, copies of Dialogue and Sunstone on the coffee table. (The latter two being truly evil rather than only the appearance thereof.)”

    Ronan, I’m shocked! Shocked that you actually have a copy of Sunstone to display, that is…I’m still waiting on the March 2007 to arrive :(

  24. Mark IV says:


    Ronan has copies of Dialogue and Sunstone on his coffee table, but he does not display them.

    He keeps them discreetly covered with copies of The Ensign and Meridian.

  25. Hey, call me out in left (or right?) field here, but what’s wrong with avoiding the apperance of evil?

  26. What’s right with it?

    Certainly there’s nothing wrong with it on the face. But when it draws attention away from actually avoiding evil, or worse when it leads people to evil in looking evil at every corner then it can be a bad thing.

    Point of it isn’t “HUZZAH WE FINALLY FREE! LET’S ALL GO TO STARBUCKS! AND GET CHANTICOS!”. Point of it is that people should be allowed to live their life as they want without having to worry about how it “appears” and instead worry about avoiding actual evil.

  27. Forgive my postmodernism, but I’m not sure this scripture is misunderstood. I think the ambiguity is useful in opening the scripture to a multitude of meanings or understandings, many of which may be correct. We can’t judge the correctness of a meaning simply by attempting to discern the author’s intent. Our reliance upon the Holy Ghost in understanding scriptures gives us the opportunity to receive meaning from texts that their human authors may never have intended, though God certainly could have intended the multiple meanings. I’m not saying the author’s intent is irrelevant, simply that it is not the most relevant factor in determining scriptural meaning.

    Personally, I think one of the strengths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that we tend to view scripture study primarily as a means for personal revelation through which we gain an understanding or knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel as well as a testimony of those doctrines. But I think the process is read – feel – know , not simply read – know. In other words, we emphasize a personal relationship with God even in our experiences with shared texts. The goal is a personal relationship with God not a unified interpretation of scripture.

    So, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” could have many correct meanings, perhaps as many meanings as readers.

    For me, it’s important to look a little at the context of the verse in the text. The preceding verse reads, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” This seems to fit nicely with the following verse as one thought, roughly paraphrased: With all things, decide if they are good or evil; accept the good, reject the evil. So it reads as a straightforward choose good, shun evil admonition.

    Now “appearance of evil” could connote something which is not evil but appears so. But appears evil to whom? I would say to ourselves. I think it is about certainty. If something appears to be evil and we aren’t yet sure if it is or isn’t we should shun it. That seems wise counsel.

    Now, could it mean that we should avoid doing things that could appear to others to be evil acts? Yes, I think it could mean that and be consistent with God’s teachings. But I think it would still refer to evil as we define it or as God defines it. I don’t think it would mean that should avoid appearing to do things that other consider evil but to avoid appearing to do things that we consider evil. This seems generally wise counsel, but certainly it is not meant as an absolute standard for all people everywhere.

    Look at Nephi’s killing Laban. This certainly would have appeared to others to be murder, but God commanded Nephi to do it. So you can make a strong case that it was not evil, because God doesn’t command us to do evil (not that God’s commanding it makes it not evil, but that it is not evil independent of God). Nevertheless, Nephi had to violate this principle of avoiding the appearance of evil. Abraham was put in the same situation with the commandment to sacrifice Isaac. As Kierkegaard suggests this is actually when we demonstrate our faith, or our absolute relation to the absolute (God).

    I guess my main point is that scriptural interpretation is mostly a personal matter and just because there are multiple interpretations it doesn’t mean that only one or only a few can be correct nor does it mean that all correct or true interpretations apply to all people. What God tells one person may not apply to all people at all times.

    In my experience, I have found that most people who want to reject the idea that we should avoid doing what appears to others to be evil are simply using it as justification to pridefully put themselves in the way of temptation. For example, they could say, “I’m not drinking; I’m not tempted to drink, so it’s okay if I hang out in bars.” Is it a sin to be in a bar? Not necessarily. Is it a sin to think you are immune to temptation? Probably so. Is it wise to avoid temptation when possible. Absolutely, yes. And perhaps the avoidance of temptation is what it really meant when people counsel others to “avoid the appearance of evil.”

    Also, there are times when I think people can interpret scriptures for others, that is when one can receive revelation for another, when one has stewardship over the other. Parents could conceivably receive revelation for children, bishops for ward members, the prophet for the Church and for everyone. But what one mother tells her children may not apply to others, even if she was inspired to counsel her children in that way.

    I’ll stop now I guess.

  28. On my last point, I think this is why we are asked not record talks of General Authorities given to individual stakes, wards, or even regions, because while what they say may be completely true, it may not be applicable or even comprehensible to the whole church.

  29. Steve Evans says:

    ronito, Starbucks no longer sells Chantico, unfortunately. That sweet, evil nectar of the gods.

  30. Re. 24: Isn’t the coffee table itself the appearance of evil?

  31. #27 and #28:

    Thank you for putting into words what I could not (and was left with my simple question in #25).

  32. #31:

    You are welcome.

  33. “It would be really useful to have a scripture that deals with evil that appears to be respectable.”

    Ain’t there something about wolves and sheeps’ clothing, Hellmut?

  34. Matt W. says:

    I can’t think of one of the ten commandments it would be ok to appear to be breaking…

    On the other hand, when a father disciplines his child, it may appear to some he is not being loving, which is the greatest commandment of all…

  35. Struwelpeter says:

    I know nothing about the accuracy of the translation, but I rather like the TNIV here: “Reject whatever is harmful.” Harder to argue with that principal.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    Matt W., here’s an example. I sometimes drive to church assignments with another woman. We are both on the stake public affairs committee. Should we drive separately so as not to give the impression to anyone who might happen to see us that we’re having an adulterous affair? Some would argue that we should. Personally, I don’t really care what anyone thinks.

  37. Kevin-
    So, the missionaries refusing to come into my home last night until my husband got home was silly because they were afraid of what the neighbors might think? I don’t think so…

    Look, it’s not always about how it “appears”. Keeping yourself out of a situation that could become less than innocent is the idea. Without giving too much away, I knew a woman that started running with another man because her husband wasn’t into althletics. This amazing LDS mother ended up having an affair with her running partner. But what if she had refused to go running with this other man because of the “appearance of evil”? Things probably would have turned out differently.

    Oh, but wait. You don’t care what anyone thinks, so…my point is probably moot. :)

  38. Cheryl/Vladimir,
    You miss the point. No one’s talking about disregarding prudence. We’re talking about doing away with busybodied prudes.

    Look at the examples posted. Having a purple hair can lead to sin? Pray tell I’d love to hear it. Will getting a starbuck’s hot cocoa turn my kids into coffee drinkers? Hasn’t yet. My wife making a water weenie out of a condom. Oh my! I’m lucky she found the err of her ways that Jezebel! Rejecting someone for a temple recommend because they “appear to be living together”? Keep in mind we are part of a religion that viewed it is as sinful for a women to show anything higher than her ankle and forearms not too long ago.

    Like I said before no one’s saying “Throw caution to the wind!” We’re just staking claims against busybodiedness. Just like thinking you’re beyond sin in going to a bar is folly so is thinking to pass judgement on others for doing something you don’t agree with that’s no sin.

  39. Another situation that could be labeled as avoiding the appearance of evil but actually addresses eliminating potential danger within our degenerate day is the recent policy change regarding men teaching in the Primary. A man now is not supposed to teach Primary by himself, and many couples are being called to team-teach instead.

    Just like the case of the admonition regarding one man and one woman carpooling to church meetings/events/activities, this policy is grounded in reality – it has been instituted to stop something that actually was happening. Do I think the travel admonition is on par with the Primary policy change? Of course not. One is counsel; the other is enforced policy. However, neither one is silly or trivial on its face. Perhaps not dangerous for every individual man and woman – or combination thereof, but excellent general counsel, nonetheless.

  40. Mark N. says:

    Isn’t the coffee table itself the appearance of evil?Are “Postum tables” available in California?

  41. Steve Evans says:

    ronito, you’re missing the point: CHANTICO IS NO LONGER SOLD AT STARBUCKS.

  42. Mark N. says:

    Should we drive separately so as not to give the impression to anyone who might happen to see us that we’re having an adulterous affair? Some would argue that we should.

    I can specifically recall a bishop telling me a story of how David O. McKay was once criticized by another general authority (before he was the head honcho, I believe) for driving in the same car to a church meeting somewhere with some other woman who wasn’t his wife.

    Thanks for reminding me of more Great Advice From Bishops In My Past.

  43. Mark N. says:

    Having a purple hair can lead to sin?

    Uh-oh: a discussion of beards and the BYU honor code can’t be far away now…

  44. #38, To follow what Ronito said:

    The general counsel to our youth is to “date around” – to not become attached to one person “too early”. That is EXCELLENT general counsel. I believed it firmly until I met my wife. I knew within two weeks that I would marry her. No question; no doubt. I was 16; she was 15. Once she turned 16, I never dated anyone else. She wore an engagement ring her senior year in high school while I served a mission. We got married 6 weeks after I got home – just over 20 years and 6 kids ago.

    My point: I teach my children the same standards I was taught before I met my wife. My exception does not invalidate the general counsel. However, if my wife and I had acted differently simply because nobody else understood and many labeled our actions as wrong (certainly hedging the appearance of evil in our culture) – if we had treated each other based on how we thought others expected us to treat each other even though we maintained an exemplary moral standard, we would not have the relationship we do. My wife has had enough difficulty overcoming unrealistic expectations; she did not need to have them within our relationship, as well.

    So, appearance be damned – unless the appearance has a real chance of hindering someone else’s eternal progress and there is an acceptable alternative that provides the same benefit.

  45. Forgot to add my two cents worth on the translation.

    I like the following from one of my Protestant professors: “Abstain from all evil – no matter what form or appearance it takes.”

  46. Fascinating that a blogger at BCC can impugn a whole ward with repugnant behavior in a post about Mother’s Day and it causes barely a ripple. Yet Cheryl comes in and merely defends the status quo and people gang up like she is the antichrist.

  47. No more Chanitcos?!

    Cruel fate why must you mock me so?!!

  48. KLC, Huh? – he said carefully, trying not to make it sound mocking. I don’t get it. I went back and re-read Cheryl’s comments and the responses, and I don’t get the Anti-Christ attack claim. Cheryl, seriously, is that how you perceived it?

  49. Steve Evans says:

    KLC, your comment is ridiculous and purposefully inflammatory. It’s really preposterous and insulting to Kristine, to BCC, to Cheryl and to the commenters on this thread. You’re wrong both about what Kristine was saying in her post (which is no longer up — or did you not notice?), as well as being wrong about people “ganging up” on Cheryl. You really should think more about what you write.

  50. Mark IV says:

    46, KLC –

    Nobody is treating anybody as though she were the antichrist. Comments 36, 37, 38, and 39 addressed cheryl’s question, and all of them were respectful in tone.

  51. Steve Evans says:

    See KLC — now THAT is how you gang up on someone as if they were the antichrist…

  52. I wonder how many modern prophets have counseled us to avoid “the appearance of evil”. On a quick search I found stuff by Joseph Smith and Spencer W. Kimball. So I guess it still qualifies as Church counsel, even if it is not canonical.

    On the other hand, if that is how the prophets use it, does that make it a canonical interpretation? I don’t know.

  53. Steve: Excellent object lesson, but that raises the question, why is Kristine’s post no longer up? Just curious.

  54. StillConfused says:

    I LOVED candy cigarettes and they were not an enticement to smoke. If I saw some now, I would buy them. They were cool.

  55. Mark IV says:

    I think we can all agree that swindling people out of their life savings is evil. But the Enron hustle and the Savings and Loan shell game were plotted and carried out by people who wear suits, ties, and wingtips, and who look just like me, or Gordon B. Hinckley. In order to avoid the appearance of evil, maybe GBH and I need to quit shaving and start wearing tie-dye t-shirts.

  56. Kristine says:

    MCQ–I took the post down. I realized it was poorly written and led people off down a number of strange tracks in the comments, and I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.

    KLC–part of the reason it’s down is that a fuller explanation of what I meant about my ward members would indeed have been impugning them, and I didn’t want to do that. Nor did I feel like being impugned myself.

  57. Oh I get it now, I hadn’t read Kristine’s withdrawal post. Never mind.

  58. Kristine: I understand your feelings, but you expressed sentiments in that post which were being expressed elsewhere by a number of others. That seems to argue in favor of preserving it for reference on future mothers day celebrations (or noncelebrations) in sacrament meetings. Plus, I disagree that it was poorly written.

    I also think it’s generally a mistake to edit yourself in that way (that’s why you should never rip pages out of your journal, for example). Just my opinion.

  59. Latter-day guy says:

    46 ≠ 58

  60. 38 + 49 > 46

  61. random guy says:

    I agree that overly judgmental busybodies are a problem in the Church, and in the world.

    But, we have far, far, far more serious problems. I.e.: people who divorce without sufficient reason, who lie and steal, who commit adultery, or who have children out of wedlock–and the list goes on.

    Social disapproval can sometimes serve a useful purpose: it discourages community members from straying too close to the edge of the cliff. Take the social prohibition against married members spending time alone with a member of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. If it were followed, there would be no extra-marital affairs, and the world would undeniably be a much better place. And, the truth is, social disapproval helps to keep the prohibition in place.

    Of course, social disaproval can be misused. But it can also serve a purpose.

    I add as an aside that I’m a little surprised by the sort of things that seem to inspire other commenters to see themselves as brave non-conformists.

  62. Ola Senor says:

    Purple hair cannot lead to sin. However, Green, Blue and Magenta will lead you speedily down.

    I do think that a distinct outward expression can reflect an inner change. Thus, the kind and gentle teacher who grows his hair and dyes it black, might have something else going on internally. Thus the external change is not a cause but a marker. HOwever, what we see in the mirror affects WHO we are Inside. It reinforces our sense of self. Thus the heavyset teen constantly sees the excess weight, with corresponding negative influences. Same with the raven locked youth. Certainly not in all cases, but I don’t think we can throw out the impact the visual has.

    That being said, I didn’t personally change my appearance to extremes (chin length bleached, and dyed Manic Panic bizzare) until after i Got Back on the straight and narrow.

  63. Random guy, I’m interested in what you mean in your last sentence. Will you elaborate a bit?

  64. I love this thread (and this blog). Seriously, you guys crack me up. :)

    But in response to #46, I say thank you for defending me.

    In response to #48, no, I didn’t feel like I was being treated like the anti-christ.

    However, to avoid the appearance of evil, I must quit this comment while I am ahead (or behind, or next to, or whatever)…

  65. Thanks for responding, Cheryl. I always cringe when someone presupposes to speak for someone else – like I cringe when people purports to forgive someone who hasn’t harmed them. (OK, that was a tangent not to be discussed here.)

    It’s true that we probably don’t connect with the humor-impaired.

  66. Ray: On behalf of the humor-impaired, I am deeply offeded by that comment and I ask that you stop treating them like the anti-christ.

  67. My best friend told me about a situation when he was a stake missionary. The other stake missionary in his ward and he were supposed to go to a meeting of some sort that would involve car travel. There was some discussion as to whether it would be appropriate for them to travel together.

    My friend pointed out that if it were not a church meeting, but dinner and a movie, it would be called a “date” and nobody would have thought twice about it. They were both single at the time.

  68. So, if your daughter wants to put a fake tattoo on her ankle, or wherever else a real one might be, do you let her? I realize a fake tattoo is a stupid thing to quibble over and wearing one would certainly not turn her into a hussy, but is there something to be said for avoiding imitating something the prophet’s asked us not to do? What about multiple sets of clip-on earrings to look like your ears are pierced numerous times? (not that anyone would do that – too painful!)
    My parents were VERY strict and I still have trouble sorting out what rules I should have for my own children – i.e. is it pagan b/c it’s pagan or b/c my dad thought it was pagan?
    Anyway, I understand the overall point is to not judge others for the choices they make, but what do you do with your children?

  69. MCQ, my son read my comment and your response and just said, “WOW!”

  70. Hey jab! Tattoos on ankles don’t makes hussies!
    Unless you’re telling me something.

    I think fake tattoos are harmless and rarely ever lead to the real thing. I don’t think I ever wore fake tattoos but now I have real ones. I think that means something. Most of those things are harmless in my mind. What screws up kids? Drinking. Sex before they’re ready. Drugs. Bad friends that get them involved in this or breaking the law. You can find those friends with or without tattoos, crazy clothes, dyed hair, etc.

  71. Mark IV says:

    Ray, I just reported you to the authorities for letting your son read this blog. They should be there any minute to take him away. In the future, I hope you learn to be a more responsible parent and avoid the appearance of evil.

  72. I know it’s not original, jab, but I try my best to teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. Of course I am more strict with the youngest ones who aren’t mature enough to make a lot of decisions that need to be made, but I still try to give them as much authority and autonomy as I can regardless of their age. There are some inviolable rules in our house, but most of them deal with not disrespecting their mother. I try hard to counsel always and command rarely.

    I do NOT talk down to them, regardless of their age. I say it exactly the same to my 4-year-old as I do to my 19-year-old. I just say it twice to the 4-year-old, the second time making sure she can understand what the first time meant. (and repeating it about 7 times at that lower level) We do a lot of discussing in our house.

    If one of my children wanted a fake tatoo, I would ask them explain why they thought they should of should not do it. I would tell him or her that it probably would not affect their eternal salvation, so the decision would be up to them. I simply would ask for a reasoned explanation before giving my approval to what they chose. (My son came home from college with pinkish-red hair – a “going away present” from two girls at school. He kept it until he had to do some classroom shadowing [“going to work”], then he dyed it back to a natural color.)

    I stuck to that philosophy even when we took over custody of a teenager who had serious issues from his past. (Picture a 6’7″ 15-year-old kid raised in a stereotypical inner-city, broken family with male authority issues and a quick temper.) He thought I was weak for quite a while, but now that he is back with his biological mother he understands better what I was trying to teach him. He is alive still and seems to be functioning reasonably well, so we have some hope for his future.

    My 17-year-old son came back from teaching a discussion with the missionaries this evening and told me how he had answered some of the questions the woman had asked. I was very proud of him, because he put his own slant on stuff we had discussed during our family scripture study long ago. We have taught him to think about things for himself, and I want that as much as anything else.

  73. Mark, due to the “foster” son I mentioned in my last comment, the authorities know me well in this town.

  74. Sorry for three in a row, but I should say that I understand completely that Michelle and I have been blessed with relatively issue-free children. Other than the 17-year-old (burst appendix, Type 1 diabetes, allergies …), all of them are exceptionally healthy. (not athletic, but healthy) None of them have serious psychological or emotional issues. They are strong-willed but will listen to reason – except the 4-year-old, who is getting there at her own pace.

    What works for me is not a panacea for all. I truly admire two women in our ward who are raising their children without the help of a spouse – one who is bipolar and whose daughter is, as well, and one with two of three who have obvious and severe ADHD-like issues. They are my parenting heroes, along with my own father.

  75. D. Allen says:

    This thread reminds me of a question over at “Ask Gramps” about “is it ok to smoke an herbal cigarette?” Gramps’ conservative response was to the effect of “Do you want to have to wear a t-shirt that says ‘It’s ok, this isn’t tobacco.'”

    I suppose the same would apply to getting hot cocoa from Starbucks (“Dude, it’s not coffee.”)

    I’m surprised the McKay quote about the Coke cup didn’t come up again, hehe.

    *Full disclosure: I used herbal smokes to wean myself from tobacco.

  76. D. Allen says:

    I should also mention that I still have the holes from having my ear double-pierced and still sport a goatee most of the time (currently a Zappa-style ‘stache and soul patch.) Upon coming into the Church, I felt the need to shave it off but finally relaxed after my bishop commented that I looked like one of the elders. I know it was in good fun, but it pointed out to me how naked I felt without at least a stache. Every once in a while I still put on my earrings to see my holes have healed up yet (still haven’t.)

  77. Isn’t the “avoidance of evil” one of the crimes that the Pharisees tried to pin on Jesus because he spent time preaching to outcasts and healing sinners?

  78. The whole thing is so dang freaking subjective (ooops).

    Coffee? Tattoos? Multiple piercings? Coca-cola?

    What is “evil” anyway?

    (to be pronounced ‘eevile’ like the fru-its of the ‘deveel’ )

  79. I get what you mean, Glenn, in #77, so I won’t correct the structure that changes that meaning. :-) “The whole need not a physician, but the sick.”

    I think that Glenn’s point is what all of us have been trying to say. Doing good trumps looking good. Period.

  80. I can’t believe how far you folks have wandered from the true topic here — butt-cleavage. Kevin at least addressed it, albeit with a wishy-washy “it all depends on the circumstances” response.

    Crack kills, people! It doesn’t matter how cute the butt might be.

    Condoms, cocoa, blue hair, and the BYU honor code pale in comparison.

    Some priorities need serious reconsideration. I tell you.

  81. Blain, I’m willing to discuss butt-cleavage till the cows come home, but I think you’re wrong. Here’s the real dope we learned on this thread:

    I don’t think I ever wore fake tattoos but now I have real ones. I think that means something.

    Amri, you are now required by bloggernacle law to give location and description of each tattoo. Start at the top and work your way down. Or go chronologically; we’re not picky.

  82. Just “Wow?” That’s all, just, “Wow?” I work so hard to entertain these kids today and all I get is just, “Wow.” [heavy sigh]

  83. I’ll have to admit I said “WOW!” when I realized we were really talking about the pros and cons of fake tattoos.

    I’m still saying wow. more like “Whoa” but still wow.

  84. I just took a little break from work here in Tokyo and went down to a local convenience store. On the street as I was walking back to work, I saw a man with a shaved head and a thick goatee. He was wearing a black wife-beater tank-top. His arms and chest were covered in tattoos. He had a wallet chain. He was smoking a cigarette. He had a look on his face that suggested he had very recently been thinking about sex.

    I crossed to the other side of the road.

  85. Sounds like a golden contact to me, Glenn. How great shall be your joy

  86. Somewhere on the other side of the internet:

    Dear blog,
    Today I was sitting enjoying my last cigarette ever at the local convenience store when I saw the happy-go-lucky chap I was excited to talk with him. I had just eaten some strange kind of sushi and I had this wierd look on my face. It must have bothered him because this guy goes out of his way to cross the street, like I’m going to mug him or something. It really hurt my feelings. :'( Just because I look mean doesn’t mean I’m mean. I need love too. Oh blog, you’re the only one who truly understands me. I’m so alone in the world. So alone. I need to get another tatoo.

  87. You guys are right — I’ll see if I can go find him. The last thing I want is this guy coming up to me in the next life and asking why oh why didn’t I share the gospel with him.

    Ooops, it looks like we’re off track again.

    Did I mention he had butt crack?

  88. We all have butt crack Glenn, unless you use some sort of spackle or caulk (see here for example) which may be aesthetically more pleasing, but in my opinion, medically inadvisable.

  89. Peter LLC says:


    MCQ–I took the post down. I realized it was poorly written and led people off down a number of strange tracks in the comments, and I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.

    Didn’t want to deal with it? Then why did you post this and then turn off the comments? Looks like abuse of your goderator powers to me.

  90. I hated to lob and run, but yesterday was cub scouts, my son’s birthday and I had a good book.

    Sometimes you speak to a specific comment, sometimes you speak to a general tone. Cheryl had already received a warm reception to BCC on another thread for being too doctrinaire, but I should have been more specific.

    Isn’t it part of the bloggernacle creed to exaggerate? I mean Kristine said MOST of her ward thought that NOTHING she ever did would redeem her motherhood in order to prove her point, but can’t I call you all the antichrists to prove mine? (and yes, Steve, I did notice the whole thread had been removed, which doesn’t deny the reality of the thought expressed to those who read it)

    The point being that the vigor and swiftness of dissent that presents itself when someone defends the status quo in the church at BCC and certain other progressive LDS blogs is in stark contrast to the silence, and I assume tacit approval, that greets statements which paint members of the church as oafs, boors, or hypocrites.

    Also Ray, I wasn’t speaking for Cheryl in my comment so you can cringe about something else, but you should know that speaking on behalf of someone else is quite acceptable, just read #49 where Steve speaks for Kristine, Cheryl, me, every commenter in this thread and the whole of BCC itself.

  91. I’m back.

    KLC, I have “defended the status quo” numerous times since I started participating in these discussions, and the only time I ever felt swift and vigorous dissent was when I forgot to add my concluding paragraph and came across sounding like a bigoted jerk. I was (rightly) reprimanded for that. Also, I have never been tacitly silent when someone has posted a comment that painted members of the church as oafs, boors or hypocrites. Frankly, I haven’t read any of those here – except the thread on PR and polygamy where we who are “defending the status quo” have been labeled in that manner. Please give me specific examples where we are painting members of the church as oafs, boors and hypocrites – and I don’t mean individuals, but rather the rank and file church as a whole, which is the implication of your comment.

    I have a sincere question for you: Is there nothing in what has been posted by those with whom you disagree that makes sense to you – or that you can accept?

  92. Ray, you’re laboring under a misconception. My initial comment had nothing to do with my agreement or disagreement, my accepting or my making sense of any specific comment in this discussion. I was reacting to a pattern I have seen many times at BCC, at FMH and other progressive LDS blogs.

    My specific example has already been given, you could go read it yourself if its author had not removed it. Only one person tactfully and sincerely questioned the reality of the exaggerated statement, and that came quite late in the discussion. Yet along comes Cheryl, making a few remarks defending the status quo and the rebuttals are swift and quite pointed.

    That is my point Ray, my only point. Comments that paint church members as hypocrites, as Pharisees, as phonies frequently get a pass, no one calls the author on it. But make a comment from the conservative side of the aisle and the response is usually swift, pointed and many times full of sarcastic humor designed more to put down the commentor than to make it light hearted. It’s that disparity that interested my enough to throw out my very exaggerated comment.

  93. Mark IV says:


    I think you are mistaken. If you go look at the PR thread right now, you will see Steve Evans up to his elbows in alligators as he does a journeyman’s work in defending the status quo and orthodoxy.

  94. How incredible that I can illicit such a discussion! I’m feeling loved. ;)

    Actually, I think KLC has a point. What’s funny, is when I posted my comment (“What’s wrong with avoiding the appearance of evil?”) I was expecting people to freak out on me. I’ll be honest. I really expected it and perhaps that’s why I didn’t feel I was being treated “badly” per se. I’ve gotten some thicker skin since browsing through the bloggernacle because I am too conservative for most folks. Ah, well. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop commenting anytime soon!

  95. word up Mark IV. KLC, read up a little! You are seriously being delusional.

  96. Cheryl, to be fair — I don’t think anyone is “disagreeing” with you. Rather, the thread has taken the question you raised quite seriously, and has explored the issue from all angles. I don’t think you’re especially conservative.

  97. “Comments that paint church members as hypocrites, as Pharisees, as phonies frequently get a pass, no one calls the author on it.”

    What about comments by church members that make the commenter sound like a hypocrite, pharisee and phony? Should I start calling the authors of those comments on them? Cuz I’ve got a list ready, KLC.

  98. KLC, thanks for the clarification. I would add “my only point”: All of us need to be careful in this type of setting with the tone that comes through our words. We can’t see each other. We can’t tell if the other person’s eyes are bugging out of his sockets or if she has a wry grin on her face. I suspect if these conversations were held face to face, there would be much less argument and many fewer comments. What has taken 96 comments here might take 26 in person.

    My concern is with what I call blog-bombing. It bothers me when I or others throw something out that is inflammatory just to see the feeding frenzy that occurs. (I don’t mean that to apply to Cheryl’s comment, but rather to yours, KLC. To say someone has been “attacked like the anti-christ”, in my mind, is over the top and close to a condemnation.) I respect what you have shared since the initial post, I just wish we hadn’t had to wade through the brown stuff in between to get there. (and that applies to what I contributed, as well)

    Enough on blog etiquette. If this was too condescending, I truly apologize. Steve, feel free to wave your magic wand and banish it to the fiery pit.

  99. Ray, I have no magic wand, it’s more of a man-purse.

  100. I don’t think you’re especially conservative.

    What a rude thing to say!

    (I’m totally kidding, of course, since I consider myself more of a moderate…)

  101. Speaking of man-purses and a complete tangent, (Please ignore my example and refrain from commenting.) but an incredibly funny side note I found recently: If it weren’t for his conservative religion, Mitt Romney would be the first metro-sexual presidential candidate in the history of the U.S.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled program …

  102. MCQ–a lady’s got to keep her secrets.

    Just as Steve Evans should have kept his man-purse ownership a secret.

  103. Amri, you’re giving up an opportunity for a truly landmark bloggernacle post, and I’m deeply disappointed.

    On a related note, it kinda sounds like you and Ray are calling Steve a metro-sexual or a lady.

  104. Steve Evans says:

    MCQ, I’d take either.

  105. MCQ, do we have to choose between the two?

  106. MCQ–I wish there were something interesting to say. After I got my first one, I thought oh crap, I’m gonna take some crap about this at church. But no one cars. No one notices or comments. Nothing.
    I have three. One like Mary Stuart Masterson’s character in Some Kind of Wonderful (I got bc of that movie I’m a geek what can I say?)
    One on the second joint of my ring finger and one on my achilles tendon.

    I wish there were something cool to say but they’re all small, and I guess not very noticeable. No one seems to care. Except for maybe my siblings, whose children I influence for ill. SMB came home once to his kids having drawn “pictures” all over their bodies so they could be like Amri. I doubt however they’d ever get real tattoos.

  107. Thomas Parkin says:

    “it’s more of a man-purse.”

    I think the correct word is “satchel.”


    An ever man oughtta have un.


  108. Amri: Hmm. Not having immediate access to a copy of “Some Kind of Wonderful” (and if I did I wouldn’t admit it) perhaps you could dispel the last shred of mystery and describe that particular piece of body art and its location.

    It sounds like you are (or were) an MSM fan. I have to admit to being deeply intrigued by her when I saw that Sean Penn movie (“At Close Range”?). I didn’t actually get a tatoo after that, but I started dressing a lot like Sean Penn.

    Steve: I love how you embrace your sexual ambiguity. Solidarity, brother! I mean, sister, sorry.

  109. I don’t know you guys, but I enjoyed reading this discussion. I just want to throw my two cents in which is this: There is a difference between appearing evil and stumbling someone. One must remember that Jesus appeared evil all the time, especially to religious people. He turned water in to wine for people who had been drinking all day to keep a wedding party going, he hung around with prosititutes and tax collectors, was alone with the woman at the well, and violated the man-made traditions of the sabbath. The problem with always trying to cater to various people’s view of evil is that one, it is impossible and two, it usually backfires. We end up creating a disconnect between who we are in public and who we are in private, creating the plastic “put together” Christian image that makes us completely unrelatable to the very people we are trying to reach. The stumbling warning is not an to suggest we make a sercret of our innocent behavior, as if to lead others to believe we can never have a drink, dance, play cards, or whatever. To stumble someone would be if you had a friend that struggles with being a drunk. You don’t have the hide the fact that you drink in moderation, but when he’s over for dinner, do not have alcohol so you don’t tempt him. We don’t have to cater to people’s judgmentalism, but to our brothers and sisters weaknesses. Big difference. When we hide our behavior and actions in the name of “avoiding the appearance of evil” we break down unity, transparancy, and accountabily (not to mention honesty) in the body of Christ.


  1. […] at BCC, Norbert has posted a useful clarification of the familiar language in Thessalonians 5:22: “Abstain from all […]

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