Ranking Sins — A Poll

In the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gave his hearers a higher law.  In verses 22 and 23, we read (KJV): 

 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt  not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 

Then, a little later in verses 27 and 28, we read: 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 


Which sin do you think contemporary latter-day saints consider to be the worst, anger or lust?  We have official denunciation of both in general conference.  Spencer W. Kimball called anger the great destroyer of family life, and President Hinckley said that anybody who raised his voice in anger to his family was unworthy of the blessings of the temple.  But we also have exhortations to chastity and the instruction to be careful of our thoughts.  And then there is the almost ritual condemnation of pornography. 

I’m going to tentatively say that I think we are more willing to give ourselves a break with anger than we are with lust. After all, the scripture says we shouldn’t be angry without cause, and we all have plenty of cause for our righteous indignation. But I am interested to know what you think. Please vote, and give reasons for you answers in the comments. 


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I think you’re right, Mark, that contemporary LDS take a harder line on lust than anger.

    But just so you know, the words “without a cause” [representing the Greek adverb eike] were not an original part of the text. They were added by scribes in an attempt to soften the starkness of the Savior’s principle, which didn’t provide any explicit exceptions at all. (Interestingly, 3 Nephi also omits the words “without a cause”).

  2. I think that our society (and the law) condemned the actions of anger (murder, assault, sexual assault, physical abuse, threats, etc.) more than it condemns the actions of lust (sleep with your significant other, consenting adults who aren’t committed to each other, free speech, etc.) so the church ends up emphasizing chastity because extramarital affairs are more common than murdering your spouse.

  3. At least in my own house anger is more hurtful to our peace testimonies and family life than lust.

  4. gee maybe because I’m not likely to sleep with someone or kill my spouse I was thinking more along the lines of twilight jacob drooling, or yelling at my children…. I’m not very tolerant of jacob drooling, but still working on never yelling in my home.

  5. turn them into adjectives. “Angry” is never positive, while “lusty” is just a little bit fun. Clearly, anger is worse.

  6. http://scriptures.lds.org/en/matt/12/31

    “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”

    For Mormons, I think the second-greatest sin might be not to sustain the Prophet.

    The first of course is only punished in the next world.

  7. Ditto Tracy M.

  8. Isn’t lust just a mutation of anger?

  9. “without cause” is not found in the Book of Mormon sermon. In other words, it wasn’t said by Christ.

  10. See and I think Lust is considered worse by the contemporaries simple because it is so focused on. I know that when I was in YW adultery was taught to be nearly as bad as murder (sad though that is). though agree that murder is worse of the two outcomes of anger and lust.

    However, I don’t think the OP was talking about adultery and murder, they were talking about anger and lust. There are lots of angry people around, and generally others tend to sympathize when people are angry with reason.

    For instance a woman in hall at church says “my husband simply ignored my wishes and went right ahead! It makes me so ANGRY!” many would smile and say “I understand, I’m sorry he did that. It would make me mad too.” Where if any teenage boy at church were to say “Boy she was so hot, I want to get her in BED!” the whole hallway would stop and stare and he would probably get called in for a talking to by the bishop.

  11. (With apologies to Frost)

    Some say the world will end from anger;
    Some say because of lust.
    From what I’ve tasted of rancor
    I hold with those who favor anger.
    But if it had to end up in the dust,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To say that for destruction lust
    Is also great
    And would be a must.

  12. April, which would get a better response?
    “I am so angry at my wife I want to kill her.”
    “I think my wife is hot so of course I want to make love to her on Valentine’s Day.”

  13. In a literal sense the worst sins are those that least to extreme suffering and death of of others.

    But for most people, I think the the worst sins they should be accused of amount to them not quite being the best person they could be. Holding yourself back from giving your all.

  14. #12 – You cannot commit adultery with your wife. So you are free to lust after her without sinning. Saying, “I think the RS Pres. is…” as in your second example might get an interesting response.

  15. If the question is as to what I “think contemporary latter-day saints” would condemn more, I’d say lust. But personally, I swing toward anger.

    I came from a very loving and peaceful family, but my father was at one point excommunicated for adultery. My wife on the other hand, grew up with a father who has an anger problem.

    I rebaptized my father after seven long years of waiting and we still have a loving peaceful family. My wife still bears the emotional scars from her childhood though, and while he’s significant made improvements, the fear that something will set her father off still clouds family gatherings.

    Lust v. Anger? I can tell you which one has had the longer and more nefarious effect on family in our experience.

  16. #12 I don’t think the OP was talking about what each sin leads to. Though I have to agree that the end result of anger is worse. I personally believe that within LDS culture lust is looked down upon more than anger is. I don’t know why, nor do I agree with it. But the OP was asking which I think most contemporary LDS people condemn more, not which I thought was worse.

    Personally I think any selfishness is the root of all sin so that is worst. But that wasn’t really an option, was it? :D

  17. Having thought about it more, I would tender the idea that the contemporary LDS culture looks down more on lust because there are very, very few examples of lust being acceptable in the scriptures and none were God and/or Christ were lustful. Yet there are scriptural examples of even God and Jesus getting wroth and angry and plenty of examples of righteous people getting pretty fired up.

    You can argue pretty convincingly that most of the situational acceptance of wrath is philosophy of men mingled in but still, it’s there.

  18. Latter-day Guy says:

    Sexual desire (lust?) has a place in the virtuous, Christian life. I’m not sure that anger does. Then again, we generally use “lust” to refer to sinful sexual desire, so the whole question just becomes a semantic minefield.

  19. StillConfused says:

    I went with lust because I think that the church is much more obsessed with keeping people chaste than keeping them nice. I know they ask about that in the temple recommend interviews but I don’;t remember there being a question, “Are you a douchebag?”

  20. I’m never angry without a cause. OTOH, I never lust without a cause either.

  21. /threadjack/

    The frost poem was the preface to Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer, in case anyone was wondering.

  22. A few thoughts-

    I put down ‘Lust’, as it is the temptation I find takes hold over me much, much easier than than anger.

    I second the point made by the commentator who noted that society condemns anger, but not lust, thus giving us the impetus to obsess about it. This is a general pattern I have noticed — Mormons take the restrictions that are unique to our faith more seriously than those that are more universal in nature. This first occurred to me when I caught a good (Mormon) friend of mine cheating on a test: here in front of me was a kid who would not even contemplate swearing or drinking coffee, but did not have a qualm sinning in more conventional ways.

    It occurred to me afterwords that his abstinence, proclivity for clean language, and strong beliefs on what would enter his body were reflections of his identity. Those were the things that made him different from everyone else; by refusing to have sex every Saturday night like the rest of the kids in the school he was not just doing the “right thing” – he was making a statement, even if just to himself. All of those things that separated him from his peers became embedded in who he was.

    In contrast, one is offered few chance to “stand up” for ones beliefs regarding cheating, or anger. Everybody believes they are bad, and by extension, people notice less when rules against them are broken.

  23. SteveP, awesome.

    Anger cannot betray your trust so much as unrequited lust. For where your pleasure is, there will broken heart be also.

  24. Had I but words enough and rhyme,
    for cloying plagiaristic parody sublime,
    I would deploy haiku and sonnets bare,
    and all my lusty thoughts declare,
    til anger burst from Kathryn fair.

    Instead I call on other poets here,
    from Bloggerfar and Nacclenear,
    pick lust or anger, which will be the greater sin?
    or pick them both, Scott, for the win.
    Borrowed wisdom spiced with new insight,
    they also serve who only pick a fight.

  25. A tie?

    I think that lust perhaps affects fewer individuals but with more destructive consequences. Many who would guard themselves against lust very vigilantly, however, fall to anger from time to time. It is more pervasive, I suspect.

  26. Dan Weston and SteveP, your wit has rendered me speechless.

    Note: this doesn’t happen often.

  27. With regards to what “society” allows or condemns I would propose that what a particular “society”‘s mores may be and how that particular “society” looks upon anger or lust is far more dependent on the location of the “society”. We in the LDS Community paint the entire world with one brush when we speak of how the world or how “society” is falling apart and ignore the reality that the world involves far more than whatever particular world view we find to our liking.
    For example, what may go for anger or lust in Hollywood is not necessarily what would be tolerated in the South and on the other hand, what is considered the norm in certain European countries is not the norm in other European countries.
    Sorry for the partial jack but it seems that when we come to contending the ills of anger and lust, we seem to think we are on the top looking down when it is clear from the GAs that our mountain is still a hill and there is One overlooking all of us….

  28. Stephanie says:

    In RS today, a quote was read that said something about danger is just anger with a “d”.

  29. Ranger is just anger with an “r”.

    Abandon hope, all ye who enter Yellowstone.

  30. Manger is just anger with an “m”.


  31. Stephanie says:

    Funny jokes aside, I found the quote. It is by Eleanor Roosevelt and it is “Anger is one letter short of danger”.

  32. One of my favorite quotes from the book “City of Ember”…

    “anger always has unintended consequences”

  33. This reminds me of the “are works required” arguments.

    To think that one or the other is more “important” reflects a fundamental confusion. Both are important. And both are unimportant.

    If I asked if “pressing your cars accelerator” were important, you would want to know the context. Are you at a stop sign? Are you going too slow? Are you already going too fast? Is it a 6 year old sitting at the wheel? What are the specific impacts on other drivers (not just the “rules” for the situation).

    You’ll notice that the biblical quotes make reference to judgment. Why would you think that we aren’t expected to use similar judgment if we are able?

    I would worry more about the costs of not using judgment.

  34. I can’t believe no one has pointed out that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Star Wars prequels.

  35. It occurred to me that the Savior, even being a sinless person and condemning lust as a sin, might have experienced it himself in order to know of what He spoke. For it is more than easy to bring it to the mind. The same could be said about anger (beyond righteous indignation). Otherwise He would only be able to go on what other people said about it.

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