Monday Morning Theological Poll: Budding Sociopath Edition

Today’s edition is brought to you by the voices in your head *or* God, depending on your outlook, meds, or openness to revelation.

Justify your answers below, IF YOU CAN!


  1. says:

    There’s no option for “When Dexter Morgan carves up a horrible criminal.”

  2. Figured if God really wanted someone dead, he’d do it himself. (But I choose the last answer to avoid questioning Nephi)

  3. Justify your answers below, IF YOU CAN!

    ..I can’t. I didn’t vote, because I don’t want to think that I would refuse to do something that God really commanded. But like NewlyHousewife, I can’t imagine Him not taking care of this type of thing himself, can’t imagine Him expecting one of us to kill our own brother or sister. The God in my head isn’t like that, Old Testament nothwithstanding.

  4. anothernonymous says:

    I’m glad you asked as the voting results will inform my actions later today.

  5. Bored in Vernal,
    I could see myself voting for several of these, depending on what I’ve read recently in scripture.

  6. I have already discussed this with God. I would do it if I were asked by Him. But I’d have to be DARN SURE He was the one speaking.

  7. Marjorie Conder says:

    I agree with SilverRain.

  8. notknowingbeforehand says:

    Silver Rain- what counts as really sure?

  9. Never. I pick and choose the lessons I learn from scripture as it is, so I have no problem skipping over Nephi’s quandary. I pick and choose the commandments I follow as it is, so I don’t see the point in getting all dogmatic when someone’s life hangs in the balance.

  10. So, when we killed Osama Bin Laden, it wasn’t self-defense or directly to protect someone else. Was it not justified?

  11. #10, no. This can’t be found anywhere in scripture, but my mom used to tell me: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  12. It’s justified when the Jury says it was.

  13. I chose never. I think that had Nephi refuse to kill Laban, not because he was whiny & scared and “I’ve never killed a man!” But because he had firm convictions- saying “It is wrong to kill, and I will not.” Then it would have been counted as righteousness for him.
    Nephi still could have stolen Laban’s clothes (the guy was passed out drunk right?) and made off with the plates and Zoram and been well out of Laban’s reach before he figured out what happened. It worked out okay as it was, but I think God doesn’t need a hit man to take out people who really should be dead and would be pleased with an ‘anti-nephi-lehi’ approach to killing from any of His children.

  14. Where does war fit into this? Protecting someone else?

  15. observer fka eric s says:

    I answered based on the passengers of United Flight 93.

  16. Killing Bin Laden as it happened was definitely not justified. He deserved a fair trial just like any other person (including the war criminals from WWII, and other war criminals since, who have been responsible for the deaths of many more people).

  17. John Roberts says:

    Actually, it is schizophrenics that have auditory hallucinations, and those with obsessive-compulsive disorder that have repeatedly horrific thoughts and ideas compelling them to unwanted actions.

    A psychopath will kill you just because he/she doesn’t understand how much it hurts you, and it’s so much fun for him/her.

  18. “We must all deplore murder or other terrorist behavior, even when done by extremeists in the name of religion.” – Dallin H. Oaks, CES Fireside, September 11, 2011

  19. You left out the option that says “this extremity, should it in fact ever be justified, would be so rare, so unexpected, so entirely dependent upon the facts of the peculiar situation at hand, that it couldn’t possibly be foreseen, considered and answered beforehand.”

  20. John Roberts,
    Don’t reveal my silly overgeneralizations with clinical rigor. They’re all I have left!

  21. It would be an interesting polls__How many saying killing is unjustified__have a gun in their house? Or, is the Church anti- Second Amendment?

  22. StillConfused says:

    What about the Mormon Meadows Massacre?

  23. Is this a trick question?

  24. I voted never, and yet I do support the death penalty. So, my vote is probably not really valid now that I think about it.

    I guess my answer would be something like this: When that individual has perpetrated a crime which is punishable by death according the law that has direct or circumstancial jurisdiction over him/her and after proper court proceedings and sentencing have taken place.

    I think this because once the criminal is in custody, he/she no longer represents an immediate threat, and his/her execution is not going to take place in a self-defense context.

  25. My assumption is that God knows me, and he’s not going to ask ME to do this thing. I’m no Nephi.

  26. There’s too many crazy people doing things in the name of God these days to justify any sort of answer here. Issac is the exception, not the rule.

  27. The greater good. Ah how I love Hot Fuzz! I also think its a darn shame that Nephi cutting off Laban’s head never made it into the primary “Go and do” song. Primary would have been so much more awesome!

  28. I am fascinating by the three-way horse race in the poll. Why do you all think it is breaking down that way?

  29. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think that in the process of being tested in all things, everyone will have a time in which they are asked by God to do something that breaks with their notion of right and wrong. Our notions of what is right and wrong are based on our sensibilities and countless instances of being reared. What God considers right and wrong is whatever moves his children forward into a fullness of being, and I think he understands that there are casualties. I don’t have much confidence in a God that cannot be terrible. I wouldn’t want to reduce Him to the sum of my lefty sensibilities or engrained scruples.

    In the case of Nephi, it seems that God wanted Laban out of the way. Maybe he was molesting all the little women in his household. Maybe he had been given years in which he had a chance to repent. We do not know how horrifying a gent Laban might have been.

    The trick is, as Silver Rain suggested, being so very very sure. I know she has been through something like this herself. I don’t think that, probably, any of us will be asked to kill someone. Almost certainly we would be asked to not kill someone in a situation which seemed to fully warrant it. But we may be asked any number of things that are right viewed from a higher perspective than we have at the time attained. And in doing so we break into a larger world.

  30. My guess as to why it’s a two-way horse race is because John C. keeps voting over and over again.

    I voted for not justified, but we gotta do it anyway, which in my mind, most closely gets me to killing Bin Laden or the death penalty. I’m a big fan of both.

  31. I can be justified. However, I am not sure if any of the reasons offered work for me in terms of justification. So….it is only justified when justified by the categorical imperative.

  32. Matt,
    I swear on the NSRV that I never ever vote more than once in these. I also voted for the last option, but somewhat reluctantly. I’m not a big fan of the death penalty (wouldn’t even applaud it).

  33. If God told me to kill someone I hope I’d be smart enough to have myself committed.

  34. I voted “never”, i.e. any legitimate divine command to do such a thing must be based on one of those two reasons, just as any legitimate form of capital punishment must.

  35. If God ever told me to kill someone, I’d tell God “No.” Then I’d check myself into a hospital, stat. That is, if I was mentally aware enough to do any of those things.

  36. I voted “Never”, after deciding that the last option, that it’s never justified but we just gotta do it anyway, left me in the awkward position of trying to justify why we might have to do it anyway.

    I thought of Nephi, OBL, Abraham/Isaac, and Moses killing the Egyptian guard, but then my head started to spin. I’m pretty sure that any set of circumstances that put me in a position to actually have to kill someone that was not in self defense or the defense of someone else, would scar me emotionally for life, regardless of whether God commanded it or not. I’m also suspicious of divine commands that appear as huge tests and would be paralyzed by fear of failure one way or the other. If I kill Isaac, then am I good with God? If I don’t kill Isaac, am I good with God? If I really intend to kill Isaac, and God stops me, will I be judged for the intent of my heart, that I was actually ready to kill him? No winning solution here in my view, and I suspect that part of the thoughts behind Nephi’s “Oh wretched man that I am!” and his subsequent lament over his weakness in the face of temptation may have come from the events with Laban in Jerusalem that night.

  37. Ardis (#20) expressed similar thoughts to my own…and in a much more precise manner than I could have articulated.

  38. I think we might worship life a little too much. It’s not that killing isn’t horrible, it’s just that if we really believe in life after death as we preach, it seems like there are worse things. And it’s weird for me to contemplate Starfoxy’s belief that if Nephi had stared down God, God would have blinked.

    I agree with Thomas Parkin’s entire comment (though he probably won’t with mine). It’s popular to view God as a benevolent Grandfather patting the children on their heads and “tsk,tsk”ing them when they’re naughty, but I very much see God as a Father who can be long-suffering and yet terrible.

  39. So how do you think the following fits into all of this? I was sitting in a Pearl of great Price class at BYU with Hugh Nibley several years ago and he told us about something that had happened a few years before in a Book of Mormon class. They had reached that great Nephi/Laban story and he was passing on all of the reasons/justifications for Nephi’s action (God commanded it, God commanded it THREE times, Laban was less that a rat, etc.) and with the third time Nephi finally did the deed. A student raised his hand (the student just happened to be from Syria) and said, “I thought you told us that Nephi guy was from Jerusalem, from a middle eastern country, so why the big deal? If he was Arab why would he hesitate after God telling him once. Was he a real man?” He went on in this vein for a bit and then Nibley realized he had been teaching that bit of the BoM and probably the entire thing based on a western cultural point of view in spite of all of his study and learning.

  40. Shannon, #40, interesting anecdote about Nibley, which leads me to this question: So culture trumps right or wrong on issues of huge moral consequence?

  41. Martin,“And it’s weird for me to contemplate Starfoxy’s belief that if Nephi had stared down God, God would have blinked.”
    That’s not quite what I meant. I was thinking more along the lines of “If Nephi had stared down God, God would have smiled and said ‘that is correct, well done.'”

  42. Or rather (sorry for the double comments); My high school physics teacher was very fond of giving us multiple choice tests, and listing more than one correct answer among our options. Our job was to pick the *most correct* of all the options. I think Nephi’s response was *a* correct answer, but I think it’s possible that it wasn’t the best answer. I think the same is true of Abraham and Isaac.

  43. John C.- Now I know you are voting multiple times. (NSRV is a dead give away. What’s that stand for “New Strategy to Remove Veracity”?)

  44. Yeah, I saw that after I posted. NRSV, NRSV (the one true translation)

  45. I think we might worship life a little too much.

    That’s not the impression I get from a cursory review of history, but to each their own.

  46. I’m not a fan of the death penalty (mostly because of the terrible track record of its abuse and mis-application throughout history), but I’m not adverse to the principle of having someone die as a punishment for their horrible actions.

    Could I kill someone in a situation like posited in the post? I’m not sure – but probably not. Do I believe God commanded most of the deaths attributed to His commands, even in our own scriptures? No, I don’t – in almost all cases. Would God give a command to an individual to kill someone else? I can believe it can and might have happened occasionally.

    Fwiw, I like the interpretation of Abraham and Isaac that says God was testing Abraham to see if he fully had rejected the sacrificial culture of his childhood – and Abraham failed the test, so God had to stop him to teach him that ONLY God, the Father, was required to sacrifice a son (or, more accurately, allow a son to be sacrificed). I don’t know if it’s “true” or “correct:” – but I like it.

    So, I voted for the greater good option – in theory and recognizing the grave danger in that conclusion.

  47. Starfoxy, Ray, I really don’t like the idea of a God who would tell me to do the wrong thing. How could you put all your trust in a God like that? I don’t think there’s any precedent for this in the scriptures, other than the common LDS belief that Adam and Eve were supposed to partake of the fruit contrary to God’s command (a view I don’t share, by the way — I think they should have waited for further instructions). The idea that Nephi and Abraham should have simply told God “No. What you’ve commanded is wrong,” doesn’t seem implied by the text.

    If Starfoxy is right and Nephi should have just said no, what would have happened then? Would God have killed Laban himself? And if so, wouldn’t that make Nephi morally superior to God?

    I certainly can’t imagine God asking us to kill someone, and if somebody thought He had, they’d almost certainly be delusional. I just think there’s a subtle difference in attitude that is important. “I know God said XYZ, but I know better” vs. “Did God really say XYZ?”

  48. God did take care of it. He asked Nephi to do it.

  49. Great idea in #28. Next time I substitute as Primary chorister we are signing this new verse:

    The Lord commanded Ne-phi to cut off Laban’s head
    Nephi was uncer-tain and questioned God instead
    The an-gel persi-sted: “It’s for the greater good”
    Nephi was persuaded, let’s hope he understood

    I will GO, I will DO…

  50. I think it’s very naiive and hopelessly idealistic when people say “never.” It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to say, but not so easy to do. Life is not so easy and black and white. If some guy had a gun to your child’s head and you had the opportunity to kill him, and that was the ONLY way to save your child, I think one would be morally obligated to do so as a parent.

    It is very noble,good, and praiseworthy when people die while not defending THEMSELVES, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Would I let someone kill me if I had done all the good in this life that I could and no one needed me for support? Yes, I think I would. However, if the situation was reversed, and I had dependents and was still capable of much good, and killing my attacker was the only way to live, I would do so with regret and shame, not knowing for sure if what I did was right, but leaving that up to God and living the rest of my life the best way I could.

  51. Amen to Moriah btw

  52. I think we need to remember that had Nephi not killed him, more people would have likely died instead. Laban would have found a way to track them, and hunt them down. Now, I am optimistic that Lehi & co. could hold them off, but in the process, many more soldiers would have perished and perhaps many or all of Lehi & Ishmael’s family.

    It is a nervy thing for God to ask you to do, but in the long run, it saves lives. Of course, had Nephi refused to kill him, would we have called him a murderer for allowing so many others to be killed?

  53. If some guy had a gun to your child’s head and you had the opportunity to kill him, and that was the ONLY way to save your child, I think one would be morally obligated to do so as a parent.

    You will note that the hypothetical reads: “When is killing another human being, neither in self-defense nor to protect someone else, justified?”

  54. This has probably been discussed before, but it seems that some folks here believe the morals (for example, “don’t kill”) exist independent of God’s commandments (# 48). How could God tell you to do the morally wrong thing? Absent God’s direction, what dictates morals? Why can’t Nephi just kill the guy because he wants his stuff and the dude left himself momentarily vulnerable? Why shouldn’t the strong dominate the weak?

  55. I voted never, but maybe that’s not entirely true. If someone like Laban has shown repeatedly that he will kill the innocent, and think nothing of it, if he’s very likely to kill the innocent if allowed to live, if there’s no means for doing something like arresting him and rendering him harmless while he can be brought to trial for his crimes, then maybe killing him can be justified.

    I guess that can count as killing to protect someone, but I mean even if he’s sleeping in a compound with his wives and children at the moment, and not directly threatening anyone this instant, as Osama bin Laden was. If you allow protection of others to extend to future actions shown to be very likely by the same actions in the past, then that “never” still holds.

  56. That’s Boondock Saints action right there…

  57. Anonymous For Now (AFN) says:

    voices in head = hallucinations = psychosis (i.e., schizophrenia).
    sociopath = no empathy for others, no sense of right & wrong (except for how it affects you), recklessness, sees self as a victim, often charismatic, often substance abuser.

    Don’t mean to be pedantic, just trying to kill off (!) a terrible stereotype–people with psychosis really don’t deserve to be lumped in with psychopaths

  58. My favorite comment so far has been from Thomas Parkin:
    “Almost certainly we would be asked to not kill someone in a situation which seemed to fully warrant it.” Spoken like a true former primary teacher.

    It is interesting the way everyone keeps jumping to Nephi’s story. Nephi’s killing of Laban was both self-defense And to protect others. Granted, a guy laying passed out in the gutter is not an immediate threat, but he’s still a credible threat.

  59. 64% answer something other than “never”?! I’m genuinely terrified.

  60. D&C 98:23-31 explains when taking revenge is justified. The account of Nephi seems to not quite meet the requirements, as Laban seems to have committed an offense against Nephi and his brothers two times, instead of at least three. Perhaps not all accounts of Laban’s transgressions against Nephi and his brothers, or against others, are recorded, or does trying to kill three of Lehi’s sons at once count for three offenses? Such are the mysteries of the scriptures. For me to kill someone for anything other than immediate defense of self or other innocents (i.e D&C 134:11), I would have to be extremely sure that it was God commanding it.