So, it’s cool when I realize that something we often teach without the scriptures is actually talked about in the scriptures, and with greater force and clarity than our normal way of teaching it.
For example, this week’s lesson in YW in our ward it “Avoiding Dishonesty.” It is an interesting title; why use the word “avoid?” (See BN posts here and here on the lesson itself.) A good approach that was suggested along the way at BN was to talk about how we rationalize or self-deceive and commit other sins. As I was blogging a few thoughts at Beginnings New, I ended by a quick reference to Alma’s advice that “wickedness never was happiness, even though we think it will be worth it, once in a while.”
The more I thought about what I had said, the more I realized that this was actually not a bad usage of Alma’s words and his talk to his son in general. Corianton had “risked to commit sin.” And specifically, he had risked this, “upon those points of doctrine” (Alma 41:10). It begins to sound like Corianton is sinning by justifying his actions with a particular way of looking at some points of doctrine. He is rationalizing, just like we do. I love this line here, from Alma 42:1 “for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.” Ye do try to suppose. In other words, Corianton didn’t really believe it, but he tried to believe that the sinner shouldn’t be punished. He lied to himself just enough to get by.
What he was lying to himself about, from looking at 41 and 42, is that because of restoration, there wasn’t any need for repentance, really. If Christ suffered for everyone and everyone was brought back to God, then how could God punish anyone? Thus Alma clarifies that “the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (Alma 41:15).
Anyway, the point for this YW lesson is that here we have Alma talking about rationalization and self-justification, something we’ll likely talk about during this YW lesson without ever thinking to go to the scriptures to talk about it. I love finding passages that are thinking something I want to think through. The work’s been half done for me and from a very interesting perspective! And it’s scripture, which is a fantastic common ground.
I just want to mention one more of these sorts of passages before I head back to getting the kids breakfast-
Often in Mormon feminist posts on modesty or chastity, those writing are very frustrated if we assume that the man couldn’t help himself from doing something bad if the woman dressed a certain way or whatever. Certainly I can agree that his sin is not on her, though she of course may also have her own sins as well. BUT, anyway, the point is, even though many consider the Book of Mormon to be out of touch with women’s issues (I don’t myself, but it is a common concern in the bloggernacle), Alma himself agrees with them:
” 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” (Alma 39:4). This was no excuse, says Alma. Whether or not Mormon culture agrees with their point, the Book of Mormon does. And I wonder how many other times this might happen.
Anyway, I love the scriptures. Especially the Book of Mormon. And I think it’s always worth looking there first when we are trying to understand truth! 🙂