Thursday, July 22, 2010

Transparent Sin: Pros and Cons

I've noticed from personal observation that gay couples tend to be happier on average than heterosexual couples and single people.  I'm sure I could do some research to see if this observation is borne out in the research.  For the moment, let me presume the positive correlation exists.  Could the elevated happiness be due to the liberation that comes from rebelling openly against the social norm of heterosexual orientation?  Is there a hit that comes from being openly authentic?  Do smokers get a similar hit for the same reason? (tangent- it seems LGBT folks smoke much more than the general population)

We're all deeply flawed.  "For all have asinned, and come short of the glory of God."  Though everyone sins, and probably in quantity*severity that collectively fits a normal distribution curve, not all sins are equally hideable.  For instance, pornography, lying, and fraud are easier to cover than homosexual behavior, smoking, and unwed pregnancy.  The more transparent sinners have the benefit/pro of authenticity: i.e. they don't have the stressful burden of covering and hiding their sins plus whatever reward comes with openly being yourself.  They also have the liability/con of the disapproval of their society/religious community.  The less transparent sinners have the benefit of less initial embarrassment and public shame, but the liability of having to hide their conduct.  Another con: “When we undertake to cover our sins, … behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).

This transparency disparity can have other interesting consequences (especially for the less-transparent faults).  I chose to expose a behavioral wart to a past girlfriend of mine by refraining from either covering my tracks or selecting what information I told her.  Consequently, she broke up with me, for which I don't blame her since we all have performance expectations of our relational partners.  The rub for me though is that it wasn't the fault alone that caused her response- it was its exposure as well.  I could fairly easily have kept that wart under wraps and she very likely would have continued dating me beyond that point (which would have been my preference).  If I strategically hid the fault until the relationship and mutual commitments were stronger, I could feasibly have "tricked" her into marrying me where she otherwise would have severed ties.  She might even be okay with such a sequence of events in retrospect as a result of the "look the other way" that rational, happy married people do so often in regard to errors by their spouse.  That reality incentivizes hiding one's sins as much as it does eliminating them- and given the difficulty of altering one's stubborn disposition/nature, it's not surprising that after repeated failure in the elimination effort, many elect the hiding option. The slow progress of fault revelation in dating evidences this behavioral economy as well.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and bpray one for another, that ye may be healed.
Lev. 5: 5 And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall aconfess that he hath sinned in that thing:
D&C 59:12 But remember that on this, the aLord’s day, thou shalt offer thine boblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, cconfessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.

I'll tell you where I see "confessing sins unto thy brethren:"  AA and NA meetings.  I'll tell you where I don't see much confessing sins unto thy brethren: church.  Where does a lot of repentance and personal change happen? AA/NA meetings.  Where doesn't a lot of repentance and personal change happen?  You fill in the blank.  My view is that if church/sabbath looked more like an AA meeting rather than one more performance-focused forum (like work and most relationships), it'd be a more repentance-abundant church/sabbath.

Back to my pro/con calculus.  To comply with the confessing commandment is likely to bring great benefit, and to breach the commandment is likely to bring a curse.

Another benefit of being transparent with my faults and sins is that I'm more likely to acknowledge and know how broken I am so that I'll go to the Savior to be fixed.  King Benjamin's people were, like me, generally good and "diligent in keeping the commandments:" yet, they fell to the earth when the fear of the Lord fell upon them as a consequence of viewing their carnal state.  I don't want to end up like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story, who thought he didn't need forgiveness and mercy and as far as we know didn't enter his father's rest.  Both brothers in that story were broken- but only one of them knew it. 

All sins and faults will be revealed on the housetops eventually, which makes the gains from hiding them temporary (or if not the gains, at least the hiding itself).  Losses from hiding are high (e.g. the Spirit is withdrawn), and Mormon 5:8 teaches that "knowing that these things must surely be made known, and that all things which are hid must be arevealed upon the house-tops...." 

Taking all the factors (pro and con) above into account, I choose greater transparency.  By the way everyone, I'm a gross sinner.  No really, I am- in both my nature and my behavior.  Have been for a while now.


  1. I read very recently that gay teenagers are 4 time more likely to commit suicide than straight teenagers.

  2. Brad, this post strikes me as very interesting because I have recently realized that I am very, very broken--in ways I didn't even know nor could I have ever dreamed of--and my first inclination is to tell everyone I come in contact with (well, not everyone, but friends). However, I decide against that, thinking it not wise lest I offend His little ones. Perhaps that is why we don't confess more often. Or perhaps you are right, and we should.


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