For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
A Question of Punctuation
As you probably know, the punctuation, verse divisions, and chapter divisions of the Book of Mormon were not given by Joseph Smith, but were arbitrarily added later, as part of the printing process. They are not part of the inspired record and can therefore be changed, as long as the words are not.
With that in mind, I’d like to examine something Moroni said about our day, but that might be obscured by current punctuation. Here it is, same words, punctuated differently (from Mormon 8:35-38):
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not—but behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts.
And there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities.
And your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker!Well there’s a rousing condemnation. Much could be said about these accusations, but Moroni gets right to the heart of the matter by asking some pointed questions:
- Why have ye polluted the holy church of God?
- Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ?
- Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies?
Because of the praise of the world!This is a significant condemnation, to say the least. But before we talk about the praise of the world, let’s let’s examine Moroni’s second question, and its curious wording:
Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ?Ashamed? Really? My first impression upon reading this question is that it makes no sense. Members of every Christian church out there happily claim the name of Christ. Mormon, Protestant, Catholic—all claim His name without shame.
In this series we’ve looked at the eagerness with which so many pray, preach, practice scholarship, gain power, and get rich “in the name of Jesus Christ.” It seems there’s no hesitation to claim Christ’s name for practically anything and everything, and certainly no shame among those who do so. In fact, we see quite the opposite: all take pride, not shame, in claiming His name.
Moroni, a man who knew the Lord face to face (Ether 12:39), finds the defects of pride and pollution in ALL churches of our day. All are “ashamed” to take upon them Christ’s name. There must be more here than we realize.
We’re aided if we include the fuller understanding of how Christ’s name is received, and what it actually means to receive it. This was the focus of the prior post in this series. You receive Christ’s name by personal interaction with Him, when he formally accepts you as His child and part of His family and household. This is the truth of the matter, but also an extremely rare occurrence in our present state.
Moroni certainly understood this, and therefore, he’s really saying we’re ashamed to become Christ’s children, join his household, and receive adoption into His family. Though many millions readily claim His name in vain, they are ashamed to meet the requirement of actually becoming His children.
I saw this born out first hand in reactions to the prior post in this series. Despite the clear words of the Lord in scripture, some folks concocted complex arguments, fanciful scenarios, or simple wishful thinking to support the claim that you don’t *really* have to know the Lord or become his child to be redeemed. (See Mosiah 26:23-27)
Relying on a false understanding of concepts like grace, mercy or love as reasons you don’t need to repent or be redeemed will have exactly the effect you argue for. You will not be redeemed. Nevertheless, I appreciate all these arguments because they helped me understand Moroni’s accusation. So with that background, let’s discuss shame.
Shame: A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt or impropriety, or of having done something which injures reputation, or of the exposure of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)In short, it’s shameful, and therefore painful, to be guilty or wrong. It’s painful to admit it. It injures your reputation, and prompts you to conceal, rather than reveal, your error. Most will never willingly admit their errors, preferring instead to cling to prior claims and double down on unbelief. Your corrupt human nature (here called the “pride of your hearts”) drives you to always believe you’re right and can’t possibly be wrong. The larger and more central your unbelief is to your culture, family, lifestyle, and devotion, the less likely you are to ever turn from it. Even if you claim to be Christ’s humble follower, will you actually turn and face Him? Will you give up your unbelief to know Him?
We have a word for the act of recognizing and admitting error, then correcting course to turn and face the Lord. That word is repentance. And the sad truth is that most of us are too ashamed to repent, though we badly need to. Our pride simply will not let us admit we are wrong about some things.
Every church out there has built up a body of unbelief and false doctrine that has no power to save, and bears no fruit. The Lord condemned all the creeds of the Christian world as abominable, barren, and fruitless. (Jacob 5:46, JSH 1:19)
Moroni’s primary audience, the various branches of Mormonism, are particularly guilty because they actually have access to, and claim belief in, the record sent by God to correct unbelief and establish saving truth. And yet, they largely ignore it, practice against its teachings, and even insist they cannot possibly be wrong. This is the antithesis of repentance, and the LDS audience, therefore, suffers under the Lord’s condemnation. (D&C 84:54-57)
Yet, to admit our error is too shameful. Therefore, the error continues and grows, and truth is actively denied. The idea that it’s impossible for church leaders to be wrong was invented to avoid shame. The false claim that the Bible is uncorrupted, complete, infallible, and God’s only word is also born of the need to avoid shame.
Naked and Ashamed
Shame has been the Devil’s tool from the beginning. When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden, their state of sinless innocence was typified by the statement that they were naked and not ashamed. This, of course, had nothing to do with their lack of clothing, but rather the fact that they could comfortably stand in the presence of God without the guilt of sin.
After Adam and Eve transgressed, they “knew good and evil,” became aware of their fallen, sinful state, and could no longer comfortably bear God’s presence.
For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you. (Mormon 9:5)Therefore, they attempted to hide themselves. In the LDS temple endowment portrayal, it is Lucifer who points out their nakedness—causing both their shame, and their attempt to hide. This is no surprise, as Lucifer is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He seeks to reinforce shame as a tool to prevent repentance.
In response to Adam and Eve’s fallen state, the Lord made coats of skins to cover their shame so they could bear His presence. Of course, acquiring the skins required animal sacrifice, thus pointing to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, which would cover the shame of all humanity.
Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness. (2 Nephi 9:14)The Devil has concocted the perfect conundrum by this use of Shame. It is only Christ’s atonement that has the power to remove our shame, so, ironically, those who are ashamed to take His name will never have their shame removed. It is better to suffer shame now “for His name” by literally confronting our error, correcting our course, coming unto Him, and receiving His name. Then, and only then, will our shame be removed in the day of judgment.
Shame as a Tool
Just as the adversary uses shame to keep us from repenting, people and institutions use shame as a means to control one another. Indeed, shame is the workhorse tool of false religion. It is particularly rampant in the LDS church, where “worthiness interviews” place sinners in the position of judging other sinners, meting out punishment to those who don’t meet some imagined standard of “worthiness” as if anyone is “worthy” before God.
Faced with the potential public shame of punishment and exclusion, some prefer to lie about their “worthiness” and thus add to their private shame and conviction that the Lord will never find them acceptable because they not only don’t measure up to some arbitrary set of man-made rules, but also feel compelled to lie about it. So called “Catholic Guilt” has nothing on Mormon Guilt.
Of course, the harshest institutional and social condemnation are reserved for those who find the path that leads to God, rather than seeking to appease the demands of the world or of a great, worldly institution:
And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit. (1 Nephi 8:25-27)Those who follow Christ will suffer the shame of the world, but will despise it, rather than succumbing to it. They will find freedom from shame in Christ.
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever. (2 Nephi 9:18)Either way, shame will come. It’s part of our fallen, mortal situation. If we receive Christ’s name, we will suffer the shame of the world. If we refuse to receive what He offers, He will be ashamed of us.
For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)At the time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess our Lord, (Mosiah 27:31) some will kneel in gratitude; most will kneel in shame. Each of us gets to make that choice now.
This discussion of shame provides the background to understand Moroni’s other observation that “ye do walk in the pride of your hearts” and that we fail “because of the praise of the world.” Whether institutions or individuals, we all tend to seek popularity, praise and acceptance.
Institutions make decisions based on surveys, polling and focus groups precisely to gain the “praise of the world.” They tout their good works and manufacture a public image designed to gain the world’s approval and thus increase market share.
Similarly, as individuals, we all tend to desire praise and acceptance. When a religious institution offers flattery, calling you chosen, royal, mighty, holy, righteous, inspiring, or the best generation ever to come to earth, your pride is fed and your repentance is thwarted.
Of course you’re good! You know you’re right! There’s no need to consider your lost and fallen condition! There’s certainly no need to turn to the Lord in desperation! Just stay in the ship and trust your leaders to save you! They cannot lead you astray!
King Noah knew the power of flattering his people:
Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them. (Mosiah 11:7)By sufficiently flattering his people, King Noah gained the support he needed to build monuments to his pride:
And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper; And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.
And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.
And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people. And it came to pass that he built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. (Mosiah 11:-12)Institutions offer praise to their adherents as a means of building loyalty, which also builds pride, and ultimately builds buildings—both great and spacious, providing at once proof of worldly success, and a needed vantage point from which to point the finger of scorn.
And so, you confront the toxic combination of shame and pride. You’re told you’re amazing, wonderful and right, but also given a list of rules and requirements you know you don’t meet. Like combining incompatible drugs, this bizarre combination of outward pride and inward shame has disastrous and debilitating consequences. Appearances must be kept up, shame must be covered up, you must pretend to measure up; and hence lives are screwed up.
Here are some of the social results of this toxic combination of pride and shame in Utah, where approximately 60% of the state is LDS:
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for teenagers in Utah, while the state ranks 5th overall in suicide prevalence. (Similarly, youth suicide rates are twice as high in states with the highest levels of Mormon residents compared to states with the lowest levels of Mormon residents, after controlling for other factors. The proportion of Mormons in a state is also associated with faster increases in the rate of youth suicides over a five-year period between 2009 and 2014.) LDS culture is a strong risk factor for youth suicide.
- Utah has the highest rate of mental illness in the U.S.
- Utah leads the nation in rates of depression and use of antidepressants
- Utah ranks first in sex abuse of children, and eighth in child abuse overall
- Utah ranks highest in online pornography subscriptions
- Utah ranks highest in incidents of sexual violence
- Utah has the fourth highest rate of drug overdose deaths, the seventh highest rate of alcohol poisoning deaths, and the eighth highest rate of prescription overdose deaths.
- Salt Lake City has been rated by Forbes magazine as the “Vainest City in the Nation” based on the fact that it has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the U.S. In Salt Lake City, residents search online for information about getting breast implants 74% more often than the national average. A drive down I-15 with its billboards will teach you quite a bit about breast enhancement, body sculpting, Botox, and beauty. Salt Lake City also leads the world in spending on cosmetics, skin care and hair care, with TEN TIMES the spending of other cities of comparable size.
- Materialism and the desire for easy riches lead to shady business dealings and prevalent get-rich-quick frauds in Utah. According to an article in The Economist, Utah has the highest rate of “affinity fraud” in the nation, with Mormons swindling other Mormons out of over $1.4 billion in 2010 alone.
- It’s enough of a problem that Elder Dallin Oaks recently addressed the “get-rich-quick” mentality of LDS culture and the resulting fraud in his book.
- The desire for riches and appearances leads to excessive speculation and borrowing. Utah currently ranks fifth in the nation for personal bankruptcy filings.
The Cycle of Shame
Sadly, young people who grow up in this toxic culture of inward shame and outward pride eventually become the leaders who perpetuate the pattern on future generations. That teenager who today is terrified his bishop or parents will find out what he’s been up to—is tomorrow’s bishop who will self-righteously lecture teenagers about not doing the very things he has never been able to admit he did. He will interview young people regarding their “worthiness,” reward those who lie, and punish those who confess, all while taking comfort in his office and keys—both of which convince him he must be right, despite what he knows about himself. Thus, the cycle of shame is perpetuated, and Christ’s mighty atonement is rendered powerless to save those who are ashamed to take His name.
Many, of course, will attempt to claim His name as a defense in the last day.
Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (3 Nephi 14:22-23)Claiming Christ’s name when he has not placed it upon you will bring tragedy, not safety, in the day of judgment. To quote another blog:
Calling Christ “Lord, Lord” will accomplish nothing. There will be those who claim they are “of Christ” but who are no better than the liars, thieves and whoremongers. (D&C 76: 99-104) It is not a “brand name” to associate with. It is a Teacher to follow.
Christ teaches the will of the Father. Conforming to the will of the Father is required to “enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Confession without conformity to His will is worse than meaningless. It is evidence that you are superstitious and foolish. You want Christ as a magic talisman, to be invoked to control the outcome of your life. But you do not want to honor Him by doing as He teaches. You do not want to live as He would want you to live. You do not want to surrender your sins and seek after truth and light.
…He reminds those present that calling out to Him and honoring Him with the title of “Lord” will never be enough. You must do as He taught.
There is no other way.
The path is identical for everyone.
(From Denver Snuffer’s blog, 10/31/2010, emphasis mine.)
Moroni was correct. We pollute the holy church of God and demonstrate our shame to take Christ’s name when our pride prevents repentance. We cling to our unbelief, even as it destroys us. But Moroni also gave us the solution. It’s up to us to take his advice:
O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.
Update September 2, 2016: Elizabeth Smart gave an interview to online magazine Vice about the shame culture of LDS purity teachings. She takes on the “chewed gum” and “nail holes in the fence” analogies used to shame young women about sexual purity and addresses how she felt when she had to sit through those lessons after being repeatedly raped for nine months. Here’s a quote:
Elizabeth shakes her head. “I just remember thinking, This is terrible. Do they not realize I’m sitting in class? Do they not realize that I'm listening to what they’re saying? Those are terrible analogies. No one should use them, period,” she says. “Especially for someone who’s been raped, they’ve already felt these feelings of worthlessness, of filth, of just—” she lets out an exasperated sigh “—of just being so crushed, and then to hear a teacher come back and say, 'Nobody wants you now'... You just think, I should just die right now.”