Philosophy and “Right or Wrong”

Sunday’s lesson in Elder’s Quorum was prepared and delivered by Bro. *****. The lesson was #22 “Agency and Responsibility” from the David O. McKay manual (teachings of the living prophets).

***** opened his lesson stating the following:

a wise man told him that there are two things one must do in life; repent and change. In order for that to happen we have been given what is referred to as the greatest gift from God agency. In terms of making choices we are all professionals we all have a plethora of experience. Why do we make the choices we make? Because we want to or in other words based on our risk / reward analysis of the perceived consequences (good or bad), we make a choice. Of course, this can happen in milliseconds or it can be drawn out over weeks and months. Unfortunately the combination of agency and the “natural man” generates poor or wrong choices. Fortunately there is hope for change through the gift of repentance”. ***** ended on “seek the grace of God for improvement in our lives”. We can all choose to come back to our Heavenly Father through the gift of repentance and change in our hearts.

What was interesting to me was a comment by one of the brothers who said that someone did a study and interviewed several inmates in prison. When asked if they would do their crime again knowing what consequences would result, they all said they would not. They said they believed that what they were doing would better their situation (IE rob a bank, etc.). Saying we all make our choices and mentally accept the “entire basket” of outcomes that come with the choice concluded the thought. The teacher said he did not want to get into any philosophy on the subject but I could not help but entertain thoughts on such a philosophy. I felt it would be rather taboo to discuss this in class but here is my thought:

This is why people make choices- according to what they perceive as “the whole basket”, they feel the choice is in their favor for betterment. This basket they accept includes any positive reward, as well as the risk of punishment here on Earth AND in the hereafter and ACCORDING TO THEIR BEST KNOWLEDGE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, they make a choice after weighing the circumstances.

The people in prison said they would not have done the crime if they would have known the outcome. Maybe personal experience had shown someone from a ghetto that several of his friends/ cousins had been rewarded for such crimes and this person based his choice on said knowledge. Maybe what he had been taught to believe was that you should not respect law and government since they do not respect you. His basket may have different contents than yours or mine do now. His basket now may be different now than the basket he had before making the choice. If he had our baskets he would probably not rob a bank or liquor store.

So then, can we go to the extreme and say that everyone who ever makes a mistake is hardly ever really making a conscious mistake unless intentionally meaning to harm/hurt another and EVEN THEN their basket of pro’s and con’s makes sense for them to act (could be a mixture of chemicals in the brain, adrenaline, “perceived” reward/outcome.

Maybe the reason you and I make mostly “right” choices is only because of our upbringing, education, what we have read and what we understand about ethics. Maybe you and I have never really done what we believe to be truly a “wrong” choice. If I go back and think about something “stupid” I did, do I think about how I wished I had acted different? No, because I know that if I were presented the same time frame, situation and understanding of the choice presented to me, I would have acted the same. I act from what I see in the basket, and may learn from the results later, but there is no way for me to transmit what I know now to back then. So maybe nobody ever really does anything really bad, after all. That cannot be true because we always have a choice of being lazy or pro-active. Maybe the greatest sin of all then lies in laziness or being too lazy to think choices through thoroughly, or being ill prepared but once again it is our basket of everything-ness that brought us to that situation in the first place.

Crazy, huh.

Part two:

So maybe while you’re reading this you think to yourself, “wait a minute- if I wanted to, I could be pretty much be perfect for the next two weeks”. Well, maybe you can, only after you have read this, though. You see- with your previous basket you would not have changed. You would need something to spark that change like reading the Scriptures, praying or meditating, because without it you wouldn’t do it or in other words your basket has already changed after reading these words.

I just want to explain, now, what I mean by the last two sentences. While on my mission and post-mission, I had eyes only for the Church. That means that if ever there was ever a discovery, thought, idea or teaching I thought interesting or important, I would first do a quick check in my head to see if it contradicted any of the Prophet’s teachings and if it did, I wouldn’t even consider the new idea. Now that I know of many times that even the prophets and apostles have been wrong (ie: men on the moon, Adam-God, Polygamy requirement for Celestial status, Blacks as inferior brothers/ sisters, etc.), I can now accept truths in non-Mormon sources. I can find truths in true Psychology. I can find truths in true Science. I can find truths in true teachings found in other religions around the world! I can find truths in a progressive world.

I can find beauty in things I once thought as unnecessary or uninspired (art, music, philosophy). I can accept more wholly my brothers and sisters around the world or around the city to the same degree as accepting a member of the Church- regardless of who they are, what they believe or what they do with their lives. I don’t see them as a lesser breed anymore and I don’t see myself as of a higher class. I don’t secretly see myself as better than someone else just because I don’t smoke or drink. I judge people less and understand everyone comes from different backgrounds and upbringings. Ignorance begets hatred. I think there should be a law of empathy. Maybe Ill write more on that another day but to sum it up would be like this: If someone does something wrong, always try to empathize them. Equate two things:

1) What was their complete understanding of the situation at that time?

2) What was their understanding that the result of their action would be?

Usually they did not do it to meaningfully harm the other person. People are not wicked. They may just lack understanding or education about something. Always try to put yourself in the other persons shoes, culture, upbringing and chemical makeup.


~ by bonoboi on November 29, 2005.

2 Responses to “Philosophy and “Right or Wrong””

  1. […] we can’t simply judge people so much or see things merely in “black and white”.  i wrote about this a while back- it was one of the first things in my adulthood that made me question religion, the atonement, and […]

  2. A stock broker friend of mine trying to explain an unknowable higher power told me there is no guilt, only experience. He said that as a broker he finds that when the Market goes up he wants to take credit, but when it goes down he wants to distance himself because he tends to feel guilty. But he really doesn’t have any control over it whatsoever. He said that is the key to understanding God, morality is nothing to pat yourself on the back about nor anything to feel guilty about. Your experience is all that you have, but it isn’t anything you really have that much control over. Then he said something like, Don’t try to figure out God and Fuck Guilt. By the way he is not a stereotypical stockbroker and not particularly wealthy, but he is one of the most spiritual people I know. I think he also said something like coming to know God has nothing to do with getting into Gods head but everything to do with accepting life, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly as it comes. I am of course paraphrasing, your post kind of reminded me of him.

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