Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Being Sincere Is Not Enough

Some more random thoughts inspired by some random photographs . . .



At a hard-to-find tiny Korean restaurant near the Chicago Temple, my wife took this photo of me next to the sign on the restaurant's wall. "We Prepare and Serve Foods with Our Best Sincerity." Fortunately, the chef had more than sincerity going for him. He also had skill and the right ingredients, tools, setting, and support staff to offer an excellent meal. But too often, we excuse people such as politicians, celebrities, pop psychologists, and ministers who serve crazy and dangerous courses in the realms of politics, economics, civics, business, and morality, with little more going for them than "sincerity" and "passion." Never mind that there is no depth of knowledge and evidence behind their proposals, never mind if it has brought ruin and bloodshed where others have feasted on the same fare elsewhere, never mind if every policy change they are calling for has been implemented with nothing but failure over the past 50 years - these sincere folks will tell us that we just haven't gone far enough along their yellow bricked road to see the Utopia they offer.

We shouldn't be shy about challenging popular notions that have nothing behind them but "sincerity." That includes harmful notions about morality, marriage, economics, social policies, etc. Sincerity is nice, but it's best when coupled with logic and substance, not insane hope alone or platitudes aimed at the gullible. And sometimes, we need to realize that the apparent sincerity of some might hide a highly insincere motive based on profit and power.

And yes, this cuts multiple ways. I'm sincere in what I believe, but my beliefs are inexcusably wrong and if I've resisted the efforts of the Lord to get me in the right path, being sincere in my stubborn and foolish ways won't help a lot - at least not as much as really listening to the Lord, and developing the skills and knowledge to properly live my life and fulfill my duty here. Isn't that what we all really need to be doing?

Anyway, it was a fine meal, sincerity and all. It's in a little strip mall just behind Szechuan Cuisine on Milwaukee Avenue close to Lake Street in Glenview. It's not the big Seoul Garden place - which is very nice, but twice as expensive as my authentic little hole-in-the-wall. Hope it's still there - it's been a few months since that meal.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good post. What you say goes for the arts too. All too often we judge something as worthwhile merely because it's sincere even though it may be down-right blasphemous in it's content.

Jack

Anonymous said...

We've stopped at that restaurant before during a temple trip, and it really is excellent!

gentlyhewstone said...

Jeff, this reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's classic story, "Harrison Bergeron." That's the one where the government forces everyone to wear handicaps so everybody's equal, and the efforts of the least talented people are the sacred norm that moderates society, "so no one feels like something the cat drug in."

Before my classes read this story, I ask them if people should be rewarded for achievement or just for effort. Being lazy teenagers, they always say effort. I then ask, "So would you want your brain surgery performed by a doctor who failed med school, but, you know, tried real hard?" They usually get the point.

Ray Agostini said...

Jeff,

We shouldn't be shy about challenging popular notions that have nothing behind them but "sincerity." That includes harmful notions about morality, marriage, economics, social policies, etc. Sincerity is nice, but it's best when coupled with logic and substance, not insane hope alone or platitudes aimed at the gullible. And sometimes, we need to realize that the apparent sincerity of some might hide a highly insincere motive based on profit and power.


I think it almost needless to say that this comment could easily be turned back on Mormons/Mormonism/Joseph Smith. Don't you agree? What is really "logical" about some LDS beliefs, Jeff? Do you believe that Adam and Eve lived in Missouri?

And yes, this cuts multiple ways. I'm sincere in what I believe, but my beliefs are inexcusably wrong and if I've resisted the efforts of the Lord to get me in the right path, being sincere in my stubborn and foolish ways won't help a lot - at least not as much as really listening to the Lord, and developing the skills and knowledge to properly live my life and fulfill my duty here. Isn't that what we all really need to be doing?

Isn't that what we ALL need to be doing? Is the sincere Muslim who observes Ramadan misguided? Should gay people, who say that their attraction involves far more than sexuality, consider themselves degenerate purveyors of pure lust? Because Paul "said so"?

By the way, feel free to ban any links to my apostate blog. Or even me. I happen to think there's a lot of good in Mormonism, and a lot of nonsense. I think we are all seeking the truth. I just don't think it comes in a neatly packaged parcel with absolute dictums. I think that religious fanaticism comes from a deep feeling of insecurity, and a desire for a certaintly that never existed.

Mormanity said...

Needless to say, yes - especially since I already said that it does cut both ways and that my comments can be applied to my faith as well. Fortunately, LDS beliefs have been endlessly challenged since 1830 and we are given many fine opportunities to examine what we believe and understand why we believe what we do.

Is the sincere Muslim who observes Ramadan misguided? I get the impression that you want the world to denounce anyone who believes that there is actual truth. Are you absolutely confident that you have the exclusive truth on this matter? Are you sure that all religions are equally valid (with the possible exception of Mormonism, of course, which has far too much nonsense)?

We believe that there is good and much truth to be found in nearly all religions, but at the same time, there is a God who has revealed some specific truths and commandments. Conflicting claims and teachings can't all be valid, no matter how much we respect other faiths. So while I respect Catholics and recognize that infant baptism is a sincere attempt to practice the biblical doctrine of baptism, I believe it is misguided. And they believe I'm misguided. That's OK. Ditto for Islam: I respect it and see much good in it, but see some things as errors, as they do for my beliefs. In a pluralistic society, that's fine with me.

None of us have a monopoly on truth, and all religions have things we can learn from others. But somewhere, truth does exist and we should seek it. And we have found some things that we can be know are true, such as the reality of Jesus Christ.

Moral relativism and rejection of the concept of truth often sounds good, but it creates a void that is often filled with absolute intolerance for any other view. I prefer to seek after truth, knowing that what I have is still fragmentary and that some of my notions may need to be revised later.

Ray Agostini said...

Thanks for the reply, Jeff, I was just testing the waters to see if this LDS site would be tolerant of an apostate (unlike some others).

I have no intention of sticking around, and wish you all the best.

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

In many ways, I have a high regard for Mormons.

Jared said...

I wonder which is the most disarming: sincerity without talent, or talent without sincerity?

Mormanity said...

Ray, I'm not at all convinced that you are a real apostate. Maybe just partly apostate?

Your remarks have been civil and intelligently stated. Feel free to drop in anytime.

Ray Agostini said...

Thanks for the invitation, Jeff, I might consider it in the future.

Tracy Keeney said...

"What is more disarming? sincerity without talent or talent without sincerity."

Hmmm.. depends on what you're talking about. I'm not sure that sincerity in religion actually requires "talent" at all. It just requires truth. (Moses comes to mind... not a good speaker, so he had his brother Aaron do alot of his speaking for him.)

Then of course there's Sanjaya-- lot's of sincerity, no talent.
In such a case, I'd rather have the talent than the sincerity. :)

Anonymous said...

Sincerity is not nearly enough. Ideas can be considered true when they are used to make predictions which come to pass. If the fruits don't happen, the idea wasn't true. Making excuses doesn't cut it, nor does claiming a good-faith "sincere" effort. Plausibility is never enough. Only truth is. Anyone who ignores the truth, as proven, is an apostate, no matter how sincere they happen to be.

MG said...

This is something I've thought much about lately. I recently had a discussion with some officials at my daughter's school about their discipline policy. It became apparent to me that the official truly believed they were doing the right thing, yet the lack of a clear standard was yielding damaging results. When we (there were 2 of us meeting with the officials) showed them how the laxity in one area had led to behavior they considered improper in another, a light went on in their head and they realized that their good intentions had yielded poor results. Why? Because good intentions built upon poor principles and methods yield poor results just the same. This is what many in the world practice today. We have a modern pseudo-morality system based on the secular "ten commandments" that replace the original, including:

- thou shalt not judge the actions of others as correct or incorrect
- thou shalt have few or no children to protect the environment
- thou shalt be tolerant of all behaviors and make no judgments on them
- thou shalt remove all religious references from the public square
- thou shalt have more concern for the caribou than the unborn fetus
- thou shalt espouse diversity as the ultimate virtue (as opposed to unity, which is emphasized in religious scripture)
...

This is what Paul referred to the Jews and said, "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." (Rom. 10:2). This is the title of Hugh Nibley's famous talk "Zeal Without Knowledge" found at http://deseretbook.com/mormon-life/news/story?story_id=981 . We as a people have devised our own pseudo-morality system based on passing modern fads that will eventually fall by the wayside as all others have. By conforming to this system, we truly believe we are doing good. We clearly have good intentions. The underlying principles remain false just the same.

Tracy Keeney said...

Brilliantly expressed, MG!!!