Means and Ends

I've been thinking about consequentialism. As I'm somewhat of a relativist, it's probably not surprising that I'm also an "end justifies the means" kind of girl. But I always have been...

My friend and I were talking recently about why each of us left the LDS church. I left ultimately because I didn't like the "ends" of mormonism - the fruits of the gospel and culture. My friend left because he didn't agree with the "means" of mormonism - the actions taken to establish that gospel and culture.

Honestly both of us dislike the means and the ends (understatement!)... and both of us came to the same conclusion (that we wanted to dissasociate ourselves)...but one aspect was particularly motivational when it came to accepting or rejecting the church. I accepted, and later rejected the church for consequential reasons (it fosters happiness...oh wait no, it destroys happiness!). He accepted, and later rejected the church for deontological reasons (it is pure and correct...oh wait no it is machiavellian and corrupt!).

I think that distinction is fascinating! How do each of us prioritize means and ends, and how do those priorities color our relationships with mormonism (or worldview of choice)?

6 comments:

Andrew S said...

I dunno if I'd confine myself to being totally consequentialist, but I think I took that position with the church too. To me, the opposing position seems unrealistic and idealistic (and the distinction really points this out...from "pure and correct" all the way to "machiavellian and corrupt." A lot of people, I think, put entirely too much value on "purity" when the world, and things in it, aren't really all that pure, and this shouldn't be the deal breaker. I guess I'm pretty ethically egoistic when it comes to dealbreakers (e.g., the dealbreaker are consequences to *me*)

simplysarah said...

"A lot of people, I think, put entirely too much value on 'purity' when the world, and things in it, aren't really all that pure, and this shouldn't be the deal breaker."

While I agree with the first half of this sentence, I disagree with the idea that this "shouldn't" be a deal-breaker.

I think that within institutions like the LDS church, MANY people - including myself - are taught to view the church and the world in terms of black and white, corrupt vs pure. So when they realize that such a perspective is not accurate, it's very understandably a deal-breaker.

It doesn't mean that they're looking for a new purity...it just means they thought that's what they had was valuable BECAUSE of its purity. And so once the purity is gone, the value is with it.

Andrew S said...

I dunno. Before the liberal education conspiracy to make children hate America (TM), people were taught to view the country and the world in terms of black and white, corrupt vs. pure.

But generally, we still understand that this patriotic lore is meant to be understood critically. When we find out that Thomas Jefferson had slaves, we don't say, "Well, I guess he was a complete cad and the foundations of America are a sham."

Incognito_one said...

@Andrew

I think it's all about expectations. While people may be disappointed to find out that Jefferson was unfaithful in marriage and such, I don't believe that he ever claimed perfection. Now, declaring oneself the mouthpiece and instrument of God on earth brings with it a rather high level of expectation.

I guess I am arguing a difference between the constitution and scripture. The founders of our country did not declare the constitution holy and immutable. And, while Mormon theology, like the constitution, allows for amendment, it is generally understood that what has been canonized is immutable and the new stuff just adds to it "line upon line, precept upon precept."

Andrew S said...

@Incognito_one

Jefferson may not have, but True Conservative American Patriots (TM) certainly do.

Interestingly enough, we can apply this further. You *do* have some people who argue against certain interpretations of the constitution by the judiciary, calling it "judicial activism."

Incognito_one said...

@Andrew

Yes, many people have adopted and rather high expectations for the founders of the republic, but when they find that those men fall from the precariously high pedestal that they have been placed on, the fall doesn't hurt the founders. Rather, they land right on top of the person who tried placing them on the pedestal and it is that person hurt by the knowledge. The founders can just sit back and say, "Hey, I never said I was keeping it in my pants, but I did have an idea or two of how to form a government." Whereas, with many of the early founders of the Mormon church, they were ridiculously bold in some of the things they said. The pedestal they placed themselves on is one that hurts their stance. "But, Joseph, you reversed the meaning in revelations when they were wrong. You have contradictory statements about Peter, James and John vs Peter, Jacob and John. You married women who had husbands...etc."

What Jefferson, Franklin and others did does not threaten their title as founders of this country (their actions might threaten other titles given them, but not the one of founder). What Joseph, Brigham and others did and said has a huge impact on their title of "mouthpiece for God on Earth- prophet, seer and revelator."

As to your second paragraph, I think there definitely are people out there who have turned the constitution into a type of holy document (though, I don't think the founders ever meant it to be). In fact, Mormons especially will feel this way, since God's hand in its inception is found in their scripture.