Wait a minute; those aren’t my morals!

The other day, I wrote on my blog about how I continue to find that even as intellectually and ideologically, I’m moving farther (bad typo; I wish I could move my father past the church) past the church, I realize from a practical standpoint, I’ve still got a lot of Mormonism in me yet. But I mean, I was not too concerned about a lot of it…after all, just because you don’t believe in the spiritual underpinnings of Mormonism doesn’t mean you somehow immediately become a dramatically different person. Mormonism doesn’t have the market cornered on abstinence, being an embarrassingly sheltered and naive prude, and tee-totalism.

So, I’ve wanted to say that it’s just a part of my unique cultural Mormonism. I can’t escape that I was raised LDS and that is a part of my culture.

But…as Kuri called me out on…and as I called myself on just a few moments after publishing the post…I seem to be paying way too much deference to Mormon frameworks of virtue and morality. What is up with that? I find myself looking at some of the things I said as if I were cleaning up my room, finding some strange underwear. Wait a minute…those aren’t my boxer-briefs!

Kuri had said:

I think you have deeply absorbed Mormon values. Its pretty clear that you consider not having sex, not drinking, and not using drugs to be virtuous choices on your part rather than considering them, say, risks you dont want to take or morally neutral actions that you simply arent interested in pursuing. Its interesting how much a part of you that worldview is even though you dont believe in the religious aspects.

And I was conflicted. No, I do not believe all of these things to be “virtuous” choices or “moral” choices, because I don’t believe in that moral framework anymore (and, to be honest, when I was a member, I didn’t really take that moral framework). But where I’m conflicted specifically is that I must admit that yes, I’ve been caught red-handed using the language that would be conducive to such thoughts. I am using the language of acquiescence to Mormon moral normativity.

I’ve been trying to get past this, too. But it’s a struggle too…as I tried to write my original article, I wanted to be careful to distance myself from the language I was using. So, I used rather awkward phrases…the “appearance” of virtue. What a faithful member might see as virtuous. So, I tried to distance it away from myself and instead to the community I came from.

Because, quite frankly…I don’t think I’m more moral or virtuous for not drinking or doing all of those things. And I don’t think others are immoral or unvirtuous for doing those things. Instead, my point was that I recognize that to others, I must appear rather virtuous or moral (ex: to my parents or to people from my ward, who despite their displeasure with knowing I don’t believe would have to recognize that I’m pretty “clean”.) I think it’s because moral wrongs demand a certain outrage…and pine for retribution to make things better…but I do not have such an outrage or pining for such retribution.

Rather, at this point, I think I view it in terms of a kind of prudence…With imprudent actions, you aren’t outraged…rather, imprudent actions bring about a harm to the self that makes one think, “That was stupid and silly. I ought not to do that.” One possibly takes pity on someone who commits an imprudent action, but one wouldn’t want to bring more harm (in the form of retribution) onto someone who has been imprudent, because they have already harmed themselves.

And I think I’ve done, in many cases…a great job of viewing things less in terms of Mormon morality/immorality (I’m crafting a post on amoralism and moral error theory for one of these days) and more in terms of prudence/imprudence. For example, we had a go around about baptism for the dead. And one of the things this got me seeing is the difference…for me, baptisms for the dead simply seem rather imprudent for Mormons to do, and I think I phrased that: to me, at best, I feel like they are doing something silly that harms the self (because it is a waste of time)…but others would take a different stance, noting there is moral outrage at the idea because of a harm to others (disrespect for the dead’s beliefs).

And even when I do see things in terms of morality/immorality, it is distinctly of a non-Mormon flavor. Outrage for me is for people who are against marriage equality. But I can’t say I got that from Mormon upbringing when the church is precisely one of those offending groups.

So…I dunno…I guess I got rambly again…but the thing I’m trying to say is…I’m rather conflicted. Even as I think I’m out, I find strange parts that are back in. Yet, it’s not like I’m so entrenched in Mormonism and Mormon values. It is an enigma.

Do you ever have similar issues sometimes?

Andrew S

Andrew S grew up in a military family, but apparently, that didn't make much of an impression upon him because he has since forgotten all of his French and all of his Hangungmal (but he does mispronounce the past tense of "win" like the Korean currency and thinks that English needs to get it together!) Andrew is currently a student at Texas A&M who loves tax accounting, the social sciences, fencing (epee), typography, presentation design, and public speaking, smartphones, linux, and nonparallel structured lists.

You may also like...

17 Responses

  1. aerin says:

    I’m still not sure I understand here. Drinking alcohol is not immoral. For some, it may be against their code of conduct, and therefore immoral.

    I think there is a big difference between actions that only affect a person (like drinking alcohol) and between actions that impact another person (like stealing). Of course this gets incredibly complex when you start arguing about what a “person” is, see the bftd debate you referenced above.

    But in terms of actions that directly impact other people? If I drink, say, a beer, it doesn’t directly impact anyone else (IMO). But if I steal someone’s car, that DOES directly impact someone else.

    In my opinion, a person can determine their own code of conduct with information from various sources – cultural, religious, philosophical. They can obey the law – where drinking a beer is legal in most U.S. states if a person is over 21 (where stealing a car is not).

    I think everyone (current and former mormons included) have the responsibility to examine their actions to make sure they are moral. That’s the basis of the current torture debate and other debates throughout our society.

  2. Andrew S says:


    This is exactly the point of the post. Drinking alcohol is not immoral. So it’s such a strange thing that even today, it pops up into my morality.

    But…at the same time, I realize it’s not quite at the level of morality. Because of the difference you recognize between what only affects a person (in which case, this is a matter of prudence, perhaps) and what affects others.

    So, I mean, I completely understand your comment, and that is what I’ve been trying to get at (in apparently too many unclear words to be understood)…but I’m just wondering if I’m the only one who has found vestiges of Mormon morality — that is inexplicable/indefensible without a particular Mormon foundation — hanging out with the rest of my foundation?

  3. aerin says:

    Yes, I think it’s perfectly appropriate for ALL adults to do an “inventory” of sorts and examine this stuff. On a semi-regular basis throughout their lives. Figuring out their relationship to authority, how they want to live their lives and what their moral code is. Mormon, non-mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, PhD., mechanic, what have you.

    What shocks me (personally) is when there are people who are not aware of this or conscious. They assume that since their parent or grandparent treated women (or people of color) a certain way, it’s fine for them to do the same.

    In other words, I think this is very common (re-evaluating one’s morals) and an important step in maturity. (Being able to think critically about one’s morals/code of conduct and potentially defend them).

  4. chanson says:

    Personally, I had a very strong negative reaction right from the start about seeing such acts in “moral”/virtuous terms. I lean toward’s Kuri’s reaction that calling attention to the fact that you haven’t fallen into such temptations merely validates their “moral” framework.

    That said, there are definitely other aspects of the Mormon worldview that I’ve internalized and retained. I’m not sure I can make a comprehensive list, but the most obviously regrettable one was the idea that a woman’s success is her marital success, which was the main reason for my young first marriage + divorce, which should have just been a pleasant cohabitation.

  5. Andrew S says:

    Yet, I’m not validating any moral framework except in a tentatively cultural and linguistic sense.

    It would be like saying that an atheist who does not lie, cheat, steal, etc., secretly validates the moral framework that God exists and establishes these kinds of framework, when in reality one can appear to have similar conclusions (not lying, cheating, stealing, etc.,) for different reasons and from different frameworks.

    Basically, I am saying, “If we were to look at it from a Mormon moral framework, I appear to be rather virtuous though I am not a Mormon.” By setting this up in terms Mormon culture and linguistic, I am using their definitions of morality and virtue hypothetically or situationally…but that says nothing about whether I validate their moral framework or personally believe in that framework. And in fact, that is where the conflict comes from…because I ask, “Why am I still paying enough deference to that framework especially when I don’t believe in it?” It shouldn’t (and doesn’t) matter if, from a Mormon vantage point, I appear virtuous or not, because I don’t accept that Mormon vantage point.

  6. chanson says:

    I’m not convinced. There are ethical considerations behind the “lie, cheat, steal” questions, and conflating those with personal choices like sex validates the conservatives’ “moral” framework. 😉

  7. Andrew S says:

    chanson, I’m trying to figure out a way to answer without saying something like, “that is so silly,” but I’m running into a wall.

    Of course then again, I’m coming from the perspective that our moralities are all subjective fictions that tell us more about…us…than they do about the universe (unlike something like, say, gravity.) So, it seems to me like you’re special pleading…

  8. aerin says:

    Wikipedia is your friend. Honestly, Andrew, I believe the questions you are asking are questions of the “ages”, many people from many different backgrounds, cultures, etc. ask them all the time.

    section of mortality in wikipedia

    Quoted from the article:

    Moral codes are often complex definitions of right and wrong that are based upon well-defined value systems. Although some people might think that a moral code is simple, rarely is there anything simple about one’s values, ethics, etc. or, for that matter, the judgment of those of others. The difficulty lies in the fact that morals are often part of a religion and more often than not about culture codes. Sometimes, moral codes give way to legal codes, which couple penalties or corrective actions with particular practices. Note that while many legal codes are merely built on a foundation of religious and/or cultural moral codes, ofttimes they are one and the same.

    Then there is a related article on value systems on wikipedia.
    value systems

    I like this statement from that article:

    # Individuals may act freely unless their actions harm others or interfere with others’ freedom or with functions of society that individuals need, provided those functions do not themselves interfere with these proscribed individual rights and were agreed to by a majority of the individuals.

    In other words, if I drink a beer, that doesn’t harm another person. If I steal a car, that does hurt another person.

    PS. I have no idea if my links and quotes will work. I would like to ask for a preview quote button someday when the amazing, intelligent admins of this site have time and willingness to make updates.

  9. Andrew S says:

    yeah, I have no idea what is going on here anymore. I’m going to take a hiatus for a while.

  10. aerin says:

    That’s fine – Andrew maybe I didn’t understand what you were saying either.

    What I was trying to say (which might not have come across) I just think there is a separate debate about morality in general outside of the realm of mormonism – and a mormon code of conduct. So yes, I think it is (partially) a subjective fiction…..

    Are you saying you didn’t absorb a mormon framework or state of mind growing up? For me, that would be like saying I didn’t learn some of the things I learned in elementary school. They’re there. I can choose what I want to accept, examine and re-evaluate (like the four food groups…)

  11. chanson says:

    yeah, I have no idea what is going on here anymore. Im going to take a hiatus for a while.

    What? We just had some technical difficultieswhich should be premanently cleared up now that ProfXM has taken over the tech admin. Unfortunately — due to the fact that we weren’t able to post for almost two weeks — the discussion has naturally slowed down. I’d be putting more into stoking it back up myself, but I’ve been incredibly busy at work.

    The last thing we need is for our regulars to jump ship right when we’re trying to get back on track! (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor 😉 )

  12. Andrew S says:

    re 10:

    well, of course there’s a separate debate about morality outside the realm of mormonism. But this is still an engagement in subjective fictions. As you note:

    “The difficulty lies in the fact that morals are often part of a religion and more often than not about culture codes. Sometimes, moral codes give way to legal codes, which couple penalties or corrective actions with particular practices. Note that while many legal codes are merely built on a foundation of religious and/or cultural moral codes, ofttimes they are one and the same.”

    I mean, basing morality on harm to other…that is at its base subjective. Because pain/pleasure/etc., are inherently subjective. This doesn’t make them less valuable, because that’s the entire point of the subjective valuation. But it’s still a far cry from finding anything objective.

    I’m saying (very poorly) that I absorbed a mormon framework in very incomplete, weird ways. So, now the weirdness is coming up now with mismatched beliefs to preferred courses of actions, etc.,

  13. Chino Blanco says:

    Glad to see MSP is still alive and kickin’.

  14. Wayne says:

    Funny, I was just thinking about this today. I definitely am not free of “Mormon Morality”

    I take my tastes in Alcohol, When I started drinking I made it very clear to my L.D.S. family that I did not drink to get drunk. And gee look at these expensive locally made micro-brews I am drinking, “I drink because I enjoy the flavor.” This is true to a degree but a lot of my snobbery had more to do with my discomfort with appearing to have left the Church, so I could sin.

    After getting drunk a few times showed me that I do not like being drunk. Drinking cheap beer showed me that I really do prefer the the locally made(we are sooo spoiled in Oregon)beer, ale, yada yada.

    Leaving lent me the freedom to see if the morals I grew up with could hold up to ambiguity.
    Rather trying to distance your self form the Mormon interpretation immediately, you may find that, in time, you will have re-interpreted them.

  15. “intellectually and ideologically, Im moving father past the church”

    My own father is still a firm believer. Do you have any tips?

  16. Andrew S says:

    re 15:

    wow, my bad. typo. farther. I wish I could move my father past the church, although I can get him to admit ON HIS OWN TERMS that he doesn’t believe in an orthodox way, he enjoys taking sabbaticals (because the people in church and the orthodox way the church is annoy him), he knows his beliefs are idiosyncratic and all would not be appreciated in meetings, etc.,

    but still, he believes

  17. Sorry for the dig. Couldn’t resist. (My own blogs are full of typos – it’s how I pass the Turing test.) Excellent piece, though. It’s a tough thing to examine our morality, as it’s the foundation for our self worth. Question the value of someone’s morality and it’s very easy to lose friends… or worse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.