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Truth can be the enemy of good..? Let’s reconsider this New Order Mormon approach…

June 20, 2011

I really want to support New Order Mormons, cultural Mormons, Open Mormons, uncorrelated Mormons, or whatever term is popular these days. I really do. I want to see a bigger tent. Maybe it’s the nonbeliever in me, but  I would like to see change in the church.

But sometimes I read certain things and wonder…

The Book of Mormon MusicalThe Book of Mormon Musical has been rather popular, if you haven’t heard. And so it has predictably gotten a lot of buzz in the Mormon blogging community, from people who like it to people who don’t like it as much. Is it awesomely lame?

Wait a minute…check out that link of people who like it again!

Can the Book of Mormon musical really be just what the church needs to retain people and bring doubters back into the fold? Maybe the church’s efforts to bring the Mormon.org ads closer to Broadway weren’t the right option?

(OK, that was a low blow.)

But the message that Adam is drawing from the Book of Mormon musical ultimately just won’t be what the church was looking for.

Adam writes:

If a belief leads people to happiness and a better quality of life, that belief is a good thing — and (here is the key) people shouldn’t allow doubts about the truthfulness of that belief to interfere with its impact.

I’m not a big person on truth, I admit. I think a lot of people fetishize it, and they do ignore things like happiness and quality of life, and things like this. Nevertheless, I think that at least conceptually, we should want to think that goodness and truth are somewhat relatable.

Yet, here is the line that really troubles me:

Truth can be the enemy of good.

It seems to me that taking such an approach could have some *bad* side effects down the road. When are we to determine that a particular truth is an enemy to a particular good, and then devalue the truth accordingly?

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11 Comments
  1. I don’t think the New Order Mormon/Uncorrelated Mormon approach are even related to Adam’s comments… In fact I think that the big tent approach is more about embracing a more real view of the church, its history and its teachings. I think if you were to wander over to the NOM forum and post that “Truth can be the enemy of good” you find that most of them would HATE that quote… (I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.)

    I agree with what you said. Truth and good in some ways really need to be linked…

  2. Kiley,

    I actually suppose you’re right. I think I jumped on this idea of doubters who want to cling to the church in a nontraditional way and thought of all the related ideas I could. It’s difficult to keep things straightened out…

  3. The wicked aren’t necessarily the only people who take the truth to be hard. Jesus said the truth will set you free, not the truth will make you happy. Or if you prefer movie quotes to scriptural ones, like Morpheus told Neo, “I didn’t say it would be easy. I just said it would be the truth.” So maybe Adam is a person who values happiness over truth or liberty.

  4. I think it’s more important to know what’s true than it is to be happy.

    I was going to explain why I think that, but then I realised it’s a whole blog post.

  5. Daniel,

    So I guess I should look forward to a new blog post in the next day or two, right?

  6. LOL I’m still working on my “Lectures on Doubt”.

  7. FWIW, I can’t rest easy knowing what I profess to believe is false. The happiness-truth dichotomy is useful to think about, but in practice, I can’t make that choice. I can’t consciously choose to believe something false to make myself happy. Trying to do so would just make me unhappy in the long run.

    Besides, happiness is overrated. :)

  8. I think I’m more with Jonathan’s emphasis than Daniel’s here. I just can’t accept: “I think it’s more important to know what’s true than it is to be happy.” With all the research on how much more accurate (i.e. “truthful”) people with depression are, I’d favor happiness any day. Perhaps the key there is, however, to be happy and optimistic without realizing you’re also being less accurate and that you have less truthyness.

  9. Chris permalink

    @Jonathan, does anybody really go about life knowing what they profess to believe is false?

    I’m trying to think about my own life… and I think I’ve always thought I was right (at the moment). If I were ever convinced I was wrong about something, I usually dropped that belief pretty quick. I’ve never held onto something false like… “welp what I believe is false but that’s just the way it is.”

    • Jonathan, does anybody really go about life knowing what they profess to believe is false?

      Politicians?

      I went through periods of doubt when I professed to believe one thing, but if I had been honest, I would have confessed that I didn’t believe it. Typically though, it’s that people try to ignore the evidence against what they want to believe, what makes them happy.

      Or there are folks who pretend to believe something to be able to fit in with family and friends. They choose dissembling rather than authenticity for the sake of convenience, familial harmony, etc.

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