I, and I believe most people, would consider not revealing all the facts, withholding certain information which may sway a person from believing an idea, a form of dishonesty. A particularly devious one at that, because a person who engages in such an act may be able to claim to others and themselves they were technically honest. Everything they said was true. However, by only revealing one part of the picture, deliberately withholding the other, knowing that would alter one's perception, deception has occurred.

It is for this reason I often feel frustrated when I hear Lds authorities speak of honesty.The Church engages in this behavior constantly, particularly in regard to its history.

I believe this type of deception to frequently be counterproductive. When the curtain is pulled back (which is happening with greater ease and frequency because of www.internet.com) and people do find out what from them, they often feel deceived and confused, not knowing what they can trust from the deceiving source..

The most recent issue of the Ensign had a piece about the Word of Wisdom, listing health issues that can be caused from alcohol, caffeine etc. Perfectly understandable, and a worthy cause, seeking to improve the health of Church members. But could you imagine them ever listing the health BENEFITS of certain things against the Word of Wisdom? For example tea contains anti-oxidants and other health promoting chemicals and has less caffeine than most colas.
(recently I was eating out with my parents, and was struck by the irony when I ordered an iced green tea, and them sugar heavy, nutrient lacking sodas. And I was the one breaking their religious health code. Few things other than religion could create such a situation where the soda drinkers were doing so for 'health' reasons)

Can church members really be expected to make informed decisions when only given one part of the story? How condescending and manipulative to put yourself in a situation where you believe you know what is best for a person, so will only give them information which supports your view. But of course, that is a lot of what religion is about. People who believe god has condescended to show people who are otherwise incapable of figuring out for themselves how to live.

I remember when I first ventured into breaking the word of wisdom. When I smoked my first joint or had my first beer. I was struck by how not big of a deal it was. I didn't feel or act much different like I thought I would. I think that type of thing is common, and unfortunate. I realized that I had been deceived by the Church and and society in general about what drugs were like.

Once you realize your understanding of drugs you received from your church, school or government is severely distorted it becomes hard to trust them about anything they may say on the subject. 'Well, marijuana wasn't nearly as bad as I thought, why should I think shooting up coke and heroin at the same time would be as bad as they say either?'
Once you realize one thing isn't as big a deal as you were told, you no longer have a reliable way to know what really is a big deal, and may get yourself wrapped up in something you would have avoided had people been more upfront with you in the first place.

This is not limited to Mormonism, or even religion, though religion is a great example of it. It isn't always something we do consciously. we tend to avoid facts that contradict our world view. Examples can be found in probably all areas of life. Politics, particularly activism is another good example.

I remember going to a friends house a couple years ago for a video and discussion about globalization. The video was full of information and images about the harm and hurt that stems from globalization. It was filled with images meant to hit people's emotions. Cause them to feel some of the suffering experienced by victims of globalization.

A few weeks earlier I had read an article in 'Scientific American' that highlighted a few recent studies about the effects of globalization.
Surprising to me and the author it was shown that in almost every instance people in areas affected by globalization had their standard of living raised, often considerably.

It is likely that the information in the video and in the magazine was both correct. If we are to seek real solutions to the problems raised by the videos, it would be important to also be aware of the benefits the article pointed out. Considering the two together one might conclude that perhaps globalization is not inherently bad, but it is often done in ways that cause more harm than necessary. If all one knew was the information in the video, it would be difficult to see globalization as anything but pure evil.

This often frustrating me about political activism. People do not educate themselves on the opposing views. Do not fully understand the issues they are fighting for with their entire hearts. Just like religion. And a lot of others stuff.


carie said...

Hey Chris,
I was on a website about mormonism recently and read something that helped me look at the Word of Wisdom and general religious laws in a different way.

I know your blog post wasn't particulary about the WofW or mormons, but thought you might find this person's point of view interesting:

I don't think of the WoW as a list of proscriptions. It's not about what you can or can't eat/drink. It's about 1 Cor 6:19-20: Know ye not that your body is a temple...and ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price..." Because Christ bought and paid for us, we submit all to him, including what we will eat and drink. The Israelites had a WoW too, but again, it's not about not eating pork or shellfish, etc, it's about submitting to Christ in all things. Because the list of don't's in the WoW has changed over the centuries (no pork, shellfish, now it's OK, first wine was OK, now it's not, Coke was bad, now it's not, etc) so it's obvious it isn't about the LIST.

Those who think the WoW as just this list of do's and don't's will often find that it is the first thing they discard when they leave the church. They view it as a restrictive thing and that defiance is the first sign of a "maturity", of their break from the church.

chrisalmond said...

Carie, thank you for your comment. I hope I did not give the impresion i felt opposed to the w.o.w. aside from it being viewed with a sense of good/evil, moral/immoral, rather than as healthy/unhealthy (with a nod to the fact that physical health can help promote ones spiritual abilities)what i feel to be more helpful both for an individual's sense of personal value as well as how we percieve others. we don't see fat people as 'evil' despite their actions being far more destructive than drinking coffee which does carry a conotation of evil, sin or immorality.
leaving that aside, i think the w.o.w. is beneficial. as a baha'i i have almost identical dietary restrictions, except w/ a bit greater emphasis towards vegetarianism and an allowance of coffee & tea.

as a side note, virtually every non-christian or jewish (barring a few exceptions)religion has health proscriptions very similar to mormons. hare krisna hindus for example don't drink caffeine. l

what my concern is, and what i poorly tried to express is the extreme one sidedness of religions, schools & gov't message about drugs. growing up shooting meth & drinking wine were in the same boat. so when i first drank, and realized that my impression of it as a terrible evil w no possibility of positive outcomes was mistaken, it led me to doubt ALL i'd ever learned about drugs. this led to me trying much harder drugs than i should have. but had i been given a balanced view from the get go, had i realized marijuana,(while not something i enjoy) is in general not a big deal, then i would have taken their warnings about harder drugs more serious. like if you tell a child touching a warm plate will permently hurt them, they touch it, realize that was wrong, they may no longer trust that something genuinely life altering like hot oil is actually dangerous.