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Friday, May 23, 2008

Why we do the things we do

What is our motivation to not sin?

For some it is the fear of punishment. The problem with this motivation is that it is not always immediate or even evident. There are two kinds of punishment that we fear.

1. Fear that sometime after this life is over we will be punished. Here is the problem. Fear of a punishment that we don't understand, can't comprehend, and that will happen at some point in the distant future (assuming we have enough faith to believe it will happen) is just not a good enough motivation to get us not to sin.

2. Fear that we will be punished in this life. Something "bad" will happen to us. The problem with this is, number one, it's not consistent. Let me relate this to something we are all familiar with. Speeding. Whether speeding is a sin is a discussion for another time. I'd like to think of it in terms of a completely temporal law for now. If you break this law then there is a penalty...we'll sort of. Why do so many people speed? I think it's because a person may speed once, twice, three times, etc. and not see any negative consequences for the action, so they continue to do it. It's like that with us and sin as well. Perhaps we commit a sin once, twice, three times, and we don't notice any real consequences. Our lives are just as good as before we sinned. So what is to stop us?
The second problem with using fear of punishment in this life as a motivation not to sin is that even if we didn't sin and were perfect, bad things would still happen to us. Look at Christ. He never sinned, and he still had bad things happen to him. If bad things are going to happen anyway, I don't think that using that as a motivation not to sin is going to work very well.

Fear of punishment doesn't seem to be a good motivator to not sin. What about reward?

If we don't sin then we can go to heaven. In LDS terms, be exalted. What does that mean? Well to some people, heaven is fishing every day on a secluded pristine lake, to others it might be relaxing on a beach listening to the waves roll in. You may envision heaven some other way, but the reality is, the ultimate goal is to become a God (D&C 132:20) So here is the problem with that as I see it. Most of our sins pretty much boil down to selfishness. Both sins of commission and sins of omission. We do A, B, and C because we want to and we don't do D, E, and F because we don't want to. So why in the world would we want a life (being a God) where we have to be selfless and think about others 24/7. If that seemed like a great reward and what we truly wanted, we would just do it now. Why wait for a life like that if that's what we truly wanted? We could just have it right now. See, most of us don't want to think of others 24/7 so that doesn't seem like much of a reward. Certainly not enough to motivate us not to sin.

So if fear of punishment is not enough and the hope of reward is not enough, what is our motivation not to sin?

1 comment:

Dallas said...

This seems to be the ultimate question. However I don't think the answer will be "42."

To begin to answer this I think we need to stop looking into the eternities and look at this life.

If we always look to be a God as our ultimate goal, than it doesn't seem to motivate us. I am a LONG way off of the selfless life that you talk about. I am pretty selfish, I don't even do my home teaching. The concept of becoming a God isn't that appealing right now in my life, I haven't spiritually progressed enough to see any benefit in it.

I think we need to take the punishment/reward into our immediate life.

For example I know that if I were to commit adultery, my punishment would be losing my wife and kid. They would leave me and I would be miserable.

On the reward side, I would love to see good heavenly angels and visions in this life. It could be some of my ancestry visiting me or visions other people have had (Orson F Whitneys vision of the Garden of Gethsemane comes to mind.) But I also know that if I start to have visions there comes a great responsibility also. Just like Spiderman "with great power comes great responsibility." I have a lot of sins of omission like selfishness, pride, and my temper that I need to work on before I can accomplish this. That is my Motivation not to sin.