Junior Ganymede
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A Few Preliminary Facts About Anger in the Scriptures

June 28th, 2011 by Adam G.

Some jottings about anger in the scriptures.

 

 

  • When a divine being infuses men with anger, it is always Satan that does it (e.g.). Contrast with 3 Nephi 11:30, “this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another”

 

  • The exception is 2 Nephi 8:20/Isaiah 51:20 -
  • Thy sons have fainted, save these two; they lie at the head of all the streets; as a wild bull in a net, they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.

  • There are some scriptures that can be said to be positive about anger in a constrained way, or that at least indicate that anger simpliciter is not wrong: Proverbs 25:23, Ephesians 4:26 (but see the JST), Titus 1:7, Ecclesiastes 7:9, D&C 121:43

 

I don’t have any obvious way of reconciling all this.  We are dealing either with a mystery or with something God wants us to wrestle with.

Note: I generated the above by the crude method of electronically searching scripture for the terms wrath, anger, indignation, and rage.

Comments (7)
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June 28th, 2011 10:23:59
7 comments

Zen
June 28, 2011

It is vastly simplistic to say it is good or bad, without further context. We will agree that the spirit of contention is evil, but fighting is not necessarily. It is possible to be in a war without being filled with a spirit of hatred and uncontrolled wrath.

God’s wrath is always strong, but he is equally able to stop it at a drop of the hat if we begin to repent. It is wrath for a purpose, and BECAUSE he loves us, not because he wants to destroy us.


Adam G.
June 28, 2011

It is vastly simplistic to say it is good or bad, without further context.

Agreed, but there are scriptures that appear to say, simplistically, that anger is bad.

We will agree that the spirit of contention is evil, but fighting is not necessarily.

Contention is a form of fighting. So, ultimately, this means that contention is OK but the spirit of contention isn’t. I don’t know if I can buy that fine of distinction. I’m jesuitical, but maybe no that jesuitical.

It is possible to be in a war without being filled with a spirit of hatred and uncontrolled wrath.

Maybe. Certainly, if you make some pretty nice distinctions between different forms of anger. You know, wrath, but not *uncontrolled* wrath. I also have read a few accounts of servicemen, primarily LDS, who have talked about fighting without anger, but most war literature and most experienced of things that are warlike show that a certain amount of anger is pretty much inherent in the phenomenon. Logically I concede that you may be right, phenomenologically I have my doubts.

God’s wrath is always strong, but he is equally able to stop it at a drop of the hat if we begin to repent.

Absolutely. This cannot be said enough.

It is wrath for a purpose,

I suppose. Depends on what you mean by “for a purpose.” If you are saying that his wrath is never reasonless or unjustified, I agree. If you are saying that his wrath is tactical, merely a pose adopted to achieve an end, I disagree. A lot of the wrath scriptures are in the context of the final judgment; its hard to see how final condemnation can be meant to rehabilitate.

and BECAUSE he loves us, not because he wants to destroy us.

Well . . . that’s a hard case to make from scriptures. Now, as parents, we all know the phenomenon where you get mad at your kid because you love your kid and you’re frustrated that he’s doing something stupid. I don’t doubt that the Father can have that experience sometimes. On the other hand, many of the scriptures associated with God’s wrath talk about God’s offense that he has been trifled with. Or consider scriptures like 3 Nephi 9, where Christ says he’s destroyed cities because of what they’ve done to the saints. Those are hard to describe as God being angry at evildoers because of his love for evildoers.
As far as wanting to destroy us, well, I don’t think God wants to destroy all of us. But those people God has actually destroyed –Sodom, Gomorrah, Jacobugath–and that he promises to destroy–the wicked will burn as stubble at my coming–I’m pretty sure that in some sense God wanted to destroy them. Things that God doesn’t want to happen don’t happen. If you mean that He regrets the necessity, or that along with anger at those whom He destroys there continues to also be love, then I agree, though the scriptures do not say this directly.


Vader
June 28, 2011

You have got me ruminating on where our anger comes from. I’m tempted to suggest that God would not have created us with a capacity for anger if it did not serve some useful purpose, perhaps in childrearing. Kids who do wrong need to sense that their parents are angry about it, no? Or is it sufficient that they know their parents are unhappy?

But the anger evinced by Satan strongly suggests that the capacity for anger was in us before mortality. Perhaps it is intrinsic in the intelligence that is at the core of man, and no more created than that intelligence is?

Still, my sense from the scripures is that God is agin’ it.


Adam G.
June 28, 2011

Vader,
I am mostly convinced that anger is not necessarily an evil on a priori grounds. The same a priori grounds as you, in fact. Plus I don’t think Satan can create emotions.
Still, as for God being agin’ it, it seems to be very much a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ But so are lots of things that parents, very properly, tell their children not to do. Whatever else anger is, its dangerous.


Zen
June 28, 2011

I would insist that love is a large part of it, even if it is not necessarily for the evildoer – perhaps for the righteous or for the unborn. But just because that is not the whole, that does not negate its validity. I would say it is also justice and an understanding on His part that he has done all he can do. I see anger as wrong insofar as it engenders a spirit of enmity (pride) and hatred (vs. love). Insofar as anger is passion or strong feeling or strong emotion, I consider its controlled form a very good thing. It is important and part of being alive. We will never be Vulcans.

And at the risk of sounding Jesuitical, I will continue to draw a draw a distinction between the fury in the midst of battle, and hatred.

Now, part of these arguments I make from scripture, and part from my personal spiritual understanding, so take it for what you will, though I can still probably argue it if I need to. But what comes to mind most strongly, (I have no reference for it, alas, but supposedly Joseph Smith) is a quote that God will be more merciful to the repentant than we dare imagine, and more terrible to the sinner than we dare conceive.


Niklas
June 29, 2011

I really like what Orson Pratt has said about anger:
“Anger is a passion wisely given to intelligent
beings, intended for a good purpose; but it is one easily perverted by fallen beings into an instrument of much evil. It is a passion pertaining to the Almighty, who is angry with the wicked every day. Righteous anger is a feeling of indignation against sin, a feeling of justice, a feeling that the evil doer
merits punishment. This kind of anger is justifiable, whether it exists in the bosom of God, angels, or men; but anger founded
upon any other principle is sinful. ”
(Millennial Star, 28:473-475; July 28, 1866.
http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/u?/MStar,11872 )


Adam G.
June 29, 2011

Thanks, Niklas. Perhaps Pratt’s remark is too pat, but it sounds wise to me.

Zen,
I have often argued that anger and hate are often expressions of love. One is angry at and hates what threatens one’s loves. I probably agree with what you say given that you appear to be using a narrow definition of hate to mean something like ‘malice’

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