Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The Virtue With No Name, Or the Best Mormon Essay You’ll Read this Month

September 09th, 2014 by G.

No, not this essay, goose. Another essay. Which will be revealed to you later.


Each vice is a virtue corrupted. That is a commonplace among Christians. And among devils too, if C.S. Lewis is any guide:

Everything has to be twisted before it is any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side!

-thus Screwtape.

The Devil is God’s ape.

-thus Martin Luther. He means “ape” in the sense of one who apes, i.e., imitates badly.

That means every virtue has its opposite vices, but also its distorting vices. The opposite vices contradict the virtue, while the distorting vices parody it. So love is the opposite of fear; but fear itself is a distortion of the virtue of prudence; while distorted love can become lust, avarice aka the love of money, jealousy, coveting, or possessiveness.

Want new insights into the gospel? Figure out what virtue a vice corresponds to. Undistorting vices is a powerful intellectual tool.

Pride, for example, is one of the great sins. President Benson called it the “universal sin.” But in ordinary life we are often proud of our children, we recognize that this pride is wholesome, and we are in want of a term to describe this feeling that separates it from Lucifer’s hauteur. We usually say “righteous pride,” but no one is happy with that.

I also remember one interesting side effect of President Benson’s influential talk [on pride]. For a while it almost became taboo among Church members to say that they were “proud” of their children or their country or that they took “pride” in their work. The very word pride seemed to become an outcast in our vocabulary.

Elder Uchtdorf

There is a virtue that pride distorts and there is a word for that virtue. Besides love, it is the quality that is most often associated with God in the scriptures. It is glory. Elder Uchtdorf again:

In the scriptures we find plenty of examples of good and righteous people who rejoice in righteousness and at the same time glory in the goodness of God. Our Heavenly Father Himself introduced His Beloved Son with the words “in whom I am well pleased.”

Alma gloried in the thought that he might “be an instrument in the hands of God.” 3 The Apostle Paul gloried in the faithfulness of members of the Church. The great missionary Ammon gloried in the success he and his brothers had experienced as missionaries.

I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful. I am proud of many things. I am proud of my wife. I am proud of our children and grandchildren.

I am proud of the youth of the Church, and I rejoice in their goodness. I am proud of you, my dear and faithful brethren. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as a bearer of the holy priesthood of God.

Pride and “righteous pride,” or glory, can be diagrammed as follows:

Pride and Other Virtues

Hypocrisy is also one of the great sins. The Savior loathed it. So much so that it became a powerful curse word for a whole range of behavior that the Savior never intended, and distortion of the vice of hypocrisy has itself become a vice.

We don’t have a recognized virtue to which hypocrisy corresponds. Yet we half-consciously know that there is one. We keep groping towards it. We instinctively realize that we will never live in heaven as adult Homo Divinus unless we do lots of pretend playing heaven in our little mortal childhood. The need to pretend towards what we are not is one root of the Savior’s dictum that only those who become as little children will inherit the kingdom.

But whatever that virtue is, we don’t have a word for it and we don’t even have a full conscious awareness of it. What we do have, as of this month, is a first rate essay about it. Shame on whoever doesn’t read it. Here’s a fragment:

When someone is in a situation where their personal circumstance doesn’t meet the ideal gospel circumstance, they might feel conflicted. They might struggle with feelings of pain, loneliness, or internal discord. A counterfeit solution to resolving feelings of conflict might be to either not strive for the gospel ideal, actively speak against it, or even speak against those who advocate the ideal. This “false solution” consists changing external things, such as insisting others change the way others teach doctrine or talk about their blessings, or expecting God’s plan or standards to change — in other words, trying to change external conditions in order to find peace. However, the pattern you can see with the above individuals is that they chose to advocate for it and support others who advocated it.
. . . .
If our lives don’t follow the gospel ideal, we don’t need to feel like the only solution is to look to external things. Do we access the healing and strengthening powers of Christ’s atonement by changing others, or by changing our environment to the non-ideal, or even by changing what truth is taught in Church? External changes might help ease our pain, at times, but true healing comes from the Atonement.

-thus Jelaire Richardson, with, as I understand it, a little bit of help from hubby, a la Marie Curie

Hypocrites espouse standards they don’t live to make themselves look better; they could care less about the standard. Righteous people espouse standards they don’t fully live, even though it makes themselves look worse, because they care so much about the standard. “Though He slay me, yet will I praise God.”

President Benson once said that knowing that you are part of the Fall is the beginning of wisdom:

The Book of Mormon Saints knew that the plan of redemption must start with the account of the fall of Adam. In the words of Moroni, “By Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, … and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man” (Morm. 9:12).

Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind.

I liked this teaching for the grim flavor I thought it had. I saw it as similar to Lord Byron’s thought that “[t]he beginning of atonement is the sense of its necessity,” or our modern saying that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. And in a sense Benson’s teaching does have a grim flavor. But now that I see that embracing a standard even though you don’t live it is a virtue, and not just a step along the way in the process of acquiring a virtue, I also see how hopeful the teaching is. How sad to look around you and think, “this is as good as it gets.” How sad to have no dreams for the face in the mirror.

Virtues 2

Comments (14)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
September 09th, 2014 12:10:29

September 9, 2014

“We don’t have a recognized virtue to which hypocrisy corresponds.”


Some good thoughts here.

September 9, 2014

Hypocrisy is the contradiction of sincerity, not the distortion of it. I think. The distortion of sincerity is the cult of authenticity, the ‘god within,’ etc., which in turn is the vice that opposes the virtue that has no name

September 9, 2014


Discretion, perhaps?

September 9, 2014


I don’t know if this is something you did on purpose, or just some random ad put in by the company hosting your site, but when I clicked your name I got a website featuring the CareBears. Pretty amusing.

September 9, 2014

Judging by Jesus’ condemnations of hypocrisy, it seems that a hypocrite is someone who adheres to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit. A non-hypocrite in this context is someone who fulfills the spirit of the law. In other words, a righteous or just man and a man of faith. In fact, a man of integrity, who makes his actions match his words (or at least tries to).

Thus hypocrisy is a counterfeit of good; a whited sepulchre.

It seems like that would make it a distortion of righteousness and faithfulness itself, in the same way that lust is a distortion of love, having its outward appearance but not its substance.

September 10, 2014

Related, from Bruce Charlton:

the primary virtue is to advocate virtue; the worst sin is to advocate sin.


September 10, 2014


I didn’t do it. But when I had the site figured out enough to change my link, I thought the original one I was assigned was so amusing, I kept it.

September 11, 2014

October 5, 2014

“Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy… Because they were hypocrites, the Victorians were despised in the late twentieth century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of the most nefarious conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves-they took no moral stances and lived by none.”
? Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age

[…] month G at Jr. Ganymede wrote an essay that spoke of vices as distorted […]

October 6, 2014

that is a most excellent skewer. Thanks.

[…] Calculated Bravery, an extremely important discussion that addresses hypocrisy, one of the primary crimes of progressivism, Christian and […]

C.S. Lewis
October 21, 2014

The ‘frankness’ of people sunk below shame is a very cheap frankness.

[…] The bar can be set many different places, high or low, but God sets it pretty high. You don’t even have to look at porn, there are plenty of people just watching around you can get porno about. The logical choice- the choice we are patiently presented with, again and again- is to just give up. But as we have seen, there is another option, to hold up the ideal publicly even if we can’t do it privately and just keep trying. […]

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