Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Torture and Mormonism

This past week I had an interesting exchange on Facebook. I found out that one of the psychologists that designed torture techniques used under the Bush administration was called to be a bishop. This confused and concerned me. While I do believe strongly in the principle of repentance and change, I am very concerned that someone who had broken the law of the United States so severely could still be considered for a leadership position. How could this man have been involved in such an endeavor? And to call him to a leadership position seems risky; it was sure to call media attention to this man. This man may feel regrets for his actions. I do not know him. It is not my place to say what he feels or what he does not feel. I think, however, that this does raising interesting questions about morality and Mormonism. 

After saying all of this, I was (ironically) attacked for judging this man. I will post some disturbing and sad comments below.

"I'll keep my opinions of Joanna Brooks to myself. I see your points, but I think your selection of article makes a difference in how people perceive your initial argument. If you brought up an article simply about "hey, this Mormon guy helped design controversial torture tactics", people would focus on the morality of Mormons and torture. But the article you found was one that was casting aspersion onto his divinely-inspired calling because of his past involvement in torture. For me, that changed my interpretation of the issue from "ethics of torture" to "ethics of divine inspiration," and thus changed my response. There are probably a few reasons we don't have official Church positions on every possible moral dilemma: allowing people to seek their own inspiration to not be "commanded in all things," because there are SO many unique scenarios to address, or maybe because sometimes there are righteous exceptions (like Nephi and Laban). Personally, we can all pray for personal inspiration or seek advisement from priesthood leaders when we have questions and when the Church's position is unclear. Publicly, does it matter? Those who tout their to-the-letter religious devotion in the public arena, looking for approval of their image, were rebuked by Christ for being prideful. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what other people think of us. What kind of change are you calling for? If administrative changes need to happen, God will inform those who have responsibility for those changes - they're the men that we sustained less than a month ago in General Conference. I don't know enough about the situation on interrogation techniques to offer any answers there; maybe it was somehow like a Laban experience where Nephi didn't think the cost of a life was more than the benefit of escaping Jerusalem with a copy of the scriptures, but God approved (and commanded, that time) anyway. People don't often seem satisfied with the answer "I don't know," but sometimes it's all God gives us right now."

"Jacob, how many people are called unqualified? Almost all. You're disregarding the Atonement entirely. Why pull a mote when you've got a beam now you know just as well as I that torture is never justified. I protested its practice during recent wars when I was in high school. But I sin too. And far be it from me to criticize the Life's judgements. Even if it is wrong, all things will come full circle in the end."

"Katie is right. And I will never put stock in the many observers and commentators of Mormonism who believe there is "grave underdevelopment in the public morality and political theology of contemporary Mormonism”. God's church and His doctrine is perfect, though his people aren't. The fullness of the Gospel has been restored, there is no imperfection in God's morality nor His theology. The world scorns the church using their imagined perception of what true morality is, but they are just plain wrong, which is why I don't heed their complaints in any way."

Grave underdevelopment in the public morality and political theology of contemporary Mormonism holds no water apparently? After extensive research, I still cannot find anything on lds.org about torture. Saints are called upon to proclaim peace frequently in articles about war (a topic closely related to torture), but there is no codified theological teaching when it comes to torture. In another sad incident, I recently read an article that touched on the issue of a young Mormon woman in Iraq who committed suicide because she did not agree with the torture techniques being used. She was told by her superior officers that this war on terror was "different" and that these techniques were necessary. Necessary? Would you lose your humanity to "gain" a sliver of protection? 

There is a moral conflict here. It cannot be ignored. What did happen to love your neighbor? Would you want anyone to torture you or your family? What were Christ's teachings about enemies? Surely we must defend ourselves when necessary, but to stoop to the level of the "enemy" makes us no better than they are. Let's remember what Christ said about loving your enemy. 


Carl Watkins said...

Torture means a lot of things to a lot of different people. But what is torture truly? My mom used to tell me it was torture when I turned my stereo up to loud in my bedroom playing my rock music. One thing is for sure, waterboarding comes nowhere close to the torture our POWs experienced at the hands of our enemies - bamboo shoots under fingernails and electricity through genetiles. And one thing we should really consider: How many lives were saved by the information we received from waterboarding? I think what some people say is torture is way over the top.

Seagulljaap said...


To stoop to the level of the enemy and justify it as being a way to save lives or as our torture being more "humane" than the enemies shows a grave misunderstanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ.