Okay…I read an article in Psychiatry Today titled, Confessions of a Sociopath. It sounds pretty interesting, right?
I have to admit that I’m pretty intrigued because I feel like I have been very close to a sociopath in my life. I’ve been reading a few books lately on the subject, and I have had thoughts swirling in my mind. I wasn’t planning on blogging about it, but then I came across the following quote in the aforementioned article:
What Is Evil, Really?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a sociopath’s dream. Mormons believe that everyone has the potential to be godlike—I believe this includes me. Every being is capable of salvation; my actions are what matters, not my ruthless thoughts, not my nefarious motivations. Everyone is a sinner, and I never felt that I was outside this norm.
When I read this, I’m not sure if I was incredulous or simply entertained. I started to laugh. Really!? Does this author even go to the LDS church?! I came to realize that my I was so surprised because prior to reading this article – as I’ve been reading other literature on sociopathy and psychopathy – repeatedly I’ve had the thought, “These people need the gospel.”
I’m not going to take the time to describe sociopathy or psychopathy now. If you are unfamiliar, you can find some good, general information here. I want to make a disclaimer, that I don’t really think I personally know how to help an individual who is seeking healing from such a disability. Obviously, I don’t have the training. However, I know that the gospel can help put anyone on the right track. Above all, I know that the claim that this author made is untrue. The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints isn’t a “sociopath’s dream.” The connotation of this statement is that the LDS church breeds sociopaths. The rest of the quoted paragraph is flat-out false. The author should, perhaps, read the scriptures. Of course, the author claims to be a sociopath, so I shouldn’t find the statement to be all that surprising. 😉 Additionally, Psychology Today might do well to fact-check statements made by a self-proclaimed sociopath before publishing as if it is true.
Enough of that. Here are a few points on why the gospel is actually anti-sociopathy:
Jesus is our Exemplar
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, Redeemer, Creator, King, Master, Messiah, and more. We believe that He is our Example to follow. We have been bidden to follow Christ-not only in where we go, but how we live. We are taught to follow His example.
We are taught by Nephi:
“And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” – 2 Nephi 31:10-13
We have been invited, by Christ to follow Him. In doing so, we must be repentant and be baptized. Nephi teaches us the qualifications – we must follow Christ with full purpose of heart – which means that we cannot pretend our motivations. We take on Christ’s name without hypocrisy or deception before God. We cannot follow Christ unless our intent is real. It is a matter of heart. Following Christ is not made up only of outward performances.
It is the LDS belief that we can become like God. Not only do we feel it a belief, but we feel it a commandment. Jesus Christ, himself taught:
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48
“Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” – 3 Nephi 12:48
We are commanded to be perfect, or whole/complete, just as both Christ and Heavenly Father are. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that we are not capable, in and of ourselves, of keeping this commandment. Yet, we also know that the Lord gives no commandments unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing that He hath commanded them. (See 1 Nephi 3:7.) Becoming perfect, or like God, is only possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is only possible as we do what Nephi described above – when we repent, and are baptized. And these covenants only take effect in our lives when we do them with real intent, without hypocrisy, with a full heart.
In modeling our lives after the Savior, we will see that we need to be full of Charity. Honestly, as I’ve begun studying sociopathy (and I will admit that my “study” of sociopathy is rudimentary), I have seen that Charity is the sociopathy’s polar opposite.
Mormon teaches us about charity:
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” – Mormon 7:45
As you can see, each trait of one who has obtained charity is completely antithetical to the traits commonly attributed to sociopaths. Charity is the pure love of Christ and can only come through His grace (See Ether 12:36). To receive the blessings of Christ’s grace, we need to follow Him, and then – (Again!) as Nephi teaches: repent, be baptized, and – well – you can read the rest of it at the beginning of this post.
If we seek to keep the command given to us to be perfect and follow Christ, then we must understand what He is teaching us. God isn’t a power-hungry God. He isn’t a psychopath. He isn’t arbitrary or unfeeling. He doesn’t destroy without care. God is a loving God. He is merciful and kind. Everything that the Savior did was for the benefit of the world (See 2 Nephi 26:24). In our pursuit to be like God, we shouldn’t be confused by a worldly idea of an arbitrarily omnipotent being. We must remember that God is motivated by His pure love. When we seek to be like Him, we will be moved by charity.
Actions Matter…So Do Thoughts and Motivations
In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin taught:
“And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.
But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” – Mosiah 4:29-30
If we aren’t watching our thoughts and words, then our deeds will often follow the darkness of sin that might lurk in our minds and hearts. Even if we try to be good on the outside, having a rotten core isn’t acceptable. We have been taught to cleanse our inner vessels. Christ doesn’t really have much patience for hypocrites.
I suppose that this idea of what we do being so important comes up because Mormons believe that we must qualify for the healing balm of Christ’s Grace through our works. (See 2 Nephi 25:23). Obviously, what we do is important. The Lord expects us to work hard and be anxiously engaged in a good cause. But the works aren’t enough. Mormon teaches:
“For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.” – Moroni 7:6-10
We can give gifts all day long. We can, like the Pharisees, cast our money into the treasury at the temple. We can broaden our phylacteries, and show off our supposed devotion to God. Yet, when these “good” deeds are done without real intent, or, in other words, with “nefarious motivations”, then it is as if the “giver” retained the gift, and he is “counted evil before God.”
Our hearts, our intents, our motivations–they matter.
This is long, but I have to say – sure, LDS people can become sociopaths. I have known a sociopathic Mormon. I don’t know the conditions of what causes a person to be a sociopath. Perhaps they are born with different brain patterns. Maybe they are raised in a bad environment. But I know that ultimately, we exercise our own agency. We make the choice to lie, manipulate, hurt, and even destroy. The Lord does not sanction such action no matter what religious organization we affiliate with.
We don’t need to be fooled that sociopathy-life with “power” and without conscience-is desirable. Read the scriptures. God expects us to become as He is. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t start fights or feuds. He doesn’t manipulate to get what He wants. He doesn’t arbitrarily destroy for entertainment. He loves. He blesses. He teaches. He guides. He builds us up. He weeps for us. He corrects us. He has laid down His life for us. He is full of charity.
When we truly follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we will one day become God-like: full of love, kindness, mercy, charity, and happiness. This is the antidote to sociopathy.