For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

- Mosiah 3:19

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Simple Good or Complex Good

In a conversation with a dear friend, she explained to me a system she devised to categorize Mormons. A generic dichotomy (which I think is brilliantly generalizable) of simple good and complex good. The simple good are Mormons who do what is "right" without any real reflection, these are those who seem to have an implicit faith to do things without question (despite logic or reason), though not all the time. These are they who do their callings, perform their duties, and are seemingly content with their lives, their relationship with God and the church and their views of the world being based on simple faith, or "hope" - the type of faith that is the result of "this is what my parents taught me, this is what the church teaches, so why question." While there is something to be said of this type of faith, for me it's not enough.

Then there are the complex good; these are they whose faith is predicated on an intense interrogation of the theological foundations of the gospel - they are not afraid to critique the cultural fabric of the church, identifying and attempting to understand the intersection of gospel doctrine and socio-cultural interpretations. These are they who seek to understand, at deep levels, how the gospel works, its implications, and how the structures of the institutions in and around the church shape an understanding of how to practice doctrine. And, they who accept Savior (most of them) because of an intense process of introspection. Certainly more could be said of this, and there are gradations between these two, but for now the dichotomy serves a useful purpose (at least for me): it helps me to understand the church in more generic terms.

Yesterday, I went to a friend's wedding reception, there I talked with a friend I had not seen for over a year. As we talked, I shared with him my struggles with the church and with coming to accept myself. We talked a bit about my Bishop and we both agreed that my Bishop is a simple good. He then pointed out to me that most of my Mormon friends are complex good. I realized then that I am annoyed with the simple good. I have trouble relating to them, talking with them, and I become intensely frustrated by their lack of depth, and their catch all solutions to problems: "just pray, have faith, and the atonement will take care of it." While there is immense truth to that, I often wonder if they even know how difficult their simple answers are. Simple is not always easy. Perhaps this is why I am having trouble relating to my Bishop.


It could also be a function of me coming to terms with the sexual component of my identity. I am gay. While saying that out loud may take some time, it is liberating to acknowledge it without the shame. My Bishop attempts to understand, but the subtext of his counsel and advice says otherwise. Perhaps God would want me to be a simple good. Or to exercise simple faith. I'm not sure.


  1. Loved this post! I wonder if an easy indicator of simple good is what they name their kids? If they named them after prophets or biblical characters, good chance they're a simple good.

    I had a simple good Bishop when I came out, but things ultimately did work out for me because I had an awesome Stake Pres. who knew how to deal with homosexuality. Whereas my Bishop wanted to quote Kimball to me, my Stake Pres. told me I was gay and that I would stay that way, but it was no fault of my own. My Bishop was then schooled by this Stake Pres. and I would say his eyes were opened. Things changed, and we are good friends to this day.

    So I am now in that spot where I can say I'm gay and it doesn't bother me at all. I'm comfortable with it. No shame. Just wish others around me were ready to accept it and deal with it like my Stake Pres. did. In time, perhaps they will be.

  2. cool way of looking at things. I definitely agree that the simple good can drive me a little crazy some days too.

    thanks for sharing