The binary of good and evil seems easy to grasp, easy to follow, and in theory, it is easy to spot much of the good in the world, and much of the evil. I find, however, that this pairing of words, which in the pairing leaves little space in between, and little space to work introspectively, is most difficult to grapple with when we are asked to delineate within ourselves the “good and the evil.”
Much of the discussion circling around good and evil, at least in the well-known chapter of Moroni 7 seems to focus on what outward or actionable choices we make in our lives. This is all fair and good, and as a teenager, it asked me to be accountable for my choice in entertainment, the things I did with my friends, the music I listened to. It was easy to quantify the goodness or the evilness of whatever the choice was because the spirit felt so quickly matched or offended by the thing I was engaging with. It felt discernible and empowering to make good choices and not evil ones. Most of the choices, even things like choosing not to gossip or to read my scriptures felt external and immediately satisfying, both to myself and to others to do the right.
I didn’t fully confront the two, good and evil, within myself until I was a stay-at-home parent in a small apartment with two young children whom I adore and also feel the loss of a part of my selfhood as I tend to their needs. I am never, even for a moment, evil toward them, but as a mother, my ability to cope with the demands sometimes vacillated as quickly as the manic moods of my children. During this time period when I read things like Moroni 7:6 which says, “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.” I am quick to wonder if my impatience, my sometimes boredom, my sometimes parenting out of pure duty and necessity negates my opportunity to at the same time, do it out of goodness.
I do truly love the deep, and often lonely forest of parenting small children. I find light cast in quiet places I would have never thought to look. I feel crevices in my heart start to expand and unplanned creativity feels natural and necessary. Yet, and there is always a yet, of course there are times of downtrodden-ness, of hopelessness, of drudgery. No beautiful thing is born without the complexities of hardness and ease. There are times, when I felt as Moroni says in verse 8 of chapter 7, “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.”
For me, in the particular state of motherhood, though I think the concept ranges far past the situation of motherhood, has on occasion been me “giving a gift [of the entirety of my self and patience] but maybe grudgingly? Not even grudgingly, just with exhaustion and out of pure necessity. In those moments, at the end of the day, lying in my bed, I feel the waves of guilt wash over me. Am I not doing motherhood right? Am I not being generous and kind and patient? Overall I think that I must be, but is there some part of me that is evil? With my patience at the precipice at times, I’ve felt that maybe this verse is true of me, “a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.”
Of course, in reading this, and in writing this, it seems absurd that I would even consider my work both as a mother, a woman and a human conflating with evil. Although I am rife with imperfection, I am good. I believe that most of us are inherently good. That the gifts that we give are good. I believe that by our actions we more often than not invite to do good. There is a vast field between good and evil. In my own life I have found that it is far more productive for me to believe that while evil is a real thing, even a real thing that I could be capable of, it is but a small, dark paint stroke off in the distance of a painting that is vibrant with color and variety. Of course it is important to keep that dark mark in check, to keep it far and to be aware of the ways it might taint us, but for me, to believe that I am evil, or that the world around me is inherently and binarily evil seems unfitting for the beauty both of this earth and after.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
An Unfinished Story, Kimberly White
“I’m not a person who could have been a good person and then blew it. A person who can be a great person can be a great person at any point. You never blow it! I feel like I had never quite understood the Lord before. Not just to know that for me the possibilities were still endless, which is a wonderful thing, but to know that the kind of God I’m dealing with is one who doesn’t keep score! He doesn’t say, “She’s pretty good, but remember when she was 18? She knew better.” He’s not doing that. He’s saying, “Repent, and we’ll get you right back like it never happened.” He’s not holding on, so we don’t need to, for ourselves or for other people.”
The Shining Light of Oakland, Betty Stevenson
“At first, I really didn’t have any friends in the Church either because I was very vocal. I loved fast and testimony meeting. They would walk up and down the aisle with the microphone, and as soon as they got to me, I grabbed it. I let people know I was aware of a spirit from the members—not the Holy Spirit—that didn’t want me there. It was right there on their faces. I said, “If I was the devil, where would I be? Right up here with the Saints. This is where sinners come. This is where I’m supposed to be.” I was not going to take any criticism.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Rejoice in Every Good Thing, Chieko Okazaki
“Wherever you are, whatever you are wearing, whatever language you are hearing, you are part of a powerful force of joy, peace, and goodness. We are here to rejoice together ‘in every good thing.’ (Deut. 26:11)”
Seek and Ye Shall Find, Elaine Jack
“Of course there are, all around us, many who seek to do good deeds, for we in the Church do not have a corner on goodness. But we have the Spirit that allows us to recognize and discern the truth wherever we find it.”