Is sincerity necessary? Is it actually an essential characteristic of what is good? As in, is the value of something — a belief, a teaching, an action — higher or lower depending on the sincerity of the asker/commenter/performer?

I remember reading an essay in college on whether or not the truthfulness of Mormonism should be dependent on Joseph Smith’s sincerity.

“Joseph Smith Jr. is both more and less than the sum of how he has been memorialized,” the author wrote, concluding that “Mormonism as a
religious tradition works outside of the ‘sincerity box’ that has been built to contain it.”

I do tend to think that sincerity is important, especially when it comes to the foundations of my faith. I think that exploring what sincerity means to Mormonism makes it more powerful.

But at the late hour that it is, I’ve begun to wonder if the emphasis I often give to sincerity should extend past my religion. When I see a photo, for example, that I assume to be insincere — something that was obviously staged to elicit a response, not to capture something that was actually happening — I don’t like looking at it. It bothers me. Not family portraits and things, but staged events and moments.

But how can I ever actually know how sincere ( or insincere) any given photo is? Or poem? Or movie, or whatever else it is I’m enjoying. I can’t. When someone says something nice to me, how can I possibly judge the sincerity of the comment?

If I can’t actually know what is and is not sincere, should I just not worry about it? Should I disregard the whole notion of sincerity as an indicator of “good” or “quality”?

After all, my favorite form of storytelling is film. Films are full of actors. The nature of acting is falsifying sincerity. Is it the motivation of the actor that should be considered sincere then? Or is a performance only truly sincere if the actor is actually experiencing the emotion they are portraying?

Is the —what I believe to be — intrinsic value of art, conversation, etc. devalued by insincerity?

If someone raises their hand in church, or school or where have you and says something that is factually incorrect, but does so with sincerity, does the worth of the falsity increase?

I just don’t know.

But what I do know is that it is snowing outside, and it is beautiful. And I mean that.


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