Awhile back I invented virtue charts.  Its a tool to think more clearly and systematically about virtues and vices.  It draws from the common-sense idea that there are virtues and vices that are opposites.  It adds the Christian insight that most vices are distortions of virtues.  And its adds in Joseph Smith’s deep understanding that even virtues have “opposite” virtues–all knowledge is proved in contraries.  The result is a square.  Put a virtue at one corner.  The two corners on either side of it are going to be vices.  One of those vices is the opposite of the virtue.  The other vice is the distortion of the virtue.  Then the opposite corner is the “opposing” virtue.  Remarkably enough, the vices will also link to it neatly.  The vice that opposed the first virtue will be a distortion of the second virtue, while the vice that distorted the first virtue will be the opposite of the second virtue.

For example–(I am using “bloats” instead of “distorts on this diagram)–


The two opposite virtues make a powerful combination when put together (and one that is very worth thinking about and exploring).  So do the opposite vices.

Comely Modesty is beautiful and testimonial.

Uglified flesh-flaunting is the direction so much pornography or immodesty is headed: tattoos, piercings, self-damage, mutilation.

But virtue charts do not have to be limited to virtues and vices.  They can be used to explore the good and the bad even if they are not the result of deliberate personal choices.

Take comeliness and ugliness for example


Ugliness isn’t always a choice and we wouldn’t call being ugly a sin.  But the virtue chart concept still works.  We just have to expand our thinking.  Instead of virtues and vices, think of it as goods and bads, or strengths and weaknesses, or blessings and challenges, or gifts and afflictions.   Its a natural expansion because sin turns out to be just one kind of weakness that we need to overcome with the help of the Atonement.  As they have taught repeatedly in General Conference recently, all sorrows, mistakes, inadequacies, weaknesses, and so on–everything that keeps us from perfect happiness–needs to be and will be overcome by Christ.

Comeliness and ugliness turns out to be a great example of how to use virtue charts to investigate.  Because what popped out to me right away was that ugliness must be the distortion of some virtue.  But what?  I wrestled with the topic for awhile, and the best that I could come up with is when we describe things as “having character.”  A gnarled tree may not be comely but it has character and can be beautiful that way.  A weather-beaten face has character.  An old house with odd additions over the years has character.


I don’t know what the synthesis of comeliness and having character is, but I want to know!

Continue reading at the original source →