We have exhibited the _object_ for which mind was created, and the _mode
of action_ by which alone this object can be secured.

We next inquire in regard to the wrong action of mind; its causes and
its results as learned by reason and experience.

According to the principles set forth, a mind acts wrong whenever it
transgresses any law. The grand law is that of _sacrifice_, by which
every mode of enjoyment is to be relinquished which does not tend to the
greatest possible happiness with the least possible evil.

Having set forth those influences or causes which tend to secure the
right action of mind, we are enabled thus to indicate what are the
_causes of its wrong action_.

The first and leading cause is a want of knowledge of the truth and a
belief of error. We begin existence without knowledge of any kind, and
without any power to receive instruction from others. The newborn mind
is a mere unit of impulses and instincts, with an intellect entirely
undeveloped, and a will which never can act intelligently. It is
entirely dependent for its experience, safety, enjoyment, and knowledge
of all kinds on those around. As it gains by experience and training,
much of its knowledge and belief is correct, and many of its mental acts
are right; but a large portion of its actions are wrong, and many of
them inevitably so.

And here we must recognize again the distinction which our moral nature
demands between wrong actions that result from unavoidable ignorance,
and those which are committed intelligently and which violate
conscience. In regard to the first class, the natural penalties are
inevitable, and the justice of them involves the great question of the
Creator’s character and designs. In regard to those that violate
conscience, our moral nature, as has been shown, leads us not only to
approve additional penalties, but to demand them.

The violations of law which are sins of ignorance commence with the
earliest period of existence. Owing to its helpless ignorance, often the
little child can no more help acting wrong than it can help thinking and

A second cause of wrong action is false teachings. Although a large
portion of the instruction given to the young, especially in regard to
physical laws, are true, yet the infant commences life among imperfectly
instructed beings, who often communicate error believing it to be truth.
Meantime the little one has no power of correcting these errors, and
thus again is inevitably led to wrong action.

A third cause of wrong action is the want of good habits and the early
formation of bad ones. As a habit is a facility of action _gained by
repetition_, of course, at first, there can be no habits. And then what
the habits shall be is entirely decided by the opinions and conduct of
its educators. While some habits are formed aright, others are formed
wrong, and thus the disability of nature is increased instead of

The next cause of wrong action is those social influences of other minds
that have most power both in securing and sustaining right action. In
the previous chapter we have illustrated the power of the principles of
_love_, _gratitude_, _sympathy_, and _example_ in securing right action.

The same powerful influences exist in reference to wrong action. The
child who loves its parents and playmates is not only taught to believe
wrong action to be right, but has all the powerful influences which
example, sympathy, love, and gratitude can combine to lead to the same
wrong courses. Thus, to the natural ignorance of inexperienced mind, to
false instructions, and to bad habits, are often added these most
powerful of all influences.

The next cause of wrong action is the want of a ruling purpose to do
right. It has been shown that all the powers of the intellect and all
the susceptibilities can be regulated by a generic ruling purpose, and
that it is impossible, according to the nature of mind, to regulate it
any other way.

When such a purpose exists, and its object is _any_ other except the
right and true one, it is as impossible for a mind to act right as it is
for a machine to fulfill its design when the main wheel is turned the
wrong way.

That such a purpose does not exist in the new-born mind, and that it
must be a considerable time before it is possible, in the nature of
things, to be originated, needs no attempt to illustrate. Such a purpose
is dependent on knowledge of truth, on habits, and these on the
character of the educators of mind, and on other surrounding social

These are the chief causes of the wrong action of mind as they have been
developed by experience.

In the next chapters we shall consider the results of the wrong action
of mind as they have been exhibited in the experience of mankind, and as
they are to be anticipated in a future world.