Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Effects of Moral Relativism

Not long ago I had a conversation with a student here at Utah State University where I work. We were discussing the reality of God. He did not believe that God exists. He also did not believe that it is necessary to obey any commandments as long as people lived good lives and treated others like they wanted to be treated and all got along then they were ok. He also did not believe in any kind of life after death. He said that when we die that is it, we cease to exist.

As I was listening to this young man tell me that there was no God and no life after death, I thought what a sad state we would be in if this was all there was and when we die we just go to sleep and that is the end. Of course I tried to explain why I felt believing in God and keeping his commandments was important to me and gave me hope that there is more to life than just our mortal existence here, but it did not change his mind.

I also had a conversation with one of my sons a while ago on a similar topic. This is my youngest son, who like the rest of my children, was taught to believe in a Heavenly Father who loves us and a Savior Jesus Christ that died for us so we could return and live with them again after we leave this life. This son has chosen to disregard these teachings and has followed a path that has lead to a life of misery and bondage. He told me one day that he did not believe in God anymore. 

There is a common theme in both of these beliefs; if God does not exist then there is no sin. It does not matter what we do as long as we are not breaking any laws of our government, then we can do whatever we want. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described this philosophy in the way:

“When it comes to moral issues there are no universally objective right or wrong answers, no inappropriate or appropriate judgments, and no reasonable or rational ways by which to make moral distinctions that apply in every time, in every place, and to every person.”

This is the belief applied by many in the popular media and in current peer pressure. “Break free of the old rules. Do what feels good to you. There is no accountability beyond what man’s laws or public disapproval impose on those who are caught.” Behind such ideas is the assumption that there is no God or, if there is, He has given no commandments that apply to us today….

The rejection of an unprovable God and the denial of right and wrong is most influential in the world of higher education. Secular humanism, a branch of humanism probably so labeled because of its strong alignment with secularism, is deliberately or inadvertently embodied in the teachings of faculty members in many colleges and universities.

For religious people, the objectionable element in the various humanist manifestos is their rejection of the existence of God and their denial of the moral absolutes rooted in His commandments. Thus, the 1973 Humanist Manifesto rejected “traditional moral codes” and “traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience.” It further declared, “We can discover no divine purpose . . . for the human species. . . . Humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” (“Witnessesof God”, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, BYU-Idaho Devotional, February 25, 2014)

The success of moral relativism is not a new concept that has just become popular today, but is the same lie that Satan has been spreading since he came among the sons of Adam and Eve and persuaded them to disbelieve the gospel that was teaching his children (see Moses 5:13). There are several scriptures in the Book of Mormon that teach us how to combat this growing philosophy. Daniel Belnap explains:

While society in general may believe that moral relativism is a sign of progress, the Book of Mormon contains examples and teachings that warn us of the dangers of replacing God’s commandments with our own relative moral standards.

The Book of Mormon lays out the basic principles that help us see the difference between God’s truth and Satan’s sophistry, including a working definition of truth and how to know it. The prophet Jacob taught: “The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly” (Jacob 4:13; see also D&C 93:24). The emphasis on truth as the way things really are suggests that it contrasts with the way things seem to be, no matter how convincing that deception may be.

Another important lesson is found in the story of the anti-Christ Korihor, whose teachings established a moral relativism that challenged the Nephites for years to come (see Alma 30).

His assertions, many of which may be familiar to a modern audience, contain the following:
a. There is no God (see Alma 30:28, 37–38).
b. Belief in Christ is “a foolish and a vain hope” (Alma 30:13).
c. Those who believe in a remission of sins are under the effects of a frenzied or deranged mind (see Alma 30:16).
d. Their derangement is caused by following the traditions of their fathers and the whims of corrupt leaders (see Alma 30:14, 23–28, 31).
e. Man is a creature (see Alma 30:17).
f. One “[fares] in this life according to the management of the creature; … and whatsoever a man [does is] no crime” (Alma 30:17).
g. There is no sin and no need for a Savior (see Alma 30:17–18).
h. Those who encourage people to keep God’s commandments are stripping away an individual’s “rights and privileges” (Alma 30:27).

This last point is particularly dangerous, for it elevates one’s rights while avoiding any discussion of one’s responsibilities. In purporting to be in favor of individual liberty, moral relativism actually threatens one’s privilege to exercise agency by ignoring the negative consequences of not being cognizant of one’s responsibilities to others. (“The Book of Mormon and Modern MoralRelativism”, Daniel L. Belnap, Ensign, February 2014).
Many who adhere to this belief that there is no God really do believe but through sin or neglect of the spirit have convinced themselves that there is no God to avoid the pain of sin. When my son told me that he did not believe anymore I told him that he knew better, he knew God was real and that the only reason he was denying that God existed is so he would not feel guilty for the sins he has committed. If there is no God, then there are no commandments and he has nothing to feel guilty about. Life is easy for non-believers. When I said that, my son looked at me and finally said: “You are right, I do know that God is real”. From that moment on he has been on course that hopefully will bring repentance and forgiveness through the atonement of Jesus Christ. It was a real miracle to see the change in his attitude and in his appearance. This is the real fruit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a gift we all can have if we will listen to the light of Christ that is in each of us (Moroni 7:16) and reject the philosophies of moral relativism and believe in God and Jesus Christ, his Son. If we do this and keep his commandments we can come to distinguish for ourselves the difference between what is true and what are the philosophes of man the power of the Holy Ghost:

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

 5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)

I welcome your comments and questions.

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