Is there a right and wrong? Or is morality relative— depending on the situation? I guess the correct question to ask is this: Who decides what is right and what is wrong—God or man?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes called the “Mormon Church,” said in a recent broadcast titled “As He Thinketh in His Heart”:
A powerful and influential modern school of thought is ‘moral relativism,’ the idea that there is no absolute right or wrong. Behind that idea is the assumption that there is no God or, if there is a God, that He has given no commandments that apply to us today. That idea puts its adherents in the same position as the unfortunate people the prophet Mormon [in the Book of Mormon] described as ‘without Christ and God in the world; … driven about as chaff before the wind’ (Mormon 5:16).
Latter-day Saints obviously begin with a different premise: there is a God who is the source of eternal law, and He has given commandments that establish a right and a wrong for many choices. Also, in the third act of His eternal plan, we will be held accountable for the extent to which our mortal deeds and desires have been in harmony with those commandments. We oppose moral relativism, and we must help our youth avoid being deceived and persuaded by reasoning and conclusions based on its false premises.”
Moral relativism often comes into play in response to a moral dilemma or question. If moral relativism is a fallacy, then where can one look to find what God said was right and wrong?
Elder Oaks continued:
“Where do we look for the premises with which we begin our reasoning on the truth or acceptability of various proposals? We anchor ourselves to the word of God, contained in the scriptures and in the teachings of modern prophets. Unless we are anchored to these truths as our major premises and assumptions, we cannot be sure that our conclusions are true. Being anchored to eternal truth will not protect us from the tribulation and persecution Jesus predicted (see Matthew 13:21), but it will give us the peace that comes from faith in Jesus Christ and the knowledge that we are on the pathway to eternal life.”
Doctrine and Covenants 88:41 says, “He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.”
Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 says, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
The scriptures also contain warnings about following false teachings.
Hebrews 13:8-9 says, “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.”
Colossians 2:8 says, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
Elder Oaks concludes his address with this counsel:
“The world in which we live is like the field described by the Savior in the Gospel of Matthew. Until the time of harvest, the wholesome and desirable wheat is growing side by side with the tares sown by the enemy, who is the devil (see Matthew 13:24–30, 39). In the parable of the sower, Jesus described the result: When the sower’s word falls on stony places, where a hearer has ‘not root in himself,’ he will be offended when ‘tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word’ (see Matthew 13:20–21). Other seeds fall ‘among thorns’ and, as Mark describes, ‘the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful’ (Mark 4:18–19). This parable describes the reaction of any of us who are offended when we suffer tribulation or persecution or otherwise become unfruitful because of ‘the cares of this world’ or our ‘lusts of other things.’
“We should apply the caution Jesus gave to His disciples to ‘beware of the … doctrine of the Pharisees’ (Matthew 16:12). We cannot escape the conclusions, teachings, and advocacy of modern Pharisees. We must live in the world. But the teaching that we not be ‘of the world’ (John 15:19;17:14, 16) requires us to identify error and exclude it from our thinking, our desires, and our actions. In this way, through faith and trust in Jesus Christ and our knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s plan, we can press forward with confidence in these troubled times.”
Moral relativism is the world’s answer for tough questions. But followers of Christ need to hold their ground with love and kindness. The Savior was always loving and kind to those around him. When faced with the tough question of what to do with the woman who was taken in adultery, the Savior showed kindness and mercy. (See John 8:1-11.) The scribes and Pharisees wanted to stone her, as required by the Law of Moses. But the Savior said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). And, seeing that her accusers left her unharmed, He said, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” (See John 8:10.) And then He said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Followers of Christ must stand firm in the faith for what they know to be true: morality is never relative, it is always found in following the Savior.
This article was written by Lisa Montague, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.