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Friday, December 9, 2011

Moral Relativism and the Rule of Law

Not too long ago, people in general were willing to say certain behaviors or mentalities were wrong. Putting self first, doing things that hurt someone else - generally these behaviors were in line with religious teachings. Now, people in general believe in moral relativism. This is a dangerous trap, because if you start to say that some things are only wrong for some people, then how can laws be upheld? I remember hearing about a debate between a big moral relativist and someone of traditional religious morals and that relativist asked the moralist to tell her one thing that was absolutely wrong at all times, as if there couldn't be such a thing. This same moralist was dumb-founded when she was told in answer, "Rape." The fact that there is an obvious exception to relativism should cast doubt on the whole philosophy. A bigger question weighs: what will the future of the country be with the growth of moral relativism?  Will we as a country depart from our founding principles?
Consider now the unethical behavior of so many politicians (on both sides) in Washington. It is technically not against the law for Congressman to engage in insider trading. Or for policitians to give tax breaks to donor corporations. Ethically, most people in the United States feel both are wrong, it is not fair or just. But to change laws would require the very politicians guilty of these behaviors to see that it is not fair and be willing to change it. I think we can safely say that unless the people of the United States choose moral representatives, we will never see that change occur. Which will require them to both recognize and value morals.
This is what the LDS prophet, President Thomas S. Monson has to say in a talk in October 2011 General Conference, "Dare to Stand Alone." He is specifically talking to the men in the church, and about keeping oneself clean from the sins and weaknesses rampant and accepted in the world at large.
"We live in a time when we are surrounded by much that is intended to entice us into paths which may lead to our destruction. To avoid such paths requires determination and courage.
I recall a time—and some of you here tonight will also—when the standards of most people were very similar to our standards. No longer is this true. I recently read an article in the New York Times concerning a study which took place during the summer of 2008. A distinguished Notre Dame sociologist led a research team in conducting in-depth interviews with 230 young adults across America. I believe we can safely assume that the results would be similar in most parts of the world.
I share with you just a portion of this very telling article:
“The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. In the rambling answers, … you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.
“When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.”
The article continues:
“The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. ‘It’s personal,’ the respondents typically said. ‘It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?’
“Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme [saying]: ‘I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.’”
Those who conducted the interviews emphasized that the majority of the young people with whom they spoke had “not been given the resources—by schools, institutions [or] families—to cultivate their moral intuitions.”1
Brethren, none within the sound of my voice should be in any doubt concerning what is moral and what is not, nor should any be in doubt about what is expected of us as holders of the priesthood of God. We have been and continue to be taught God’s laws. Despite what you may see or hear elsewhere, these laws are unchanging.
As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not. Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone? As holders of the priesthood of God, it is essential that we are able to face—with courage—whatever challenges come our way. Remember the words of Tennyson: “My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.”2
Increasingly, some celebrities and others who—for one reason or another—are in the public eye have a tendency to ridicule religion in general and, at times, the Church in particular. If our testimonies are not firmly enough rooted, such criticisms can cause us to doubt our own beliefs or to waver in our resolves.
In Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, found in 1 Nephi 8, Lehi sees, among others, those who hold to the iron rod until they come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, which we know is a representation of the love of God. And then, sadly, after they partake of the fruit, some are ashamed because of those in the “great and spacious building,” who represent the pride of the children of men, who are pointing fingers at them and scoffing at them; and they fall away into forbidden paths and are lost.3 What a powerful tool of the adversary is ridicule and mockery! Again, brethren, do we have the courage to stand strong and firm in the face of such difficult opposition?"

You can find the entire article at the link provided above.

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