The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Lesson 3

Mormon Ethics

In Mormonism, sin is often defined as "acting knowingly or willfully against the will of God." In essence, this is defining a system of ethics. That which is according to the will of God is good, that which is against it is sin. According to this model, the first thing we need to do in life is figure out what the will of God is, and the second thing is to do it.

That sounds simple enough, but let us think about this a little bit. Hypothetically, try to conceive of what it would be like if God wasnít good. Could we conceive of an evil God? For example, what if God commanded somebody to murder an innocent child. Would that act be evil, or would it necessarily be good, because it was the expressed will of God? What if God commanded his nation to commit genocide against another nation? Would that act necessarily be good, because it was the will of God?

If we can recognize evil acts as being evil even when they are commanded by God, then it follows that we have a sense of right and wrong that transcends the will of God. I believe it is vital that we explore that higher sense of right and wrong, and learn to recognize right and wrong without respect to a God.

Why do I say that? For a couple of reasons. Assuming God exists, then he is either good or evil. If he is evil, then we need to be able to recognize that he is evil so that we can do good despite his evil designs for us. If, on the other hand he is good, there is a possibility that we donít understand his will. It is possible that the message he sends is for us to do good, but because of our own weakness and lack of understanding we hear something else. All sorts of crimes have been committed because the criminals believed "itís the will of God." Look at the perpetual violence in the Middle East. Both sides believe that they are justified by God to perform their respective acts of war. Or consider the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The priesthood leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led a group of pious Mormons to commit one of the most chilling mass murders in American History. And they believed that doing so was the will of God.

Here is an excellent essay about a man who raised his 2 sons as atheists, and how he taught them ethics in that environment.

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If you have a question or would like to discuss these topics, I suggest that you go to a Mormon-related bulletin board (here are some recommendations). If you'd like to contact me with comments or feedback, you may send an email to