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