This article is welcome and much overdue. LDSs have been silent for too long and their silence has been detrimental to our freedom because (1) advocating the study of the Constitution is considered "political" in our branch. I believe all LDS should be required to study and debate our founding documents. Will we be held accountable for our allegiance to the cause of freedom and our responsibility keep the commandment of free agency given to Adam and Eve? I think so.
Steve raises a good question which is addressed in the 2nd part of this series, forthcoming soon: isn't New Liberalism based upon an alternative morality, not relativism? Well, yes and no. Read on.
Steve: I appreciate your come back. If I read you correctly, you are saying both sides are taking a moral stand. You are simply making a counter argument to the statement by Dr. Hancock that those supporting same-sex marriage or abortion are moral relativists. I am not sure I agree with you, however. When the argument is made that discrimination is involved, for instance, I feel people are indirectly saying that whatever a person thinks is right is right and they should not be discriminated against. If those who so argue are taking a moral stance, they seem to be saying that no one should have a moral stance. Is that not moral relativism? If they do have a moral context, and I'm sure they do, then what is it? Where is their line in the sand, as I asked before? Our society once rejected homosexuality, ("a monster of so frightful mien") and now seems to be embracing it. How moral a stand is it if the line keeps moving? If it moves, is it not relativistic? To be sure, our society and institutionalized religions have been wrong before, but who is to say what is right? I believe that institutionalized religion should have a say about what is right and each individual can affiliate with whatever is the best fit. In our body politic, our moral lines are drawn by our laws which theoretically represent the acceptable moral lines of the majority of the people. In other words, our laws discriminate, are meant to discriminate, and most certainly do discriminate against bank robbers, kidnappers, murderers, liars etc. Few would argue against those laws, yet who would have thought our laws on marriage between a man and a woman would be challenged? Same-sex marriage was unthinkable a generation ago. Now those who feel they are arguing from a "moralistic rubic" are in fact deciding and tyrannically imposing that rubic from outside both institutionalized religion and the body politic. What is moral about that? I suppose they (supporters of same-sex marriage specifically) feel they have a moral right to impose their position regardless of law. That is what is happening in California. The issue has become larger than just marriage rights, contaminating all our laws. Our governor and state officials in California flaunt the law, sneer at it, and don't even bother to condescend to those opposed to same-sex marriage. On another level, Pres. Obama refused to enforce DOMA. Not only has the line in the sand shifted, it has been erased! If there is no line, that is moral pluralism regardless of the argument.
Earl Chantrill, please reread my comments. I didn't actually argue that there wasn't an ultimate morality. In fact I agreed with your point that that is a poor argument.
Sorry, but no kudos to the author who wraps up a potentially intriguing discussion of morality, religion, and politics with the red meat topics of abortion and gay marriage. Any pretense at intellectual prodding is hopelessly negated. In reality the same values so typical of the mainstream American Christian culture of 170 years ago that chased my ancestors out of Kirkland, Independence, and Nauvoo are sadly the very same ones that chase our LDS brothers and sisters struggling to face their personal crucibles out and away from among us today.
Too many of the self-assured comments here and in the article would have been echoed by the tormentors of our LDS forefathers as to plural marriage. From generation to generation the cultural terrain shifts and people will howl at the collapse of society and the pending doom so sure to fall. But in fact, our Heavenly Father allows all these because they provide the landscape for us to demonstrate whether we can react to all these with charity and other Christ-like attributes. We will always have divisions and alarmists, but the lasting consequences of abortion and gay marriage pale in comparison to that of the uncharitable hearts who condemn those making choices that, but for the grace of God, would be theirs.
Steve Smith makes an old and worn out argument, as anyone reading the Book of Mormon will understand. His argument is that there is no God-given, and therefore ultimate, morality. Therefore, whatever a man considers to be right is right. Of course it is easier to call it a moral code if there are others who agree with your specific beliefs. But there is no real prohibition against each man deciding for himself what is right. And so God -- and His law -- is irrelevant. This is the argument made by every atheist. See Christopher Hitchins, "God Is Not Great", for example.
I have found this article most enlightening and I say well done Ralph keep it coming. I ENJOYED reading all the way in Mexico City. definitely food for thought. I always welcome the opportunity to share my views. I have always found that people respect what I have to say and no one takes offence. I try to be respectful, but always stand my ground.
in our day of enlightenment I don't see the need for abortion (except under rape). Do we not have ways in our society to avoid getting pregnant? and if someone does get pregnant and does not want a baby is there not many who would love to adopt and raise a child as their own? this is in respose to steve smith's statement
The Church spoke out forcefully against Communism, yet many of the same influences threaten us today. I'm not sure why the church remains silent. Is it felt that past guidance can be researched and need not be repeated?
Peter Belville, please note that I didn't argue in favor of legalized abortion or gay marriage in my comment above. What I argued is that Dr. Hancock is wrong in asserting that people in favor of legalized abortion and gay marriage make the case for such by arguing that "truth is relative and that everyone decides for himself or herself what is right." What I have observed is quite the opposite: people who are liberal on social issues by and large tend to frame their arguments in a moralistic rubric, much as social conservatives tend to do. They tend to be quite swift to denounce social conservatives as wrong, unjust, and immoral. The prevailing argument in favor of gay marriage isn't that it doesn't matter what two people do as individuals be it immoral or not (although that argument is common, although not well thought through and easily challenged); rather, it is that denying two consenting people of the same gender the right to marry is discrimination, and that discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation is an immoral act. In fact social liberals convey a strong sense of right and wrong by frequently denouncing social conservatives as being homophobic and intolerant. Similarly the argument in favor of a woman's right to an abortion before a certain stage of pregnancy is framed in the argument of protecting a woman's right to choose what to do with her body. For those in favor of legalized abortion tend to view the embryogenesis stage of the prenatal development of a human embryo as not an independent human being but still as part of the female body. Hence they argue that the denial of the right of a woman to destroy what she considers to be a unwanted part of her body to be an immoral act of denying rights to make individual choices. Very few people are true moral relativists and argue that there is no such thing as right and wrong.
If you are interested in this article, Dr. J.B. Haws, a religion professor at BYU, is having his book published by Oxford. The book will be available in late October or early November, and it deals very much with the church's public image using George Romney and Mitt Romney as bookends of history. The book is titled, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception. It will be an incredible read!!
The creation and secularization of the public sphere is, as you noted, a product of the Enlightenment. While the United States has never gone so far as the French laicit
Since we human are, more often than not, inherently unfair in our judgements of others:
Matthew 7: 1 - 5
JST Matthew 7: 1 - 8
Luke 6: 20 - 49 (36 - 38)
3 Nephi 14: 1 - 5
Perhaps it is best to leave the ultimate judgement of such moral issues to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Judah) (1 B.C. - 33 A.D.):
John 8: 1 - 11
Brother Hancock, I also thank you for your article. I
A very timely article, filled with sound logic for anyone who has difficulty in their attempt to separate religion from politics.
How often can we redraw the 'line in the sand' before we back ourselves over a cliff? Does anyone other than myself see the irony in a society that endorses same sex marriage, say between a man and another man, but hemorrhages if the same man were to marry two women? Will a man who marries both a man and a woman be in violation of polygamy laws? To Steve Smith: Your "spiritualized argument" for moral diversity (moralistic pluralism) is really an argument for no morality at all.
"Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As to be hated needs but to be seen: Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace." - Alexander Pope
What an excellent, eloquent article. In fact, the moral and political are completely intertwined in our 2 largest political parties.
Democrats--as part of their party platform-- espouse homosexual marriage and abortion rights. . In fact late term abortion was a part of Obama's presidential campaign. Republican's--as part of their party platform--espouse traditional marriage and are anti-homosexual marriage and they are pro-life with the exception of rape/incest.
Professor Hancock, you're right about a lot of things. Politics and religion do come from the same source. Church neutrality in politics cannot be absolute. However, you're creating somewhat of a straw man by suggesting that the 'other side' is arguing that gay marriage or abortions should be legal simply because morality is relative. Sure, there are many that may make that argument, but it is most certainly poor and easily debunked. I get the sense that people by and large like the idea that a Moral, with a capital M, which transcends human reasoning to the extent that it cannot be fully understood but strongly sensed, does indeed exist. Furthermore you ignore the fact that many justify abortion and gay marriage on a religious/spiritual basis. The spiritualized argument for legalized abortion is that the immorality of forcing a female to go through with an unwanted pregnancy and the social stigma that it carries (when the father of the unwanted pregnancy is not forced to bear the same responsibility) and/or the immorality of forcing an unwanted child to be brought up in a broken and unloving home outweighs the immorality of the mistake that led to the unwanted pregnancy and the termination of the growth of some cells that cannot grow and live without a constant biological attachment to the female body. I get the sense that the majority of those who favor legalized abortion in the US don't actually see abortion as a moral choice, but less immoral than the imposition of a number of austere alternatives. As for gay marriage, the argument in favor of it appears to have a strong moral basis: i.e., it is immoral to consider gays and gay relationships as inferior to straights and their relationships and you are implicitly considering gays to be inferior by denying them the right to marry.
Where liberals differ from conservatives (meaning liberal and conservative on social issues), such as yourself, is not so much over the relativity of morality but more so over the question of how well the Moral is and can be understood. Many conservatives like to think that their institutionalized religious traditions encapsulate the Moral and that deviations from these traditions would logically be immoral. On the other hand, liberals tend to think that the Moral cannot be understood without invoking reasoning beyond the rubric of specific spiritual/religious tradition embedded in prevailing social norms. The Moral is not always easily understood and institutionalized religious tradition is liable to error.
Wow! What a well reasoned and insightful article! This hits the nail on the head - solidly. Truth is reason....
Thank you for sharing this. If we expect to have the blessing of a land "choice above all other lands," we must live according to the covenants associated with the blessings. May we repent of our moralistic pluralism and look to God to heal our hearts and communities.
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