First Letter to the Editor
A response to
I found Kim McCall’s recent article “What is Moral Obligations in Mormon Theology?” (November-December, 1981) to be very interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. The final result is a type of antinomianism in which righteousness is derived solely from the intention to act morally. In the process, McCall has overlooked the most obvious resolution of the dilemma and has raised some interesting questions about the distinctive Mormon doctrine of God.
It would seem to me that the most obvious way of deriving moral obligation within the confines of the Mormon world-view would begin with McCall’s assertion that “right and wrong are essentially independent of divine will or decree. . . .” It is entirely possible, then, to hold that right and wrong are simply self-existent, eternal realities. Furthermore, the very existence of right and wrong imply moral obligation. If right and wrong do not carry moral obligation with them, then they are meaningless terms. This point of view, as well as McCall’s, raises interesting questions about the nature of God. If we are ontologically independent of God, then God did not create us. If right and wrong are self-existent and do not derive from God, God is not the source of moral obligations. If the elements were not created by God, then God is not the ground of existence. In what sense, then, is God really God?
In making it possible for us to be like God and coequal with God, Mormon thought has deprived God of that which makes him worthy of our worship.
God is God in name only. In essence, he has become nothing more than Superman. Just as in secular thought, existence and morality have no divine ground. It is a matter of happenstance that we exist as moral beings.
More conventional theists, such as myself, cannot worship a God who is simply a reflection of the limitations found in human experience. Right and wrong have their ground in God. To affirm this does not imply, as McCall holds, that God’s judgments are inherently capricious. Rather, such judgments are based on God’s love for his creation and on his trustworthiness. Our moral obligation, then, derives from God’s desire that we act in ways which are consistent with the purposes he had in creating us. We are obligated because God is God, and we are not.
A. Bruce Lindgren
RLDS, Independence Missouri