What the scriptures actually tell us about the Light of Christ. Part 2

October 25, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 10:29 am   Category: Scriptures

This continues my analysis of scriptures directly related to “the light of Christ”. I did Alma 28 already.

Moroni 7:18-19 is perhaps the most critical text to understanding the Standard LDS conception of the Light of Christ as our conscience. To begin in medias res, as it were, it says:

And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.


So we should use the light of Christ to search diligently out the good, so we may utilize it, we will be a “child of Christ” (I would add we are guaranteed certainty of this, whether or not we ever find good in our lives of diligent searching.) This scripture is set up so as to point to the preceding text, which has clearly informed us what the light is by which we may judge what is good, this light of Christ that has been given to every man.

So what is stated preceding this which shows the light by which we should Judge?
It’s this:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge;

So it is the Spirit of Christ which is given to us, to know which way to Judge.

[sarcasm] Oh yeah, now it’s crystal clear. [/sarcasm]

Conclussion:
The light of Christ is the spirit of Christ or at least is given by the Spirit of Christ, it is the way (algorithm or merely just informative model?) we can know good from evil?

Questions:
What is “the Sprit of Christ”? Is there some sort of Guide to the usages of the word spirit in the scriptures? Does looking at the Greek help or am I obfuscating this more by doing such?

22 Comments »

  1. Matt,

    Despite the lack of a clear definition (which your [sarcasm] [/sarcasm] comment is pointing out), there is probably more that can be said about the light of Christ from the discussion in Moroni 7 than you are offering here. Part 1 seemed to dig in a bit deeper.

    I haven’t written a post on Moroni 7, but here are a few points worth considering:

    vs. 3-5: Mormon judges those of the church to be peaceable followers of Christ and says he has done so by observing their interactions with their fellow men. By their fruits ye shall know them…

    vs. 6-11: But, don’t think that “fruits” (actions/works) define good and evil because good and evil (of people) ultimately depends on thoughts and intents. Thus, Mormon is only using their actions as a gauge of their inner selves.

    vs. 12-14: Just as the devil inviteth and enticeth people to do evil, God inviteth and enticeth people to do good. So, we are talking about a battle of good and evil fought on the battleground of our hearts. We should take heed not to judge evil to be good.

    vs. 15: It is given to us to judge good from evil in the same sense that we can judge daylight from dark night. We can tell daylight from dark night by our sense of sight. So in other words, we have been given a similar thing to judge good and evil, a “sense” which allows us to make moral judgments.

    16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

    I’ll stop there. There is a lot more that could be said about Moroni 7, but I think these first verses give us a much broader idea of what Mormon is talking about then what you mentioned in the post.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 25, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

  2. I tend to look at verse 16 the same way Joseph used the term “Spirit of Elijah.” Joseph was quite clear that the “Spirit of Elijah” is the power and ability to seal people up into eternal life (even though later folks used it differently – see here for analysis). Here the “Spirit of Christ” is the power and ability to discern good and evil.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 25, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

  3. I have to admit I ignored everything before vs 12, as I felt it did not relate directly to the light of Christ mentioned here. Anyway, two things we can discuss from your post, and then, upon reevaluate Chapter #7, I will confess a major omission I think I have made.

    1. you say vs. 6-11 show that fuits do not define a man, almost as if Mormon is saying simply assessing the fruits of things is not enough to ascertain whether they are good or evil, and take this into vs 15, where you note this is some sort of build up to the “sense” (which I will discuss in a second) However, ultimately, as the capstone of his point, Mormon says a bitter fountain can not bring forth good water and vice versa, so ultimately he is saying (for me anyway) that if our intentions are bad, our deeds(in a general sence) will also eventually be bad, or “a man being evil cannot do that which is good.” And keep in mind that wherefore means “for this reason…” (You probably know that, but it helps me to remember. I am almost to the point of crossing out the word wherefore everywhere I find it, as otherwise I read it wrong)

    2. It says “it” is given to us to know good and evil plainly so we may judge, as easily as we know day from night. “it” need not be a sense. In fact, the idea that “it” is a sense takes it bake to our conscience being something almost seperate from us, an imp on the shoulder giving us information, or a “spider sense” that tingles to alert us of danger. “it” doesn’t seem external to me in that sense. It seems more to me to be some knowledge which we just know, more like a sense of time than a sense of smell. (I almost added the words “if that makes sense” but I think I am already to “sensational” here.) Of course, that may be the “sense” you meant to begin with…

    My gaff:
    I totally forgot to mention how “how to know what is good and what is evil” correlates how to lay ahold of what is good, which is the next huge chunk of verses after 19!

    He says God sent angels to minister, prophets to preach, and “diverse ways” to give good things unto man, so that man could begin to see the good and have faith in Christ, and then by this faith, they lay hold of every good thing.

    So here’s the ringer. The more we trust Christ, the more we are able to Good, be good and discern good. Why? Because we have the example of Christ to guide us. (I almost put that in caps with multiple exclamation points after it, just for fun.) And to continue to the end of the chapter, our Faith gives us hope that what we do is good and pleasing and Christlike which leads us to do good works for the right reasons(charity, the pure love of Christ)and so we are laying hold of every good thing, so we ought to pray to be filled with this love…

    I should add that this still does not preclude your atonement theory. I’m really going to have to sharpen my saw for part 3 of this…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 25, 2007 @ 2:05 pm

  4. Jacob, thanks for the push. That was awesome (the experience I just had with Moroni 7, which I dont think I have adequately conveyed)

    Comment by Matt W. — October 25, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  5. Thanks J, that is really helpful.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 25, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

  6. Matt,

    You’re welcome for the push, let me respond to a couple of your points.

    On vs. 6-11: so ultimately he is saying (for me anyway) that if our intentions are bad, our deeds(in a general sence) will also eventually be bad

    I think that is part of it, but notice that in verse 8 he says, “if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.” So, it is not just that if our intentions are bad that our deeds will also eventually be bad. It is also that if our intentions are bad, our current deeds are evil, even if they otherwise look like good deeds. They may do good for someone else, but they are not counted as good with respect to us. Why not? Because the thing that matters when we judge a person is what they are trying to do. The flip side is, if you are intending to do something good but it turns out to have evil consequences despite your best intentions, it is counted unto you as righteousness. This is the distinction between judging an event to be good/bad verses judging an agent to be good/bad that I discussed in my ethics post linked to above. Hopefully this helps to justify/clarify why I paraphrased vs 6-11 the way I did.

    It says “it” is given to us to know good and evil plainly so we may judge, as easily as we know day from night. “it” need not be a sense.

    The reason I said it suggests that it is like a sense is that the verse compares it to our ability to tell daylight from dark night. We do that through our sense of sight.

    In fact, the idea that “it” is a sense takes it bake to our conscience being something almost seperate from us, an imp on the shoulder giving us information, or a “spider sense” that tingles to alert us of danger.

    I disagree. Our senses (sight, touch, smell, etc.) are the way in which we interact with the world. They are intimately connected with us. Do you consider your sense of smell to be like an imp sitting on your shoulder telling you what things smell like? Of course not. It is not external at all. You would not know what the idea of smell even was if you did not have a sense of smell. Describing it would not help, as Pres. Packer has pointed out with reference to the taste of salt.

    Your sense of right and wrong is the same way. If you did not have a moral sense, a conscience, the concept of morality as you experience it could not be replaced by a description. Conscience is intimate that we think of our conscience as simply who we are. So, I don’t see the danger your are pointing to of this making it seem like something external to us.

    I am not sure what you are getting at by comparing to a sense of time, maybe you can expound. I compared it to the sense of sight because that is what Mormon does. It is not a perfect analogy, but it has something to offer.

    The more we trust Christ, the more we are able to Good, be good and discern good. Why? Because we have the example of Christ to guide us.

    I think you might be using the word example in a strange way again. Can you clarify how it is Christ’s “example” that guides us?

    Comment by Jacob J — October 25, 2007 @ 6:02 pm

  7. Jacob J:

    They may do good for someone else, but they are not counted as good with respect to us.

    Mormon follows this by saying that for this reason “neither will he give a good gift”. To me this means that through eventual prolonged analysis, a person intenting to do evil will eventually show their intentions in their actions. Something will not be right. But I concede your over all point and agree with the general idea that he is pushing the need to be able to judge plainly.

    Ok, I am going to try to explain what I am thinking here in a different way. Our sense of smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing are ways in which we receive data. Our sense of good and evil, our sense of time, our sense of depth perception are ways we interpret that data, based on the totality of data available to us. If you turn the lights out in your basement, you don’t instantly think it is nighttime because of the occular que that it is dark. Rather your determination of whether it is night time comes from a combination of factors.

    I currently think that the light of Christ is not a receiver/transmitter of Data, but is a set of data we currently have at our disposal, which we can interpret other data with. So the Holy Ghost is a transmitter of data, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost is data itself which we receive, so also is the light of Christ data itself that we have received.

    Which leads me into clarifying my use of the word example. Christ has been our example from the beginning, ever since he raised his hand and said here I am send me (perhaps even before that?) and so, we attempt to follow him and be like him based on the information we have available to us. Whether we currently even know Christ exists or not, we have some set of information in us which we could call the light of Christ. We can increase our light of christ by gaining more information. We can decrease it rejecting some information we already have. We can not completely destroy it because even rejected information stays with us, and we have to walk by Faith, so we can not now completely perfect it.

    Shoot me full of holes if you want to.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 26, 2007 @ 6:42 am

  8. Matt,

    I have no desire to shoot you full of holes. I appreciate the discussion. From #7, it seems you are making distinctions between data, reception of data, and interpretation of data, but I can’t tell how you define each of these in relation to morality. I am especially confused by the idea that the light of Christ is the “data itself.” If the light of Christ is given to us that we may know good from evil as a way to judge, it seems it would fall more obviously in your taxonomy as something which helps us interpret the data rather than being the data itself.

    I can see your point about the difference between daytime and nighttime. Just because it is dark in the basement does not mean it is nighttime. However, I take the reference to “daylight” verses “dark night” to be referring to the difference between light and darkness rather than the difference between daytime and nighttime. This seems to fit better with the analogy of the spirit of Christ as a “light” of Christ given to us to judge. In the absence of the light of Christ there would be darkness, not nighttime. Given that, our ability to discern between light and darkness is not a matter of data (it would still either be dark or light even if we were blind), but it is a matter of us being able to tell the difference between light and darkness. We can judge between the two because we have a sense of sight.

    Of course, you are correct that there are things which cause us to interpret the things we see. If I stick a pole in the swimming pool, my sight tells me the pole bends, but with some experiments I am able to convince myself that it is an optical illusion. Similarly, I think we could be cautious about moral illusions. We routinely build reasoned arguments on top of our moral instincts, just as we reason upon what we see to determine if the pole is really bending under the water.

    On the topic of the word example, I am going to have to resort to a dictionary:

    ex·am·ple –noun
    1. one of a number of things, or a part of something, taken to show the character of the whole: This painting is an example of his early work.
    2. a pattern or model, as of something to be imitated or avoided: to set a good example.
    3. an instance serving for illustration; specimen: The case histories gave carefully detailed examples of this disease.
    4. an instance illustrating a rule or method, as a mathematical problem proposed for solution.
    5. an instance, esp. of punishment, serving as a warning to others: Public executions were meant to be examples to the populace.
    6. a precedent; parallel case: an action without example.

    Which of these, if any, is the definition you mean? It seems to me you mean definition 2 because you said “we attempt to follow him and be like him.” However, this seems to be totally unworkable as a match with the light of Christ. Does the light of Christ make known to us what Jesus did so that we can imitate it? I don’t think so. Something that tells us what we should do is not an example, it is an advisor. If Christ tells us what we should do, we are following him as our leader or commander or advisor or mentor, but not as our examplar. He is not telling us “this is what I did in that situation,” he is telling us “this is what you should do in that situation.”

    Comment by Jacob J — October 26, 2007 @ 10:53 am

  9. I believe we interpret new data which we receive with data we already have on hand. When I turn the light off, I know from past experience that it doesn’t mean I turn night time on, whether I know that from my own trial and error, logic, teaching from others, or whatever.

    I am thinking currently that the light of Christ is a certain type of knowledge we can have, any and all knowledge which would fall in the realm of being Christlike. I wil point out what I see as a potential flaw, which is that it denotes the best most true morality is completely rationally based, and not emotionally derived. Would you say our morals are rational, emotional, or something else?

    To illustrate my point about data:
    it is a matter of us being able to tell the difference between light and darkness. We can judge between the two because we have a sense of sight.

    A baby can see but if you hold up a picture of light ad a picture of darkness, and ask the baby to tell you which is which, a baby cannot do this, as the baby does not have any of the required data accumulated for them to be able to interpret what you are asking them.

    Going back to my potential fault, I am not sure I believe in moral instincts. I don’t see much evidence for it. I’m willing to be convinced, and would be happily convinced, but I think it is more easily argued that morality is learned as a reaction to the law of cause and effect. To point out an argument against what I am saying though, there is the question as to why the first person chose to care for their young and not leave them for dead. How did they learn that? I guess if you are an atheist you say it was random chance because the ones that didn’t do that died out, and if you are a theist you say they were either taught that by God, designed that way, or just knew that.

    As for example, I actually don’t understnad the different distinctions between 2-6, as they could all be pretty equivilant to me. (with 5 being just a negative 4) Now, as for the distinction of an example versus an advisor, I guess I can’t see it as an advisor as it is not an entity unto itself which can say “this is good” but is something internal to us by which we know what is good. The advisor idea is what I was trying to decry as the imp on the shoulder earlier.

    One idea I am thinking of, which I am begining to see as admittedly not having much scriptural precendent, is that the light of Christ can grow “dimmer” or “brighter” based upon our faith. This comes from my reading of how we can lay hold of every good thing, as stated above.

    Finally, perhaps Christ is not our model, but our precedent (def 6 of example) ie- An act or instance that may be used as an example in dealing with subsequent similar instances.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 26, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  10. Matt,

    A baby can see but if you hold up a picture of light ad a picture of darkness, and ask the baby to tell you which is which, a baby cannot do this, as the baby does not have any of the required data accumulated for them to be able to interpret what you are asking them.

    The baby can’t do this because it can’t communicate. Surely you are not arguing that a baby can’t tell the difference between being in light and being in darkness, are you?

    I think it is more easily argued that morality is learned as a reaction to the law of cause and effect.

    In certain narrow respects, maybe. If you try to account for our conscience as what we learned from experience, I think it is doomed to failure. I really need to find a way to post Truman Madsen’s paper Conscience and Consciousness. Maybe I will post on it and include a few quotes.

    I guess I can’t see it as an advisor as it is not an entity unto itself which can say “this is good” but is something internal to us by which we know what is good.

    Wait, I thought you were arguing it is an example which is just as external as an advisor. I actually don’t think it is either because I think conscience is something far more intimate than either of those, but if you are going to complain that an advisor is external, why not complain that an example is external.

    One idea I am thinking of, which I am begining to see as admittedly not having much scriptural precendent

    There is lots of scritpural talk of this if you connect the light of Christ with the spirit. I think there is good scriptural support for connecting the two, which leads to the view you are thinking about.

    Finally, perhaps Christ is not our model, but our precedent (def 6 of example) ie- An act or instance that may be used as an example in dealing with subsequent similar instances.

    This puts you squarely in the territory I have been arguing against since the beginning, which you accused of being to narrow a view of example in your comment to britain. If I am really supposed to use what I know of Christ’s actual life and actions in similar circumstances to the ones I am in, there is not nearly enough information about his life to be of much use to me, and even if I knew more about his life, it would likely be hard to find comparable circumstances for most of my decisions.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 26, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  11. Wow, I must be really unclear. Let’s dig more.

    The baby can’t do this because it can’t communicate. Surely you are not arguing that a baby can’t tell the difference between being in light and being in darkness, are you?

    The baby can’t communicate because it doesn’t know how. It doesn’t know the words light and darkness, and doesn’t understand the concepts light and darkness, it may experience the difference between light and darkness but is completely unable to interpret what that difference is.

    Truman Madsen’s paper Conscience and Consciousness

    I’ll try to look it up. It may be on Gospel Link. Anyway, If we include premortal learning, I think the idea that conscience is learned is not falsifiable, but I’m not sure what would be an apporpriate test.

    Wait, I thought you were arguing it is an example which is just as external as an advisor.

    This is obviously a case of me being unclear. In my current hypothesis, Christ is our example, and the light of Christ is the data we have internally gathered from him and about him (by any means; Moroni 7 lists various means.) which we use as a precedent in our decision making, enabling us to know Good from Evil. Does that make my thoughts more clear. In respose to my saying britain was being too narrow, this knowledge may be only related to the life and person of Christ in that it is Christ-like knowledge. We often speak of others as being types of Christ. (I’d expand on this more, but am having trouble formulating my thoughts here.)

    Also, this knowledge(the light of Christ) could still potentially be, in part if not in whole, divinely infused into man by connection with the atonement. I still haven’t made my decision on that, but am hoping to do a post as a 3rd part of this series where I push that idea up against D&C 88 and see what happens.

    Let’s continue and pursue this. I am really enjoying the exchange.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 26, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  12. Matt,

    If the light of Christ is the data we have internally gathered from Christ and about Christ by various means, we should be clear about just what the data is. Is it data about Christ and what he was like, or are you using “Christ-like” as a euphemism for “good.” In other words, is it actually telling you about Christ, or is it telling you what is good. Even if you think Christ is good, there is a big difference.

    The thing about an example is that it leaves the application and interpretation up to us. Consider the example Jesus set for us when he drove the money changers from the temple. We are left to figure out how to apply that example to ourselves. Why was that the right thing for him to do? Figuring out how to follow that example is tricky. I don’t find that the light of Christ provides me with examples. It is one thing to say 1. Christ is good, 2. Christ did the following thing, 3. Be like Christ and follow his example. It is quite a different thing to say 1. Be good 2. You know what it is to be good, don’t pretend you don’t, 3. Christ is good.

    Consider your sense of justice. What experiences do we all have that lead us to have a deep and abiding commitment that it is wrong to punish an innocent person for something they didn’t do? Is it based on some data points we have about Christ? Is it learned, or is a sense of justice innate? Could we raise people to believe that innocent people deserve to be punished? (I don’t mean “some particular group of people (who in reality are innocent) deserve to be punished” but rather the principle “innocent people deserve to be punished.”)

    Comment by Jacob J — October 26, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

  13. Here is my take on this subject.
    On certain subjects the Book of Mormon is not the best source. It may be the subject at hand is one of them.

    Doctrine evolves and the day in which we live is called the “fulness of times” for a reason. We have much more available to us in latter-day revelation. Both canonized and otherwise.

    PS I am in the process of starting a blog on “the things of the spirit” where I hope to explore this subject in depth.

    Comment by Jared — October 27, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  14. The word = truth = light = Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. They are synonymous and given to every man.

    D&C 84

    44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
    45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
    46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.

    John P. Pratt, Meridian Magazine speculates:

    “Some serious investigations of the zero-point energy predicted by quantum mechanics are being conducted, along with experiments in the psychic realm. ZPE is not only closely tied to light, but to the very structure of all matter…A detailed comparison of its properties to those of the Light of Christ suggests that the two may either be closely related or even one and the same.”

    Comment by Howard — October 27, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  15. Jacob J, by “Christlike” I would mean any behaviour that gets us more in line with being at one with Christ and the Father. So a man in China, who is not a christian, can be completely christlike, save that he dos not believe in Christ, and thus be much closer to Christ than I am.

    I agree that figuring out how to follow Christ’s example is tricky. I do not think we are limited to the example of his mortal life though, as we have him perpetually with us.

    Here’s the rub for me on holding it strictly to a “spider sense” of good and evil. In 1830, it was morally ok to have a slave. In 600 BC, it was morally ok to sacrifice animals, and stone adulterers (to death). In 1860 it was morally ok to have more than one wife. In 2007, it is morally reprehensible to smoke cigerettes.

    Innoscent by definition means “not deserving of punishment” so it seems to be impossible to argue along those lines.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 29, 2007 @ 6:22 am

  16. Matt,

    by “Christlike” I would mean any behaviour that gets us more in line with being at one with Christ

    Right, as I suspected you are using Christ-like to mean “good” rather than “conforms to our understanding of how Jesus actually behaves in various circumstances.” This is why I keep challenging your use of the word “example;” you don’t really mean that the light of Christ is an example but an influence for good (which is my position to begin with).

    I do not think we are limited to the example of his mortal life though, as we have him perpetually with us.

    I’m not sure how many more ways there are to say this or demonstrate it but the way in which “we have him perpetually with us” does not provide us with an “example” as you have defined it (see #12).

    In 1830, it was morally ok to have a slave.

    Despite the cultural influence, you’ll notice that some people in the 1830s were able to figure out that slavery was immoral. In fact, a lot of people did. How did they do that?

    Innoscent by definition means “not deserving of punishment” so it seems to be impossible to argue along those lines.

    By what definition? Where did that definition come from, and why do we all agree to it? You are trying to hide behind a definition here when the important thing is the idea, the notion, behind the definition. If you want to argue the whole thing is just a matter of definition, you are going to have to claim that the statement “a person should not be punished for something they didn’t do” is a tautology. If you’re not ready to claim that is a tautology, then my original questions about our sense of justice stand.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 29, 2007 @ 9:33 am

  17. I made some errors in my 15, slipping to my “standard” understanding of the light of christ (christ perpetually with us guiding us personally) rather than my new conception (we have, for want of a better term, a database of what is good and not good given to us premortally which we can analyze and make decisions based upon it. We can aso add to and take away from this database as we learn and grow. The closer are database is to matching Christ’s database (thus he is the precedent), the greater amount of the light of Christ we have within us.) I hope that clarifies the perpetually with us idea. It is his “database” which we have as our standard and which we strive to get closer and closer to replicating in our own DB. (In thinking on this, I was thinking that Christ’s db would have been the standard before and after his passion event, even though the db would have fundamentally changed in that event)

    influence, example, I’m fine with either.I don’t want to get bogged down on that.

    How about in 50 bc in Rome then rather than 1830 in the US? I have a difficulty saying all the people of history are depraved merely because they do not hold up to the standards I have today. Christ drank alchohol. Judah slept with his daughter in law. etc etc.

    the term tautalogy always throws me, but “a person should not be punished for something they didn’t do” of course is not the same as saying innocent, as there are sins of ommission. I think what you are asking is if it is the same to say a person is innocent and to say a person is undeserving of punishment. I said I am having a hard time arguing this concept not because it seems to me to be a tautology, but because it is impossible to argue for the punishment of innocents. perhaps the problem is not so much in the word innocent as in the word punish. If to punish means to inflict a penalty for an offense, but innoscent means to have not committed an offense, perhaps it is a tautology afterall?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 29, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  18. Matt,

    Honestly I have no idea what you mean by a database of what is good and what is not good. In #12 I asked what the “data” in this database was, I am still unclear on that. Does your experience with knowledge of good and evil give you any hints that it is based on a database of some sort, or is this just an ad hoc construct you have come up with? I guess I’ll take this opportunity to honk the horn of my distaste for the constant creation of new analogies to sort out rather than trying to talk about things directly.

    I am arguing that treating a person as less than human has always been immoral in every age of the world (regardless of culture) and people have always been able to sense this. Drinking alcohol is not immoral, per se, and I have never taken the story of Judah and Tamar as an endorsement of Judah’s behavior.

    perhaps it is a tautology afterall?

    Sigh. Can we agree that we all have a concept of desert, blame-worthiness, praise-worthiness, etc.? Can we further agree that the word punish means what it does because of the shared sense of justice that underlies the concept? These words only have meaning because of our shared notions which lead to the words themselves. You are saying those notions are created by our formative experiences in childhood, while I am saying that such a view is not sufficient to account for the actual occurance of these notions. You cannot systematically raise people to have sense of justice which tells them justice is the opposite of what it is.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 29, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  19. Ok, the concept of a database is NOT an analogy, it is a conceptualization, like a meme is not an analogy. The Human brain is a database. But you don’t like the term, so I will put it another way. There are absolutes of what is good and evil, these absolutes are perfectly known by Christ, but not perfectly known by us. You agree with me up to this point I think, except you say Christ then tells us what is good and evil, and this is the light of Christ, his telling us. My personal experience has been that I need to reason out what is good and evil in each and every situation I am in, using what information I have available to me. If I am incapable of reasoning such out, then I am only accountable for the consequences of my actions insofar as I was able to reason them out.

    example: I have a four year old daughter. She loves her 6 month old sister, and knows, by her reasoning, that when her sister crys, that is bad. She knows that when she cries, we pick her up and bounce her around a little to get her to stop. She attempts this sometimes if we are not close enough. Her version is painful and violent to the baby, which makes the baby cry more. While my daughter is responsible for the state of the baby, she is not accountable for it, because her intentions were not to do evil.

    You are saying those notions are created by our formative experiences in childhood

    This is the one point I did want to correct. I do believe that the notions of good and evil we have could be carried over in part from information we had available to us prior to birth. I do not hold this idea with certainty, but it does seem at least possible to me.

    Back to the concept of justice and knowing justice in general. Are you saying that you’re experience with your children leads you to believe that they have a fullly developed sense of right and wrong, and that you don’t need to teach them right from wrong?

    You cannot systematically raise people to have sense of justice which tells them justice is the opposite of what it is. I think studies bear out that children of abusive parents are more likely to be abusive. Children of violent parents are more likely to be violent. Children of lazy parents are more likely to be lazy, etc etc.

    To back this up scripturally, I’d say God has made it evident that sinful traditions of fathers are moved on to their children and has scolded many parents in scripture for not teaching their children diligently…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 29, 2007 @ 11:46 am

  20. Okay, if the database is not an analogy, then I am happier with it, but I am still not sure what sort of data it holds for the purpose of telling me what is good and bad. I could make guesses, but I would need to know what you are suggesting to respond to your ideas better.

    My personal experience has been that I need to reason out what is good and evil in each and every situation I am in, using what information I have available to me.

    I agree that we must reason out what is good and bad in many situations. This is because real situations often contain tensions between various different goods/evils which complicate our moral lives. We must choose between two goods, or we can only do this particular good thing by causing this bad thing, or whatever. As I said in #8, “We routinely build reasoned arguments on top of our moral instincts, just as we reason upon what we see to determine if the pole is really bending under the water.” I don’t think that conscience makes it obvious in every situation what we should do (obviously it doesn’t because we have conscience and it is not always obvious what to do), but the building blocks upon which we reason are fundamental ideas about morality (including the existence of morality) which are not based on reason. The study of ethics tries to tie these notions of morality back to a reasoned framework, and the fact that it is hard to get agreement is revealing of the fact that at their root, our ethical feelings do not arise from reasoned argument.

    I do believe that the notions of good and evil we have could be carried over in part from information we had available to us prior to birth

    If I understand him correctly, this is very much in line with Truman Madsen’s take on the issue. I’ll get to that post eventually.

    Are you saying that you’re experience with your children leads you to believe that they have a fullly developed sense of right and wrong, and that you don’t need to teach them right from wrong?

    That’s a good question, because obviously children don’t have a fully formed sense of right and wrong. The topic of cognitive development is obviously a complicated one and I admit that I am not expert enough to speak in detail about many of the issues, but my general response is that our ideas about morality depend on us understanding the issues in life that they relate to. Children don’t understand many of those issues and thus cannot have fully developed notions of morality which are fundamentally about those issues.

    I think studies bear out that children of abusive parents are more likely to be abusive.

    People’s behavior is different than people’s understanding of morality. Are there studies showing that abused children don’t think abuse is wrong? That is what is needed.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 29, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  21. Sorry, Matt, I didn’t take the time to read all the comments, just your post. Concerning your conclusion and question: my understanding is that the terms Spirit of Christ and Light of Christ are referring to the same thing, the same CREATURE. The term Spirit of Christ describes one aspect of this creature, while the term Light of Christ describes another aspect of the same creature. There are many terms used to describe it in the scriptures, which may cause people to believe the descriptions are talking of different things. It fills the immensity of space and is the law and power of God, etc., being endowed with all the attributes or qualities of God. Through it, God is in all, through all, above all, etc. It is alive. There is another type of similar creature found in the scripture, which the devil uses, known as the spirit of the devil (Alma 34; 35.) It works on opposite principles to those of the Light of Christ.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — October 29, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

  22. Are there studies showing that abused children don’t think abuse is wrong?
    The closest I could find is a study that showed that children who were spanked were more likely to find spanking children acceptable, but I don’t really want to get into whether spanking is moral or not.

    Children don’t understand many of those issues and thus cannot have fully developed notions of morality which are fundamentally about those issues.

    And I am saying children grow to understand these issues by being taught by others or by personal experience.

    I went through a bunch of talks by madsen (but couldn’t find the one you are talking about), and admit I am probably heavily influenced by him.

    I guess if we wanted to simplify our discussion, we could conceive of the data we have as a single table with only 4 columns.

    1 situation
    2 Is it Good or Evil
    3 Why is it Good or Evil (based on what we know)
    4 Degree to which it is Good or Evil ( for use in choosing between two goods or two evils)

    This is a gross oversimplification, but you get the idea.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 30, 2007 @ 11:18 am

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