Mormon Theological Ethics – Obedience to Authority | Worlds Without End

Seth Payne has just published an interesting article via Mormon Theological Ethics – Obedience to Authority | Worlds Without End. In this article, and subsequent forthcoming articles, Payne is focusing on the understanding of Mormon Theological ethics and how it plays in the lives of Latter-day Saints. Ethics, in general, is an interesting area of study. Unlike Law, ethics serves as a code of honor to abide by. In most cases, ethics are adopted by organizations to provide necessary boundaries of how an individual engages in their course of employment, or work performance. Payne, further explains:

Theological ethics are derived from conceptions of the divine and are, in part, an effort to identify divine mandates and human obligations meant to serve a transcendent purpose. The work of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine represent an attempt to define ethics within a Christian context based not only on the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, but also their respective cultures. The practice of rabbinical midrash serves a similar purpose in Judaism.

This begs the question – where does Mormon Theological ethics stem from? Payne’s answer is, and by which he will provide further articles discussing this concept:

Mormon theological ethics, while informed by Christianity and Judaism, represent a unique form of practical ethics; ethics that shape and define cultural norms and individual behavior.A proper exposition and full examination of these theological ethics would require a full manuscript at the very least. As such, I will highlight and briefly discuss a very small subset of what I consider to be some of the most interesting and uniquely Mormon ethics in this and upcoming posts.

Payne’s premise goes further by establishing that Mormon Theological Ethics are derived from obedience to the established authority of men who have been called to be the voice of God – directing the lives of Latter-day Saint Christians:

Perhaps the most persistent and explicit Mormon ethical construct is that of authority and obedience. Indeed, many Mormons would consider this to be the very measure of faith itself. Elder Bednar once related a story about a young man’s relationship with a girl who, after hearing President Hinkley’s 2001 statement that “one pair of earrings is sufficient”, chose to wear two pair of earrings. The young man in this story decided to end the relationship because her disobedience in this small matter was, to this young man and Elder Bednar, evidence of a general lack of commitment to a key principle of Mormonism: obedience to authority. Especially prophetic authority. Shortly after President Hinkley’s remarks all BYU schools amended their honor codes to explicitly state that women were not to wear more than one pair of earrings and, I would argue, many Mormon young women embraced this opportunity to demonstrate their obedience to prophetic counsel.

Therefore, when we commit to following the leadership of the Church, we are committing to follow the particular directives that our Heavenly Father has given to help us navigate through our mortal existence. Many question this authority, pick and choose which types of counsel should be obeyed, and which should be discarded, while others hold a more open contempt against the established authority. Regardless of where one stands, ethics do play a significant role in our lives as we live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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