Notes for my writing

This blog is made up of notes on the gospel as found in the only true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes notes that are either excerpts from or ideas for books I either have in draft or may yet write.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Principles of Conscience

This is a follow up to something that was posted at:

In that article the need for all people to heed conscience, as imparted by the light of Christ, was pointed out.

Principles of Conscience

For those that don’t have the gospel, maybe not even Christianity, according to the scriptures there are principles of conscience God still expects them to live by. He blesses them when they live by them. In the scriptures he has stated that has destroyed some heathen societies for not living by these principles.
As God has held even the heathens who had no notion of Christianity accountable for violating these principles of conscience in the scriptures, then we must recognize that these are fundamental expectations the Lord holds for all mankind.
Sadly, some of these principles are actively taught against in our own society. When we face decisions about what a society can fairly expect of someone who is not a member of the church, let us give way from our own wisdom to God’s about what every person can know and be expected to live by simply by nature of having the light of Christ. Every human born has that much light and knowledge.
To start, consider a case where the Lord blesses people whose parents have rejected the gospel. He does so based on their obedience to truth that, even without the gospel, the light of Christ alone is sufficient to understand.
In Jacob 2-3 we read of the Lamanites:
Jacob 3:5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.
6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people.

Here we see the Lamanites being blessed for obedience to chastity, despite the fact that they have completely rejected the gospel. This is a principle of conscience. Even having rejected the gospel, the light of Christ alone is sufficient to inspire mankind to live the law of chastity. Because the Lamanites obeyed that principle, the Lord would bless their posterity.

On the other side of things, there have been many societies which the Lord has destroyed for their wickedness. Some of them did not have the gospel, for example Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the nations in the promised land that were destroyed by the Israelites. Would the Lord have destroyed them if they were not accountable for their wicked behavior? No, of course not. We know Christ well enough to know that he doesn't destroy a people for something they don't know any better than to do. Being destroyed was, itself, holding them accountable. They were not accountable for the full light of the gospel, which they didn't have, but they were accountable for principles of conscience. These nations violated these principles. Even without the gospel, they knew better by nature of having the light of Christ and were destroyed for their disobedience. 

What are principles the Lord condemned these people for? What are the kinds of principles that people can have and be blessed for obeying, or be destroyed for violating, simply because they have enough light to know better because they have the light of Christ?

In Leviticus 20 we read that the people who had the promised land before the Israelites were being destroyed because of these sorts of practices: adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, and sacrificing of children. We won’t recite all of it, but an example of the verses is:

Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Of such practices the Lord stated:

Leviticus 20:23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.

There you see it. The Lord stated that he “abhorred” these heathen nations because such things were among them. These were heathen nations. They didn't have the gospel. But these are matters of conscience. These are things that the light of Christ is sufficient light for people to know better than to do.

If the light of Christ weren’t sufficient for these nations to know better, than the Lord would not have abhorred them for these practices. The Lord only holds us accountable for what we know better than. These were people who worshiped idols and sacrificed children. The Lord knew they knew better, or he would not have punished them for it. But it wasn’t their religious leaders that had taught them better. It was the light of Christ. These are principles of conscience all mankind are expected to obey.

From these scriptures we see that it is not necessary for a people to be taught that adultery is wrong, that homosexuality is wrong, that child sacrifice is wrong, that bestiality is wrong for the Lord to hold them accountable for violating these principles. The Lord knows what things a person should be able to recognize as wrong by their conscience alone, and for such things we see in the scriptures that the Lord holds men accountable no matter what their religion approves of.

So there are two sides of the matter. There are principles of conscience that all mankind is accountable for. That accountability can bring them blessings, as it did for the Lamanites, or it can bring them sorrow and destruction, as it did for some nations in ancient days.

It should be mentioned that it is no surprise if people who are violating principles of conscience will not admit that they really know better. Those who are involved in misbehavior rarely want to admit that they are misbehaving. Christ taught:

John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

There are principles of conscience, basic truths which the Lord imparts to people through the light of Christ. These basic truths include a knowledge that husbands and wives should love each other and love their children. Husbands and wives should be faithful to each other. Adultery is wrong. Homosexuality is wrong. Bestiality is wrong. Killing children is wrong. These are basic truths that any society can require of its people, because all mankind has sufficient light and knowledge to know and to follow them. These are things that God holds all people accountable for, because he has given the light of Christ to all mankind.

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