A new study from the Barna Group has found that Gen Z overwhelmingly believe in moral relativism. The Christian Post reported that “the Barna Group, in partnership with the Impact 360 Institute, collected data from 1,503 U.S. teens and young adults ages 13 to 21 between June 15 and July 17, 2020.”
The study found that “31% of teens and young adults “strongly agree” that what is “morally right and wrong changes over time, based on society,” compared to just 25% in 2018. Another 43% agree “somewhat.”
Of these findings, Jonathan Morrow from the Impact 360 Institute noted that the results and trajectory were deeply concerning. “It means literally moral reality … moral truth shifts as society shifts,” he said, noting that this trend “will have devastating consequences for everyone trying to live according to God’s good design and flourish as He designed them to function in this world as image-bearers.”
Only 10% of teens and young adults surveyed “strongly disagree” that morals and the notion of right and wrong can change over time as society changes, leaving an overwhelming majority of those who do not believe in objective truth and morality. Without an ultimate reference point for finding truth, this generation are left to depend on people and societies feelings and desires instead of believing that there is an ultimate source for truth, morality, and spirituality.
How can we find truth?
Truths taught The Family: A Proclamation to the World are examples of eternal truths not subject to moral relativism. This is affirmed by the introductory paragraph:
“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
In a 2013 BYU devotional, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a hallmark address titled “What is Truth?” Here, he outlined some of the very real questions and answers involving the quest for truth in a world full of moral relativism. He started out by asking three important questions:
“What is truth?”
“Is it really possible to know the truth?”
“How should we react to things that contradict truths which we have learned previously?”
Elder Uchtdorf provided the following ideas:
- Now, never in the history of the world have we had easier access to more information—some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true. Consequently, never in the history of the world has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error.
- Part of our problem in the quest for truth is that human wisdom has disappointed us so often. We have so many examples of things that mankind once “knew” were true but have since been proven false. For example, in spite of one-time overwhelming consensus, the earth isn’t flat. The stars don’t revolve around the earth. Eating a tomato will not cause instant death. And, of course, man actually can fly—even break the sound barrier.
- The “truths” we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these “truths” are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence, and at times they serve very selfish motives.
- Part of the reason for poor judgment comes from the tendency of mankind to blur the line between belief and truth. We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true. Conversely, we sometimes don’t believe truth or reject it—because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong. Often, truth is rejected because it doesn’t appear to be consistent with previous experiences.
- When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict our own, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and augment or complement what we know, we often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed, mentally challenged, or even intentionally trying to deceive.
- Unfortunately, this tendency can spread to all areas of our lives—from sports to family relationships and from religion to politics.
Is It Possible to Know the Truth?
Elder Uchtdorf answers this question with a resounding “yes!” His pattern for finding truth is invaluable—and worth teaching the rising generation how to discover eternal truth for themselves:
The thing about truth is that it exists beyond belief. It is true even if nobody believes it.
We can say west is north and north is west all day long and even believe it with all our heart, but if, for example, we want to fly from Quito, Ecuador, to New York City in the United States, there is only one direction that will lead us there, and that is north—west just won’t do.
Of course, this is just a simple aviation analogy. However, there is indeed such a thing as absolute truth—unassailable, unchangeable truth.
This truth is different from belief. It is different from hope. Absolute truth is not dependent upon public opinion or popularity. Polls cannot sway it. Not even the inexhaustible authority of celebrity endorsement can change it.
So how can we find truth?
As we all know, it is difficult enough to sort out the truth from our own experiences. To make matters worse, we have an adversary, “the devil, [who] as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”10
Satan is the great deceiver, “the accuser of [the] brethren,”11 the father of all lies,12 who continually seeks to deceive that he might overthrow us.13
The adversary has many cunning strategies for keeping mortals from the truth. He offers the belief that truth is relative; appealing to our sense of tolerance and fairness, he keeps the real truth hidden by claiming that one person’s “truth” is as valid as any other.
Some he entices to believe that there is an absolute truth out there somewhere but that it is impossible for anyone to know it.
For those who already embrace the truth, his primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt. For example, he has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had learned previously.
If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place.
Who is truth?
LDS professors Ed Gantt, PhD and Jeff Thayne, PhD ask this question in a series titled “Who is Truth?” (highly recommended reading). Elder Ucthdorf also testifies of the divinity of He who is Truth:
There is one source of truth that is complete, correct, and incorruptible. That source is our infinitely wise and all-knowing Heavenly Father. He knows truth as it was, as it is, and as it yet will be. “He comprehendeth all things, . . . and he is above all things, . . . and all things are by him, and of him.”
Our loving Heavenly Father offers His truth to us, His mortal children.
Now, what is this truth?
It is His gospel. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
If we will only have enough courage and faith to walk in His path, it will lead us to peace of heart and mind, to lasting meaning in life, to happiness in this world, and to joy in the world to come. The Savior is “not far from every one of us.” We have His promise that if we seek Him diligently, we will find Him.
Check out the rest of TheFamilyProclamation.org by listening to our weekly podcast series Raising Family on cultural and social issues involving the family, as well as more of Relatable articles. A good place to start is our first podcast episode explaining why this site exists and what our team of experts hope to accomplish.
Tune in to hear why there’s “no other site like this in the world” (3:06), how this project began (4:36), and how this website can be used as a tool to help people create, strengthen, and heal families (11:20)
“Most of the time when we try to defend the family, we are labeled as ‘haters.’ I felt there had to be another way to go about it. I didn’t want to use the truths I knew about the family to fight, I wanted to use them to invite.”