The Linear Morality Fallacy

In the 21st century, our technology is more advanced than it has ever been before. Humanity continually refines, builds upon, and improves what we’ve already developed. Despite the occasional regression in advancement, technology is on a constant, upward trajectory of sophistication. This pattern is recognized by everyone and is an inherent part of our ability to create. However, as the world drifts further to secularism and materialism, people try to apply this model to everything. This is the linear morality fallacy.

A common refrain heard today is “the right side of history.” Being against any number of issues will get you charged with being against this right side of history. Leaving aside all the other problems with this, it rests on an assumption that, just like technology, morality is only ever improving and being more refined. People will point to the elimination of slavery, equality for women, and push for homosexual acceptance as evidence of this. Working backwards, they assume that history gets more and more morally backwards the further away you get from today. Even Church members fall into this way of thinking. However, this view of morality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Look at slavery in America. The popular view is that the further one goes back in time, the more hateful and racist people were towards blacks. As time advanced, people in the North became more aware of racial injustice until a war happened and slavery ended. Eventually, even the South became more open to racial equality, leaving behind their prejudiced history. As widespread as this view is though, it’s also wrong.

Researching the history of slavery, one quickly realizes the Founding Fathers thought slavery was a kind of necessary evil that would soon die out. They didn’t think the black man was supposed to be the eternal servant of white people, but that was just how it was now and would end soon enough. However, as decades passed, people began to get a different idea. They began to believe that it really was the purpose of blacks to serve whites. This was a complete reversal from before, a regression in moral thinking. The cultural thinking had gone from temporary evil that would be rectified to an inherent good. Slavery was no longer unjust. It was nature.

This moral regression led to the bloodiest war in US history before slavery was abolished. If people had instead held onto the moral truth that slavery should die out, it could have peacefully, but temptation and evil warped the thinking of many until good was called evil and evil good. And so, morality had not constantly improved but had slipped down until a calamity resulted, which then humbled the people until they accepted moral truth.

Church members know this from the Scriptures. Commonly called the Pride Cycle or Nephite Cycle, people would be blessed, become more wicked, be punished, repent, be blessed, and then it would repeat on and on until their ultimate destruction. Moral progression is shown to be a loop that cultures follow. Yet some members still hold on to this linear morality fallacy. They believe that any new cultural development must be good and that cultural regression is impossible. So they embrace many things contrary to the Gospel and teachings of Christ, arguing that this is simply how society is supposed to evolve. It is the “right side of history.”

History loops and cycles through it’s moral highs and lows. We cannot look to the fads and trends of the world to tell us what is ultimately right and best for us. Only Jesus Christ and His gospel can tell us that. Church members especially would do well to focus on developing their faith and studying the gospel in order to know what is morally right, instead of taking cues from the ever-changing and regressing world. There is no right side of history, but there is the right side of the Lord, and we would do well to be on it.