The eleventh Article of Faith declares, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” A statement like this not only infers a belief of situation ethics, but defies what the Bible explicitly teaches about the command and nature of worship. Nadab and Abihu learned the consequence of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience. While the Bible cannot control how man worships or where his heart is when he does so, it does give the instruction. Christ states, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Joh 4:24) This is a far cry from allowing man to worship “how, where, or what they may.”
In the transcript taken from a session of the LDS General Conference, Robert D. Hales (member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) stated,
…Each of us has agency to choose. As the eleventh article of faith states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” In matters of personal belief, how do we know what really is true? I testify that the way to know the truth about God is through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, is a personage of spirit. His work is to “testify of [God]” and to “teach [us] all things.” (Hales)
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him:but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless:I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me:because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words:and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings:and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (Joh 14:1-27)
Christ was discussing His departure, but not without a word of encouragement. His profound statement in verse fifteen is an acid test. If a person loves the Lord, they will obey Him. This includes obedience for all things including worship. Many claim to love the Lord, but will not do what it takes to worship Him in truth or follow what the Bible records. Jesus was going to return to the Father and prayed for perfect unity (Joh 14:20). He explains that He has given them how to live, and that when He is gone the Holy Spirit will reveal what they needed to know.
Woods writes, “The statement of verse 25 puts in contrast what the Lord had said to them while yet with them, and that which would be revealed to them through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit in the days to come…Soon the Spirit would make all these matters clear to them…Him the Father would send in the name of Christ, i.e., in harmony with his will, and in keeping with his plan.” (Woods)
Mr. Hales not only sidesteps the context, but also avoids the substance of the Article of Faith itself. He admits the need of instruction from the Holy Spirit but at the same time attempts to give a defense of the Article of Faith. In so doing he forfeits the claim of “worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience”
There are evidences all throughout Bible history that lend themselves to the principle of not doing things according to man’s conscience. Moses writes, “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.” (Exo 25:8-9) The Hebrew writer adds, “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” (Heb 8:5) Not only was Moses given unequivocal directions in how to build the tabernacle, but the Israelites were given how to worship God within it. The same principle has always applied to worship of the Almighty. It is not left up to man to decide based on His own conscience, nor is electing which church to join.