Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mosiah’s Principles of Government, Mosiah 29

Mosiah 29 is an interesting chapter in that most of it is a letter King Mosiah wrote to his people to persuade them of the desirability of changing their form of government to a judge system from monarchy.  It is interesting because it is not all directly quoted, so Mormon took parts that he considered most valuable and summarized other parts he felt were less precious.  The quotes range from v5-32 and then v33-36 is a summary of more that was in the letter.  Therefore, to be alert readers, we must look to see what is in v5-32 that seemed to warrant direct quotation; these parts must be particularly good.

Here are the main principles that I picked out:

  • Monarchy would not be a bad form of government if it was possible to ensure that only righteous men became king. (v13)
  • It is best to judge the people according to the commandments of God (v11)
  • Wicked kings hate righteous laws, do away with them, and put wicked laws in their place. (v23)
  • One wicked king can cause great iniquity and destruction among the people. (v17)
  • Wicked kings have wicked friends that support them and guards that protect them. (v22)
  • Wicked kings can’t be removed without war. (v21)
  • Rulers need to be held accountable by other rulers and by the voice of the people. (v28-29)
  • The importance of the people answering for their own sins instead of the responsibility falling on the ruler. (v30-32)
  • Iniquity among the people brings them into bondage. (v18)
  • When the majority of the people choose what is not right, then God’s judgments come and destruction comes. (v27)
  • Repentance brings the interposition of God and deliverance from bondage. (v19)

While some have thought that Mosiah’s thinking was laying out principles of democracy, I actually think Mosiah was most worried about corruption at top levels of government.   He realized that it wasn’t enough to have good laws because a bad ruler would change the laws to provide for his/her own vice. I think Mosiah was interested in creating a system that would prevent wicked rulers from getting or retaining power by which they would corrupt the rest of society and bring destruction on the people.  He seems to have seen that a self-correcting system would need to have built into it ways for the people to have a voice so that a righteous majority could bring positive change when it was needed. He also seems to have seen that other rulers in the hierarchy would need to be empowered legitimately in order to hold a higher ruler accountable for corruption. 

While our form of government is different than the Nephite government system that Mosiah set up, our government also has built into it ways that we can agitate for change.  It is up to us to notice when corruption in government becomes obvious and to make our voices heard to try to change it because saying nothing is the equivalent of saying it is okay. 

As one example, the US Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to initiate any new obscenity prosecutions under current laws against pornography ever since President Obama took office.  You can send a petition to President Obama to ask him to demand his Attorney General enforce current laws.


Ramona Gordy said...

Thanks for the link Michaela, it was very helpful. In reading those scripture quoted, it seems now that the term "king" or "monarch" can be easily changed to President or congress. I have always felt that the biggest secret we should all know is the priciple of "with the consent of the governed". I know that presenting petitions such as these represent that theory and call me crazy, but I beleive that it is the right thing to do for any governing official to at least consider these communications from the voice of the people.
But here is wisdom, the people must be educated of their rights or else as in scripture the people perish because of the lack of knowledge.
I wanted to ask if you are writing a book, your posts lately are really focused and detailed with great info, I have really enjoyed them and learned from them,.

Michaela Stephens said...

"consent of the governed" - This is a very interesting issue. I have heard that our elected officials have different philosophies as to how they take input from their constituents.
Some are of the opinion that they should do what they are asked to do, whether bad or good, based on the loudest voices they hear. Some are of the opinion that they must do what they feel is right, no matter what, and they take their mandate from the fact that they were elected in the first place.
(Some of them take "what is right" to be based on party politics..)
Naturally, there are potential weaknesses in both philosophies. The "what the people want" philosophy means the elected official is little more than a feather blown by the wind of constituent opinion, and good people have to keep up constant pressure on them. The "what I think is right" philosophy can be very damaging if what is really right happens to be the opposite thing from what they think is right.

And yes, we have to educated about our rights, but we also have to find ways of being informed. I admit that too often I tend to be ignorant of what's going on because I just get depressed too easily when I find out.. But that's not really a good reason, huh?

By the way, thanks so much for the kind words; you're so encouraging! (I must be harder on myself for my writing than anybody..)

I AM working on a book, but it is a compilation of some past blog posts on warfare in the Book of Mormon with an eye toward the specific strategies they can teach us today about fighting our spiritual battles. My posts will be refined and more good thoughts added!