Sunday, January 24, 2016

Nothing to hinder prosperity but transgression


Once the Nephites had dealt with the threat from the Gadianton robbers, there is an indication that they had major societal reforms.

4 And they began again to prosper and to wax great; and the twenty and sixth and seventh years passed away, and there was great order in the land; and they had formed their laws according to equity and justice.
5 And now there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression. (3 Nephi 6:4-5)

I really wish I knew in what ways they had great order in the land. Did they organize the use of natural resources so there wasn’t any fights over that? Did they make sure everyone knew the laws so everyone had realistic expectations of their rights and privileges so no one infringed on others?  Did they have societal goals and go about to meet them in an orderly manner?  Did people act orderly without pushing through lines or getting in fights? Did families form properly and in the right way?

It’s hard to know exactly what “great order” means, but at the same time it is broad enough to encompass a bunch of different types of orderliness at every level of society. I guess it can encourage us to try to imagine what great order looks like on a family level, on a community level, on a church level, on an employment level, on an industry level, on a regional, state, and national level.  It also encourages us to imagine what laws on each of those levels helped create that order.

The other impressive thing it says is that nothing could stop them from prospering continually except their own transgression.    Sigh. That’s always the rub, isn’t it? Humanity is astonishingly skillful at self-sabotage. When things get too easy, we tend to forget our blessings, forget to be diligent, forget the Lord, and look for shortcuts. Then we fall and land ourselves in trouble again.

Because of the great order in society, it bred a condition in which there were many merchants, lawyers, and officers in the land. (3 Nephi 6:11)  The prosperity meant there was plenty of surplus with which to buy things, so supply multiplied to meet the demand. Hence the many merchants.  There were still disputes, but solving it in an orderly way meant an increase in demand for advocates and experts in law. Hence the many lawyers.  And keeping order tends to require checkpoints, gate-keeping, bureaucracy, lines, waiting, etc., which helps people know what to expect and when and how, but that would require a great number of officers to oversee. Which is helpful, but progress can seem too slow with all that, and the human mind will then begin to fantasize about breaking the order to get what one wants faster and easier.

My conclusion is that it takes good, patient people to maintain that order over a long time.  It’s also lovely that we have Mormon’s assessment that with just and equitable laws it is only transgression that hinders us from prospering.