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Monday, June 18, 2012

King Mosiah's State Crisis and the Role of Ether's Account

My wife, Kendra, shared with me some insights she picked up as she pondered King's Mosiah's actions near the end of his life, the dramatic actions in which a king would voluntarily step down and try to create a new legal system based on written law and a system of judges responsive to the voice of the people.

King Mosiah has several sons, but none of them were willing to be king. A king without a clear heir or with contending heirs (something he feared could happen) was a recipe for chaos and civil war, as Mosiah had just learned from the newly discovered record of the ancient Jaredites that he had translated with the power of God. Coupled with the recently reported experiences of the Nephite colony of King Zeniff through King Noah, he had seen more fully than ever the dangers of the throne. It must have been the great concern of his final days, a matter of intense prayer and study, and the new system he bestowed upon his people was brilliant and surely inspired.

Even with all his concern and all his efforts to prevent chaos and civil war, it still happened. A few short years later Amlici would rise, wrapped in robes of patriotism seeking to restore the old, proven ways of rule by king--and he just happened to be the ideal man for the occasion, even if it meant civil war to put him in power.

The impact of the Book of Ether on Mosiah's thinking seems so strong in reading the closing chapters of Mosiah. I love the deep relationships between various parts of the text and the subtleties that are woven throughout this intricate, ancient text.

By the way, as we learn from the Book of Mormon, man's quest for power must never be underestimated. Restraint through checks and balances and other means will always be needed to hold back man's and government's unlimited appetite for power.

25 comments:

Jon said...

By the way, as we learn from the Book of Mormon, man's quest for power must never be underestimated. Restraint through checks and balances and other means will always be needed to hold back man's and government's unlimited appetite for power.

I would add that the knowledge of the individual of what freedom and liberty are and a desire for them is much more important as a check to government than government checks and balances. We can see today how these checks and balances have totally failed us. This is seen in Mosiah 29 where the people say, "Yes, we want liberty, we want to be responsible for our own actions."

What I got out of Mosiah concerning government was that the form of government itself doesn't matter that much (it does matter a little), what truly matters is that the government adhere to natural law (referred to as God's law, law of the land, etc in the scriptures). Natural law is derived from property rights and that the individual owns oneself.

We know that King Benjamin & Mosiah both adhered to this natural law (law of their fathers) and consequently didn't tax the people (taxation by it's very definition is contrary to natural law because it is one group of people stealing from another and the Lord said, "Thou shalt not steal."). Pretty fascinating. I opine that Benjamin & Mosiah weren't kings as we think of kings today, but were more like wise men that the people deeply respected.

Likewise, when Christ says he is a king it is nothing like the worldly kings that we know of today, because Christ's true power is the power of persuasion not of force.

We also know that the Israelites lived in a voluntary society where every 7 years they could agree to live up the laws as administered by the main body of Israelites, like wise I would think that the Nephites under Benjamin & Mosiah could choose to live under any added rules or not, what they couldn't choose is to taking away any natural rights of another person.

Jon said...

Doh! I forgot to check the "follow comments" box again. Is there any way to follow comments without commenting?

Anonymous said...

There's one other issue that I think may have played a part. In 2 Nephi 5:18, Nephi clearly states his desire that his people NOT have a king. But this is written on the small plates which were kept, not by the kingly line, but by Jacob and his descendants. When the small plates are full, Amaleki returns the plates to King Benjamin.

If Nephi's concerns about monarchy were not passed down to his children--or were subsequently hushed up by his successors in the Nephite leadership--then King Benjamin may have received quite a shock when he perused the small plates for the first time. I wonder whether, in his final sermon to the Nephites, he wasn't deliberately laying the groundwork for the peaceful transition from monarchy to the system of judges that Mosiah II would ultimately establish.

Anonymous said...

Jon writes that "taxation by its very definition is contrary to natural law because it is one group of people stealing from another and the Lord said, 'Thou shalt not steal.'"

The United States Constitution explicitly gives Congress the "power to lay and collect taxes."

Several things would appear to follow:

1. The U.S Constitution is contrary to natural law.

2. The U.S. Constitution mocks God's commandments.

3. The U.S. Constitution authorizes theft.

Pretty fascinating, indeed.

Jon also writes that the Constitution's "checks and balances have totally failed us."

That's right, totally failed us. That's why the United States is such a swamp of misery and despair....

Sheesh.

-- Eveningsun

Papa D said...

One more thing:

Mosiah had taken leadership of a people more numerous than the Nephites. If one of his sons wasn't going to take his place, there was a good chance that one of the people of Mulek who already was influential and popular would do so - if the monarchy was determined by popular vote. In fact, the moment Mosiah's sons rejected the throne, those other contenders might have started agitating for the position very quickly.

Nehor is described as being another King Noah, in philosophy and intent. Amalici was one of his disciples. They are said to have gained a following FAR too quickly to have started a grass-roots campaign from scratch at the end of Mosiah's life.

If Mosiah knew either of them was likely to become the king, it would have provided the best possible motivation to change the system - and, if you think about it, the best possible reason for Nehor then Amlici to be extremely upset and demand what they had assumed they would attain before what they would have seen as Mosiah rigging the system against them - perhaps even to perpetuate the minority rule of the Nephites over them.

It's easy to condemn Nehor and Amlici, given the descriptions we have of them, and I'm not trying to endorse them in any way - but it's harder to realize that they might have had a very compelling legal argument and an incredibly strong emotional appeal to a majority people ruled by those of the minority.

Lots of things are less clear than we tend to assume in hindsight - and lots of things in the Book of Mormon are pretty amazing when looked upon a bit more expansively than we tend to do.

Kadmon said...

"The impact of the Book of Ether on Mosiah's thinking seems so strong in reading the closing chapters of Mosiah. I love the deep relationships between various parts of the text and the subtleties that are woven throughout this intricate, ancient text. "

What about 1 Samuel 8? I see a lot of influence from there.

Anonymous said...

I have no problems paying taxes. I have some issues on how the tax money is spent and I often have the opportunity to vote on how the tax money gets allocated to the various programs that are in place. I am pretty sure we do not want a system of government where "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

Steve

Anonymous said...

I have no problems paying taxes. I have some issues on how the tax money is spent and I often have the opportunity to vote on how the tax money gets allocated to the various programs that are in place. I am pretty sure we do not want a system of government where "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

Steve

Anonymous said...

I have no problems paying taxes. I have some issues on how the tax money is spent and I often have the opportunity to vote on how the tax money gets allocated to the various programs that are in place. I am pretty sure we do not want a system of government where "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

Steve

PS - The new "prove you are not a robot" pictures are pretty hard these days.

Anonymous said...

and all three of my attempts got pushed through.... ugh...

Steve

Jon said...

@Steve,

I am not advocating that people live without ethics (or natural law). I am advocating that people do live under natural law, and one of its tenets is that everyone is the same under the law. When we tax we are creating a group of people above the law (thou shalt not steal).

We can easily see that taxation is theft by there being no explicit contract and the taxes can be increased at whim up to all the money that a person has, which, incidentally means that the people are just slaves since they truly don't own their own labor. Frederick Douglas talked about this in his auto biography.

Jon said...

@Eveningsun,

I don't recall anyone advocating that the constitution is a perfect document and that it embodies all natural law and doesn't go contrary to natural law. Joseph Smith didn't think so (read "The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith") neither did President Taylor when he said: "But even this, good as it was, was not a perfect instrument; it was one of those stepping stones to a future development in the progress of a man to the intelligence and light, the power and union that God alone can impart to the human family."

Cleon Skousen spoke against bad things in the constitution read "Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution."

Are we to assume then that a black person is truly 3/5 of a person? Heaven forbid. The Book of Mormon teaches against such doctrine.

How has checks and balances failed us? Look around you look at the power the president has. He can, by himself with no due process order the execution of American citizens (of course, it is just as bad that he can do the same for non American) he can go to war without the permission of congress (BTW the US hasn't declared war since WWII, which the constitution is very explicit should happen).

So, yes, the checks and balances worked for a while but in the end it is the individual that must stave off tyranny by truly understanding what freedom and liberty are and desiring them. I would also add, that one must have an open and critical mind, otherwise when we learn more truths from God from modern thinkers we will scoff at them and continue in our awful state.

Collin said...

Also, Mosiah just became friends with Alma the Elder who refused to be a king and who taught about King Noah and how much wickedness one wicked king could bring about. Mosiah would have been influenced by this as well.

Anonymous said...

Collin, Alma the elder was older than Mosiah, at least that is strongly implied in the last few verses of Mosiah. I don't think Alma the elder was offered the kingship. But I could be wrong. Do you have a vese handy where either Al Sr. or Al Jr were offered the throne?

weston krogstadt said...

Great comments guys, I liked reading all of them.

Anonymous said...

Papa D made some interesting comments about the Nephites. One good thing in Sen. Bennett's recent book about the Book of Mormon was to consider the incessant coups and civil wars after Mosiah II as influenced by a large and not completely integrated Mulekite influence. I suppose if I were a majority, but a lame one that continued to select leaders from the minority, I could get ticked off enough to go the extra legal route.

Mark S

Bookslinger said...

Weston, welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Jon,

I guess we diverge politically here. I had to do some quick reading about natural law which seems to state that there is some innate moral standard that every man has and that we are all to live by this innate natural law. This assumption seems to go contrary to "the natural man is an enemy to God." So, at this point, I choose to live where I live and I will pay the taxes that I pay based on the goods and services that I receive from the government. Once a government official is found to have swindled the tax payers, I will stand by to watch him get prosecuted and thrown into jail (paid by taxpayers) for the crime he has committed.

Steve

Jon said...

@Steve,

First, I commend you in your desire to learn. Most people are fairly closed minded, especially when it comes to politics. I have done a lot of reading on this topic to come to my conclusions and hope to continue to be able to change my mind if I find something better and truer.

Having said that, let's explore this topic some more from a gospel perspective. Natural law is not to be confused with the natural man. Natural law in the scriptures is referred to as "God's law," "Law of our Fathers," "Law of the land," "constitutional law." [Note the small "c" in constitution, it isn't referring to the US Constitution in this case.]

Some people confuse God's law with a theocracy. We see in Mosiah 26 that they did not live under a theocracy because there were people that could live according to how they pleased as long as they did not harm someone else (in modern thought this is called the non-aggression principle or NAP).

Some people think that because they live in a democracy (or republic in our case) that anything the majority deems as right is OK and it is OK with God. This is contrary to God's law because this creates a state where people eventually enslave one another (2 Ne 13:5) which is chaos and no true law. At this point the righteous people can flee or revolt when things get bad enough, if this were not true then revolution when never be right if there was no higher law and the American revolution would be an unrighteous act.

So yes, natural law does exist and modern governments are acting contrary to this law. BTW, God must adhere to these natural laws also.

Also, one must not conflate ethics with morality. Ethics is God's law (natural law) and can be derived from logic and reason, because, as far as I understand it, the Mormon God is a God of logic and reason. So if your axioms are correct you can arrive at the same point that gives to us (which hasn't all been revealed). Morality is the promises or covenants we make with God and not all people are subject to them, only those who covenant with God, hence they live up to a higher standard.

A couple good books on these topics are "Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression" and "The Ethics of Liberty."

It really is a sad state that so many people don't understand the concept of natural law. The idea of natural law was fundamental to the founding of this country. To believe in the ideals of the declaration of independence and the Constitution is to believe in natural law. No insult against you, just a commentary on how far our government schools have taken us away from the ideals of freedom and liberty.

Jon said...

@Steve,

I thought of another name for natural law that you have probably heard of and agree with, it's called inalienable rights. All the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon,

Thanks for the dialog. I'll have to be up front, I like to learn but am not interested that much in politics. I am fine with our current political system, willing to pay my taxes, participate in the voting process, sign the petition to get something resolved. Until God sends another spokesman on the issue, this is where I will be.

Steve

Jon said...

Steve, It seems you have been duplicitous in this matter. From what you are writing it appears that you are interested in politics defined as:

A methodology and activities associated with running a government, an organization, or a movement.

and

One's political stands and opinions.

But what you truly aren't interested in is ethics as defined by:

The study of principles relating to right and wrong conduct.

If you choose to not understand the ethics behind politics it is your choice but it seems to me to be a good thing to understand what you are doing to others through the political process and to way to learn this is by learning ethics, which is in the scriptures and has been talked about by multiple prophets.

Anonymous said...

Jon, way to go man, try to educate and win over someone by calling them a liar.

Mark S

Jon said...

@Mark S,

I didn't call anyone a liar. I just clarified his position, he didn't disagree with my assessment.

Ah, I see what you were saying, I used the word duplicitous. Yeah, that was a poor choice of words. I shouldn't have used those words. You are correct Mark. Thanks for pointing it out.

@Steve, Sorry man, didn't mean to use such strong language. I should I chosen a better word.

Jon said...

In honor of Independence day and natural law, here's the US Declaration of Independence talking about it:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.