Bondage and the Foundations of Government

While I was in Malaysia normally I did my scripture notebooks in small, 60-80 page notebooks. But I was going through those fast. So I invested in a 400 page and 500 page hardback notebook. A mission friend was kind enough to collage the cover (and did a wonderful job by the way.) so it didn’t look so plain. I asked for her permission before posting this.

Back cover of one of my scripture notebooks, decorated by a friend.

I think it goes along well with the subject matter and puts some visuals to what we will be talking about in the coming months. Anyways, lets continue on with Mosiah’s epistle.

Bondage

The last post left off at Mosiah 29:16. This one starts off with verses 17-19. These verses talk about King Noah, his unrighteousness and how God delivered the people from bondage. King Noah was the last bad king in recent memory. But not everyone experienced
his reign. Only king Limhi’s group as well as Alma the elder’s group did. But I imagine once those people joined up with the rest of the Nephites, stories were told about what had happened to them. Thus, it was probably common knowledge who king Noah was by the time this epistle was sent out.

Verse 20 says the reason God delivered them out of bondage was because they humbled themselves, and asked God to deliver them. It was these two things that caused deliverance. And then it lets you know a promise, or spiritual truth. You may want to mark this if you haven’t already. I’ll copy it in here so we can talk about it a little.

“Thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him.”

There you go. The promise extends to this day. The Lord declares in all cases, this is how he works among the children of men. Humble yourselves and call upon him. That’s how king Limhi’s people escaped, that’s how Alma the elder’s group escaped, and today that is how you can escape any bondage you have. Be it spiritual, physical or mental. I know that is true. All you have to do is trust God.

Cross reference Ezekiel 33:11, 15-16. This is talking about how God hates sin but if the people will repent, they will be saved. In verse 11 of Ezekiel, it’s saying God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked and He poses the question, “Why will ye die?” God isn’t someone to be scared of. He isn’t looking to rain down judgment upon us all the time. He is our father. What father would want to destroy his offspring?  None! We bring the judgment upon ourselves, God doesn’t. Man is the only one doing the stupid things. I think when we realize that, and that our loving Heavenly Father truly loves us, it’s a lot easier to turn towards Him. I’ve been in situations where I have felt the spirit strongly. I’ve felt the love Heavenly Father has for me. And when you feel that love, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. It’s incredibly powerful. Literally melts away any desire of rebellion and you are willing to do anything to obey God because you know you’ll keep that feeling and it’s what you want. God loves us. It’s his work and glory to bring to pass the eternal life of man. He wants nothing but to help us be happy and gain eternal life. That’s why his arm is extended to all. Because he loves them.

Foundations of Government

Verse 21 says you cannot dethrone an iniquitous  king save through much contention and bloodshed. Verse 22 and 23 list all the things evil kings do.

  • Has friends in iniquity
  • Keeps his guards about him
  • Tears up the laws of the righteous who have reigned before him.
  • Trample under his feet the commandments of God.
  • Enacts and sends forth laws after the manner of his own wickedness.
  • Destroys the disobedient.
  • Sends forth armies to destroy rebellious ones.

All this is true. History is replete with people and rulers who fit this category.

Verse 25, King Mosiah says the judges will be chosen by the voice of the people to enact the laws of their fathers, which are correct, as well as the laws of God. The voice of the people is very important. How can you look at the government of the Nephites with judges and then at our own government of the U.S. with judges and elected officials and not think it’s inspired of God? I think we were meant to have a system of government  with elected officials who enact righteous laws and judge according to the laws of God.

Back when I was in high school, some people tried to argue the founding fathers weren’t inspired by God or they weren’t religious. I never really liked that. I remember there was this one day I was particularly troubled by it and I told my mom. She answered my comment with a question. “What would America be like if Satan could get people to change history in a way to discredit the very people whom God inspired to create this country? If Satan could discredit the historical figures we hold most dear in America, how easily does it fall apart?” She told me not to listen to what people said at school and the founding fathers were inspired and were good men.

I think God inspired King Mosiah to set up judges. I think God inspired the founding fathers to set up the American government the way they did. But it’s important to remember although judges were the most perfect form of government for the Nephites and our executive, legislative, and judicial form of government with all its checks and balances, is the most perfect form of ruling today, it is not the ultimate destiny of the world to have this type of representative government. The ultimate destiny of the world is a theocratic monarchy with Jesus Christ as king. The kingdom established by Christ and run by Christ is the most perfect and he is the way.

Verse 26. King Mosiah points out something honestly I had never noticed till I started doing these notebooks. He says it is not common for a majority of the people to choose that which is contrary to the right. But it is common for a minority to choose wrong. I think this is true with one exception, and he says it in verse 27.

Trust in the Goodness of People

I believe in the natural goodness of people. I think when it really comes down to it, there are few people that truly want to be evil. As long as people are trying to follow God, and become better people, this holds true. A majority of the people will choose right. But like verse 27 says, when a majority chooses iniquity, then the judgments of God are not far away. One may ask,”How could this happen? If people are naturally good and want to do good, how is it a majority of the people could choose bad?” What follows is my personal opinion. When the minority becomes smart enough to get in the good workings of society, they begin to corrupt. They corrupt good institutions into supporting their own secret combinations or group secret combinations. As soon as people start funneling support, in whatever way that may be, to secret combinations of people or groups, that is when the trouble starts. You can have good companies or institutions that truly help people but they have dirty little secrets as to where some of the money goes. That is one way the minority of wickedness grows into the majority. The general populace doesn’t even see this. All they see is the good side of things, not the shady back door dealings.

The second way the minority of wickedness becomes the majority is through what I’ll call “moral shift.” It’s when good people and companies slowly shift their values, products, actions etc.. till they have changed perceptions of the people. This is most apparent I believe in movies. Back in the day you wouldn’t have many swear words and definitely no scenes of promiscuity. Nowadays it appears a movie isn’t a movie unless it’s saturated with both these things. That’s because over the decades, the movie industry has slowly introduced more degrading things into their movies.

Another example, video games. Not necessarily the type of game being made but rather the availability. Back when I was a kid, if you wanted to play a video game, you had to get a console like PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo 64. Handheld systems like the Gameboy were in their infancy. Fast forward with the introduction of apps. Apps were invented I imagine primarily to help productivity. Then the game apps came. They weren’t paraded as equals with consoles but merely as something to do when you had a few minutes with nothing to do. The kids who were used to handheld sort of stuff jumped on board. But there remained a line between kids and parents. Kids played video games, not adults. Eventually, the apps got so big with kids because they were played so much and talked about the parents hopped on the bandwagon. Now you go to a foreign country and all the adults on the subway system are playing clash of clans, farmville, or some other game a few years ago, adults would never have touched. Distractions. Stuff that isn’t overtly bad, but prevents the good people from doing all they can so the evil can creep in without anyone noticing.

Check and Balances

Verses 28-29 are interesting because King Mosiah implements checks and balances into the system. If judges do not judge according to the law, you can cause a higher judge to judge the case. But if the higher judge doesn’t judge righteously, you can cause a small number of lower judges be gathered to judge the higher judge, according to the voice of the people. I don’t have enough info to draw out a hierarchy of the judges. However, I think I know enough to draw a simple diagram. The thing that trips me up is I don’t know if “judges” and “lower judges” are equal. If so, it would make it easier because you would have higher and lower judges. If they aren’t the same you have higher judges, judge (middle level?) and lower judge. Let me show you a picture.

IMG_3877

Diagram of how judge system may have worked in Book of Mormon time.

Here are my two trains of thought. Normally “judges” are the ones taking most cases (#1). If their judgement is termed unrighteous, the appeal  is made to the higher judge (#2). If that is deemed unrighteous as well, then the lower judges judge according to the voice of the people (#3). Whatever they choose, is the final say. I wonder how the lower judge section works. Do you think they made their own decisions and then bring them before the people and then let the people pick from those? Maybe the people pick the sentence and the lower judges, acting as proxies for the voice of the people, pass judgement? If the “judges” and “lower judge” are the same, you would just take out the word “judges” and continue, like so:

IMG_3878

Modified version of how judge system may have worked in Book of Mormon

I don’t have any evidence to say which is more correct. Personally, I think the first is more logical and feels more right. I think if you used the model above, it would be too much of a temptation to be influenced by the people at the beginning stages because you knew if the people didn’t like it, they could ask you to nullify the high judge so they could get what they want. I think with the first system, you have a lower chance of that happening because the case goes to a new person every time. But I don’t know enough about Nephite law to form a conclusion.

Here is a cool cross reference. Look at Deuteronomy 17. It talks a little about judgement in Moses’ time. If you remember these people in America originate from the Jewish homeland, looking into Mosaic law can possibly provide glimpses into how they ran things. Deuteronomy talks about how if cases were too hard, they were passed to judges and the Levites, or priests. Both secular and religious would work together to pass judgement. I could be interpreting this wrong but it seems like they would supplicate God for help with the case. And God would indeed help them. Fast forward to Nephite time. (SPOILER ALERT) Alma the Younger becomes the first chief judge (high judge?) If that is the case, he fulfills the role of both high judge and spiritual leader of the people. Something that historically would have been filled by different people in the Old Testament world in order to judge cases. Just as a side note as well, Alma the younger was also the military leader of the people. Never again is the high judge and church leader the same person till the 53rd year of the judges in which Nephi I becomes judge and church leader. It’s cool to see the Nephite civilization still used parts of their Jewish heritage but reformed it, leading to customs.

A Warning

Verse 30 at the end, King Mosiah explains why he is doing all this. He says it’s so if the people one day choose iniquity  and sin over righteousness and freedom, the sins will be upon the heads of the people, not the king.

Kings, historically speaking, have caused much iniquity among the people. The sins of the people are upon the heads of the king. What King Mosiah is doing is spreading out responsibility to the people. Trusting them to make the right choice, giving people their agency. You see government and institutions nowadays set up programs to take away responsibility from parents and people in general. They don’t market it as such of course. They say it’s great and free and there are many benefits. That may not necessarily be a lie but it isn’t the full picture. The downsides are suppressed.

Accountability is an interesting topic. King obviously are responsible for their people. Sins and not sins. All is answered upon their head. Mosiah spread it out with setting up judges so all the people would be responsible for what happened because they had elected the officials. Then you have spiritual accountability. You have people in the Book of Mormon who labored as missionaries so the blood of the people might not come upon them. Look at Jacob 1:19. As missionaries, since we voluntary go out and preach, we willfully answer the sins of the people upon our own head if we don’t preach the gospel. We made a promise with God when we signed the papers we were going to do our very best to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. Our future and possibly  our eternal salvation depends on how well we fulfill our duty.

 

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One thought on “Bondage and the Foundations of Government

  1. Pingback: Of Lawyers and Judges | Towards a Greater Light

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