Structuring society so that all may prosper requires governance. We have an example of such a society in the Book of Mormon.
And it came to pass that the thirty and fourth year passed away, and also the thirty and fifth, and behold the disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ in all the lands round about. And as many as did come unto them and did truly repent of their sins were baptized in the name of Jesus, and they did also receive the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them and every man did deal justly one with another and they had all things common among them. Therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift. 4 Nephi 1:1-4
There is an order to bringing this kind of social structure into existence. The result of this order is freedom for all. “There were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift.”
- First, a church of Christ was formed
- Next, the people did truly repent of their sins, were baptized, and received the Holy Ghost
- Then the people were all converted unto the Lord
- And because of this, there were no contentions and disputations among them
- And so every man did deal justly one with another
- Which led to them having all things common among themselves
To have freedom without order and governance is impossible. When a group or individual rejects hierarchy they many times move to the other extreme of anarchy or a law unto itself; and what they get is something worse than what they left.
Anarchy is the condition of a society, entity, group of people, or a single person that rejects hierarchy. . . The word anarchy comes from the ancient Greek ἀναρχία (anarchia), which combines ἀ (a), "not, without" and ἀρχή (arkhi), "ruler, leader, authority." Thus, the term refers to a person or society "without rulers" or "without leaders.
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant treated anarchy in his Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View as consisting of "Law and Freedom without Force". Thus, for Kant, anarchy falls short of being a true civil state because the law is only an "empty recommendation" if force is not included to make this law efficacious ("legitimation" from "lex timere" = "fearing the law"). For there to be such a state, force must be included while law and freedom are maintained, a state which Kant calls republic.
Kant identified four kinds of government:
- Law and freedom without force (anarchy).
- Law and force without freedom (despotism).
- Force without freedom and law (barbarism).
- Force with freedom and law (republic). Wikipedia
I would add a fifth category to Kant's list.
- True conversion unto the Lord with freedom and law (Zion)
As it is with earthly governments, so it is with the things of God. Many want a “free Jesus” where nothing is required of them beyond existing in whatever state they choose to remain.
In 1951, John Taylor reports remembering something Joseph Smith had said, “Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’” John Taylor, “The Organization of the Church,”Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, p. 339.
Yet, something remains unsaid. What if people are offered and taught correct principles, but reject those principles by not abiding by those principles? Are they fit to govern themselves? Or do they fall prey to another form of government, or in other words, those who are not governed by God will be led captive by the will of the devil.
There are three woes pronounced upon the prideful who pervert the right way of the Lord.
O the wise and the learned and the rich that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell.
Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught, and revile against that which is good and say that it is of no worth, for the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth. And in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity, they shall perish.
Why would people revile against that which is good? Why do they say the gift from God is of no worth? What will happen when they are fully ripe in this iniquity?
But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations, they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of hosts. But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof.
Why will they be destroyed if they do not repent? How are the wicked punished? “But behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked, and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished, for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.” Mormon 2:7 If I live in a lawless society, will there be freedom? Or will the lawless self-destruct and implode on themselves?
For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains and they be stirred up to anger and perish.
Why must the kingdom of the devil shake? Why must the proud and they who do wickedly be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions? Is this what will stir some up to repentance? Will others still refuse, and in their anger perish? What if I truly humble myself because of the word and do not need to be compelled to be humble? Could much destruction and heartache be avoided?
For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
Why will the children of men anger against that which is good?
And others will he pacify and lull them away into carnal security that they will say, All is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth, all is well. And thus the devil cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
How does the devil cheat their souls? Why is he careful with how he leads the children of men?
And behold, others he flattereth away and telleth them there is no hell. And he saith unto them, I am no devil, for there is none. And thus he whispereth in their ears until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death and hell, and death and hell and the devil and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
Why does the devil use flattery to reassure people until he has them secure in his awful chains?
Therefore wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion.
Wo be unto him that crieth, All is well.
Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men and denieth the power of God and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Who are these woes pronounced upon? How do men deny the power of God and the gift of the Holy Ghost?
Yea, wo be unto him that saith, We have received and we need no more.
Why don't the people want more of God's word? What have they received that makes them think they have enough?
And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble and are angry because of the truth of God. For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness, and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth, lest he shall fall.
What is the difference between he that is built upon the rock and he that is built upon a sandy foundation? Why would some receive God's words with anger and others receive His words with gladness? Does God still have much to reveal to those who will listen?
Wo be unto him that shall say, We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God for we have enough. For behold, thus saith the Lord God, I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. And blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom. For unto him that receiveth I will give more, and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
What will happen to those who refuse to receive more of the word of God? What will be given to those who receive more of His word?
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. 2 Nephi 7:171 – 194
Why is the carnal man cursed?
Hearken and hear oh my people, saith your Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of blessings: ye that hear me. And ye that hear me not will I curse, that have professed my name, with the heaviest of all cursings. Hearken, O ye elders of my church whom I have called, behold, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall assemble yourselves together to agree upon my word, and by the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my law, that ye may know how to govern my church and have all things right before me. And I will be your ruler and ye shall see that my law is kept. Doctrine and Covenants 64:1-4
What will the Lord do for those that hear Him? What will happen to those who will not hear the Lord? Why must we assemble ourselves and agree upon His word by the prayer of our faith? Why does the Lord want me to receive His law? Can I be free and at peace if I refuse to be governed by His law? Who is the ruler of God's church? Why must I see that I keep His law?
And it came to pass that when the angel had spoken these words, he said unto me, Remember thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel? I said unto him, Yea. And it came to pass that he said unto me, Look and behold that great and abominable church which is the mother of abominations, whose foundation is the devil. And he said unto me, Behold there are save two churches only: the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil. Wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church which is the mother of abomination, and she is the whore of all the earth. 1 Nephi 4:49-53
Is the church of God an organization set up by men, or is it comprised of those who live His law? How do I become a member of the church of the Lamb of God? Is Jesus the keeper of the gate and the one who decides when I am ready to come into His church? Can a man or group of men franchise Jesus's church?
Many of us have experienced the oppression of unrighteous dominion. Having escaped the clutches of such control, the thought of having any law is scary to some. To them law sounds like the unrighteous dominion they just left. They don't want anyone telling them what to do, say, or think, and so become a law unto themselves. What they don't realize is, “That which is governed by law is also preserved by law.” What they will find is the anarchy of lawlessness is worse than the oppression of unrighteous dominion.
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him and he receive not the gift? Behold he rejoiceth not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoice in him who is the giver of the gift.
What are the gifts offered to us at this time? Does God rejoice if we do not receive His gift? Do we receive joy in the gift if we do not receive it?
And again, verily I say unto you, That which is governed by law is also preserved by law, and perfected and sanctified by the same. That which breaketh a law and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither of mercy, justice, or judgment.
Why do I need to be governed by law to be preserved by law?
Therefore they must remain filthy still. All kingdoms have a law given, and there are many kingdoms, for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or lesser kingdom. And unto every kingdom is given a law, and unto every law there are certain bounds also, and conditions. All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified, for intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence, wisdom receiveth wisdom, truth embraceth truth, virtue loveth virtue, light cleaveth unto light, mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own, justice continueth its course and claimeth its own, judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. Doctrine and Covenants 30:22-30
Which conditions do I want to abide? Which kingdom do I choose?
What is to be done? A correct idea of God's character, perfections, and attributes is necessary for me to have faith in His laws and His ways. He knows what works and what does not.
Behold there are many called, but few are chosen, and why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson--that the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the Powers of Heaven and that the Powers of Heaven cannot be controlled nor handled, only upon the principles of righteousness.
How are the Powers of Heaven controlled? What are the principles of righteousness? Where do I learn these principles?
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true, but when we undertake to cover our sins or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold the heavens withdraw themselves, the Spirit of the Lord is grieved, and when it has withdrawn, Amen to the Priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware he is left unto himself to kick against the pricks, to persecute the Saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
What is unrighteous dominion? Does God ever exercise unrighteous dominion? Or is it the pretenders who use His name in vain that scatter His sheep?
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the Priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness, by pure knowledge which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile, reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved lest he esteem thee to be his enemy, that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death; thy bowels also being full of charity towards all men and to the household of faith, and virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly. Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God and the doctrines of the Priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from Heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion and thy sceptre an unchanging sceptre of righteousness and truth, and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee for ever and ever. D&C 47:135-143
How many would like to be governed in this way? Why is God's dominion an everlasting dominion? Why does it flow unto Him without compulsory means? Am I willing to accept and live His laws so I can escape the vicious cycle of tyranny and anarchy in my life?
Be patient in afflictions and in sufferings revile not against those that revile; govern thy house in meekness and be steadfast. Doctrine and Covenants 115:9
What are the Lord's instructions to Thomas Marsh? How does the Lord govern His people? Because He is meek and patient and steadfast, He will not force His will upon me. I can refuse His offering and His gift and be a law unto myself, but some day whether in this life or in one which is to come, I will come to learn His ways really are the best ways. And I will know why I follow Him. It is because I love Him not because I fear Him.
Behold, Blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory according to my commandments, for them that live shall inherit the earth, and them that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them. They shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father which I have prepared for them. Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion who have obeyed my gospel, for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the Earth and it shall bring forth in her strength. And they also shall be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few and with revelations in their time, they that are faithful and diligent before me. Doctrine and Covenants 71:1-4
We have been given a gift from God. He is willing to make a covenant with those who will have Him to be their God. He will crown them with blessings from above and give them commandments not a few. During the Boise Doctrine of Christ Conference in September 2017, I have an opportunity to accept by covenant the law of my God, not only to say but to do as He instructs. I invite all who desire to live His laws and be protected by His laws to do the same. In the name of Jesus, Amen.