Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen – Chapter 5
by

THE EXERCISE OF UNRIGHTEOUS DOMINION BY ABUSE OF THE POLICE POWER

It may come as a severe shock to priesthood bearers that the majority of us are being deceived, and are so lacking in knowledge of the laws governing the exercise of our powers that we will lose our callings in the hereafter. What is the reason for this walking in darkness at noonday—this inability to see that which is so plainly manifest? D&C 121:34 assigns two reasons for our failure to learn:

(1) We set our hearts so much upon the things of this world.
(2) We aspire to the honor of men.

In summary, then, this is our problem: We forfeit our callings because we fail to overcome the tendency to exercise unrighteous dominion; we do not overcome this tendency because we are blind to the fact that we have such a disposition; our blindness is caused by our pride and an excessive desire for wealth and the honors of men.

Where, in the activities of this life, do priesthood bearers exhibit such an intense desire for the things of this world that we can be deceived into using unrighteous dominion to acquire them? Wherein do we blindly adopt Satan’s plan and employ compulsion upon one another? The scriptures are clear that the use of unrighteous dominion is the essence of our sin. The three words—control, dominion, and compulsion used in verse 39 of section 121 to describe the forbidden conduct, all mean the use of restraint or coercion. For example the word compulsion is defined by the dictionary as: An act of compelling, or state of being compelled: subjection to force.

When one thinks of a person who would stoop to the use of force to acquire wealth or power, he thinks of a criminal. Priesthood bearers are not criminals—at least in the eyes of the law; but are we in the sight of God? Surely a just God would not condemn us for using compulsion unless we actually commit the offense.

One looks in vain for any extensive use of direct force by the ordinary citizen against his neighbor. Do we need to use force ourselves to be held liable? Suppose we get our agent to give us an undeserved position of prominence by using force on our behalf. Would we not be equally guilty?

Every priesthood member belongs to an organization which exercises force on his behalf. What is this organization? It is the government under which he lives. While this force of government is essential for the preservation of freedom, it may also be used to destroy it. Has the Lord provided us with an opportunity to overcome our prevailing dispositions to use force when He placed us under a government subject to the voice of the people? Is this the force we are abusing? Is this where Satan is so highly successful in deceiving us into using his plan of compulsion?

The opportunity for deception is excellent here because there is much confusion and violent disagreement about what the police power should be used for. Some of us are bound to be wrong, and it is entirely possible that most of us are.

Some people may never have considered the possibility that an individual citizen could be morally responsible for the actions of government. Others may have assumed that anything which is legal is also moral, therefore there is no moral law applicable to the actions of men committed in the name of government. Still others may assume that, although there may be a moral law making men accountable for government action, no one knows what that law is, and it is therefore impossible to distinguish between good and bad in government.

Let us discuss under the following headings the possibility that we are exercising unrighteous dominion upon each other by abusing the police power:

(1) Is the individual morally responsible for government action?
(2) Can government exercise unrighteous dominion on behalf of the individual?
(3) How may one determine if his government is exercising unrighteous dominion?

IS THE INDIVIDUAL MORALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION?

Under a dictatorship or monarchy where the private citizen has no voice in the conduct of government, it would obviously be unjust to hold him accountable for compulsion used by it. In a republic where government action is subject to control by the voting citizen, there is no other place to rest the credit or blame. If the citizen is not accountable, then who is? We are the ones who pass judgment upon candidates, platforms, and issues. The power to elect or defeat rests entirely in our hands.

The scriptures state plainly that the Lord holds the individual responsible under the republic which He caused to be established in this land:

We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts, in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them for the good and safety of society. (D&C 134:1)

When the individual disapproves of an unjust government measure and uses all of his influence against it, no blame should be attached. Justice demands that each be held liable only for those acts which have his approval and support. Since laws may be good as well as evil, opposition to a good law may be as blameworthy as approval of a bad one. Where one does sanction the use of force, it would appear he is just as answerable as if he had exercised it himself.

This position may seem novel to those who regard government as if it had an existence independent of human beings—an undefinable, phantom entity possessing the power to pursue objectives of its own. Such a view is unrealistic and one who takes it is deceiving himself. The actions of government are the actions of men—performed by men at the command of men—and someone is going to be held morally accountable for every act performed in the name of government. In a republic such as ours, the someone is everyone—everyone who sanctions the act.

What an awesome responsibility we take upon ourselves when we support the adoption of a law! Men speak constantly of the privilege of living under a republican form of government. Perhaps we should spend more time considering the enormous power we wield and the terrible penalties we may suffer if we abuse that power.

Some of us may go through life hardly realizing that compulsion and the threat of compulsion are used to secure compliance with every law enacted. We, the individuals who support such laws, have utilized this compulsion to prohibit every human act which would have been performed except for the adoption of such law. Also we have compelled the performance of every human act which would not have been performed except therefor.

CAN GOVERNMENT EXERCISE UNRIGHTEOUS DOMINION ON BEHALF OF THE INDIVIDUAL?

Any act of compulsion which one can perform alone, he can commit in concert with others. The greater the number who combine their efforts, the more certain is their success. When coercion is imposed in the name of government, success is almost guaranteed since those doing the compelling are using the supreme physical force in society. This force is being supplied by the mass of the people with arms and men for the specific purpose of using compulsion.

Governments deal in nothing but force and the threat thereof. This is the exclusive means by which they act. They exist for the sole purpose of adopting and enforcing rules governing human conduct. These rules or laws are enforced in one of three ways—by taking from the disobedient either his life, his liberty, or his property. Every law has attached to it a penalty for disobedience which prescribes one or more of these three forms of physical punishment. This is the very essence of compulsion.

In a nation of law-abiding citizens it is easy to forget that the only reason for adopting a law is to compel those to obey it who would not do so unless threatened with a loss of their life, liberty, or property. When the laws are seldom disobeyed, we rarely have the opportunity to observe the use of physical coercion. But, the police power is always there ready to act if someone defies the decrees of the state. It is the threat of the use of force which does the compelling in most cases, and people generally obey without the necessity of being handled by the police.

The pages of history are replete with instances of governments being used to destroy individual freedom. When used for this purpose they are horribly efficient. Without question, the number of crimes committed by men in the name of government exceed by many times those committed by men acting individually. The wanton destruction of life, liberty, and property which occurs when an aggressor nation makes war is incalculable. When we also consider those millions of citizens who have been murdered, enslaved, and plundered by their own governments, it becomes clear beyond doubt that the greatest threat to freedom on earth is man acting through the agency of his government.

HOW MAY ONE DETERMINE IF HIS GOVERNMENT IS EXERCISING UNRIGHTEOUS DOMINION?

If the Lord is going to hold each of us morally accountable for every coercive act of government of which we approve, it is of the utmost importance that we be able to accurately discern the good from the evil in government action. It is not enough that we do this approximately. We must be able to distinguish with precision because:

When we undertake to…exercise control or dominion or compulsion…in any degree of unrighteousness…Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. (D&C 121:37 {author’s emphasis})

Is not the Lord expecting too much in requiring the ordinary citizen to know with certainty that line which divides right from wrong in government action? Is it reasonable to believe that He would deprive a man of his Priesthood because he had failed to detect even the slightest degree of unrighteous dominion in every law which came to his attention, no matter what his training, background, or experience?

Those accustomed to relying on the learning of men and the wisdom of the world to teach them the art of government may consider it absurd to expect so much of the voting public. They may believe the common man largely unequipped to make such fine distinctions. How does the Lord view the matter? Does He believe men are sufficiently instructed to pass judgment upon their own laws?

We are told in D&C 134:1 that He holds us accountable for our acts in relation to government, both in making laws and administering them. How can He do this? Very simply, He merely requires each of us to apply exactly that same test of right and wrong to the actions of government as we do to every other act for which we are responsible; this is the test of conscience.

If those who adopt and execute laws are our agents, doing our bidding, we should never ask them to do anything we would consider evil or wrong for us to do ourselves. Every person who knows right from wrong can apply this test as quickly and as easily in the case of government as in any other moral decision. We need only realize that an act performed by public servants which has our approval makes us equally as responsible as if we had done it ourselves. We should apply the same test of conscience.

Who will contend that the Lord uses one moral law when the individual acts alone and still a different one when he acts jointly with others whether in a gang, a mob, or a government? The thought is contrary to reason as well as the scriptures which explicitly tell us we should never use the police power in such a way as to violate conscience:

The civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul…all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience. (D&C 134:4, 5)

This same prohibition against using the police power in such a way as to violate the conscience or belief of the individual was imposed upon the Nephites when the Lord caused a government by the voice of the people to be established among them:

For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds. (Alma 30:11)

Since the only conscience we really know is our own, it is the only one we can use or violate. In determining those circumstances under which we would consider it proper to deprive our fellowman of his life, liberty, or property, it is necessary that we mentally place ourselves in his position before we accurately know what our conscience tells us. We must apply Christ’s Golden Rule which says:

Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matt. 7:12; 3 Ne. 14:12)

Each normal person senses immediately an injustice done to him. His reason tells him that others will react the same way. The scriptures also tell us that all men may know right from wrong:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil. (Moroni 7:16 See also D&C 84:46.)

Every person is capable of answering this all-important problem of government: Under what circumstances is it proper to use coercion?

The answer demanded by both logic and our moral sense of right and wrong is: Only when we would consider it just to have the same force used against ourselves. Thus, in passing judgment upon our neighbor’s actions, we pass judgment upon our own. If we feel we should be free to do as we please under a given set of conditions without fear of punishment, the Golden Rule demands we allow our fellow men the same latitude.

In the Golden Rule we have found Christ’s answer to the following question discussed above:

Under what circumstances does a group of men have the moral right to forcibly deprive their fellow man of his life, liberty, or property?

The Golden Rule provides a reliable and very simple standard by which we may each determine for ourselves what actions of government are good and what are bad. Not only is it a test, but it is the only test based upon moral law which exists. If we do not use the Golden Rule and the test of conscience, we are without any standard at all which is based upon considerations of good and evil. The individual conscience is the only place we can go to distinguish between right and wrong.

It will be recalled that in discussing the law of retribution it was concluded that the only justification for forcibly depriving another of one of the elements of freedom was for the purpose of enforcing this law. In other words, if one commits an evil act by destroying an element of his neighbor’s freedom, it is proper to punish him by depriving him of some element of his own freedom. Let us demonstrate that this is the same test we use when we apply the Golden Rule.

No person would consider it just to be punished for anything except an evil act. The Golden Rule insists that we use force upon our neighbor only for this same purpose. Under the law of retribution, we justify the use of force only for the purpose of punishing one who, without justification, destroyed freedom. The destruction of freedom is equivalent to committing evil; therefore the rules are identical.

Let us apply these underlying moral imperatives to specific acts of government, and in doing so, present scriptural support for our conclusions. We shall first examine those cases in which the Lord has given His approval for using the force of government against the individual. Then we shall note some of those acts which are a violation of conscience and, consequently, an exercise of unrighteous dominion.

 

– – – – –

Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen Chapters:

Intro(1)(2)(3)(4) – (5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)

Do You Know Why Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen?

Print this Article

By , On .