Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen – Chapter 6
THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH GOD HAS AUTHORIZED USE OF THE FORCE OF GOVERNMENT AGAINST THE INDIVIDUAL
The Lord justifies the use of the police power against the individual for the purpose of executing the divine law of retribution. The specific circumstances under which He has given His approval for this use of force may be classified under the following four headings:
(1) To punish criminals,
(2) To wage defensive war and provide for the nation’s defense,
(3) To enforce the right and control of private property,
(4) To compel the citizen to bear his fair share of the burden of supporting the government in performing the above three functions.
Let us discuss each of these four cases.
PUNISHMENT OF CRIMINALS
In numerous places in the scriptures the Lord justifies the use of the police power to punish criminals. He prescribes the death penalty in the case of murder. He tells us that our failure to execute this divine command will condemn us. When Nehor, who slew Gideon, was brought to be judged of his crime, Alma, the Chief Judge, spoke to him as follows:
And thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, yea, a man who had done much good among this people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance. (Alma 1:13)
The death penalty for murder is mentioned several times in the Nephite scriptures and is indicated in D&C 42:19. Doctrine and Covenants, Section 134 consists of A Declaration of Belief Regarding Governments and Laws in General. Included therein is a statement of our belief concerning the punishment of crimes generally, which reads as follows:
We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense; that murder, treason, robbery, theft, and the breach of the general peace, in all respects, should be punished according to their criminality and their tendency to evil among men, by the laws of that government in which the offense is committed;…(D&C 134:8)
This statement is one with which men in general will agree because it conforms to our sense of justice. While man may disagree about what constitutes proper punishment for a given crime, throughout the ages they have uniformly inflicted some form of punishment upon criminals. It is clear that the use of the police power to punish crime satisfies the test of conscience as contained in the laws of God. It has been shown heretofore that this is a vital part of enforcing the law of retribution.
WAGE DEFENSIVE WAR
Doctrine and Covenants, Section 98 contains a statement of those circumstances under which a nation is justified in going out to battle.
…if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified. Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles. (D&C 98:31–32)
War is authorized only as a defensive measure after the aggressor nation has refused to heed a plea for peace. This is the same law which the Lord gave to the Nephites:
And they (the Nephites) were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies. And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed…(Alma 43:46–47).
A further clarification of the Lord’s commandments to them regarding war is found in the following passage:
Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea; and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were to preserve their lives. (Alma 48:14)
Since aggressive warfare is a form of criminal activity, the same considerations of conscience which justify the use of force to punish internal crime and satisfy the law of retribution are equally applicable here.
ENFORCEMENT OF THE RIGHT AND CONTROL OF PRIVATE PROPERTY
Doctrine and Covenants 134:2 reads as follows:
We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
Protection of the right and control of property is one of the main reasons for the existence of government. The above scripture indicates that peace is impossible unless this basic human right is recognized and enforced.
The Nephites used the police power to protect this right as is shown by the following quotation:
Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber. (Alma 11:2)
Property is derived from labor. Moral man has always recognized that the wealth produced by a person belonged to him. Theft, robbery, arson and all other forms of taking or destroying another’s property have always been regarded as both evil and criminal. The use of the police power to compel a person to pay an honest debt or to surrender to its rightful owner property which he unlawfully holds, is strictly in accord with the dictates of conscience.
As will be pointed out hereafter more fully, the same moral considerations which preclude a person or a group of persons from using force to unjustly deprive another of his property, apply equally when they use the force of government for the same immoral purposes.
COMPEL THE CITIZEN TO SUPPORT HIS GOVERNMENT
Governments exist for the purpose of protecting the lives, liberties, and properties of their citizens. It is only right that those who receive these benefits should bear their fair share of the cost of such protection. As is stated in D&C 134:5:
We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments.
The Book of Mormon provides an interesting case history wherein the Lord justified the use of force to compel the citizens to provide men and materials necessary to the defense of the nation. Moroni, the supreme commander of the Nephites, was waging a two-front war against numerically superior foes who had invaded Nephite lands. The failure of the home-front to support the armies in the field created a crisis which caused this great patriot to threaten the leaders of his own government with reprisals if they did not come to his aid.
His epistle to the head of government, ordering him to furnish men and supplies under the threat of death if he did not, has been copied into the record by Mormon, the historian. Excerpts from this epistle follow:
And now, except ye do repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing, and send forth food and men unto us, and also unto Helaman, that he may support those parts of our country which he has regained, and that we may also recover the remainder of our possessions in these parts, behold it will be expedient that we contend no more with the Lamanites until we have first cleansed our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government.…Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them. (Alma 60:24, 33)
The use of the police power to compel the citizen to pay his taxes, serve in the armed forces, and otherwise support his government in protecting him, makes possible its existence in the first place. Indeed the protection of life, liberty and property in our society would be rendered virtually impossible without it. There is no violation of conscience in requiring those who are protected to pay their fair share of the cost of what they need and receive.
On the contrary, each citizen who lives under a government which protects his freedom should consider it not only a duty but a privilege to give of his time and means for its support. Seldom in the history of nations has the common man been permitted to participate in the governing process. The right and duty of self-government provides a rare opportunity to labor for the cause of freedom, to learn firsthand the operation of the law of retribution and to cooperate with the Lord in enforcing it.
The great danger, however, of being given this power is that we will abuse it because,
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. (D&C 121:39)
Let us examine the possibility that we citizens of the United States are exercising unrighteous dominion upon one another by directing the police power to do things which go beyond enforcing the law of retribution and therefore offend the conscience and violate the Golden Rule.
HAROLD B. LEE
“There are some things of which I am sure, and that is that contrary to the belief and mistaken ideas of some people, the United Order will not be a socialistic or communistic setup;…” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 280)
“Now, keep in mind with all the crowding in of the socialistic reform programs that are threatening the very foundation of the Church, we must never forget what the Lord said, “that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” (D&C 78:14). Whenever we allow ourselves to become entangled and have to be subsidized from government sources—and we think that it’s the expedient way to do business in this day—or when we yield to such pressures, I warn you that government subsidies are not the Lord’s way; and if we begin to accept, we are on our way to becoming subsidized politically as well as financially.” (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, , p. 314-115)
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Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen Chapters: