The Majesty of God’s Law
Topics: God’s Law, Natural Law, America, U.S. Constitution, Liberty, Commandments
What’s is God’s Law? And what relation should exist between God’s Law and Man’s Law? These are excellent questions. In this lesson we will quote several excerpts from the book “The Majesty of God’s Law” by W. Cleon Skousen. I highly recommend that you read the entire book for a better understanding of God’s Law; how it was applied in ancient times, what America’s Founding Fathers learned from studying the law of God as found in the Bible, and what is coming to America in preparing for the coming of the political Kingdom of God.
In a fireside on “Law and Becoming“, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said:
Latter-day Saints would necessarily be included among those who believe in preexisting and universal natural law—or, as we might express it, law rooted in the preexisting justice and order of God. I firmly agree that insofar as humanly possible, man’s laws and legal systems should be tied to God’s laws and should reflect the same ultimate purpose: to foster our becoming all that we can become here and hereafter. People instinctively appreciate the value of law that has valid moral underpinnings because it is in their nature as spiritual beings and children of God—the ultimate moral Being. The light of Christ that we sometimes call conscience lights every person who comes into this world.
Joseph Smith said the following about God’s use of law:
The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with Himself, so that they might have one glory upon another. (The King Follett Sermon)
Quoting from W. Cleon Skousen’s Majesty of God’s Law:
Very often we hear people say, “Where did the Founding Fathers get so many of their great ideas?”
Recently, Dr. Donald S. Lutz and Dr. Charles S. Hyneman made an extensive study to determine which books the Founders relied upon for the basic ideas that went into the formulation of the United States Constitution. They reviewed an estimated 15,000 items, and closely perused the political content of 2,200 books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and monographs which were published between 1760 and 1805. The most significant items were selected which amounted to 916 articles. These were carefully analyzed and numerically coded as to content as well as the references cited by the leaders of that era.
It very quickly became apparent where the focus of interest was concentrated in the minds of the Founding Fathers. Of the thousands of citations quoted to support their ideas, 34% came from one source – the Bible. Most of these were from the book of Deuteronomy which is the Book of God’s Law.
Other citations were scattered over a broad spectrum of writings from historians, philosophers and political thinkers including Montesquieu, Blackstone, Locke, Coke, Cicero, and other intellectual luminaries from the so-called “Enlightenment.” But the linchpin that united their thinking on every important principle was the Bible.
Benjamin Franklin was largely self-taught which means he became his own tutor. The thoroughness of his studies persuaded him that the key to good government and happy living was centered in the Bible. He wrote his own creed and a devotional for private worship at the age of 22. At the age of 41 he wrote:
“As the scriptures are given for our reproof, instruction and warning, may we make a due use of this example, before it is too late.”
To unite the American people, the Founders undertook to find those basic beliefs set forth in the Bible on which people of all religious faiths could agree. It turned out that Benjamin Franklin struck the most harmonious chord for everyone in his own personal creed. In a letter to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University, the 81-year-old Franklin wrote:
“Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion.”
A careful analysis of Franklin’s creed reflects five points of fundamental religious belief which are either expressed or implied and these have been guideposts for Americans for over two centuries. Perhaps these could be summarized as follows:
- There exists a Creator who made all things, and mankind should recognize and worship him.
- The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong.
- The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat one another.
- All mankind live beyond this life.
- In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.
All five of these tenets are abundantly evident throughout the writings of the Founding Fathers.
Before closing this chapter, we should comment briefly on the long-range vision of the Founders concerning America. Their writings clearly demonstrate that these highly motivated leaders believed they were raised up by God to establish the United States as the first free people in modern times. They believed that their new commonwealth of freedom would eventually encompass the entire North American continent, and they held to this view in spite of the claims of England, Russia, France, and Spain to substantial parts of it.
In fact, the American leaders were deeply disappointed when the four French colonies in Canada declined to accept the invitation extended to them in the Articles of Confederation to become an important part of the United States.
Nevertheless, the Founders continued to express their complete confidence that their commonwealth would continue to expand, and many new states would be added to the Union until it extended from the Atlantic seaboard to the shores of the Pacific.
The Structure of God’s Law
Throughout his writings Moses continually refers to the Law of the Covenant or God’s law as having three separate parts. Both the Lord and his prophet refer to these as follows:
- The Commandments. This is the famous decalogue of ten commandments given to Moses in the presence of all of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai and later inscribed on two stone tablets by the finger of God.
- The Statutes. These are God’s laws that John Adams called the “divine science” of good government for happy living and the complete formula for an ideal society. The Psalmist referred to these statutes as being “perfect … right … and pure.”
- The Judgments. These are the two kinds of judgments which God has held in reserve for the righteous who deserve “blessings” and the punishment for the wicked who deserve “cursings.”
The Carnal Commandments Are Not Part of God’s Original Law
It will be obvious as we go through God’s law why we have not included any of the hated, tedious, boring ritual, diets, and litany of the Carnal Commandments in this study. As Paul explains, the law of Carnal Commandments was designed to teach the people the rhythm of obedience and hold the remnant of Israel together until Christ was born. Once this had transpired, the purpose of the Schoolmaster Law was fulfilled and its requirements repealed.
Jesus verified that his life and ministry fulfilled the need for the Law of Carnal Commandments when he said:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law … but to fulfill.”
Judges must Be Righteous Men Acting in the Name of God
Although the people were allowed to “take” or elect their own judges, they had to be brought to Moses for approval. These men had to be capable of wise and compassionate decisions. They had to govern the people of their particular group. In time of war, they had to be “captains.” This selection process called for a very high caliber of men.
Moses brought these leaders together to give them their instructions. He said:
“And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.”
The Importance of Voluntary Obedience
God’s law is to be obeyed voluntarily rather than by compulsion. Therefore Moses read the entire law to his people and then we read:
“Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.”
When it says “Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord,” it simply means that they had heard the law, they understood the law, and they were willing to abide by it.
Marion G. Romney taught about “The Perfect Law of Liberty” saying:
I saw on a building the inscription “Obedience to Law is Liberty.” With the proper interpretation of the word law, we have in this inscription a statement of ultimate truth. By inserting three words, it is made to read, “Obedience to the law of Christ is liberty.” (See D&C 88:21.)
This is not only a statement of the perfect law of liberty, but also a statement of the way to perfect liberty.
In the eighth chapter of John is recorded a controversy between Jesus and the rulers of the Jews. They, of course, rejected him. But some who heard believed, and to them he said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32.)
Freedom thus obtained—that is, by obedience to the law of Christ—is freedom of the soul, the highest form of liberty. And the most glorious thing about it is that it is within the reach of every one of us, regardless of what people about us, or even nations, do. All we have to do is learn the law of Christ and obey it. To learn it and obey it is the primary purpose of every soul’s mortal life.
In closing, quoting again from The Majest of God’s Law:
The Challenge for Today
America can be “the Peacemaker of the World.” She can help other nations discover the formula for freedom and prosperity. But there is an important prerequisite: Americans must first rediscover that formula for themselves, as it is embodied in the principles found in the Constitution.
It is helpful to remember that the Constitution is not a stale, dead document. Rather, it is a vital, living blueprint for the success of the United States as a nation and its citizens as individuals.
A quick comparison between the constitutional principles and our practices today will show where we have gone astray. And the remedy is simple: return to the basic principles of the Founders’ formula.
Of course, the first step to improvement and reform is education. The next step is action. The principles of the Constitution were not meant only to be studied, but to be restored and put into full operation.
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Recommended related resources:
- The United Order vs. Communism by J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
- Is Socialism the United Order? by Marion G. Romney
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- The Rule of Law by Marion G. Romney
- The Majesty of God’s Law: It’s coming to America by W. Cleon Skousen
- The Laws of God by N. Eldon Tanner