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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Vital Importance of Learning of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers (LDS Sacrament Talk)

I was recently asked to give a talk on the Constitution and the Founding Fathers in Sacrament meeting, and this the result.  It fits in nicely with the recent attention give to the importance of religion by the LDS Church.



I want to start off by reading three particular scriptures:
First:
D&C 88:118:
“ 118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
Second:
D&C 90:15
“ 15 And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.”
Third (longer):
D&C 101:
77 “According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
 80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.
I would like to discuss for the next few minutes the vital importance of learning and studying the words, ideas, and principles of the American Founding Fathers, as well as learning of and studying as in depth as possible the principles of the US Constitution. 

As the scriptures I just read indicate, God has told us that the Founding Fathers who established the Constitution and the American Republic were wise men, and He has also told us to study and teach one another wisdom from the best books and other sources we can find.  It leaves no doubt in any ears and mind that are spiritually in tune that these scriptures tell us to study and teach one another, among many things, the words and principles of the Founders of America. 

President Wilford Woodruff said in General Conference of April 1898 that the Founders of America, as imperfect as they were with regards to the sins and evil institutions of their time, “were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord.”

D&C 98: 4-8 says:
“And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.
 5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
 8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.”

D&C 101:77-80 says:

“According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
 78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
 79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
 80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.”

D&C 134: 2 says: “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.”

Thomas Jefferson’s famous opening lines to the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, of which all the signers were in agreement upon, having commissioned Jefferson specifically to write a summary of their beliefs on government, says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Can you see the similarities in eternal an true principles?  Wise men indeed.

In 1st Nephi 13, 2nd Nephi , 3rd Nephi 21, and as already shown in D&C 101, we are told that The United States was guided in its formation by God in order to create a governmentally free environment for the Gospel to be restored and Israel to be gathered, so that God may fulfill his covenants made with Israel and its various tribes long ago.  He then guided America’s framers and Founders to establish the Constitution, so as to protect the rights and liberty of all flesh.  And two of those sacred rights are the rights of religious conscience and practice.  Thus, in order to protect these two particular rights, which enable us to Gather Israel in the last days and spread the Gospel of Christ and restore truth to the earth, we must protect and maintain the Constitution and its principles. If we wish to protect the Constitution, we must learn everything we can of it from the best books and sources, teachings other wisdom about it.  Some may say they have no interest in such topics or find such a topic boring.  Other may say they have little to no time to do so.  Such excuses will not be accepted by God if we fail in our calling and stewardship to preserve religious freedom and gather Israel together in these last days.  There’s a famous saying attributed to Pericles, a Greek politician and statesman, that “just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

How do you think Satan has achieved his most satanic and evil victories on earth?  Through lone men or small groups of men?  No.  What entity on earth has the most power and ability to affect the largest amount of territory and people?  Government.  Government is like fire George Washington said, a dangerous master and tool.  It’s a double edged sword, capable of doing much good by preserving the rights and liberty of all individuals, and capable of committing unspeakable evil and horrors upon all the earth.  It’s no doubt that Satan is in constant warfare and attack mode to gain control of the most powerful governments on earth to achieve his wicked ends, which includes destroying the Church of God and dragging God’s children down to hell to become like him.  Thus, politics MUST be an interest of ours, for the sake of our Latter Day stewardship of gathering Israel and for the sake of our temporal and spiritual lives, rights, and liberty.

As Gentiles today whose mission it is to gather Israel, it is a part of this stewardship of ours today to preserve probably the greatest protection of rights and liberty the minds of men have ever devised to date, so that we may protect our sacred right of religious conscience and practice and continue to gather Israel, both here and in all lands.

How can we better protect the Constitution so that we may fulfill our stewardship as the Gentiles of the Latter Days?  First, we can start by reading it in full.  But this is not all, and stopping here will do no one any good.  Why?  Because it’s written in older language and though its relatively plain in its language when read with a dictionary, one also needs to know the background information behind it in order to fully understand it.  That means reading up on history from the “best” books on the causes and results of the American Revolution.  Knowing why the Founders wrote the Constitution in the first place is of the greatest necessity if one is to fully understand the Constitution and how to save.  This will include as well studying the history and words of the Founders as well.  Studying the scriptures I have mentioned and all other revelation, both ancient and modern concerning the Constitution is of vital importance as well to understanding the Constitution.  President Benson has probably spoken the most on the importance of the Constitution and protecting it.  One such important source by President Benson is his October 1987 Conference Talk called “Our Divine Constitution.”    Another good source is the webpage www.latterdayconservative.com, which contains quotes and other resources on what the Prophets have said over the existence of the restored gospel concerning the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution, speaking both as prophets and as men. There are vast resources to study in order to fully understand the Constitution, its principles, and its purpose.  If you wish to know more, you can talk to me afterward and I can recommend to you some of those “best books” the scriptures tell us to study out of and learn wisdom from.  Suffice it for now to quote President Benson from his “Our Divine Constitution” conference talk:

“Have we read The Federalist papers? Are we reading the Constitution and pondering it? Are we aware of its principles? Are we abiding by these principles and teaching them to others? Could we defend the Constitution? Can we recognize when a law is constitutionally unsound? Do we know what the prophets have said about the Constitution and the threats to it?”
Thomas Jefferson said in 1816, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be” (Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, 6 Jan. 1816).”

And Elder Holland spoke recently in a 2013 Ensign Article entitled “The Justice and Mercy of God” of the bondage of ignorance.  Speaking about two clich├ęs we commonly hear, specifically “Ignorance is bliss” and “What I don’t know won’t hurt me,” he said “nothing will hurt you more than what you don’t know. I believe that we will be indicted for the resulting bondage that we incur and that we will serve some sentence in this life or the next for that which we fail to learn.”

This sounds like a lot work, right?  Well, it is, but so is life and so is fulfilling our stewardships, and it takes a lot of work to do the things of God and what he asks us to do.  His commandments are simple, but require much work and toil on our parts.  Also, studying the ideas of the Founders and the Constitution is worth doing, because we will be most happy under a system that preserves liberty and the rights of the individual, and allow us to Gather Israel by bringing people to Christ like we have been charged with doing.  It’s a lifetime duty we have, and as Thomas Jefferson said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  And it is this liberty with its plethora of individual rights and corresponding duties that requires constant vigilance to maintain that is absolutely necessary to fulfilling our stewardship of Gather Israel as the Gentiles of the Latter-Days prophesied by the Prophets of old.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Civil Disobedience: Theory, Examples, and Concerns


Civil Disobedience: Theory, Examples, and Concerns

The Theory of Civil Disobedience:

Our Founding Fathers of the United States, as well as the earlier individuals who influenced them have taught us that our rights are discoverable by way of reason and logic.  All of these men were religious as well, albeit in slightly different ways, some Christians, some Deists, some Unitarians, etc.  Thus, to some degree or other, all would agree that the rights of mankind are discoverable through reason by way of being made known by the Creator, which some, including myself would be deemed revelation, whether that revelation is made known to us in God’s creations, as the Deists would believe, or whether they are made known to us as well in the form of personal revelation via the Holy Spirit and/or to God’s chosen servants on earth, the prophets.  Thus, I, as a faithful Latter-Day Saint personally believe our rights are discoverable by reason and logic, as seen in God’s creations, including human beings, but I also believe they are made known unto man by way of both personal revelation via the Holy Spirit and by way of general revelation to prophets on the earth, both of old, of current times, and of future times.  This being said, in my mind, reason, logic, and revelation are all one, being intimately connected.  Revelation may be known and believed by means of reason and logic, and reason and logic can lead to revelation. 

Thus, in all ways, all of mankind, both male and female, young and old may discover his and her rights as human beings, and it is these rights upon which the foundations of government are built, or at least ought to be built.  That is what we are taught by both our Founding Fathers and the men who influenced them, as well as by men and women of God, as indicated in the scriptures, particularly the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants.  We are told by men of renown such as Thomas Jefferson and his fellow members of the Continental Congress that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, unalienable meaning they can neither be take/seized, nor entirely given up as well.  They can be temporarily invaded or halted by means of the law of justice, meaning, as punishment or retribution/restitution for an actual crime, in which another is INTENTIONALLY harmed in his/her equal rights.  But, they may neither be wholly and eternally seized or surrendered, nor unjustly invaded, infringed upon, or suspended.

The Declaration of Independence, as well as scripture, tell us that human governments are founded for the very purpose of securing these rights to ever individual, male and female, young and old, regardless of race, skin color, gender identity, religion, etc.  We are told that the sole purpose of human governments is to create an atmosphere of law, order, and justice in which the individual may be most effectively protected in his/her rights as well as in the exercising of his/her rights, and that any government destructive to these ends is one in which mankind has the right to alter or abolish entirely, according to the situation.  We are also told in the scriptures that the governments that protect our rights will be the most happy and successful, and that the societies that exist within them will be the most happy and successful.  Indeed, let’s read and compare the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Doctrine and Covenants chapter 134.  First, the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


Doctrine and Covenants 134:1-11

 1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man…
 2 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.
 3 We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.
 4 We believe that…the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
 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; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly…
 6 We believe that…to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.
 8 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; and for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment.
 9 We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.
 11 We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.

We see from these two highly important and truthful records that we do indeed have rights, and that we do indeed have a particular right to disobey civil authority, and even revolt against an established government.  But, the same authorities explain that these rights of civil disobedience and revolution, or “first principles” as they are known in some circles, while justified, are only justified at certain times, as last resorts, after all other attempts at redress of grievances and claims upon justice have been exhausted, or in times of exigency, where justice cannot be upheld immediately.  The Declaration states:  “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.”  The scriptures, in D&C 134 say the exact same thing, that sedition and rebellion against government constitutes disobeying the laws and actions of a government that protects the individual rights of the people.  In other words, governments ought to be obeyed and not altered for light, occasional bad laws and oppressions.  This isn’t to mean that bad laws ought to always be obeyed, but that all good laws ought to be obeyed always, and that revolution or civil disobedience should not be the first option when government is mostly good and other recourses to justice are available and reasonably expeditious.  This is the theory of civil disobedience, as laid out in America’s founding documents and in the LDS Church’s founding documents; now to examples.
Early American Examples of Civil Disobedience:

Numerous examples of civil disobedience throughout the history of the world, but since this is The United States of America, the focus will be on American examples.  Some of the most interesting of such examples are the instances of colonial civil disobedience in the decades leading up to the American Revolution, some of which are outlined in historian Jack P. Greene’s Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution: for example, the Polly Incident of 1765; the Stamp Act riots of 1765; the non-importation agreements during the Townshend Duties crisis of 1766-1768; the rampant smuggling contrary to British mercantile and navigation laws; the Liberty Incident of 1768; the Gaspee Incident of 1772; the Pine Tree Riot of 1772; the Boston Tea Party of 1773; the forceful closing of the courts and all British metropolitan government erected under the Massachusetts Government Act in all of Massachusetts except Boston in 1774; the moving of powder and munitions from different magazines, like those of Concord, MA, preventing government seizure of it; the defensive warfare of the battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunkerhill; the extralegal town meetings in Massachussetts and the colonial wide forming of committees of safety, popular assemblies (temporary legislatures formed in the absence of the formal colonial governments); the Continental Congress; and finally the Declaration of Independence and the formation of state constitutions and formal state governments.  All of these, and many more were all examples of colonial civil disobedience and outright rebellion, appeals to heaven after all other means of appealing for justice had been exhausted.

There is not enough room to examine all of these incidents in detail, but two particular ones merit further but brief explanation: the Gaspee Affair and the Boston Tea Party.  The Gaspee Affair took place in 1772, where Rhode Islanders, tired of British enforcement of British trade laws and regulations under the “American Plantations Duty Act of 1764,” otherwise known as the “Sugar Act,” burned the British customs ship HSM Gaspee after forcefully boarding her, wounding it captain, and forcing all crew to abandon ship.  The “Sugar Act” was enacted to collect duties on sugar and molasses and to curb its smuggling in the colonies, ensuring its enforcement and revenue collection. 1  The commander of the Gaspee, charged with enforcing the “Sugar Act” had refused to take his customs oath before the Rhode Island government, according to Rhode Island law and custom, which angered the Rhode Islander watermen, and they attacked the ship and burned it.  Jack P. Greene, in Constitutional Origins claims it was an act of civil disobedience (after all, they burned the King’s ship and wounded one his officers, preventing him and his crew from enforcing British law!) that was taken in the name of law enforcement. 2

The final example of colonial American civil disobedience is the Boston Tea Party of 1773.  The British Parliament has enacted the “Tea Act” in 1773 in order to prop up the failing East Indian Company, with smuggling in the colonies and non-importation resulting from the Townshend duties playing a role in the Company’s economic downturn.  So the Tea Act had 3 primary motives: 1.) Financially rebuild the East India Company, 2.) Stamp out colonial smuggling and sale of Dutch tea as a means of rebuilding the Company, and 3.) To maintain Parliament’s foot in the colonial door concerning taxation of and legislation for the colonies.  What the Act did was lower the price of the tea and allow it to be shipped directly to America where it could bypass unloading in England and the duties required to be paid on it there.  But, the catch was that Parliament refused to accept American claims that Parliament could not legislate for and tax Americans because they weren't represented in Parliament, and thus insisted on keeping the small duty on the tea left by the Townshend Acts of 1768 as a means of reminding the Americans that Parliament still had authority to legislate for them and tax them, no representation of America in Parliament notwithstanding.   The tea would bypass England and it's required duties there, appearing duty free, but once shipped directly to America it would in actuality still have the remaining small duty to be paid by the Americans once unloaded in the colonies.  Thus, the Tea Act, once discovered by the Americans what it intended to do, revived the no taxation without representation controversy.  In addition, the Tea Act allowed the East India Trading Company to pick specific merchants in the colonies to buy the tea at its reduced cost, pay the duty once it was landed, and sell it.  Other merchants in the colonies were selling smuggled Dutch tea, which before the Tea Act was much cheaper to buy in the colonies than Company tea.  But by lowering the cost of the tea, Parliament and the East India Company attempted to decrease the tea smuggling trade and the market for smuggled tea and prop up the Company at the same time.  This, coupled with the fact that only a limited number of specific merchants could sell the tea rose the specter of monopoly in the eyes of the colonists, especially those merchants who were not chosen to sell the reduced cost Company tea and who sold smuggled Dutch tea, which in turn became more expensive due to the Tea Act.  Therefore, the controversy over the Tea Act was twofold: it revived the taxation without representation controversy and it raised the specter of monopoly in the colonies.  To this the colonists responded by trying to pressure the merchants chosen to sell the tea into resigning from their special offer and contract with the East India Company, and when that didn't work, they refused to let the tea land on American shores because allowing it to land would mean the illegal duty would have to be paid and the cause against Parliament would damaged greatly.  In Boston, the people held illegal town meetings to fix the problem, and decided to send twenty-five armed men to guard the docks to make sure the tea was neither harmed nor landed.  But, the Boston governor, the Tory Thomas Hutchinson refused to let the ships carrying the tea depart Boston for England because British law said that tea exported from England could not be sent back, upon pain of confiscation.  Also according to British law, if the goods were not landed and the duty paid in 20 days, the ships and their goods were liable to government seizure, which would mean the tea would be forcibly landed and the duty forcibly paid.  The Bostonians held several more illegal town meetings during the twenty days the ships were at the wharf awaiting their fate, and each illegal town meeting resolved to send the tea back.  Once it became apparent that the twenty day limit was looming and the ships would not return the tea, the Boston colonists knew they had to act to prevent the tea from being landed and the duty paid: they boarded the ships carrying the tea, poorly disguised as Mohawk Indians, located the tea chests, cut them open with hatchets, careful not to damage any other goods except the tea, and threw the £9000’s worth of tea into Boston Harbor.  

Not only did the Bostonians commit acts of civil disobedience by holding illegal town meetings, but their subsequent acts of refusing the tea to land and later destroying it were overt acts of civil disobedience as well.  The "law" required the tea to land and the duty to be paid, but the Bostonians refused to let that law be enforced, and strictly disobeyed it by destroying the tea, which was the private property of the East India Company and their specially picked merchants in Boston who had bought it and were to sell it.  So, not only did the Bostonians disobey the navigation laws by smuggling in and selling cheaper Dutch tea and holding illegal town meetings, but they also disobeyed the law requiring the landing and duty payment of the tea, and by destroying private property, all in the name of upholding the law!! 3 


Another example of civil disobedience relating to America, this time religious, comes in the Book of Mormon, particularly in 1st Nephi 3-4, which details how Nephi and his brothers went back to Jerusalem to obtain the Plates of Brass from the wealthy and influential Jewish citizen Laban, which plates contained the Biblical record necessary for Lehi and his family to teach Lehi’s posterity and others who joined them the covenants of God with his people Israel and God’s laws.  In this particular case, Nephi commits “murder,” “theft,” “fraud,” and “kidnapping,” all violations of Jewish “law,” by killing Laban and stealing his sword, clothing, and the Plates of Brass, and defrauding Laban’s “servant” Zoram into giving Nephi the Brass Plates and forcefully kidnapping him until he could convince Zoram to come with him and his family to the land of promise.  However, as both chapter 3 and 4 explain in detail, Nephi’s breaking of Jewish “law” were in actuality justified and upholding of higher or actual law.  Nephi was justified in his breaking of Jewish laws in his actions toward Laban, acts of civil disobedience because not only did Laban try to kill Nephi and his brothers and steal Nephi’s family property, but the Jewish leaders who ran the Jewish government tried to kill Nephi’s father, Lehi, before Lehi and his family fled Jerusalem.  They tried to kill Lehi simply because he had prophesied of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem because of its unrepentant wickedness and sins.  Thus, Nephi would receive no fair trail from the Jewish leaders. 

Laban attempted murder on Nephi and his family, but only failed because Nephi and his brothers hid in a cave.  Laban stole Nephi’s property.  Nephi had every right to take Laban to law for justice, but had Nephi attempted to do so by taking Laban to the Jewish courts, the government leaders would have attempted to kill Nephi because Nephi was the son of a well known, wealthy yet infamous Jewish citizen, Lehi, who the Jewish leaders had tried to kill because he spoke the truth against them and their wickedness.  Thus, Nephi had no recourse to justice, save an appeal to Heaven, and Heaven answered and gave Nephi permission to exact justice by taking Laban’s life and his property in return for the crimes Laban attempted and actually committed against Nephi.  For the very same reasons, Nephi was justified in defrauding Laban’s servant, Zoram, and in forcefully, yet briefly kidnapping him until he could persuade him to come with Nephi and his family.  If Zoram knew of Nephi, he would have known who Nephi was, being Laban’s servant, and he would have turned Nephi over to the Jewish authorities, who would have surely killed Nephi for his father’s prophecies against them.  Thus, Nephi was justified in violating Jewish law in committing murder, theft, fraud, and kidnapping, committing acts of civil disobedience, simply because he had no other recourse to justice.

One other final religious oriented example of civil disobedience, or in this case, the threat thereof, merits brief discussion: Captain Moroni’s threat to invade the Nephite seat of government, overthrow it, and restore just law and order in the name of freedom and the rights of the Nephites, as told in Alma 60 in the Book of Mormon.  The Nephites had been invaded by the Lamanites and were involved in a just, defensive war, defending their country, their family, their religion, their freedom, and their just rights.  Moroni was a captain in the Nephite army, and his troops had not been sent support and supplies for a long time from the Nephite capital after repeated requests.  After never hearing back from the Nephite government, Moroni assumes that the Nephite government has become complacent and neglectful of the Nephite army in a time of just defensive warfare, in a time when so much was at stake, indeed, the very freedom and rights of the Nephites.   Moroni threatened to turn his army around, invade the Nephite capital, overthrow the Nephite government and its chief officer, Pahoran, and restore just law and order under the original democratically instituted Nephite government so as to continue the just, defensive war against the Lamanites.  In other words, Moroni threatened revolution against his own government, in the name of good government and law, in order to restore good government and law.  There probably isn’t a greater example of civil disobedience in the scriptures than this threat of open revolution against constituted authority.  Of course, the scriptures tell us Moroni was mistaken in his assumptions, and eventually found out that there was insurrection at home in the Nephite capital, and therefore the government couldn’t send reinforcements and supplies as requested until that insurrection was dealt with.  But Moroni would surely have made good on his promise of ultimate civil disobedience, revolution, had the government actually been neglectful in providing the army in a necessary and just defensive war. 


Concerns Over Civil Disobedience:

Many will decry that the acceptance of justified civil disobedience would lead to anarchy and destruction of government, committing the same error Frederic Bastiat described in his book “The Law,” throwing the baby out with the bathwater in accusing all who support justified civil disobedience as haters of government and laws in general.  But this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Indeed, if utilized justly according to the process of appealing for justice described in D&C 101 and 134 as well as in the Declaration of Independence, which tell us to importune at the feet of our judges and elected leaders for justice whenever possible and not resort to civil disobedience and revolution first and for light and transient reasons-or in other words, if utilized to uphold just and constitutional law, justified civil disobedience, far from destroying law, order, and government in general usually strengthens just law and government.  Jack P. Greene shows us this happening in the American colonies in the 1760s during their episodes of colonial civil disobedience and nullification of metropolitan British law:

But the decline in respect for the metropolitan law, the new legal historians have demonstrates, did not lead to a breakdown in respect for law in general.  On the contrary, at the same time the metropolitan law was becoming steadily weaker, local law-those provincial statutes, judicial precedents, and customs that were upheld by the courts, grand juries, traverse juried, magistrates, and other institutions that comprised the colony’s effective legal system-retained its full vigor.

Others might mistakenly condemn civil disobedience because they feel that in order to support law and order, they must obey every single law of the nation, state, and locality, regardless of what the law says or requires.  But this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Many LDS members believe the scriptures tell us to “obey the laws of the land.”  But this isn’t true, especially when taken into context in light of other scriptures which tell us what the law of the land is, particularly D&C 98:4-8 and D&C 101:76-80.  These scriptures basically say that as pertaining to the laws of men, God has commanded that we do as He commands, and His commandment concerning the laws of men are to obey the laws which are constitutional, which constitutional laws support freedom in protecting the rights and privileges of all men, and which constitutional principle belong to all mankind.  The Constitution of the United States and the many state constitutions protected the people in their rights, on paper at least and mostly in practice, and it is exactly because they protected the rights of mankind that God said the Saints and all mankind were justifiable in befriending the constitutional law of the land.  God specifically told us that the laws he intends for us to obey are the ones that are constitutional and that guarantee and protect our rights and freedom.  Any other ideas about the law of man come from evil in God’s words.  These scriptures in D&C 98 coincide with D&C 134; both say that we must uphold and obey those laws and governments that protect our rights and liberty, and that all disobedience and rebellion against such laws and government is sedition and rebellion unacceptable in the eyes of God.  But they say nothing about obeying every single law passed by a legislature, enforced by the executive, and interpreted by the judiciary.  For indeed, D&C 98 and 101 seems to indicate that if laws and governments do not protect the rights and freedom of all mankind, then their source is evil, and we are commanded by God in the very next verse of D&C 98 to forsake evil and cleave unto good. 4

In each example of civil disobedience discussed thus far or mentioned, the actors were justified.  The American colonists were justified in their civil disobedience of the 1760s and 1770s.  Jack P. Greene importantly remarks in Constitutional Origins that “the colonies were not all that different from contemporary Britain, where it was a well-established tradition for people to take matters into their own hands in two different types of situation: first when they had no means to nullify arbitrary, unconstitutional law, and, second, when ordinary legal processes failed to function or did not exist.” 5  In the colonists’ case with the Gaspee Affair and the Boston Tea Party, indeed with all of their examples of civil disobedience, they had no other means of nullifying the arbitrary and unconstitutional law of Parliament and the prerogatives of the monarchy.  The British and colonial courts did not practice judicial review at that time, nor was it even conceivable that a court could overturn a law of parliament or a prerogative of the crown.  Their highest authorities for redress of grievances were the very entities trying to oppress them, i.e. Parliament and the crown.  Being that they had no other way of nullifying the oppressive, arbitrary, and unconstitutional laws of Parliament, the colonists took matters into their own hands, as they were perfectly in the right to do given that such was the custom of all of Great Britain at the time.  And in the case of the Boston Tea Party, we see they attempted numerous time to try to get the colonial government to send the hated tea back to England, which the government refused to do, claiming law on their side.  When they realized they had no other means of forbidding the tea from landing, they destroyed it. 

So too were the Book of Mormon individuals Captain Moroni and Nephi justified in their civil disobedience, as explained already.  In both cases, each had no other recourse to justice save through civil disobedience, or in Moroni’s case, the threat thereof.  Nephi could not rely on the Jewish government to uphold justice since it was that very entity that tried to kill his father for prophesying against them.  Moroni couldn’t petition the Nephite central government for redress because it was that very entity that had failed to provide his army reinforcements and supplies, which entity he assumed had neglected their duties to the destruction of the Nephite government and their rights and freedom.


Does America’s Sad Current State of Affairs Justify Civil Disobedience?

We live in an age were it is near impossible to know what the law is anymore, simply due the volume of laws that exist, the enormous number of topics they consider, and the absurd language they are written in.

We live in a time where legislators think it is their job to enact as many laws as they can on virtually anything they think needs legislating, instead of protecting our rights from invasion.  We live in an age where legislators habitually lie to their constituents, pander to their largest campaign donators and lobbyists by enacting protectionist laws for them, and do anything and everything they can think of to be reelected and remain in office.  We live in an age where legislators see their representative position as a full time, life long occupation, and their birthright even.

We live in a time where our executive officers think they can do as they please, simply by using their phones and their pens, and who think it is their prerogative to uphold the law according their own will and pleasure, altering laws where they see fit without the approval of the legislature.

We live in an age where the legislative branch of government unlawfully delegates or transfers their sole powers to the executive branch, so that our nation has been dragged into war after war without official declarations of war.  Such illegal actions have stripped the control of the power to make and declare war from the rightful hands of the people and transferred it to an ever-growing executive increasing in power daily. 

We live in a time when our state legislatures value jobs and money over our rights to privacy, and contrary to the very purpose they were elected, they happily welcome into their borders the very agency into that continues to violate our privacy rights, and expect us to laud them for it.

We live in a time where our means of appealing for redress and justice are virtual gone, or are diminishing quickly at best, where courts claim the sole power to determine the federal government’s scope of power and constantly side with and uphold their fellow usurpers in their usurpations.  The local, state, and federal courts usually side with the government, basing their judgments off of horrendous precedent and almost singly on the basis of whether the government has a legitimate reason for doing what it plan to do with its legislation and actions, often in the name of “public interest,” regardless of whether the rights of individuals and minorities are trampled in the process.  

We live in an age where courts routinely justify “slight intrusions” on individual rights to uphold some “public interest,” creating the precedent that any right many be violated slightly on the pretense of “security,” i.e. preventing bad things from happening and to create order, preventing what government sees as chaos, or the environment where individuals are allowed to exercise their rights fully.  They routinely sacrifice the rights of the individual and the minority for convenience, standardization, alleged efficiency, necessity, and a false sense of security.  Very rarely do the courts consider the rights of the individual as the basis of their ruling first, and then consider government interest and reasons second.  After all, isn't the purpose of our Union and government to secure the blessings of liberty to all in America, and don't the blessings of liberty necessarily require the protection of our rights?  Governments and courts were NOT instituted to protect and grow the interests and powers of the government, those who work for it, and those who bribe it, all at the expense of federalism and the individual.

We live in a day in age when to appeal to the courts for justice, we must spend a small fortune on legal fees, with the ever increasing probability that justice will not be upheld, especially hen the suit involves the government.  This is due to the over-criminalization and the voluminous laws we have, written in difficult to understand language, which language requires three years of special, expensive schooling just to understand a specific portion of the language.  This situation create more and more “criminals” out of otherwise innocent people, deemed criminals only because they happened to violate some statute in some law book that they probably had no idea existed.  All this then thus creates more need for lawyers, and thus the expense for them.  We live in an age where our “justice system” is often anything but just, making a mockery of justice and the law. 

            We live in a age where any action or even inaction can be made criminal, where unfortunate victims of the almighty state are charged with this and that criminal charge, just so a conviction on some kind of trumped up crime can be made and one more individual sent to prison.   We live in an age where numbers of true criminals such as murderers, thieves, rapists, and oppressors of others of all kinds dwarf those unfortunate victims of the over-criminalized United States who are in actuality not criminals at all, but are merely otherwise innocent victims of laws created merely to create more crime and thus criminals.

We live in an age where true criminals, tyrants, and traitors roam free in our nation's capital and state capitals, dictating to us our daily behavior, stealing our incomes, wreaking havoc on the economy, all for their support and benefit and the benefit of those few they favor, routinely violating the US Constitution and state constitutions without any penalty or consequence whatsoever, receiving reward for their villainy, and having the audacity to claim they are merely SERVING us, the public.

We live in a day in age when the police are battalions in a state military, who routinely uphold unjust and unlawful laws, all for revenue or a false sense of law and order, and who have become the oppressor and criminals themselves instead of those we could call to protect us from the criminals.

Thus, in our day in age, our means of redress and appeals for justice are drying up fast, and our only recourse to justice in many instances is civil disobedience and lastly revolution, appealing to heaven and to the humanity of our fellow man, which humanity seems to being devolving into brutality and baseness year after year.  Our marvelous governmental system designed by our wise Founders, full as it is with checks and balances and separation of powers, representative democracy, federalism/decentralization, judicial review, amendment processes, and bills of rights has been failed by the spread of evil, greed, pride, secrecy, murder, theft, war, covetousness/jealousy, immorality, vengeance, false senses of justice, mercilessness in society and by the election and appointment to government offices of people who display such characteristics.  The wicked currently rule, and the people are beginning to mourn (D&C 98:9).

We live in a time where civil disobedience and the consequences it carries will soon be our only solution and appeal to justice, next to revolution.  The long train of abuses of our federal, state, and local governments far outweighs those puny attempts at oppression our forefathers suffered under and recorded in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, today's long train of abuses by American government would seemingly wrap around the whole world ten times if spread out in a single line.  Ours is a long train of abuses that makes King George III's train of abuses seem like a caterpillar compared to a freight train, and King George himself like a friendly drunk compared to the violent, unrepentant, abusive alcoholic we have in America today.  Indeed the "royal brute" of old seems like an old softy compared to the American tyrants of today.  Our Founders tolerated MUCH less than we of modern times have tolerated.  What does that say about the American character of the current day in age?   What's that say about our priorities?  What does that say about our love for, let alone our knowledge of our rights and our liberty?

Civil disobedience can be exercised in the name of law.  Our Founding Fathers did it.  Our Founding Father's grandfathers did it in England.  Our religious prophets did it, both those prophets of old and those of the restoration (i.e. plural marriage).  Civil disobedience, if done correctly at the right times and for the right reasons does not lead to a breakdown in law and order; indeed, it leads TO law and order, inasmuch as its done in the name of law and order.  But the catch is knowing when it is just to do it.  Hopefully this essay has made it clearer when this arrow against all tyrants can be justly exercised.

I leave the reader and all tyrants of today and tomorrow with the following words from 18th century English radical libertarian preacher, Richard Price, uttered in 1789.  And let me be unmistakably clear; this essay’s contents and this warning to tyrants is NOT a call to arms and for violent rebellion and revolution.  It is merely a warning to tyrants of the consequences of their despotic actions, as the scriptures have warned of the destruction of the latter days, which days are upon us now, a warning of the devastating consequences of the continued path toward evil the nations of the world are on.  It is also a warning of what consequences will result for individual tyrants as well, as seen in D&C 101:89-98.  As Richard Price has indicated, tyranny always leads to destruction, both destruction of the tyrant and the oppressed, but more so to the tyrant.  So take this as fair warning of what surely is to come as revelation has made known to us, not as a warning from me, the author of this essay, but as a warning given by history and by revelation from the Deity.  Let it be known again that I DO NOT call for violence, for I wish all things to be done peacefully toward one another and for everyone, tyrants especially to repent and come unto Christ.  But, if you continue in your despotism, tyrants, ye be warned.
 
“Tremble all ye oppressors of the world! Take warning all ye supporters of slavish governments and slavish hierarchies!…Restore to mankind their rights and consent to the correction of abuses, before they and you are destroyed together.” 6


Works Cited:

1.) Great Britain, Parliament, Sugar Act: 1764, taken from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/sugar_act_1764.asp

2.) Greene, Jack P., The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution, 146-147. 

3.) Labaree, Benjamin Woods, The Boston Tea Party, 118-145 & Greene, Jack P., Colonies to Nation: A Documentary History of the American Revolution, 196-197.

4.) Greene, Jack P., The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution, 143. 

5.) Ibid., 143-144.

6.) Price, Richard, A Discourse on the Love of Our Country, 1789, accessible at http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/price-a-discourse-on-the-love-of-our-country