Thursday, May 28, 2020

Church and State (Mosiah 29-Alma 4)


State

Mosiah’s sons, the princes, are all leaving Zarahemla to serve missions to the Lamanites leaving King Mosiah without an heir. 

READ Mosiah 29:11-17, 21-23
Why is monarchy the best and worst form of government?
Freedom to choose good or evil is dependent on "righteous" law.
The likelihood of a nation being governed by righteous law is strongly influenced by the righteousness of its lawmakers.
If lawmaking is just down to one person (an all-powerful King) and he is righteous, then the people will have freedom to choose righteousness (v13).
But if he/she is wicked, then they will remove God from the law and cause the people to commit sin (v16-17, 22-23).
This is taking a real risk - it is all down to the righteousness or wickedness of one person: if he is good and stays good, the people enjoy tremendous freedom but if he is wicked or becomes wicked, they are either brought into bondage or seduced by sin.

READ Mosiah 29:25-34
Is government by the voice of the people the fairest form of government?  Is it the safest?
The people select the judges in a vote or appointment, rather than through bloodline where chance seems to play a big role – regardless, it is out of the hands of the people (they are not accountable for selecting a king – and while they can depose a wicked king, it will be with much bloodshed and is a treasonous activity).
Better to increase the odds of getting a righteous judge by selecting multiple leaders by the voice of the people (v25-26, 39).
If the "voice of the people" is wicked, then that nation is ripening in iniquity and will be swept off in time, anyway (v27).
Liberty (a wider range of options) allows a fuller use of agency (your ability to choose between options); we always have agency but not as much liberty when in physical or spiritual bondage; regardless, all people in a society are responsible for their own choices and sins (v30-31, 38) but without liberty, they are far more constrained.
They are judging behavior against a standard or rule of law, instead of creating their own laws - their role is to judge and enforce law, not change it, except by the voice of the people (v25).
If they do not judge righteously, you have recourse (appeal to a higher court), so the chances of illegal influence, legal technicality, or circumstantial evidence is reduced (v28-29).
Is Mosiah recommending the Nephites adopt a democracy or republic?
No.
In an American form of government (really a republic but we call it a democracy), we elect people who make laws and another person to enforce those laws and a third group, who are appointed, to judge cases against those laws...
But Mosiah is proposing something different: the Laws have already been given to the people by direct revelation from heaven to righteous kings; the judges were there to judge the people against those theocratic standards and enforce those laws accordingly.
If the voice of the people (majority) select evil men who do not judge as God would judge (i.e. fairly according to the divine laws), it is a sign that the people are wicked and headed toward destruction.
If those judges then go and change the divinely given laws at the request of the majority, the people are on the road to the fullness of iniquity and will eventually be destroyed – they are removing God from their laws.

"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (see Judges 21:25). This verse does not signify that people could do whatever they wished without consequence. Instead, it implies that each individual made personal choices and accepted the consequences rather than being compelled to act according to the desires of a monarch.

Did the transition from kings to judges increase anyone’s agency?
No, but “government by the voice of the people” gives the people the greatest possible latitude to act out those choices which their God-given agency allows them to make; it increased their liberty.
And with it comes an equal weight of responsibility – they are accountable for a much wider range of possible behavioral choices!
Not only did each Nephite have the moral duty to keep the commandments of God, but each now also assumed the additional responsibility of preserving the laws of God. The Lord holds individuals under such governments "accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society" (see D&C 134:1).
Skipping ahead to the end of the Book of Mormon, why didn’t the Nephites’ story end well for them?
The voice of the people turned away from the worship of the God of this Land.
They changed the laws.
And eventually reached a fullness of iniquity and were swept off.
All due to the poor use of their own agency under a condition of maximum freedom of choice.
The more liberty you have, the more trouble you can get yourself into, as you are completely responsible for your behavior with all its inherent consequences – be it righteous or wicked deeds.
Would the Nephites have been in a better situation at the end of the Book of Mormon if they had retained monarchy, like the Lamanites did?
Perhaps, because the sins of a monarchy nation are caused or enabled by the wickedness of their kings (v31), so the sins committed by the people are answered upon the heads of those kings.
While it might have been left to the strength and guile of the respective armies, it is also possible that God may have protected the people to some degree from the full consequences of their actions as they had been imposed upon to be wicked. 

When King Mosiah died, Alma the Younger was appointed the Chief Judge, by the voice of the people…

READ Alma 2:2-7
Are contentions and dispute among the people “wonderful”?
In this case, yes – as they were political in nature, not doctrinal.
It is important to be able to share opposing viewpoints in a way that enables the truth to be brought to light.
We should never fear hearing the truth because if our perspective is wrong, understanding the truth will correct us; and if we are correct, we have nothing to fear from falsehood, as truth will win out. 
We should always be open to hearing all perspectives because we can guarantee that unless we are God Himself, we have more to learn – either our perspectives are flawed in some ways or incomplete, by definition. 

READ Alma 2:8-10
Which people is Amlici seeking to subjugate by going to war?
First, his own people.
Now that he has declared martial law, he can combine his kingly authority with fear to get his people to willingly lay down their lives to keep him in power.
Secondarily, he is looking to subjugate anyone he can defeat in war.
Did the principle of democracy or appointing by the voice of the people work in this case?
Yes, but they ended up having to go to war to defend their right.

READ Mosiah 29:42
Why did the people appoint Alma the Younger to be the first Chief Judge, when he was already the High Priest; wouldn’t this conflate “church and state” giving this man even more power than a king?
Being appointed by the voice of the people, the nation could at least choose to elect the High Priest to also be the Chief political leader – it is not a revolution or coup on the part of the Church – it is the choice of the people. 
They chose the man they thought would be most likely to uphold God’s laws and receive revelation in judging them (v43).
If he honored the law, they had a political check and balance with the lesser judges – however, if he had threatened them with eternal damnation via excommunication, it might have made him an even worse tyrant than a king, so yes – conflating Church and State outside of a theocracy led personally by the Lord Himself could be a problem, as no human is perfect.

People often express a desire for someone to protect and care for them, as if they were unable to care for themselves – remember the people had wanted a king (v5). Satan cleverly persuades them to relinquish responsibility for their lives—their innate right to exercise their agency within a free environment—to someone else, in exchange for anticipated security.  In the New Testament, Christ called out the Gentiles for this fault: their preference for “benefactors” to rule over them (see Luke 22:24-27). 

Is this idea of “benefactors” a purely political institution or does it also cross over into matters of religion and spiritual life and what does it look like there?
It does, otherwise Christ would not have counseled His apostles not to be like the gentiles.
It looks a lot like “follow the prophet, he won’t go astray” – stay in the Church, pay your tithing and follow the policies and “counsels” (or commandments) of the Brethren and in return, you will be saved in the Kingdom of God…


Church

READ Alma 1:2-6, Alma 15:15, and Alma 21:4, 6-8
What is Nehor's doctrine and what is its affect?
Universalist - all mankind will be saved by God regardless (due to God’s greatness), so rejoice in what God has done for you (no godly sorrow = no broken heart = no covenant = no need for repentance); this eventually leads to sin and a lack of repentance because we are all saved in the end in some degree of glory so what's the big deal? - Alma 1:4.
Monotheist - he believes in God but not a Son of God.  He believes in one God only. 
Closed veil - no belief in prophesy; can't know of things to come, not because God doesn't know (as He already knows that He will save everyone) but because God does not reveal the future to men - it's about doubting prophesy but beyond that, doubting a direct connection to God is possible; but instead, any "super-natural" spiritual experiences were ascribed to the devil.
Paid ministry (incentivizes preaching what people want to hear - a "religious transaction") - Alma 1:3.
What is the implication of Nehor’s doctrine of believing that God will save us but not believing that a Son of God will be the instrument through which God saves us?
It is subtle but what is really being taught here is the definition of what “saving” means and who mankind really is.
If they do not believe in a Son of God, they do not believe in a plurality of Gods…
And if they do not believe in a plurality of Gods, they cannot believe that we can “grow up” to “learn to be Gods ourselves” – they don’t believe in Theosis, mankind’s ascension to become Gods.
And they don’t understand what it takes to be saved – they don’t realize that to be saved, we must be precisely as Christ and the Father are, and to be anything different is not to be saved (LoF 7:9, 15-16); they don’t realize that true salvation = exaltation.

READ Alma 1:12, 16, 19-24 and 2 Nephi 26:29
What is priestcraft?
Men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world…
That they may get gain and praise…
But they seek not the welfare of Zion.
Why would enforced priestcraft be the cause of the entire destruction of the Nephites?
It puts the priestly class or religious leaders between God and man, leading to dependence on men to be saved - which is an abomination and leads to damnation.
The rise of priestcraft leads to easy money and pride; eventually it leads to persecution of the humble members of the Church, and then to certain "humble" Church members fighting back and later being excommunicated and possibly destroying the Church of God...
Which would impact the Nephites survival (being a smaller group with larger enemies), which is dependent upon their worship of the God of their land, who is Jesus Christ (see Ether 2:12); in Priestcraft, it is the priest or religious leader who is worshipped and followed to salvation and in such a situation, God would leave the people to their own strength and they would be eventually overcome by their enemies.
Priestcraft could be "enforced" by either the sword or by ecclesiastical leaders who claim authority to enforce it through spiritual duress or by the "voice of the people" who enforce it culturally in return for flattering sermons.

READ Alma 1:25-28
What are the four things that distinguish this Church?
Steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God.
Bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.
They had a lay ministry - the priests labored for their own support and were no different from those they taught - no modest stipends were given...
They look care of their poor and sick.

READ Alma 1:29-30
What happened when the Church members got "exceedingly rich"?
They did not set their hearts upon riches, so...
They did not send away the poor or sick but shared with them, regardless of their membership status or the reason they were in need.

Four years and a bloody civil war later…

READ Alma 4:6-12
What happened when the Church members got "exceedingly rich"?
They set their hearts upon riches, (v8) so...
They were "lifted up in pride" above all people (v9).
They focused their "industry" on creating wealth for themselves.
They began wearing very costly clothes and differentiating themselves from each other and from those who could not afford such clothes.
There was a great inequality among the Church members with regards to wealth itself and a mindset of despising others in need.
How would you explain the four-year difference – because in both circumstances the Church members became "exceedingly rich" but they reacted differently to the wealth - why?
It was determined by what they set their hearts upon – riches or loving God (see John 14:15; Matthew 19:16-21; James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-40).
They have supplanted God with something else at the center of their lives - which the definition of idolatry.
They begin to see God as something different from what He is and persecute all those who don't believe as we do (v8) to protect the lie we have invented about the nature of God.
Perhaps the war caused a large percentage of the people to lose their faith in God, meaning they chose to doubt God due to the great suffering and loss they experienced during the war years, rather than turning to Him and truly trusting Him regardless of their situation.  So when the war was over, they decided they were on their own and needed to protect themselves with material wealth because you can buy anything in this world with money, including security and safety…!
How do these members of the Church fall into apostasy?
Obedience leads to blessings and riches.
But they choose to keep their riches instead of seeking first the kingdom of God (making their calling and election sure) by giving them away to those in need (see Jacob 2:18-19), falsely thinking that they had earned the wealth through their industry and that it was "rightfully" theirs.
Which leads to falling in love with wealth and the material world (Alma 4:6).
And engenders pride with what one has achieved.
Pride leads to differentiation, then scorn, then persecution, then different values and beliefs or culture (Alma 4:8).
This leads to envy on the part of the poor and great contentions between the "haves" and "have-nots," both of whom are now out of covenant (Alma 4:9).
And all of this then leads to sin and wickedness as the Spirit departs and they are left unto themselves (Alma 4:10-11).

READ Alma 4:19-20
What can be done to reclaim these Church members?
Bare “pure testimony”, which implies knowing of what you testify…
Lots of ministering.


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