The Moral Question of Government

“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

“And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor;” 2 Ne. 13:5

I live in a smallish, mostly Mormon town in the “Zion” of southern Idaho. Recently we had brouhaha in the local papers over a $41million school bond election. How should we decide whether to support taxes for schools or any other purpose?

There was a multitude of reasons given for supporting and another multitude for opposing, but it was distressing to me that almost no one could see the core issue. I submit that it was not a question of needs vs. wants, nor of whether we could afford it, nor of whether the economy was going to be good or bad, nor whether the children deserve it, nor whether it would be a good investment in the future of our community, nor whether it would cost more later, nor any of the other arguments that were made either for or against it. In fact, the issue was a moral question.

“A moral question,” you say, “how so?”

Here’s how. Government operates on the principle of coercion. Every law passed by governments either forbids or compels certain behaviors. Government holds a monopoly on the use of violence to enforce all its laws and regulations. Violators of the laws are threatened with the loss of property, then liberty, and ultimately of life. If a person resists the coercion of the government to do or not do that which has been decreed, that person will have his or her property confiscated. If he or she resists the confiscation of his or her property, he or she will be arrested and jailed and then have his or her property confiscated. If he or she resists being arrested and jailed, he or she will be killed. You could start the whole process with a simple parking ticket, or with a property tax, but the escalation process is the same in either case.

So every government law and regulation has the effect of depriving individuals of their agency to act according to their own choice and replaces it with the choice of bureaucrats or voters. Here’s where Mormons should be paying close attention: depriving a person of their agency is a moral issue. Therefore, every act of government is a moral issue because every act of government deprives people of agency. Remember that doctrine about war in heaven? What was that all about? Remember that scripture about unrighteous dominion? You thought that was just about beating your wife? Since there is no such thing as a right to injure another you must be extremely careful when you vote to be sure the officials and laws you support do not violate this principle of agency, otherwise you become an accessory to evil.

Here’s another thought: people cannot delegate to their government authority that they do not have in the first place. It doesn’t matter how many people agree with the action. A majority cannot make an immoral act moral. If 51% or 67% vote that it is OK to kill Jews (or Mormons if you can remember Missouri) it is still immoral. If you as an individual do not have the moral authority to use the ultimate violence of killing someone to either prevent or compel a certain behavior, you cannot empower a democratically elected government to do it for you. Misunderstanding this principle is the means by which we can commit sins (like stealing someone’s property or killing innocent people in the Middle East) and not be held accountable for it. Pretty neat! Everyman’s willingness to be accountable for his own sins is a precondition of liberty. (See Mosiah 29)

If you believe in agency only so long as people choose what you want them to choose, then you don’t believe in agency at all; you really believe in coercion. If you believe that the country’s (or school district’s) problems can be solved by government coercion, then you have switched sides in that war that began in heaven and continues here, and how you vote reveals what you believe. It hasn’t been said any better than by Bastiat in the last sentence of his work The Law, “…try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works.”

Image: Trevor LeyenhorstCC BY 2.0


  1. I find such misguided reasoning distressing. It’s an attempt to make one set of latter-day saints appear less righteous because of their political views. You folks in Utah and Idaho really need to move out to a place where Mormons are still a minority and get involved with spreading the gospel. You’ll be busy enough that you won’t have time to worry about whether your fellow saints are on the wrong side of the war in heaven, all because they have a different opinion on how to finance the public schools.

    1. G. West you make it sound like it’s merely just a matter of a “different opinion on how to finance public schools” but it is not. If public schools are to be financed by taxation then that involves aggression against peaceful people by forcefully taking away there property to pay for schools. Some would call this stealing but regardless of what you call it it’s absolutely incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ as it completely violates an individuals “right and control of property” (D&C 134:2). As a disciple of Jesus Christ I must defend His gospel, His plan, and His principles contained in the holy scriptures.

    2. If your political view and practices support Socialism or Marxism then you are “less righteous” and your eternal salvation, according to the prophets, is endanger.

      “This we feel we can definitely say, that unless the people of America forsake the sins and the errors, political and otherwise, of which they are now guilty and return to the practice of the great fundamental principles of Christianity, and of Constitutional government, there will be no exaltation for them spiritually, and politically we shall lose our liberty and free institutions.”

      Faithfully yours, /s/ Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay. (First Presidency letter to U.S. Treasury, September 30, 1941 AD)

      This was a warning about the “New Deal.” Most Mormons totally embrace and support the New Deal programs. Unless the prophets lied, “there will be no exaltation for them spiritually…”

      You CANNOT be a faithful member of the Church and be practicing Marxist and most Mormons ARE practicing Marxists and lend aid to the false Satanic religion of American Socialism.

      “Communism and all other similar isms bear no relationship whatever to the United Order. They are merely the clumsy counterfeits which Satan always devises of the gospel plan. Communism debases the individual and makes him the enslaved tool of the state to whom he must look for sustenance and religion… Communism destroys man’s God-given free agency; the United Order glorifies it. Latter-day Saints can not be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to any of these false philosophies.” First Presidency Message, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942

      1. What? You appear to be confused as to what the constitution contains regarding how we govern ourselves. Taxation “without representation” is coercion. As far as I know, we all still vote for our representatives. If my selection doesn’t win, then oh-well. I still honor the republic and do my part to support it. You speak of “communism and socialism” in the same breath without even defining what each political ideology is and what it proposes and then you compare it to and equate it to citizens participating in their democratic republic form of government and accuse them of complicity with Satan and call our governmental organism “Satanic American Socialism”. You give the reader false choices by proposing that anyone who disagrees with your stance is a practicing socialist or communist. This is a poor debating tactic and is nonsense at best. There is no genuine comparison to our form of government and despotic communism or socialism. First and foremost is the fact that socialism and communism are based completely on an economic philosophy that does not exist upon the face of the planet. The theory behind these systems is a form of economy that proposes shared worker ownership (or in the case of communism – state ownership) of the means of all production and services. It proposes shared and equal wages among the workers. It proposes the elimination of privately held production and service entities and proposes those entities be owned equally by each supportive worker within that entity. The philosophy was basically an each according to his need and each according to his ability. To my knowledge, there has never been a true socialist economy nor a real socialist government on earth. There have been attempts which failed and turned into despotic and oppressive systems, but no government has ever been formed based on the economic philosophy of socialism. Capitalism remains firmly in control world-wide as an economic system with its most prominent success being in the United States. Calling the United States, “Socialistic” is like calling an ice cube, “hot”. Silly and paranoid. The “Communism” the Presidents were concerned with was the despotic and violent form of government embraced by the Soviet Union and China (but Cambodia became by far the best example of this negative political system going at that time). The New Deal programs had nothing to do with the elimination of privately owned means of production nor with an attempt to set up a despotic/violent system of oppression. These programs were an attempt to help people get back to work after an economic disaster and to improve the conditions of the poor and the elderly. Other programs and laws were enacted to protect young children from industrial exploitation and to protect workers from abuse and exploitation. (Both of which are practices forbidden by the Lord). These programs were approved by elected representatives. They are why we enjoyed the wages and the time off that we all, for the most part, still enjoy today. They eliminated child labor practices (yes, kids used to be used by business owners as cheap labor in dangerous mills and factories -many were orphans and quite a few died in their labors) and sweatshop exploitation. These were social programs for a capitalist country. These are not socialist concepts. Fairness, safety and well being are not socialist ideas. Charity and sharing are not communist ideas. Love and compassion are not socialist tendencies. Consecration is not a socialist idea. It is a Mormon concept. It is a concept from Heavenly Father. You err in that you equate freedom with a strange, pseudo-lawlessness… an odd sort of controlled-anarchy. You seem to see all poverty as direct evidence of sloth. You see programs that assist the less fortunate among you as a burden upon you… taxation to support the poor among you as robbery. We are citizens and as citizens we enjoy the benefits of a relatively safe nation with many benefits. These must be funded and as citizens we should be willing to help fund our society. Just because we have been fortunate enough not to need the assistance of a social program does not mean that we, or someone we know and love will not need them someday. I do not think you know whereof you speak or in what spirit you speak. We are in a sad state indeed when we debate such obvious moral issues.

    3. My brother who is Catholic, also see our current political and moral challenges as a continuation of the War in Heaven. I live in Maryland I also see these things as the continuation of the war in Heaven. It boils down to Agency. In my case the question to me is should I have to pay a tax on something Zo don’t use or benefit from? We home school our children. I do not benefit from public schools. What is my responsibility to them and how can I opt out using my Agency.

      1. No Mark you appear to be confused. Being charitable is my responsibility to do. By my choices. If I choose to donate my time and my talents and my money to be charitable or not then that is me using my agency. The Government taxing me for a forth generation welfare recipient to be Ble to sit at home snd not work is not allowing me to exercise my agency because I have to under penalty of jail or fines pay for taxes.

        Now we must be taxed so the government can do the things it was set up to do under the constitution. But I don’t remember the constitution guarantying health care. Or bailing out Banks and large corporations. Whether the citizens wanted it to happen or not. That is socialism. Not letting America Face the truth a d driving us further into debt just for power is socialism and communism. If you read Marx you will understand that his goal was to lie and fool as many as possible to believe that everyone should own everything and be equal. for that plan to be implemented it requires force, de-population, and faith in government not God.

        I thnk that is the whole premise I think many people miss they equate taxes with charitable donations. Keeping people on the public coffers is what a democracy does and this nation was not set up to be a democracy rather a republic.

        I want to be more charitable. So my solution is to stop paying so much in taxes and donate more to the fast offering fund. Oh but I can’t do that without risking jail time.

        Please reread the communist manifesto and then compare it to the modern progressive movement and labor unions and the policies out of the last four or five administrations and congress for the last 50 years.

  2. Yes it is distressing to be told that we are committing our sins via government. I understand why you don’t want to hear that. Calling the reasoning misguided does nothing to correct it and suggesting that we do something else changes the subject. Can you offer any alternative reasoning that helps?

  3. I enjoyed this article even though I found it disturbing. It is an interesting view on the reaches of government and the use of moral/immoral identification as it pertains to the war on heaven, but the author has some misguided conceptions. Yes, the refusal to attain for actions (speeding tickets, failure to pay speeding tickets) can lead one to greater level of punitive punishments, but when we decided to speed or fail to pay property taxes did we gave up our right to choose the consequences through our own actions. We talked about that in church yesterday here in Kansas. My bishop is very knowledgeable on this (lawyer, degree in counseling, Army Chaplin). We can choose the action, but we loose the ability to choose the consequence. If we speed we deserve the ticket as speeding has the ability to kill people. If we refuse to pay the ticket, we can be jailed. Action/reaction all based upon individual decision. My view of the author’s misconceptions is based upon these concepts of unrighteous choices and the linking of such as the punishment being a moral decision. Once one chooses to to an unrighteous act, they earned the punishment.

    12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law (from

    But the author poses a greater question on moral and immorality at the personal level and one’s relationship to government that, unfortunately, he did not carefully articulate. The war in heaven is very ripe on earth at this time. Governments take a huge role in that war. The Bolshevik rebellion in Russia destroyed the powers of the Czar and set up communism, and was supported by many of the populace. Hitler rose to power with the cheering of the populace. Jews were killed with the consent of the populace. Women are brutalized and murdered in parts of the world with the consent of the populace. Once we allow the government to become immoral without taking steps to either rectify it, or remove ourselves from it, we are ipso facto culpable and a willing participant against God in the war in heaven. By voting for same sex marriage, we have sided with Satan. By voting for the “Right” of a woman to end a pregnancy (with clearly defined exceptions) we are willing participants of Satan. By voting in people into government that we know have values against the will of God, and glorify them selves in these minimized and willful neglected values, we are active participants with Satan.

    This government was put in place by the hand of God. To go against it is both illegal, and (again) the plan of Satan. But if laws are enacted by the government that are in violation of the Laws of God, we are guilty by association if we follow these laws. Daniel in the Old Testament is the greatest example of this, and his faithfulness to God allowed change to happen. But again I reiterate, the election of individuals through our votes who we know have values and ideology against the will of God can make us culpable through our actions.

    Lets look at the health care law. There are provisions in the law that allows abortions, the decision not to provide services to the very ill, and a wide range of things that gives the government power over our lives that can take away our agency. Aspects of this law in itself falls with in the scope of Satan’s ability to enforce his ideology and power over us. I am not saying this whole law is bad. Helping people is a good thing, but things in the law itself are immoral. If we support this law in its entirety, we can be held responsible as we are supporting aspects that Satan has power over.

    We can only chose our actions, we can not choose the consequences. My bishop made the great observation yesterday that the war in Heaven was over agency. Because of Satan’s rebellion, 1/3 of the hosts of heaven were thrown out and lost the ability to gain a body. They are now using our own bodies against us to remove our agency. And many have gladly let him. We have the power and responsibility to choose righteous judges, leaders, and representatives. We need to exercise that power in accordance with the gospel and utilizing the Holy Ghost as well as careful examination of these individuals before we hit the ballot boxes. I personally believe it is better not to vote than to vote in an individual who has views that are contrary to the will of God.

    1. You all need to read the article “Moral, Responsible, and Free” here on It gives further and clearer insight into this question of agency and consequence.

    2. Aaron: “If we speed we deserve the ticket as speeding has the ability to kill people.”
      -Driving at ALL has the ability to kill people. If we take your position to it’s logical and consistent conclusion then driving at ALL deserves a ticket since it TOO has the ability to kill people. No, neither deserves a ticket because neither actually hurts anyone in anyway in and of itself.

      “My view of the author’s misconceptions is based upon these concepts of unrighteous choices and the linking of such as the punishment being a moral decision. Once one chooses to to an unrighteous act, they earned the punishment.”
      -But there is nothing unrighteous about merely speeding.

      “12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
      -Note it doesn’t specify what law it’s referring to. God’s law and mans law are not the same.

      “This government was put in place by the hand of God.”
      -I call bullcrap. Where do you get this idea from?

      “To go against it is both illegal, and (again) the plan of Satan.”
      -So when government passed pro-slavery laws such as Jim Crow laws it was a sin to oppose such obviously immoral and unjust laws?

      1. “But there is nothing unrighteous about merely speeding.” This sounds like the phrase “it’s not that bad.” Laws are in place to be followed. The lord has laws, he even stressed those laws in the Article of Faith as he states that we believe in governments. We can not believe in government, but not in its laws. We do not get to pick and choose. The wonderful aspect of a republic government, especially with the “Jim Crow” example, or the illegality of planting tomatos hypothetical overreach, is that people can change laws. If you have the ability to show a reason why speed limits should be abolished, and such abolishments are made a law of the land, then you can speed, but yes, we are given free agency, and we have the choice to speed, even though it is breaking the law of the land. We will have to answer for that.

        God’s laws and Man’s laws are not the same, but in a rightous environment, thy should be one in purpose. In Article of Faith 12, it talks about governments, but you propose it is talking about God’s laws and not the laws of that government. One has the ability to justify their reasoning as one sees fit, but in the end, that justification is worthless as one stands in front of the creator and knows he has followed what is set infront of him. Now a few people will go off on this and come up with what I call hysterical hypotheticals (libritarians are good with this), and try to come up with some crazy “what if… then” cause and effect. But in reality, give a real example where a law we currently have is not moral. And if there is a law that is immoral, are we penalized if we do not follow it (abortion is legal in some places, but it is not a forced law, slavery (Jim Crow) was legal, but you were not penalized if you did not own slaves, etc). I can think of none, even with all my law classes. At the same time, think about your questions back. The “it is not bad to speed” mindset can be stretched intoa wide range of subjects. It is not bad to get high, no one gets hurt. Its not bad to have an abortion, no one gets hurt (for those who do not believe that a fetus is living). We can talk our way into doing anything we want, but would you stand next to the Savior today, or have him sitting in your car and expect him to tell you “It is ok to go faster, that law is stupid anyway.”

  4. Aaron,

    You have hit the nail on the head. One thing we cannot get hung up on is the need for a government. The Lord caused this nation to be established under the Constitution. So it follows there is some need of each citizen to pitch in to provide for the functioning of that government.

    Where government has a limited function there shoiuld be equally limited pitching in. Voting on a school bond I think is a completely different issue though. teh Question is did we give government the latitude to establish schools or direct education on our behalf. If we have then we as a society are responsible to provide the government funds to build schools on our behalf. If we haven’t given them that right then we have no obligation to do such a thing. I thinbk by sending you r child to a public school you are authorizing the government to educate your child on your behalf. Therefore you shoul dhave no quabble about a bond issue for building ythe structure the State need sto do this. However, those of us who choose to educate our children on our own, the question arises can we be exempt from providing the funds to pay off that bond if it passes?

    This is where I think there can be some debate.

    Man must have laws to protect him from having his rights taken from him by other men. Like You said that is where our election process comes in. We must elect righteous men to represent us and enact laws on our behalf. Also we must realize that if the choice between candidate is the lesser of two evils then we must refarain from casting a vote as we will be held accountable for that vote. Better to be like Mormon and refuse to support wickedness than support the lesser of two evils ( or in his case the greater of two evils). There comes a time when you must choose to withdraw from the voting process or choose to continue to vote for evil men.

    Of course Aaron you already have a knowledge of where I stand on such things. Good to see your comments though brother.

    1. Jim: “The Lord caused this nation to be established under the Constitution.”
      -No, he “suffered” it to be established (D&C 101:77). To suffer something to happen means to tolerate or allow. Furthermore the Lord clarifies in D&C 98:5 that it is not the entirety of the Constitution that is “justifiable before [Him]” but only those parts which are “supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges”. Do you really think the Lord approved of those parts which supported and endorsed slavery?

      1. I do not believe the Lord approved of only a part of the constitution seeing he is an all or nothing God. You conveinently left out verses 4 and 6 which puts verse 5 in context. The Lord tells us it is his “will” that we obey all he commands us, and the law od the land whcich is constitutional. He then reiterates that he justifies us in “Befriending” the Constitution. And again you should have included verse 80 of section 101. Where the Lord said he said he established the constitution. So if you are going to correct me on saying he caused the establishment of the constitution which I admit was wrong at least use the Lords words when he tells us he established it.

        1. “I do not believe the Lord approved of only a part of the constitution”
          -His words from scripture say otherwise:

          “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.”

          He clearly specifies that a law must not only be constitutional but ALSO support principles of freedom.

          “You conveinently left out verses 4 and 6 which puts verse 5 in context. The Lord tells us it is his “will” that we obey all he commands us, and the law od the land whcich is constitutional.”
          -And in verse 5 he specifics what he means by “constitutional” as it must ALSO support principles of freedom.

          “He then reiterates that he justifies us in “Befriending” the Constitution.”
          -No he actually justifys us in “befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land but again he has already specified that that must ALSO support principles of freedom.

          “Where the Lord said he said he established the constitution. So if you are going to correct me on saying he caused the establishment of the constitution which I admit was wrong at least use the Lords words when he tells us he established it.”
          -I did use his words. Here they are again:

          “According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established”

  5. Aaron,

    “Once one chooses to to an unrighteous act, they earned the punishment.”

    True—in the eternal sense. But this doesn’t give us the right to arbitrarily impose punishments and consequences on the choices of others.

    “But if laws are enacted by the government that are in violation of the Laws of God, we are guilty by association if we follow these laws.”

    Any law that relies on forcibly taking money from some and giving it to others violates the laws of God. Likewise, any law that coerces a person into purchasing a product he or she does not want is also a violation of the laws of God.

    1. If one looks up the definition of “arbitrarily” one will read:

      1. Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle: stopped at the first motel we passed, an arbitrary choice.
      2. Based on or subject to individual judgment or preference: The diet imposes overall calorie limits, but daily menus are arbitrary.
      3. Established by a court or judge rather than by a specific law or statute: an arbitrary penalty.
      4. Not limited by law; despotic: the arbitrary rule of a dictator.

      We in America have none of these laws. We are a nation of laws and choices. I reiterate, if we choose to break the laws, we will be punished. To have a nation where one can break the laws, and then choose not to enforce such laws with a proportionate response, we are not a sovereign nation, but an anarchist society. The utilization of a proportional punishment is necessary to deter the breaking of the law. Again, if one does not want to have to pay the fine, do not do the immoral act (or unlawful act in the temporal sense).

      As for taking money from some to give to others, every government has done that. Not to the utilization of redistribution of wealth seen in the former USSR and other communist and socialist societies (which were never really socialist as the leaders did everything to make themselves rich while restricting the choices of their populace).
      According to King Benjamin, laws need to be made by the voice of the people as the majority of the people does not move far from that which is right. When the voice of the people then moves towards unholy or unlawful actions, then the society then crumbles. This is evident through out the entire scriptural base in which we believe all the way from Adam to present day Somalia. It is the immoral actions of people that increase the suffering we have today. And through such suffering we are punished (by the law or by God). But again, we have to choose to do that which is wrong, it is not chosen for us, but we can not choose the consequences. If one does not want to get punished, do not do the crime, but do not then complain that the fine should not have been levied because it is unjust. That is the path of Satan, where people can infringe upon others and the society, and then walk away unscathed, while others are injured.

      “Any law that relies on forcibly taking money from some and giving it to others violates the laws of God. Likewise, any law that coerces a person into purchasing a product he or she does not want is also a violation of the laws of God.”

      You are right, forcibly taking monies from one and giving to another is not in accordance with the Law of God, however, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves (or more so actually), and in doing so, should be willing to give of our monies freely without having to be forced. Additionally, as of yet, the only thing we have been forced to buy is car insurance as people’s poor actions and ignorance of the Laws of Man have caused such irreparable harm onto the society that the imposition of such a purchase assists those who’s livelihood and health have been infringed upon (moral hazard). Other than that, that scenario has not been realized today. But speeding and breaking the laws, is just as against the Laws of God as the Laws of Man. If we are not ready to follow such simple temporal commandments, how can we ever be ready to accept a Higher Law?

      1. A law that is not in congruence with our Constitution and violates anyone’s RIGHTS is not a valid law, here is some simple civics to remind you that we are suppose to be a REPUBLIC, not a democracy. Just because the government passes a law does not mean that it is lawful.


        Zero Protection by Michael Badnarik

        I’m very grateful to for giving me this opportunity to share what I’ve learned about the Constitution over the last twenty-five years. I hope this column will help restore the principles that led to the Constitution, a document which has been ignored, abandoned, and violated for too long.

        You may be shocked to discover that I absolutely hate the phrase “Constitutional rights”. That’s because neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights has anything at all to do with your rights. If they burn the First Amendment, are you going to give up your freedom of religion? I don’t think so. If they shred the Second Amendment, are you going to voluntarily turn in your guns, and risk being slaughtered en masse like the victims of the Holocaust? I certainly hope not. Please disabuse yourself of the habit of using that nasty, misleading phrase.

        While I’m at it, I want you to stop pretending that the Constitution even protects your rights. It does no such thing! Imagine standing on a railroad track in the path of an oncoming locomotive, holding up a copy of the Constitution for “protection”. That’s how much protection the Constitution gives you. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

        You think I’m kidding?! I am not using hyperbole to emphasize a point. How much protection did the Constitution give us against FDR’s socialist New Deal? None. How much protection has it given you against the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, or the Real ID Act? Zero. What will the Second Amendment do to prevent ATF agents from kicking down your door to confiscate your firearms? Zip. Nada. Nothing at all.

        Do I have your attention, yet?

        The reason we are standing chest deep in the septic tank of today’s political process is because we’ve lost sight of the fact that “We the People” are supposed to be protecting the Constitution, not the other way around. We complain about the problems in Washington D.C. without facing up to the fact that Congress is only the symptom. We the People are the source of the problem. That is going to change. Right here. Right now.

        All of our political problems can be traced back to a single, simple, misunderstanding. Americans have forgotten (or never knew) the difference between RIGHTS and Privileges.

        (PLEASE READ THIS): )

        A RIGHT is something that you can do without asking for permission, such as walking back and forth on your property. A privilege is something you require permission to do, such as walking back and forth across my property. I may grant you the privilege of walking across my property – BUT – I can revoke that privilege any time I wish. Rights and privileges are opposites! Either you need permission – or you don’t. You can’t lose “some” of your virginity, or be “a little bit” pregnant. You either are or you’re not. There’s no middle ground.

        REPUBLIC vs Democracy

        These succinct definitions of what is Democracy and what is a Republic was produced by the US Army in 1928, These definitions have been quietly withdrawn since, soon after.

        A government of the masses.
        Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of “direct” expression.
        Results in mobocracy.
        Attitude toward property is comunistic-negating property rights.
        Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate. whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences.
        Results in demagogism license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.
        Democracy is the “direct” rule of the people and has been repeatedly tried without success.
        A certain Professor Alexander Fraser Tytler, nearly two centuries ago, had this to say about Democracy: ” A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of Government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that Democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a Dictatorship.”
        A democracy is majority rule and is destructive of liberty because there is no law to prevent the majority from trampling on individual rights. Whatever the majority says goes! A lynch mob is an example of pure democracy in action. There is only one dissenting vote, and that is cast by the person at the end of the rope.
        Authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them.
        Attitude toward property is respect for laws and individual rights, and a sensible economic procedure.
        Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences.
        A greater number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass.
        Avoids the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy. Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment, and progress.
        Is the “standard form” of government throughout the world.
        A republic is a form of government under a constitution which provides for the election of:

        an executive and
        a legislative body, who working together in a representative capacity, have all the power of appointment, all power of legislation all power to raise revenue and appropriate expenditures, and are required to create
        a judiciary to pass upon the justice and legality of their governmental acts and to recognize
        certain inherent individual rights.
        Take away any one or more of those four elements and you are drifting into autocracy. Add one or more to those four elements and you are drifting into democracy.
        Our Constitutional fathers, familiar with the strength and weakness of both autocracy and democracy, with fixed principles definitely in mind, defined a representative republican form of government. They “made a very marked distinction between a republic and a democracy and said repeatedly and emphatically that they had founded a republic.”
        A republic is a government of law under a Constitution. The Constitution holds the government in check and prevents the majority (acting through their government) from violating the rights of the individual. Under this system of government a lynch mob is illegal. The suspected criminal cannot be denied his right to a fair trial even if a majority of the citizenry demands otherwise.
        Difference between Democracy and Republic, in brief:
        a: government by the people; especially : rule of the majority.

        b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences

        c: Where 51% can take or (vote) away the RIGHTS of the 49%.

        d: Where 2 wolves and one sheep decide on who to have for lunch!
        a: a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government.
        b: a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.

        Democracy and Republic are often taken as one of the same thing, but there is a fundamental difference. Whilst in both cases the government is elected by the people, in Democracy the majority rules according to their whims, whilst in the Republic the Government rule according to law. This law is framed in the Constitution to limit the power of Government and ensuring some rights and protection to Minorities and individuals.

        Autocracy declares the divine right of kings; its authority can not be questioned; its powers are arbitrarily or unjustly administered.
        Mobocracy: 1. Political control by a mob. 2. The mass of common people as the source of political control.

      2. Other than that, that scenario has not been realized today. But speeding and breaking the laws, is just as against the Laws of God as the Laws of Man. If we are not ready to follow such simple temporal commandments, how can we ever be ready to accept a Higher Law?

        How so? If the legislature says that I cannot grow tomatoes in my own backyard (because homegrown food is unsafe), is it a violation of the laws of God to grow tomatoes in my backyard?

        Are you saying that we have to be willing to subject ourselves to bondage to a group of corrupt people who make laws designed to benefit the powerful, before we can be ready to be governed by God?

        What of Shadrach, Meshack, and Abed-nego? What of Daniel? What of others?

        Not all the laws of man are approved by God. The Doctrine and Covenants clearly tells us that only those laws that (1) are Constitutional and (2) don’t violate our right to life, liberty, and property are approved by God.

      3. Again, if one does not want to have to pay the fine, do not do the immoral act (or unlawful act in the temporal sense).
        -You again are confusing an unlawful act with an immoral act which are not necessarily the same. The scriptures are full of examples of courageous and righteous men that risked there very lives by breaking mans law in order to honor God’s law. A few examples include Abinidi, Daniel, Joseph Smith, and many others.

        As for taking money from some to give to others, every government has done that.
        -Yes and every murderer has killed others yet that does not justify the action.

        But speeding and breaking the laws, is just as against the Laws of God as the Laws of Man.Not true. The Lord specifically says in D&C 98:5 that the only law that is “justifiable before me” is “that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges”.

  6. YAY!!!!!

    I finally found all of you. I thought I was the only Mormon voluntarist out there. (Better not throw the “A” word around here. Some people might pop a vein.)

    Alan, perfect article. Spot on. Nothing wrong.

    Kevin, thank you so much for your input too.

    Wahoo!!! I’m not alone, I’m not alone…

  7. Alan stated “every act of government deprives people of agency.” This is false.

    You still have your agency regardless of what the government or any outside force does to you. The only person that can deprive you of your agency is you, when you choose wickedness you limit your own agency. This is in no way meant to support the unrighteous dominion of government, which is rampant, but to point you to seek a better understanding of agency. Remember there is a different between Agency, Freedom and Liberty. While governments have done a lot to limit our Freedom and therefore our ability to fully exercise our agency, every act of government does not deprive people of agency.

    Here’s just one quote…

    “Notwithstanding the fact that through its misuse, political, economic, and personal liberty are lost, free agency will always endure because it is an eternal principle. However, the free agency possessed by any one person is increased or diminished by the use to which he puts it. Every wrong decision one makes restricts the area in which he can thereafter exercise his agency. The further one goes in the making of wrong decisions in the exercise of free agency, the more difficult it is for him to recover the lost ground. One can, by persisting long enough, reach the point of no return. He then becomes an abject slave. By the exercise of his free agency, he has decreased the area in which he can act, almost to the vanishing point…

    “…Just as following wrong alternatives restricts free agency and leads to slavery, so pursuing correct alternatives widens the scope of one’s agency and leads to perfect liberty. As a matter of fact, one may, by this process, obtain freedom of the soul while at the same time being denied political, economic, and personal liberty.”

    (Marion G. Romney, “The Perfect Law of Liberty,” Ensign, Nov 1981, 43)

    Also, you may want to read this, this and this, and that’s just the beginning.

    1. According to Elder Christofferson in the article you linked to, agency is diminished or absent when choices are taken away or when the freedom to make a choice is taken away. Every act of government does that, so I have to conclude that every act of government deprives people of agency. I am not saying that every restriction of agency is immoral, just that it is a moral issue.

      1. Government does not take away your choice. God simply allows government to enact the law of retribution. (see the book: “Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen” by H. Verlan Andersen). A law the punishes murderers does not take away your choice to either murder someone or let them live, the law attaches a punishment to your evil action… you still have the choice, you still have your agency.

        1. “Government does not take away your choice.”
          -So when a government commits genocide for example it is not taking away anyone’s choice? Uh depriving someone of there life (governments do this all the time) is the most obvious way of depriving someone of choice. All government is is organized force exerted upon a specific geographic region which by definition restricts actions and choices.

          “God simply allows government to enact the law of retribution. A law the punishes murderers does not take away your choice to either murder someone or let them live, the law attaches a punishment to your evil action… you still have the choice, you still have your agency.”
          -Except that the government forcefully takes away a portion of my property against my will and without my permission in order to fund the action of enacting retribution such as punishing murderers. The agency to use “control my property” (D&C 134:2) is certainly violated and diminished in the process.

        2. Brian, I’m so glad to have you join me as a big fan of H. Verlan Andersen. His ideas are the genesis of my essay. Here are a couple of excerpts from his introduction to “The Moral Basis of A Free Society.” “Every act which government performs is either morally right or morally wrong. This conclusion is unavoidable because government can act only by using force on humans and force cannot be used on humans without moral consequences.” “…the moral problem is most clearly seen when we consider how laws are enforced. This is done by depriving the disobedient of either his life, his liberty or his property. Every law… carries one or more of these three penalties.” “The propriety of inflicting punishment is not the only moral issue which arises when a law is adopted. In addition to this, the effect of the law on the freedom of all who obey it out of fear of punishment must be considered. The primary purpose for passing a law is to induce those to obey it who would not do so unless threatened with death, imprisonment or fine. Thus the object is to deny the people their freedom to do what the law forbids.”
          So if your complaint is in my use of the word choice then I will happily substitute the word freedom for it. I also grant that government doesn’t take away agency. Neither does God. He gives us laws but lets us choose whether to obey them or not. The point is that threatening a person with violence has the same effect as using physical force upon them–their freedom is abridged. And that is evil (immoral). Perhaps one other distinction is appropriate here, and that has to do with sins vs. transgressions. Threatening violence against a person to prevent them from committing sin against another is not immoral because using violence in self defense is a moral use of force. So there is a difference between murder and speeding. Both are illegal, but the former is a sin and the latter is not a sin, just a transgression.

          1. Thank you for clarifying. It seems we are in agreement, but it was just some of the ways you worded it that caused me to see a disagreement. Also, good clarification between things such as murder and speeding / sin and transgression.

    2. You are so completely correct. Your choices are still available.

      I refuse to be a practicing Marxist. I do not have government licenses. I do not have a Socialist Security number. I do not file voluntary 1040 2nd plank of the Communist Manifesto income tax return nor do I pay voluntary income taxes.

      Mormons that send their children to government schools or support government schools are supporting Socialism and cannot be faithful members of the church.

  8. This was a great article! You make an excellent point. Unfortunately when a government policy is introduced or debated today, most of our representatives fail to even consider if the policy is supported by or violates the fundamental principles of government. In fact, I don’t think the majority of our politicians (0r Americans in general) understand the fundamental principles of government. Among them are that the role of government is to protect rights and that the power of government is derived from the individuals it represents. These principles are rarely brought up as part of the debate–instead the focus is on whether we can afford it, how will it affect our future, if it may make our standard of living better, etc as you mention above. We need to act to educate our representatives, and Americans in general on these fundamental principles. Thanks for your article!

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