The Need for Personal Righteousness over Governmental Regulation (Helaman 5:3)

The culture of the Nephite continues to decline. There are short periods of humility, righteousness, and prosperity followed by periods of wickedness, war, and misery. I think that if we looked at our own societies, we can see the exact same cycles.

During on particularly bleak downturn, we read:

“Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.” – Helaman 5:3

The people had become so wicked that they couldn’t be governed by law or justice. No law, no regulation, no punishment could motivate them. The bright democratic culture of the Nephites is becoming a dangerous anarchy.

This resonates with me, actually. I think that here in the U.S., we’ve lived through stages similar to this. I’m reminded of Elder Christofferson’s talk given shortly after the recent economic collapse. Elder Christofferson taught:

“In most of the world, we have been experiencing an extended and devastating economic recession. It was brought on by multiple causes, but one of the major causes was widespread dishonest and unethical conduct, particularly in the U.S. housing and financial markets. Reactions have focused on enacting more and stronger regulation. Perhaps that may dissuade some from unprincipled conduct, but others will simply get more creative in their circumvention. There could never be enough rules so finely crafted as to anticipate and cover every situation, and even if there were, enforcement would be impossibly expensive and burdensome. This approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone. In the memorable phrase of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, “We would not accept the yoke of Christ; so now we must tremble at the yoke of Caesar.”

In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay. Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin and moral discipline takes its place in the pantheon of civic virtues” – D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Discipline,” October 2009

If we want to save our society, we can learn from our own mistakes and from the mistakes of the past. We don’t need to add copious amounts of regulations that probably won’t work. We need to think of the elegant and effective solution – live righteously and teach our children the same.

Oh, and I don’t want this post to simply be some political diatribe. I want to say that this will bring us joy. Imagine the society we could live in – if we chose to be righteous?! If we chose to serve one another and love one another! Imagine the kind of happiness and joy we would have if we were not selfishly chasing after our lusts and other wicked notions. Imagine if we each, individually committed to being righteous.

We would be happy – both on a personal level; and on a societal level.


Corruption and Joylessness (Helaman 1:9-11)

Nephite civilization is in serious upheaval.

There was a serious debate on who should be the next chief judge. Three brothers were all vying for the appointment: Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni.

The people were divided, but eventually a majority of the people chose Pahoran. When this happened, Pacumeni united with the voice of the people – and his followers also supported Pahoran. Paanchi, however was really angry. He wanted to flatter away the people, but instead one of his followers took action.

“Now when those people who were desirous that he should be their governor saw that he was condemned unto death, therefore they were angry, and behold, they sent forth one Kishkumen, even to the judgment-seat of Pahoran, and murdered Pahoran as he sat upon the judgment-seat.

And he was pursued by the servants of Pahoran; but behold, so speedy was the flight of Kishkumen that no man could overtake him.

And he went unto those that sent him, and they all entered into a covenant, yea, swearing by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran.” – Helaman 1:9-11

This is the beginning of the end, really. We see that the Nephite government is truly corrupt – to the point where people are making secret societies that will murder and then cover up those murders in order to get their way.

It reads almost like a Shakespearan tragedy. Or like some gangster movie. Sure, things like the Mafia may be romanticized in our current society, but when you take the time to think about these chains of events – the murder of an elected official – and the fall-out that happens to our entire society…well, it’s kind of depressing.

These aren’t the marks of a joyful society.

In fact, they are the marks of a society on the decline. When you think of Shakespearan tragedies, there are no weddings. There is just a body-count. It’s sad. It’s miserable. And it can all be avoided by our own commitment to personal righteousness.

Mourning and Joy (Alma 62:1-2)

I’ve been thinking about opposition a lot lately. Sometimes, I think that in the “Mormon” world, we tend to think that opposition = evil. We think it is bad. I think that sometimes we forget that opposition is not always good or bad. For example, day and night – are opposites. Neither day nor night are inherently good or bad. We need them both.

I think that many of the emotions and experiences we have in life are similar. Often, it is just required of us to feel a range of emotions, and we can even feel them at the same time. Instead of wondering, “what is wrong?” when we feel a negative emotion, we might do well to simply accept it. Instead of worrying about how to always “fix” ourselves so that we feel joy.

I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon with an emphasis on joy. And I’ve learned that there is joy to be had in nearly every circumstance. This doesn’t mean that things are easy. This isn’t some kind of “happy-go-lucky” shallow joy. This is peace and comfort, even amidst trial and difficulty. It is the kind of joy that strengthens us and helps us rise to the challenge. It is the kind of joy that comes through discipline and strict tutelage.

In Alma 62, we read about Captain Moroni:

“”And now it came to pass that when Moroni had received this epistle his heart did take courage, and was filled with exceedingly great joy because of the faithfulness of Pahoran, that he was not also a traitor to the freedom and cause of his country.

But he did also mourn exceedingly because of the iniquity of those who had driven Pahoran from the judgment-seat, yea, in fine because of those who had rebelled against their country and also their God.” – Alma 62:1-2

Moroni feels both joy and mourning!

It sounds kind of oxymoronic, but this is the way that opposition works in our lives. Joy and mourning are often two sides of the same coin. When we have faith in the Lord, though, we feel an external force – comfort and hope of salvation. So, we don’t have to ever feel despair or hopelessness.

I guess I’m just trying to say that it is possible – to feel joy and to also mourn. Especially when we are considering those we love.

Well, not only that, but it is okay to mourn. Remember, it was Christ proclaimed that those who mourn will be comforted. As I think about this, I suppose a distinction should be made. Self-pity and mourning aren’t the same thing. Self-pity is an indulgence. It will not yield comfort and then hope.

I can see why Moroni mourns. There is so much war and sadness. All of this could have been avoided – every difficulty in the society could have been cured by righteousness! When we are righteous – individually, and as a society, then we will be happy!

The Righteous Path is a Joyful One

“Many times did the Lamanites attempt to encircle them about by night, but in these attempts they did lose many prisoners.

And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness.

But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction. They could not be taken in their snares; yea, they would not partake of their wine, save they had first given to some of the Lamanite prisoners.” – Alma 55:29-32

Still in the thick of the war chapters, I have come to a kind of conclusion.

We see the Lamanites and their anxious reactions to the stresses of war.

Now, I know that I’ve never experienced a physical war. I can appreciate the fact that I can’t appreciate the stress of war. Still, we can learn a powerful lesson by comparing the righteous Nephites and the wicked Lamanites.

How we react to stress can tell us a lot about ourselves and our spiritual standing with God.

The wicked react to stress with fear. This is usually a rather irrational and overly-emotional response. Most often it includes poor choices that might actually worsen their situation.

The righteous, blessed with the Spirit, are comforted during stressful times. They are able to detach from their emotions, and then make smart and educated decisions. The righteous, through the comfort of the Holy Ghost, are blessed with a hopeful response to stress. They will understand that stress and afflictions aren’t causes to mourn, but are opportunities to experience the Atonement, and that their afflictions will be consecrated for their gain.

This hope results in joy – even in the midst of trial. I believe that this hope and joy enables the righteous to then make the critical decisions that will lead to their success.

The righteous path my not be the easy one, but it is the joyful one.