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.

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