A Joyful Society (4 Nephi 1:15-17)

After Christ’s Visit to the Americas, the people were changed. They covenanted with Him. They kept their covenants and the commandments. And what followed is nothing short of amazing.

” And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-18

This society – it was heaven on earth. It was Zion.

How was it possible? The love of God which dwelled in the hearts of the people.

So, I know that I could write at least 10 pages on this subject – the love of God that dwells in the hearts of people. For now, though, just understand that this isn’t some kind of amalgam concept of “love” that we seem to have now. They had the very specific love of God – the pure love of Christ – the love what doesn’t fail. This love comes as a result of discipline and covenant keeping.

Through covenant keeping and discipline, we develop God-like love, or charity, and then we can experience the following:

  • joy in the success of others – (lack of envy)
  • Peace – (no strife)
  • Virtue – (no whoredoms)
  • Sanctity of Life and safety – (no murder)
  • Healthy Family life – (no manner of lasciviousness)
  • Happiness
  • Safe Property – (No robbers)
  • Safe Life – (No murderers)
  • A United Class – (No Racism or class)
  • Blessings
  • Heir to the Kingdom of God
  • Prosperity
  • The Abundant Life

Often, I think that we have a backward approach on this. We think that if we will just work at joy, peace, safety then we’ll have it. Or we think we make laws to prevent murder, robbery, and rape, and then experience the kind of society described in 4 Nephi. We think that we can “eradicate” class through governmental control.

We often try to approach this ideal society backwards – looking at the corollaries, rather than the cause.

The way to be the kind of society like these Nephites after Christ’s visit is through humbly covenanting with God. It is through Righteousness and devotion to the commandments that will enable us to become the kind of people who have hearts filled with the love of God.

I find this message to be especially hopeful. It’s possible! Christ will make us perfect. He will complete us and enable us to live joy – even while in this mortal state. If we will just turn to Him. He will teach us how it is possible, and empower us by filling our hearts with His love.

Peace on Earth (3 Nephi 1:23)

“And it came to pass that Nephi went forth among the people, and also many others, baptizing unto repentance, in the which there was a great remission of sins. And thus the people began again to have peace in the land.” – 3 Nephi 1:23

Peace?! Do we want peace? Do we want peace in our communities, states, countries? In the world? Well, then the solution is really simple.

Be Righteous!

We cannot legislate ourselves into peace. Man’s laws cannot ensure or create peace. I’m not saying that they’re worthless. But that’s not the key. It’s not the secret. We can have laws passed, summits, treaties. But those are meaningless if the parties involved don’t honor and value the laws that were created.

Besides the fact that man’s law is pretty much meaningless anyway.

What I mean is, Man’s law is not what governs peace. Think of it scientifically. If we want to be able to fly, then we can’t just dream about flying. We can’t think of it in our own terms. We must understand the laws governing us (ie – gravity), and then figure out a way to apply gravity in such a way to get our desired result. We use gravity when we fly! We apply a force greater than gravity to gravity. We use speed and thrust to cause lift. And then we can fly.

Wishful thinking isn’t what gets us across an ocean in 6 hours.

Now, the same approach can be taken with peace. If we want peace in our homes, towns, communities, states, countries, hemispheres, and world; then we need to understand the laws that govern peace.

Peace is a result of righteous living. When we accept this fact and then live it, we will have peace. We will have joy. Pretty cool, huh?!

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.

Wickedness Never Was Happiness Demonstrated (Alma 14:21)

In Alma 9-14, we read of the people of Ammonihah. They were wicked. So – what’s the problem with that? Why does it matter? Why can’t we just live and let live.

Well, those are nice questions, I guess. But it’s kind of like asking, “why do we have to be susceptible to gravity?”

The people of Ammonihah were breaking a law that is just as sure as the law of gravity, but without immediately obvious consequences.

The Universal Law

Wickedness never was happiness.

Even though the people of Ammonihah weren’t immediately destroyed, a quick analysis of these people will show that everything the wicked people of Ammonihah did demonstrated this principle.

A happy and joyful people won’t burn a group of faithful women and children to death – merely because of their beliefs. These people hadn’t committed any kind of slight against the society. The wicked people of Ammonihah simply didn’t like them.

I can’t imagine that it would be a very happy environment – knowing that one wrong word could get you killed.

A happy, joyful people is patient and open minded. The people of Ammonihah imprisoned innocent people, abused them, mocked them, spit on them, and gnashed their teeth. They don’t sound particularly happy.

Again, the people of Ammonihah don’t sound that happy! Though they were in power and felt that their worldly ideal was popular and therefore right – it wasn’t! We can tell by the results of their beliefs – sadness, misery, death, and destruction. They might say that they aren’t wicked, but a proclamation of righteousness doesn’t mean righteousness. And wickedness never was happiness.

The people of Ammonihah were filled with fear. This is another terrible and painful emotion that accompanies the wicked and faithless. They receive no peace or comfort.

We have seen wicked nations and governments. When I think of a nation that will burn people simply because of their beliefs, I can’t help but think of the Nazis. Though the Nazis bullied their way into power – didn’t make their behaviors or mindset right or true. They might have claimed to be righteous, but – as I mentioned earlier – a claim doesn’t make it so!!!

If we want to live in peace – in our personal lives, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our states, in our countries, in our world – then we need to adopt lifestyles of righteousness. Only then will we be peaceful and happy.

Corrupt Politics: The Foundation of Destruction (Alma 10:27)

Alma and Amulek, two missionaries in the Book of Mormon were called to preach to a very wicked people. You can read about their experiences in Alma 9-14.

For now, I just want to explore one point that I found particularly interesting – and applicable.

“And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.” – Alma 10:27

The people of Ammonihah were in danger of complete destruction. And, as Amulek teaches, the foundation of this destruction was being laid by their unrighteous lawyers and judges. This wasn’t a conjecture on Amulek’s part. He was from Ammonihah. He spoke the hard truth to this people.

The result of a foundation of destruction is not only the obvious: destruction. But it is also pain, sadness, and misery. Not joy. I mean, think about it. If a city is going to be destroyed, what are the emotions and experiences that accompany such an event. None of them are ones any of us want to experience.

Yet, I think that we might be in a similar situation now. We have lawyers and judges who are changing the laws. We know that we have lawyers and judges that are corrupt. Not all of them, but there is corruption amongst our politicians.

The lawyers in Ammonihah received gain according to their employ. It is the same now. In the time of Alma and Amulek, this method of pay incentivized the lawyers and judges to stir people up. Nowadays, it is similar. Many of our judges and lawyers are incentivized (by lobbies, special interest groups, etc.) to change or recreate our laws and to stir us up.

We live in this! If we are discerning, then we can see how provocative our media, etc is. The result of such provocation and then shifting laws has only been more anger, sadness, and confusion. We absolutely have more anger, sadness, and confusion than we need.

It’s our choice.

If we want joy in our society, then we need to protect righteousness and protect righteous laws. We need to be choosy and informed on those we elect. We need to be sure that we don’t elect those who will seek to lay a foundation of destruction to our society. We can’t let an evil minority sway us all.

Timeless, Transcending Advice (Mosiah 29:10)

Shortly before his death, King Mosiah gave this advice:

“And now let us be wise and look forward to these things, and do that which will make for the peace of this people.” – Mosiah 29:10

Context

This advice was given by King Mosiah shortly before his death. His sons had chosen to serve a mission to the Lamanites. His son, Aaron, should have become the next king, based on the tradition of the Nephites, but Aaron refused.

King Mosiah couldn’t get any of his sons to accept the throne. Instead of finding some long-lost relative to become king, Mosiah was inspired to alter their government from a monarchy to a democratic republic.

He instituted a government made up of judges who would be elected by the voice of the people. When proposing this solution to his people, he reminded them of how it is best to have a righteous king, but you can’t always guarantee that a king will be righteous. So, the next best thing is some kind of democratic system.

King Mosiah, his father King Benjamin, and his grandfather King Mosiah had all been righteous. But they were already familiar with the experiences of the people of King Limhi, who suffered much because of his father – the wicked King Noah.

Mosiah taught the people:

“or behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!

Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage.” – Mosiah 29:17-18

So, in order to ensure peace and avoid the problems that would come from a wicked king, King Mosiah instituted a democratic government. It would now be the responsibility of the people to do that which would make peace for the people.

Timeless

This advice is timeless in the very same context in which King Mosiah gave it.

When we vote, we don’t need to remain loyal to party lines or people. We should remain loyal to the concept that we will be wise. We need to remain loyal to our responsibility to look forward to possible problems that will come with a wicked leader. We need to remain loyal to our responsibility to do that which would make peace.

We can use these criteria to help us choose the leaders of our own country. Imagine how our country would run if this is what we kept in mind when vetting our politicians!

Doing this might require swallowing pride, changing, and showing love to others, but the result is peace. Totally worth it.

Transcending

As I pondered this advice from King Mosiah, I realized that it can be applied to any decision.

When I’m making a decision, do I think about the future implications of that choice? Will it make for the peace of my family? Me?

There are times when I struggle with a lack of peace. This is going to get personal, but hopefully it will illustrate what I’m trying to say. I often feel frustrated and worried about my physical body. This lack of peace has manifested itself both in physical issues I’ve endured and through my body-image.

If I will apply this advice:

  1. To Look Forward
  2. To Choose that which will Make for Peace

If I will apply that advice, then I will suffer much less and have a happier life. I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon. It is full of eternal principles that have practical application.