The Book of Mormon
and the Constitution

Chapter 16: The Reign of Divine Law

Prefatory Statement

      In this chapter we commence our task of demonstrating that the Golden Rule should apply to the actions of government. Recognizing that there may be those who doubt that it should constitute “the law and the prophets” as the Bible states it to be, or who, because they do not accept the Christian religion, consider themselves not bound by it, we shall undertake to demonstrate in this and the following chapters, that it constitutes a logically sound rule which appeals to reason regardless of one’s faith or lack thereof. Herein we present the arguments showing that the first step in the solution of our problem is to discover those divine laws of nature which prevail in this field, and which must be obeyed to achieve the goals we seek.

Can All Men Be Expected to Agree That Precise Divine Laws Reign in the Field of Political Science?

      The scriptures indicate that the laws governing in the field of political science are very exact and precise. There is no latitude for error. Strict obedience is demanded. Any deviation from “that law of the land which is constitutional . . . cometh of evil.” There is a law irrevocably decreed upon which all blessings are predicated. (D&C 130:20, 21)

      While those who believe these scriptures to be the revealed word of God will accept the truths stated therein on faith, can we expect those of different religious beliefs to accept them? Can it be shown logically that eternal and immutable divine law governs in the field of government as it does in the physical world? In what follows we shall attempt to do so. [p. 108]

Definition of Divine Law

      The term “divine law” is used herein to mean a statement of an unvarying relationship between cause and effect. It is a description of change which, according to all that is known, will invariably follow a given course. Thus, divine laws constitute that entire body of laws which exist independently of the dictates of men. Their operation is unrelated to the will of democratic majorities, the enactments of legislatures or the decrees of monarchs. They are above and beyond man. He is powerless to alter or affect them in any way. His ignorance of them, his refusal to accept them, or his mistaken beliefs regarding how they function, have not the slightest effect upon their operation. The only way he can obtain the results which are predicated upon obedience is to learn and obey them.

The Reign of Law in the Physical World Is Universally Recognized

      Civilized man realizes that he lives in a physical universe governed by inexorable, immutable law. He has learned that to accomplish any given result he must discover and precisely obey the laws upon which that result depends. If he complies partially or imperfectly, he may expect only a partial or an imperfect result.

      The reign of law in the physical world is not questioned by intelligent people. Scientists as well as others have proved over and over again the unvarying nature of the rules which govern changes relating to energy and matter such as the laws of gravity, electricity and thermodynamics. All reliable evidence proves the existence of immutable laws in the physical world and nothing man has observed has disproved their existence. Therefore, they are taken for granted. The large sums of money spent on research is evidence of man’s faith in the reign of law. By conducting such research he tries to discover new laws which he assumes to exist and which he knows he must obey to achieve his purposes. Never yet has he been disappointed in his assumption that law governs in the physical world. [p. 109]

The Use of Intelligence Is Dependent upon Divine Law

      We now propose to demonstrate that the existence of divine law is so essential that it is impossible to use intelligence in its absence. Intelligence has been defined as:

The ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action toward a desired goal.

      Using this definition we might define intelligent conduct as compliance with law to obtain a desired goal. One cannot work toward a goal unless he can foresee the consequences of his actions. One cannot foresee the consequences of his actions unless laws exist which decree that the same results will follow the same causes.

      From this we must conclude that intelligent conduct is possible only in the presence of law. Only where one can predict the consequences of what he does can he guide action toward a desired goal. Where law prevails and is understood, one is able to predetermine the results which will flow from any given course of conduct and thus choose that course which will accomplish his purposes.

      It is difficult, if not impossible to visualize an environment in which law does not exist. If such were possible, chaos would reign. Nothing could be depended upon to happen the same way twice. Past events and conditions would bear no relation to future occurrences. Man could not survive in such an environment. Being unable to foresee the results of his actions, he could not feed and clothe himself. Memory, judgment, knowledge, foresight, reason or any other qualities of the mind would be of no avail. In the absence of law, intelligent conduct would be impossible and intelligence unusable.

The Exercise of Freedom Impossible Without Divine Law

      In deciding that the use of intelligence would be impossible in the absence of law, it would necessarily follow that making choices would also be impossible in its absence. However, the proposition that the exercise of free agency depends upon the existence of law is so important to [p. 110] the entire theme of this work, we make a special point of it here.

      When one exercises freedom he chooses between alternatives. This means he elects to accept the consequences which flow from pursuing one course of action while rejecting those which would result from another. But unless laws exist which predetermine the consequences he is choosing between, he could not anticipate them; therefore a choice would be impossible.

      As we shall point out more fully later, individual freedom is the transcendent need and desire of all people. Furthermore, it is indispensable to joy and happiness. These, the ultimate goals of existence would be completely beyond the reach of man were it not for the prevalence of divine laws which make choices possible.

The Reign of Law in the Field of Political Science Has Long Been Recognized

      The proposition that law controls in the field of government has been recognized and stated by the sages, prophets and great thinkers of the past. The people of the Old Testament regarded God as the source of their civil laws. The Ten Commandments together with the related statutes and judgments which came to them through the prophet Moses, constituted the essence of their legal code and was enforced among them just as civil laws are enforced today. Even the penalties imposed for violation were accepted by them as having been divinely revealed. (Deut. 5:1-33) To the Israelites, the laws of God and the laws of nature were one and the same—immutable, inexorable and eternal.

      The notion that there is a law of nature which emanates from God and governs political activities had its advocates among the Romans. Cicero, a statesman and orator of some stature, proclaimed his acceptance of this belief in the following passage:

Of all these things respecting which learned men dispute there is none more important than clearly to understand that we are born for justice, and that right is founded not in opinion but in nature. There is indeed a true law (lex), right reason, agreeing with nature and diffused among all, unchanging, everlasting, which calls to duty by commanding, deters from wrong by forbidding . . . It is not allowable to alter this law nor to deviate from it. Nor can it be abrogated. Nor can we be released from this law either by the senate or by the people. Nor is any person required to explain or interpret [p. 111] it. Nor is it one law at Rome and another at Athens, one law today and another thereafter, but the same law, everlasting and unchangeable, will bind all nations and all times; and there will be one common Lord and ruler of all, even God, the framer and proposer of this law. (De Legibus II, 4, 10)

      Accompanying and following the reformation, the doctrine of a supreme and controlling law of nature found acceptance and reiteration by recognized authorities in the fields of social and political science. The english philosopher, John Locke, sometimes called the intellectual ruler of the eighteenth century, had this to say in his second essay concerning civil government which made its appearance around 1689:

Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men’s actions, must . . . be conformable to the law of nature—i.e., to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental law of nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good or valid against it. (Second Essay Concerning Civil Government, Par. 135)

      Sir William Blackstone, a famous English Jurist, and one of the best legal minds in any country, wrote this in his commentaries on the laws of England published in 1765:

Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator . . . This will of his maker is called the law of nature . . . This law of nature, being co-eval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original . . . Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say no human law should be suffered to contradict these . . . Nay, if any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it, we are bound to transgress that human law, or else we offend both the natural and the divine. (V. I, pp. 41-43)

The U.S. Constitution Based upon the Divine Law Concept

      It is generally conceded that both Locke and Blackstone wielded an immense influence on the thinking of the men who established the [p. 112] Constitution and laws of the United States. Certainly those founding fathers believed in the supremacy of natural law. The Declaration of Independence is itself an affirmation of the view that natural law is superior to the authority of civil rulers. In this document the doctrine of the law of nature is transmuted into the doctrine of the “unalienable rights of man,” the essence of which is contained in the following excerpt:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it . . . (Declaration of Independence)

      The thought here expressed, that men possess from their creator certain rights which are unalienable and which no government can rightfully take from them, is a statement of the divine law concept in slightly different form. Here, as in the other quotes, it is asserted that there are natural limitations on the power of civil rulers. Deviation from these natural laws (or the protection of natural rights) is not allowable. But if such does occur it is the right of the people to abolish such a government and replace it with one which exercises only those powers naturally possessed.

      The Constitution itself contains more clauses placing restraints on the power of government than clauses granting it powers. Thus this document which constitutes the supreme law of the land, rests upon the natural law concept that the rights of man come from God and are beyond the reach of government. There have been many cases brought before the courts wherein state and federal statutes have been declared unconstitutional. In these cases the courts have recognized that the restraints placed on government are real and that the rights of the individual are indeed, unalienable and untouchable.

There Is Agreement of Logic, Tradition and the Constitution with the Scriptures

      In this chapter we have attempted to demonstrate the truth of the scriptural statements that there are eternal immutable divine laws prevailing [p. 113] in the field of government. In support of this point we have shown that intelligence cannot be used to solve the problems of government unless such is the case. We have quoted noted authorities of the past who have been in agreement. Finally, we have shown that our constitutional system of government rests upon this principle.

      Assuming the reign of divine laws, we are now prepared to see if we can come to agreement on the purpose or purposes government should have. If we can do this, then we will be able to identify those laws which must be obeyed to reach that common goal. [p. 114]

Words of Ezra Taft Benson

It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But, what are those rights? And what is their source? Until these questions are answered there is little likelihood that we can correctly determine how government can best secure them. Thomas Paine, back in the days of the American Revolution, explained that:

      Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another . . . It is important to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man. (P.P.N.S., p. 134)

      The great Thomas Jefferson asked:

      Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath’? (Works, 8:404; P.P.N.S., p. 141)

(Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government, p. 3) [p. 115]

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