Chapter 20: Governments Shall Punish the Intentional Violation of Duties
How the Nephites Laid Aside the Political Commandments of God
In our discussion of the Nephite experience with self-government, we saw that around the sixty and second year of the reign of the judges, the Nephites had completely corrupted their laws. Among the perversions of which the record says they were guilty are the following:
1. Laying aside the commandments of God;
2. Doing no justice;
3. Condemning the righteous;
4. Letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished
5. Being held in office at the head of government . . . that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill . . . (Hel. 7:4, 5)
In this and following chapters, we shall consider the extent to which the Gentiles on this land of promise may have laid aside the commandments of God, and become guilty of these same offenses. In this chapter we shall consider the sin of letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished.
The Lords Laws Should Be Obeyed in the Punishment of Crime
It may be true that there is no field of inquiry in which the need for a [p. 142] knowledge of the Lords laws is more essential than in political science. Especially does this seem so with respect to criminal laws. Since here we use violence on humans and forcibly deprive them of life, liberty and property, it is of the utmost importance that we know the rules we should follow before acting. If we go blundering ignorantly along using guesswork, opinion, and prejudice as we inflict death, imprisonment and fine, this is obviously one of the most inexcusable sins we can commit.
On the other hand, if the life, liberty and property of innocent people can be protected only by inflicting the proper penalties for crime, then our failure to impose just punishments is again, a sin of serious magnitude. Let it be noted that if there is a fixed divine law which should be followed here, very few are obeying it correctly because there is almost total disagreement today regarding what that law is. It may truthfully be said that much of the wickedness of men consists of our failure to properly punish evil on the one hand and our use of government to unjustly punish the innocent on the other.
Only by inflicting the punishments decreed by the Lord in the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, and the principles of the Constitution, is justice done both to society and the offender. By causing the offender to suffer as he has caused others to suffer, and by compelling him to make any restitution possible, the crime is restrained and society is protected. Justice is done to the criminal when he is dealt with as he has dealt with others.
The failure however of governments to inflict punishments according to this rule, is proving to be a sad tragedy in the world today because society is not receiving protection against criminals. Also the people are being taught to condone and accept wickedness. Punishing that conduct which is motivated by a desire to destroy freedom, and refraining from punishing any other, is one of the most effective means of teaching the people to distinguish accurately between good and evil. Any deviation from this rule will tend to have the opposite effect. Especially is this true in the case of murder, adultery and abortion.
Consequences of the Failure to Punish Murder
Murder is the one crime for which the Lord has always specified the death penalty. According to the Mosaic Code: [p. 143]
The land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. (Num. 35:33)
Furthermore as Alma told Nehor who was contending that he should not be executed for the murder of Gideon:
And thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, yea, a man who has done much good among this people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance. (Alma 1:13)
The Lord will surely demand an accounting for mans failure to carry out His decreed penalty in this matter. In this connection we should consider the awful penalty which will be inflicted upon that society which permits millions of abortions to not only not be condemned, but financed by government funds!
There are circumstances under which abortions are considered justified. These include cases of forcible rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. However in other instances how can a woman who undergoes an abortion logically contend that she is treating her offspring as she would have been treated by her own mother. Her feelings of awful guilt may haunt her throughout this life and beyond. And how can any doctor hope to escape the penalty which will surely be imposed for having destroyed human life for hire. To put an unborn child to death for no other purpose than to make money, hide adultery or avoid the inconvenience of parenthood, seems to be among the most despicable and horrible of all sins.
Consequences of the Failure to Punish Sex Sins
The second most serious sin listed among the Ten Commandments is that of adultery. Although severely punishable under the Mosaic law, today there is not even a pretense of doing so in many areas. There seem to be few adults left who can cast the first stone with a clear conscience. The consequence is that this and similar sex crimes have become common and acceptable. The disastrous influence this is having upon the beliefs and practices of our youth, is plain for all to see.
Some try to justify their sex sins by arguing that the matter is purely personal, and should not be punishable. They contend that society is not [p. 144] being harmed by adultery, fornication, prostitution and homosexuality, and therefore these things should not be a concern for the law. How can anyone blind himself to the disease, the broken homes and hearts, the illegitimacy, the abortions, the teen-age pregnancies and the enormous welfare costs being caused by their wickedness?
Or applying the Golden Rule to the situation, is there a person who lives who dares claim that it makes no difference to him that he is born blind or with a disease-ridden body; that his mother is a prostitute; that he is illegitimate and his father unknown; that he lives on welfare at the expense of others; that during infancy and childhood he lacked the love and affection which only parents can properly give?
Even those who refuse to believe in the eternal punishments decreed by the Lord for those who prostitute the powers of procreation are compelled by logic to admit that such sins should be punished. Their own self-interest makes this conclusion inescapable.
The home is the fundamental unit of society and when it goes, society goes. Sex sins are primarily responsible for the destruction of the home, and any nation which fails to prevent its destruction by punishing the crimes which cause it, is doomed. Society has as much right to punish sex sins as it does to punish murder, mayhem, robbery and theft; its own self-preservation demands that it do so.
The two greatest powers God has given are to create and destroy life. When these powers are abused and prostituted from their proper purposes, and when governments fail to punish such crimes, then the Lord will do so by destroying those who are guilty. Those who imagine they can violate these laws of God with impunity should recall the fiery fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. They might also reflect upon the possibility that the A.I.D.S. epidemic now sweeping the earth is the desolating or overflowing scourge the Lord has decreed for this generation. (D&C 5:19; 45:31; Isa. 28:15) It appears that Isaiah was speaking of this horrible disease in the following passage:
The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves. (Isa. 3:9; 2 Ne. 13:9) [p. 145]
Consequences of the Failure to Punish Crimes Generally
The Lord God of Heaven has issued an everlasting decree concerning nations who inhabit this promised land. One of His statements is spoken directly to the Gentiles and reads as follows:
For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of Godthat ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the. fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done. (Ether 2:10, 11)
What must be done to avoid the destruction spoken of?. It would seem that one of the things most urgent is to enforce Gods laws by condemning and punishing those sins forbidden by His Ten Commandments.
In our society today there are an enormous number of crimes which go undetected. But there are many others which are known but not properly punished. A variety of reasons are assigned for this failure. One of the most regrettable of these is that when the people become wicked, they neglect to punish the sins of which they themselves are guilty. Another cause is the overburdening of the judicial machinery with cases arising out of unjust regulatory, licensing and welfare state laws.
When the Nephites got themselves into this same situation, (Hel. 7:4, 5) anarchy and civil war broke out. (Hel. 11:1, 2) To save the people from total destruction from this fratricidal conflict, the Lord sent a famine which finally brought the survivors to their senses. Only after thousands had perished from hunger did they repent and cleanse their government of its iniquity. [p. 146]
I also spoke at length for the repeal of the ordinance of the city licensing merchants, hawkers, taverns, and ordinaries, desiring that this people might be a free people, and enjoy equal rights and privileges, and the ordinances were repealed. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. V, p. 8)
There is a glaring paradox in our society. On the one hand, legislation has been enacted allegedly to prevent one business or combination of business (a monopoly) from disrupting or eliminating competitors in the market. On the other hand, we have yet to awaken fully to the worst form of monopolistic practice currently impeding the free market. I refer to government monopoly, when government either by ownership or regulation prevents the full freedom of action by sellers. This, of course, regulates and controls prices. (Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, p. 109) [p. 147]