Chapter 5: Governments May Be Used to Preserve or Destroy Freedom
The Lord Uses Government to Provide Free Agency
We shall now discuss the fact that it is the Lords purpose to provide us with freedom and that He establishes governments for this purpose. The scriptures relate that the Lord gave men their agency in the pre- existence and that a war was fought in the pre-mortal state over that issue. (Rev. 12:7-9; D&C 29:36, 37; Moses 4:2-4)
That pre-earth war continues here on earth and government is the agency the Lord and Satan use to carry on the conflict. Note this statement regarding the Lords reasons for establishing the laws and Constitution of the United States:
According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; That every man may act . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (D&C 101:77-80)
A government subject to the voice of the people was established among the Nephites for this same purpose. (Mosiah 29:30, 32, 38) [p. 26]
It Is Satans Purpose to Use Government to Destroy Free Agency
Since Satans purposes are always diametrically opposed to those of the Lord, we know that it is his goal to destroy human freedom. When he was cast out of heaven and into the earth,
. . . he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my (the Lords) voice. (Moses 4:4)
As might be supposed, since the Lord uses government to preserve freedom, Satan uses the same agency to destroy it. These two contending forces are constantly battling for political supremacy. President McKay warned us of this battle for political supremacy, where it started, and whos on whose side when he said:
. . . Even in mans pre-existent state, Satan sought power to compel the human family to do his will by suggesting that the free agency of man be inoperative. If his plan had been accepted, human beings would have become mere puppets in the hands of a dictator, and the purpose of mans coming to earth would have been frustrated. Satans proposed system of government, therefore, was rejected, and the principle of free agency established in its place. (Improvement Era, Feb. 1962, p. 87)
One of the greatest values of the Book of Mormon is that it explains and illustrates the lies, false philosophies and methods Satan uses to deceive people into aiding him in his efforts to capture control of government. Since all men desire freedom, they must be deceived before they will aid him in his plan to destroy it. Much of this book is devoted to discussing such deceptions.
The Lord caused a government subject to the voice of the people to be established among the Nephites. Because of pride and abominations, the Nephite voters were seduced into allowing their government to come under the control of the secret combinations. The Book of Mormon provides a rather detailed account of how this occurred. Doubtless these details were included in the record for the special benefit of the Gentiles living under the Constitution of the United States. Let us note some of the principle facts surrounding the takeover. [p. 27]
The Takeover of the Nephite Government by the Gadianton Robbers
The Nephite government called the reign of the judges was established in the year 92 B.C. At the time of its institution, the people were told that since this government was subject to the voice of the people, the Lord would hold them accountable if they corrupted their laws. They were told this:
And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 29:27)
The voters were able to maintain the Lords laws in force in the central government fairly well for almost sixty years. During this period, some of the local governments like those in the city of Ammonihah and in the land of Antionum were thoroughly corrupted by the people. As a consequence, those responsible were either destroyed or defected away to the Lamanites. Also during this period, there were other apostate Nephite groups who rebelled against the central government and attempted to seize control of it. However the righteous Nephites successfully resisted all of these attempts.
Even though the Nephites were able to prevent the corruption of their laws by external forces, finally in about the sixtieth year of the reign of the judges, they fell victim to a diabolical internal movement which gradually seduced them to corrupt their laws. This satanic group known as the Gadianton Robbers, was organized in the fortieth year of the reign of the judges for the specific purpose of seizing control of the government.
At the outset the members of the group were regarded as traitors, robbers and murderers. All those who were detected were put to death. (Hel. 1:12; 2:12) As time went on however, the Nephites became proud and wicked. The majority of the people began to believe in the philosophy of the Gadianton Band, and incorporated their philosophy into their laws. The following passages indicate the manner in which the corruption and takeover occurred:
For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice [p. 28] of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted. (Hel. 5:2)
And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them (The Gadianton Band) up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.
And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government . . . (Hel. 6:38, 39)
A Description of the Activities of a Fully Corrupted Government
The Book of Mormon enables us to recognize when a government has fallen under the control of Satans secret combinations by giving us the following graphic description of the Nephite government while it was being operated by the Gadianton Band:
And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seatshaving usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men;
Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills(Hel. 7:4, 5)
The Nephites Ignored the Call to Repentance by Their Prophet
Nephi, the son of Helaman II, was the principal prophet among the Nephites at the time they corrupted their laws. He had once been chief judge and governor of the entire nation. But when the Nephites became wicked, he resigned his position to spend full time preaching. He preached repentance in the land northward for several years, but had little success. Upon returning and finding the people in a state of such awful wickedness, he climbed upon the tower in his garden and began to [p. 29] pour out his soul unto God.
His mourning caused passers-by to stop and wonder at so much grief. Observing that a crowd had gathered, Nephi took the opportunity to preach a sermon in which among other things, he said:
O, how could you have forgotten your God . . . But behold, it is to get gain, to be praised of men, yea, and that ye might get gold and silver. And ye have set your hearts upon the riches and the vain things of this world, for the which ye do murder, and plunder, and steal, and bear false witness against your neighbor, and do all manner of iniquity.
Yea, wo be unto you because of that great abomination which has come among you; and ye have united yourselves unto it, yea, to that secret band which was established by Gadianton. (Hel. 7:20, 21, 25)
After Nephi had accused his hearers of corrupting their laws and uniting themselves to the secret combination, many of them were so angry that they wanted to kill him. His life was spared however and, after being visited by the Lord, he continued to cry repentance and to warn the people of great destruction if they did not repent.
His warnings went unheeded and the promised destruction came. First there was a civil war and then a famine. This last calamity brought repentance and a cleansing of their government. (Hel. 11)
The Book of Mormon Warns Gentiles Living under the Constitution
It seems most likely that the Lord inspired Mormon to include the details of this Nephite experience with self-government in his record as a warning to the Gentiles living under the United States Constitution. Like the Nephites, we also have been given a divinely established government subject to the voice of the people. And like them, we once regarded the members of the secret combinations as traitors and criminals. But during the last sixty or seventy years, we also have come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils and join with them in their evil combinations.
In subsequent chapters we shall discuss in some detail the extent to which we have corrupted our God-given laws and adopted those proposed by secret combinations. We shall also undertake to point out what we must do to avoid the scourge and judgment the Lord has promised [p. 30] unless we heed His Book of Mormon warnings. However
our first interest is to understand how the Nephite voters could have been deceived and seduced into accepting communism. [p. 31]