Guest Post: The Strange Man’s Libertarianism

(The essay below was written for, but cut from the book “Rudderless Mariners: Libertarian Philosophy Vs. Inspired Leadership” by James B. Smith available now from Digital Legend Press.)

Cross-Posted at

It is important to examine at the libertarian idea proposed to me by Connor Boyack that only the individual has rights, communities do not. It will be argued here that just as the individual has the right to defend himself;  a group of individuals has the right to band together in self-defense by means of community standards and that this is attested to in Alma Chapter 30.

There is nothing in the law or in history that specifies that self-defense is limited to the military or armed sense only. There are things as social and spiritual defense and in history only communities that had staunch standards had any hope of these two things. The safety of a people goes far beyond the carnal security of markets,  finance, guns and “peace through superior firepower”.

Let us consider the case of a Strange Man who ventures into a village to teach the people a list of his doctrines.  He sets up his shop, publishes his pamphlets and proclaims his learning and his wisdom. He begins to discourse on man, and how man should live for himself, doing good for others because it is in his best interest to do so and expect others to do the same.  Service to others in this light is a virtuous selfishness. With the exception of acts that physically harm others, man is his own arbiter of morality. He like another messenger of worldly wisdom teaches his audience that “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength” (Alma 30:17)

He teaches that while the community does not have to condone the unrighteous actions of others, they do not have the right as individuals to regulate the actions of their neighbors and  they cannot take such actions as a government either. He teaches that the community cannot rightfully enforce a social standard or set community values based upon tradition or faith because to do so would be an infringement upon the freedom of minority who do not hold those values. His words are heard to say to those who propose community standards: “ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage…that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges” (Alma 30:27)

In essence he quotes from the Libertarian Party Platform:

“all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose…Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”

This being his philosophy he immediately takes to attacking the people for their laws which punish those who undermine the marriage covenant and the sanctity of the family by committing adultery (Alma 30:10). Stating specifically that they have no right to punish people for what are specifically personal affairs. He also chides them for their narrow view of marriage and their actions to establish and enforce an official standard of marriage among their people. He proclaims that the people have no power to condone or define the relationship of consenting adults. He was stunned to see that their leaders encouraged the people to support prohibitions against a variety of social vices[i]. He knew, more than they could that these people were not free, but were bound by traditions handed down over time, antiquated ideas that hindered the freedom of the individual. He laments their ignorance saying “Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage.” (Alma 30:24)

Now let us say that our little village takes this man to their judge, find him guilty of being a false prophet and teaching doctrines that were contrary to their common standards and deleterious to their social and spiritual welfare. With this judgment passed down upon him he is unceremoniously driven out of the city. This, the Libertarian would call the “Tyranny of the majority”.  Here the libertarian would agree in full with the Strange Man and his criticisms of the people laws.

From here the strange man dusts off his lapels while reminding himself that he obviously has a firmer grasp on what freedom is that these poor fools bound by their traditions. From there he goes to the big city where he receives a fond response and a quick following. There many blinded by his obvious love of liberty fail to analyze his true message and they soon become his pamphleteers. The impact of the open arms of the city is almost immediately visible.

Tradition, that proud and noble thing Chesterton dubbed the “democracy of the dead”, dies an inglorious death at the hands of those who are filled with zeal and lack knowledge. Tradition being the means of passing the wisdom, lessons and experience of the fathers onto their posterity, acting as a social memory and conscience, is seared and bound with fetters. “If your tradition causes you to act or pass laws that restrict the freedom of the individual, your tradition be damned, we are freemen” the strange man proclaims.

As the doctrine is accepted, and the laws and the prohibitions that once kept a civil order are undone in order to maximize individual freedom, those laws are replaced with an eternal bondage that now, without a wise social stigma attached, parade free for all to see. The vices of the Antediluvians are now examples of freedom for all.   The community standard is now replaced by the standard of the individual, which by its nature lowers all standards to the lowest common denominator.

The Strange Man proclaim ring with the words of Ayn Rand:

“There has never been a philosophy, a theory or a doctrine, that attacked (or ‘limited’) reason, which did not preach submission to the power of some authority[ii]…Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. [iii]  There is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking…. the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind[iv]

The impact of the Strange Mans doctrine has the effect of rendering the Gospel an enemy.  The Strange Man, teaches that those who serve god are weak minded, deluded. He teaches that it is unreasonable to believe in anything other than what man perceives “For no man can know of anything which is to come.” (Alma 30:13). Faith in anything other than man and his possibilities of self-interest are but “ is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.” (Alma 30:16)

With the social stigmas removed, and the “natural man” identified as the epitome of freedom, the ability of the rising generation to accept the Gospel becomes a greater trial as the standards and rules of Orthodoxy stand increasingly in the face of modern ideals. Their questions pour fourth: “Why does the church not recognize our desires?”, “Surly our feelings are from God, or else we could not possess them”, “we are equal under the law, but we are not equal to the church”.  Soon the people begin to break away mixing their wisdom with their affection for religion, apostatizing while attempting to fill the pews. Their proclamations sound forth “ We progressive  women and men today call ourselves correct — rejecting parts of doctrine that promote inequality while holding to affirming elements of our tradition.”[v]

We have in the Book of Mormon an account from which this little scenario is based found in Alma 30. There Korihor, an Anti-Christ, (and a type and shadow of Latter-day thinkers) enters the city of Zarahemla to teach his doctrines.  He is welcomed by the people who give him audience and there he taught that faith was derangement, men excelled due to their reason and the result was a total breakdown of the moral fabric leading to pride and immorality (Alma 30: 13-18).

From there he takes his little show on to the Land of Jershon and the people of Ammon, where he is rejected right out and driven from the people. From there he goes to the land of Gideon where he is also rejected, brought before the chief judge bound and ejected from the city.  In each case the people of Jershon and Gideon were the majority exercising force over the minority he represented, bound him and removed him by force from their community (Alma 19-31). In fact, the community exercised its right to enforce a standard and a set of values; as is the right of every community. Our Libertarians call this evil, yet the recorders and the compilers of the Book of Mormon call it Wisdom:

“But behold they were more wise than many of the Nephites; for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people. And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. And he came over into the land of Gideon, and began to preach unto them also; and here he did not have much success, for he was taken and bound and carried before the high priest, and also the chief judge over the land… Now when the high priest and the chief judge saw the hardness of his heart, yea, when they saw that he would revile even against God, they would not make any reply to his words; but they caused that he should be bound; and they delivered him up into the hands of the officers, and sent him to the land of Zarahemla, that he might be brought before Alma, and the chief judge who was governor over all the land”  (Alma 30:20-21, 29)

This is the lesson of history. It is foolish and destructive for the Latter-day Saints to dedicate their time and efforts to men or a group of men who seek to further saturate our atmosphere with greater sin under the banner of greater liberty.

To claim, as the libertarians do, that people do not possess the right to establish societal prohibitions and standards which serve as a means of protection in the face of wicked and evil machinations, is the same as saying they have no right to defend their just traditions and heritage and pass on those lessons and freedoms to their posterity.


James B Smith is the Author of “Rudderless Mariners: Libertarian Philosophy Vs. Inspired Leadership” Available now from Digital Legend Press.


[i] In the early 1900’s the Church came out in favor of Prohibition, a series of laws and amendments that outlawed the creation and sales of alcohol in the US. In conference, many General Authorities encouraged the saints to vote in support of the prohibition laws and amendments. Also see on the problems of Marijuana legalization.

[ii] Ayn Rand, The Comprachicos, in The New Left

[iii] Ayn Rand, Playboy magazine Interview, 1964

[iv] John Galt’s Speech, Atlas Shrugged

[v]  This comes from Joanna Brooks Article entitled “Five Myths About Mormonism” The exact quote is “ And thousands of progressive LDS women and men today call ourselves “Mormon feminists” — rejecting parts of Mormonism that promote inequality while holding to affirming elements of our tradition.” Sadly Mrs. Brooks, the gospel is not a buffet. You cannot reject one portion of the restored Gospel without rejecting he who authored said Gospel.

4 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Strange Man’s Libertarianism

  1. Tradition for tradition’s sake is NOT sustained by the Book of Mormon.

    See Mosiah 1:5; Alma 3:8; Alma 9:16-17; 17:9,15; 19:14; 21:17; 23:3; 24:7; etc. (the list goes on). Needless to say, the BoM frequently refers to the “wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers” when speaking of the Lamanites, for example, so it is plainly clear that the conservatives cry of “tradition” cannot be, in and of itself, a claim of righteousness, much less that tradition is always “the means of passing the wisdom, lessons and experience of the fathers onto their posterity, acting as a social memory and conscience…”

    And in using the example of Korihor, let us not forget the all important words found in Alma 1:17: “now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.”

    Aside from ejecting him from their lands, Nephite law had no claim on Korihor. Even when he was brought to the chief judge Alma, it appears that Alma conversed with him in his capacity as a high priest of God, rather than that of a judge before the law. We know this because rather than listening to evidence against Korihor and then passing judgment against him, he sought instead to persuade him of the error of his views. And the punishment that came upon Korihor (being struck dumb) was not the punishment of Nephite law as handed down by the chief judge, but rather the punishment of God Himself as handed down by his high priest.

    Also, it is a complete straw man to bring Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy into any condemnation of libertarianism. Though there may be some areas of convergence, most libertarians are NOT Objectivists, and Rand herself despised libertarianism.

    This was not intended as a comprehensive response to this essay, but to respond to specific points made therein.

  2. “Tradition for tradition’s sake is NOT sustained by the Book of Mormon.” you are correct, BUT upholding and defending just Tradition is. Just as today the brethren have asked the saints to defend traditional marriage and family, which includes the just and righteous use of the law. The issues referred to in the text above are not ““wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers” but protective measures designed to protect society. Why did the people of person drive Korihor out of the city? It was because they recognized that he was laboring to undermine the social structure that was based upon just law and righteous tradition. Korihor was “bound” delivered to the “officers” and taken before alma in his position as Governor and chief judge. Alma 30:29 references Alma’s governmental role as applicable to the case, not his role of high priest. Korihor was arrested not for his beliefs, but for fermenting social unrest with his beliefs. The people arrested him for that, and the BoM calls them all the wiser for it.

  3. I was wrong, I quoted with out looking at my text, Korihor was brought before Alma AND the Chief Judge who was also the Governor. Non-the less the point is the same. There was an official legal aspect to the case of Korihor, if there was not the cheif judge who was also the territory governor would not had been involved.

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