Selling a Life—Missionary Work

As I explained before, sustaining the law supports agency just as much as sustaining choice. You can’t support one to the detriment of the other without destroying agency in the process. It is a common misunderstanding that laws unrighteously apply force to individuals, so long as they are just and reasonable. They do not force obedience, but they do attach a consequence to behavior that some might perceive as force because they don’t like it.

Participating in a community is an implicit contractual agreement. There are guaranteed to be some laws you don’t like. I have heard this referred to as “tyranny of the majority” which is an empty catch phrase. “Tyranny of the majority,” in any meaningful sense, is ALWAYS present in life. Whoever has the majority of people behind them has the power. That is not the prerogative of democracy, and complaining about it or imagining it away is merely an exercise in fantasy.

The advantage to democracy is that it exposes this underlying reality to the open air and uses it to slow corruption. Note that it won’t stop corruption, only slow it. I believe that we are currently in a situation where corruption is present throughout the system. Theoretically, democracy should be capable of cleaning out the sump unless the majority of the people also succumb to corruption. It remains to be seen whether or not that is the case in the USA.

That being said, there is nothing inherently good about democracy, just as there is nothing inherently good in ANY form of government, even anarchy or decentralized government. The key to a good government is not structure, it is righteousness.

Alma said it much better. The preaching of the word of God has more power than the sword or anything else which had happened to his people. Power to change minds. Power to change hearts.

I believe that if we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stop preaching party politics and begin to preach the word of God in the political arena, we will affect true and righteous change. This doesn’t mean proselytizing, necessarily. This means to preach gospel principles. Frugality, self-reliance, charity, peace, patience, acceptance of others’ weaknesses, hard work, hope, sacrifice, unity.

If any of us truly wish to save the collapse of this country, it will not come by finding the political party which best suits us or trying to convert others to our cause. It will certainly not come by vilifying those who do not agree with us. It will not come by government overhaul. It will come because there are people who eschew politics in favor of peace, power in favor of charity, rightness in favor of righteousness.

Unless that happens, there truly is no hope.

13 thoughts on “Selling a Life—Missionary Work

  1. Excellent post SR.

    Based on what you are writing, we might be closer politically than things first appear.

  2. You have some bold ideas here.

    There is however one thing I want to say in defense of democracy. You state that “tyranny of the majority” is always present in life. But if you think about it, historically this is not true. For most of the thousands of years the human race has been around, it has been tyranny of the minority. So there is something special about “tyranny of the majority.” It is unique to the last few hundred years, and only in the developed world.

    Even if you have a righteous king running a righteous society, it’s still not ideal, because the citizens really don’t have any choice in the matter. Giving the majority power means that we all get the chance to examine our beliefs and decide for ourselves what kind of government we want. Having that choice is a beautiful thing, and I think it’s better than having a righteous king. In a way, a righteous king would be like the Garden of Eden. No progress, no responsibility.

    But you are right about righteousness being the ideal. If a democratically empowered majority chooses righteousness, I think that’s the best.

  3. Well, Nate, let me pose a couple of questions. From where does a monarch derive his power?

    Also, doctrinally speaking, why would a righteous king be less desirable than a democracy, when heaven is a Kingdom? Church structure, for one, is not a democracy, it is a theocracy.

  4. Nate,

    I took SR a bit differently than you. Yes, you are right that the majority have not ruled for most of history. But the truth is that at any moment the majority could have and sometimes did. No one can actually stop the majority from ruling if they simultaneously decide they are going to. So there is a real sense in which even monarchs an dictators rule only at the behest of the ruled. Their main job is to keep convincing the majority that it’s not worth it to overthrow him.

  5. Yes, what Bruce said. The minority can only truly rule if there is some technology that gives them an advantage. And even then, it is only a matter of time before they lose their advantage.

    Monarchs usually rule through the common perception that they are divinely or genetically entitled. Dictators are similar, but they rule out of perception of force, and they still need soldiers and government officials to back them up.

    On a more microcosmic scale, the majority have generally ruled in individual communities such as villages and towns. To desire the overthrow of democracy in favor of anarchy is particularly ironic, since that moves force by vote into the realm of force by violence. The will of the people is at the root of almost all governmental power.

    The only thing that encourages individuals to reject forcing others to do their will is to change their hearts. You can’t rid the world of force except through righteousness.

  6. Then there is truly no hope. Your program is as utopian as Geoff B.’s and the other libertarians who call for only voluntary taxation.

    It’s a mistake to think that the political and religious spheres aren’t separate. They overlap significantly, but it’s a mistake to think that treating the arena of government with religious values is all that is needed for government and politics to function. It isn’t, anymore than prayer and fasting is the only thing necessary in auto repair or manufacturing.

  7. True, Adam, but I’m not saying that righteousness is the only thing needed to make government function. I am saying that without it, government cannot function without force, that righteous principles make the difference between a good government and government by force. The structure is almost insignificant.

    I’m saying that righteousness is the crux.

    There is a vast difference.

  8. And I might also add that I’m not saying that a perfectly righteous government is anything more than a dream.

    I am saying that preaching party politics is going to be neutral at best, a waste of time. I believe that it will actually make things worse overall, no matter which party or politics you claim. But preaching and adopting righteous principles WILL, and is in fact the only thing that will make a difference.

  9. I don’t know if you can say a monarch derives his power from the majority, and that the majority is at liberty to rise up whenever they feel oppressed. During most of the world’s history, the rise of the majority has been prevented by imprisonment and torture. Eventually, after centuries and centuries of trying, the majority (through the help of Enlightenment intellectuals, and oceans of blood) was able to adopt working, non-mob ways of asserting their voice and imposing it upon the aristocracy and monarchy.

    As much as I love the innovations of the Enlightenment, the Magna Carta, and all the great democratic breakthroughs, like SR, I don’t say they are innately “righteous.”

    The concept of “righteousness” is something I generally feel should be relegated to the realm of religion. What constitutes “righteousness” is not a self-evident reality. To the monarchs of England, the crusades were a righteous quest. To our parents, inter-racial marriage was a deeply unrighteous act. Today, some people think forbidding people to gay marry is extremely unrighteous, while others say it is a sign of unrighteousness that we permit people to gay marry.

    I have no worries about America or democracy, because I never expected it to be “righteous.” When people use the word “righteous” in politics, I think it is out of place, because it can be used as a bludgeon to stifle and demonize opposition.

    In my opinion, the word “righteousness” only has a place among groups of voluntarily committed people (religions), who have come together and agreed on certain moral principles that they want to follow collectively, and encourage each other in their pursuits. They seek not to impose their world-view on the earthly dominions of government, where Satan rules. Instead, they prepare themselves for a heavenly kingdom, where no man will say “know ye the Lord,” because all will know Him, and all will be committed to Him voluntarily. I don’t personally think that the theocracy of heaven will be anything like the governments of this world. And I think it is naive to expect this kind of “righteousness” of democratic earthly governments.

    Of course you can argue politically for what you think are good and positive principles. But if they don’t get passed, there is no harm, no need to worry. Government is not the kingdom of heaven, and is not supposed to be. If it pretended to be “righteous,” and were successful at it, it would be a distraction from the real kingdom not of this world.

    I think it is a great distraction that so many in this country consider the Constitution practically one of the standard works, and consider the Founding Fathers to be practically apostles. They get so confused between religion and government that they start treating them the same way, imposing their religious values on everyone in their country, including atheists, Jews, Muslims and others whose voices are equally important in a democracy. The greatest myth of America is that it is a Christian nation. It is not. But we have many Christians in America, the salt of the earth, who should walk peaceably upon this land where they are strangers and foreigners.

  10. I am saying that without it, government cannot function without force, that righteous principles make the difference between a good government and government by force. The structure is almost insignificant.

    I disagree. I think structures aren’t wholly dependent variables. People adapt to their structures, which is why King Benjamin criticized wicked kings not just for ruling wickedly, but for making the people wicked along with them.

  11. Nate,

    “I have no worries about America or democracy, because I never expected it to be “righteous.” ”

    But I think God does.

    “Choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.


    Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right

    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;

    Read the rest in Mosiah 29:29 and thereabouts. Alma reminds the people of it later on. It’s not just for a far off theocratic situation, Mosiah specifically tells them what to do when the judges (elected officials really) aren’t ruling righteously. Which implies this is not a “God’s in charge, we all know the Lord” situation. I think you’ve observed correctly one half of the problem, confusing God with government and confusing religion with governmental principles. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have government informed by religious principles and it doesn’t mean you should seek after and expect righteousness both in law and action by our government and officials. I think neglecting this half of the problem (neglecting righteousness in government) equally contributes to the problem from the other direction. We get it wrong in both ways.

  12. I know that my religious isolationism seems to be somewhat in conflict with the Book of Mormon, where prophets blurred the lines between religious principles and governmental ones, and pronounced grave judgements upon a populace who didn’t uphold their religious views.

    There is additional evidence in the Book of Mormon that America is supposed to be a promised land, set apart by God for righteousness, and “no one comes to this land except they are led by the spirit.” Thus, given the teachings of the Book of Mormon, it would be an obvious conclusion that we would hold the American people to a higher standard, and expect them to vote for what we think God wants, and condemn them if they chose otherwise.

    Still, I think there is peril in this approach for the reasons I mentioned above. With regards to government, I am a Mormon isolationist in the pattern of Brigham Young, whose intention was to take the church away from the US, whose sins had already blackened it for hellfire.

    America has come along way since the violence, racism, and intolerance of the 19th century, and that is thanks to a lot of religious and humanist influence over the decades, and of course, we should do our part to continue that trend. But I think we deceive ourselves if we try to think of ourselves as American Mormons, and of our Americanism as being part of a religious identity. You cannot serve God and Mammon. We are Mormons living in America.

    I love American politics, and I like to get involved because it is fun, and I want to try to help out how I can. But I don’t take it seriously, because it is not serious. The only thing that is serious is how I live my religion. This is God’s kingdom. Everything else is a glass imitation and a distraction.

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