Not very often during the history of mankind have we found a government that was led by really good guys who did really good things and didn’t end up overburdening their people with taxes and, in fact, led their people to new heights of economic, social, and religious prosperity. Furthermore, these good guys were so good that they not only led their country, and led their armies in battle against their enemies, but they led the church as well. They were in a unique club—the KWPs—the kings, warriors, and prophets.
The closest you’ll find to this in the Bible is the big three, King Saul, King David, and King Solomon, but while they all started off great, they all ended rather badly—and none of them were authorized spokesmen for God. There may have been others in secular history who were pretty good leaders, but as far as I know none of them held the priesthood. In fact, the world has seen, and is still seeing, far too many leaders who actually think they are God.
But over the past few months, the Book of Mormon has told us about some of these truly righteous men, and we may yet stumble across one more. Can you tell me who these men were, the members of the KWP? I can think of five:
- Nephi, son of Lehi
- Mosiah I
- King Benjamin
- Mosiah II
- Nephi, son of Helaman
Well, today we’re going to turn the page on this era, and start a new book, literally. Because the last king of the Nephite civilization was the revolutionary king Mosiah II, the son of King Benjamin, who actually transitioned the nation from monarchy to something else entirely. Let’s read more about this. Please turn to the last chapter of Mosiah, chapter 29.
Now our lesson manual says today’s lesson should “help us understand righteous principles of government.” In fact, the manual says we should start by defining different types of government. So let’s do that. I’m going to list a few forms of government on the board and I’d like you to give me a poor man’s definition of that form of government.
Monarchy: government under the leadership of one ruler, such as a king; sometimes characterized by absolute rule
Republic: rule by a group of elected representatives
Democracy: government by the people, with majority rule
Theocracy: government guided by God through revelation to a prophet
Aristocracy: ruled by wealthy, educated people
Meritocracy: government wherein appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and ability
Technocracy: a form of government in which engineers, scientists, and other technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields
There are literally hundreds of forms of government: Anarchy, Autocracy, Capitalist Republic, Chiefdom, Communist State, Confederation, Consensus Democracy, Consociationalism, Constitutional/Limited Monarchy, Corporatism, Corporatocracy, Crowned Republic, Demarchy, Despotism, Devolved State, Diarchy/Co-Kingship Monarchy, Dictatorship, Direct Democracy, Elective Monarchy, Empire, Ethnic Democracy, Ethnocracy, Fascism, Federacy, Federal Republic, Federation, Feudalism, Gerontocracy, Islamic State Theocracy, Kritocracy/Kritarchy, Logocracy, Military/Military Junta Dictatorship, Minarchism/Night Watchman, Monarchy, Noocracy, Ochlocracy/Mobocracy, Oligarchy, Panarchism, Parliamentary, Parliamentary Republic, Plutocracy, Presidential, Puppet State, Representative Democracy, Republic, Right-Wing Dictatorship, Socialist State, Sociocracy, Sultanism, Supranational Union, Thalassocracy, Theodemocracy, Timocracy, Totalitarianism Dictatorship, Tribal, Tyranny, Unitary State.
There’s even a Capracracy, which is rule by goats. The United States, by the way is a Constitutional Republic.
Apparently, no one got the politically-correct memo that polite people shouldn’t talk in public about religion or politics, let alone mix the two. Whether we like it or not, those two are joined together at the hip. They are like our two legs. If we don’t use them together, we’ll find ourselves hopping our way down to misery and woe. Don’t believe me? Read your history!
At any rate, so what kind of government did the Nephites have under King Mosiah 1, Benjamin, and Mosiah 2? A theocratitic monarchy. Let’s see how and why Mosiah wanted to change all that.
In chapter 29 we see that the people desired Mosiah’s son Aaron to be the new king. He was undoubtedly the oldest. But Aaron was out of the land and did not wish to become king. And as verse 3 tells us “…neither were any of the sons of Mosiah willing to take upon them the kingdom.” So Mosiah had a serious problem on his hands. So he figured out a solution, had it written down, then sent it out to be read to everyone in his kingdom.
Here’s what it said. It started off with detailing the problems with a monarchy. First, Mosiah brought up the fact that if appointed someone else, this might create contention among the people. Remember, there are several different ethnic groups here who had been united into one kingdom. We have the Mulekites, descendants from the tribe of Judah. The Nephites, decedents from the tribe of Joseph. They are broken down into different groups like the people of Zeniff and the people of Alma. We also have converted Lamanites in the mix, as well as any aboriginal Americans who were in the area that joined in the kingdom. So many people could have claim to the throne and might fight for control. Strike #1.
Strike #2 might happen if Aaron returns from his mission and decides to claim the throne. Or one of his three remaining brothers.
Strike #3 surfaces when Mosiah asks in verse 17, “How much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!” He then refers to King Noah and his wicked reign which led to the bondage of his people.
Furthermore, he says that the people cannot dethrone an iniquitous king except through much contention and shedding of blood. Why because such a king has his friends in iniquity. Besides, the wicked king tears up the laws of the righteous who have reigned before him.
Which brings Mosiah to this conclusion, in verse 13:
Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people–I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.
That’s a true statement. As much as I love the constitutional republic of the United States of America—there is a much better political system. It is the patriarchal monarchal theocracy—where God the Father is King. It is the system under which we lived for eons before we came to earth, where Father was our supreme sovereign, and everything he did was absolutely wonderful. And it is this precise form of government we have been foreordained to inherit if we remain true and faithful.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we live on a telestial sphere filled with people who have significant difficulty following telestial laws—let alone terrestrial laws or celestial laws. And to further complicate things, we are being constantly harassed by the self-proclaimed god of this world, the great Satan himself. So it is no small wonder that our governments will always fall short of the kingdom of God, especially when we don’t have leaders as good and as holy as Modiah.
In Mosiah’s proclamation, he said that he would serve as king for the remainder of his days—which turned out to be less than a year. Then, rather than having a king, he suggested that the people elect local judges to enforce the laws that have been established in the past. Furthermore, he proposed that there should be a higher court of appeals to judge the decisions of the lower judges as well as a tribunal of the lower judges who could judge the decisions of the higher judges, that way power was kept in balance. Finally, he proposed that a chief judge should be selected who could serve as the governor, but only as long as the governor receives the endorsement of the people.
In verse 11, Mosiah said that all the judges should be wise men who will judge according to the commandments of God. This correlates well with latter-day revelation from D&C 98 that says:
9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.
Now let’s pause for a second and see how this information applies to us today. We are now in the midst of a presidential election, where we have been charged by Jesus himself to find honest, wise, and good men to represent us. Some believe that this November they will be forced, yet again, to cast a vote for the lesser of two evils. I’m afraid the Lord won’t see it that way. I’m pretty sure a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil.
We are under direct commandment to vote for honest, wise, and good leaders, however unlikely they are to win. We will be held accountable for our vote. Personally, after I die, I want to be able to look into the eyes of our nation’s founders—people like George Washington, James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson—and report with confidence that I tried to do the best I could to elect people that would truly protect and preserve the Constitution that Christ himself said he inspired to be written.
In October 1928, church president Heber J Grant and his counselors proclaimed:
“Laws which are enacted for the protection of society have no value except when they are administered in righteousness and justice, and they cannot be so administered in righteousness and justice, if dishonest men occupy administrative offices….
“Without beneficent laws, righteously administered the foundations of civilization crumble, anarchy reigns, decay and dissolution follow.” (CR, Oct 1928)
Now let’s move over to verses 27 for another dire prophecy:
27 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.
When the majority of the inhabitants of a nation turn from the God of Israel and worship instead the gods of wood and stone or riches and popularity–then that nation is said to have “ripened in iniquity” and is pursuing a course which will result in its eventual destruction. DCBM,2:320.
That’s a sobering picture, isn’t it? The Book of Mormon clearly shows this pattern happened over and over again to the inhabitants of America. When it did, wars or destruction thinned out the bulk of the unrepentant wicked so that those who are trying to be righteous have a chance to survive and thrive. Is this about to happen to us?
Well, let’s return to the scriptures and wrap up this chapter. After reading the proclamation, the people of Mosiah relinquished their desire for a king and assembled together, probably within their family kin groups, and elected their local judges. They then appointed Alma the Younger as their first chief judge. By the way, Alma was also serving as President of the Church.
So the future looked bright and the people rejoiced in their new government and the prospects of even more freedom and local control. They even changed the way they reckoned time; no longer is it counted from the time they left Jerusalem, but from the commencement of the reign of the judges, which we know as 91 BC.
But with great freedom also comes great responsibilities, as the people of Nephi were about to find out.
Let’s now open up the longest book in the Book of Mormon, which constitutes about a third of this record, and learn what the people did with their freedom—and see if we can learn a lesson or two ourselves before it is too late.
In the first year of the reign of judges, a “man who was large, and was noted for his much strength” (v2) began preaching false doctrines among the Nephites. This man’s name was Nehor, which in Hebrew means flowing river. But nothing good flowed out of his lips. His apostate doctrine was simple:
First, he said priests and teachers should be paid for their preaching and hold a privileged status (Alma 1:3). This is known as priestcraft, and it was the first time this idea of being paid to preach worked its way into the Nephite civilization. It would eventually contribute to their destruction.
The second thing he preached was that there will be a universal salvation for all mankind. (Alma 1:4, Alma 11:37, Alma 14:5). While this is partially true in that all mankind will eventually be resurrected, it doesn’t tell the other half of the story—the possibility of redemption, restoration, and exaltation through obedience to the commandments of God. It is one of the half-truths that still plagues most Christian sects to this day.
And the third thing Nehor preached was that there is no need for repentance. (Alma 15:15) We can go about life doing whatever we want without any negative consequence.
As I contemplated this last heresy, I could help but think that this is perhaps one of the greatest lies of Satan. Some people say that in the pre-mortal world, Lucifer wanted to take away our freedom to choose and would force us to obey. But I’m not sure I’ve read that in the scriptures. I read about his desire to destroy agency, but I think there are at least two ways to go about doing that. There the hard way which is forced compliance, or there’s the easy way which is promising to remove the consequences of your bad behavior. That is a much easier sell, and one that I think would appeal to more people. Perhaps even a third of the host of heaven.
It certainly appealed to a number of the members of the Church. But some righteous people stood up and confronted Nehor with the best tool in their quivers—the pure and simple testimony of the righteous. We know of one in particular, Gideon, an old war hero, who tried to convince Nehor to stop. But Nehor grew angry with Gideon, pulled out his sword, and killed him. Wicked people almost always have a bad temper and use violence to get their way.
Nehor was then taken by the people and brought before Alma to be judged for his sins of priestcraft and trying to enforce priestcraft with the sword, which ended with the murder of Nehor. The law found him guilty and he was sentenced to die. The record tells us that he was taken to the top of the hill named Manti, where he died an ignominious or dishonorable death. In the 1828 dictionary, an ignominious death was most often death by hanging.
By the way, my son Matt and I went to the beautiful Manti temple last week and walked along the top of that hill, but I’m afraid we didn’t find any archeological evidence of a gallows. It must have been another hill named Manti.
Even though Nehor was the founder of this particular apostate group, soon others stepped up to fill his void and continued preaching these false, yet popular doctrines. It caused a great division among the people and his followers violently persecuted the saints.
The same things happens today, doesn’t it? Even though apostates leave the church or are excommunicated, they can’t leave it alone. Once you have tasted of the fruit of the tree of life, and willingly turn your back from it, you want everyone else to be as miserable and as bitter as you have become.
So how did the righteous members deal with all of this persecution? The same way we should deal with it today. According to Alma 1:25-28, they were:
- Steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments (v25).
- Bore with patience the persecution heaped upon them (v25).
- They gave of their ‘substance’ to those in need (v27).
- Did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely (v27).
So that was the first challenge that Alma faced as chief judge. But wait, there’s more.
Alma 2—Amlici (am’ lih sy)
Now let’s jump over to chapter 2 and see what happens next. One of the followers of Nehor was a smooth and crafty politician by the name of Amlici, which, in Hebrew, the AMLK cluster means something like “king” or “wanting to become king.”
Well, Amlici wasn’t too happy with the new system of government. Reading between the lines I think he personally despised Alma and believed that there should be a clear separation between church and state. And since Alma was already the leader of the church, they ought to have a completely different leader of the state.
And while you’re at it, you might as well go back to the old system of government that worked so well for so many years and call that leader a king, and give him complete control over the government. And, by golly, Amlici knows just the guy for the job. Himself!
He would be a great king, don’t you know. Unlike Mosiah who asked you to take care of the poor and the needy—Amlici would allow you to go out a purchase the finest silk suit money can buy. Forget about the poor and the needy—if they can’t take care of themselves they are of no use to society and ought to starve to death.
Besides, Amlici is so cunning, and bold, and powerful, and well-connected. He’s going to get things done. Of course in order to get him elected, you need to dig deep and contribute to his campaign. If you do so, he promises that he will always keep his door open to you and give you the best deal. Of course, the larger the donation, the greater the reward. Wink, wink, nod, nod.
And so there was a campaign and an election.
5. And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.
6. And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.
Amlici lost and was not made king over the people. Now this caused much joy among those who opposed Amlici, but Amlici and his king group didn’t give up their crusade and go away. They never do. They just go underground for a while to plot and plan.
The Amlicites decided that they were going to physically distinguish themselves from the Nephites by placing a red mark on their forehead. This is discussed more in the next chapter. And while we don’t have time to discuss this today, we need to ask ourselves if we are marking ourselves as part of the world perhaps with body piercings, tattoos, extreme hairstyles or provocative wardrobe choices, or do we wear the simple marks of a peculiar people?
In verse 8 we read that “Amlici did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.” This group appointed Amlici to be their king and he caused his followers to take up arms against the rest of the Nephites.
And so they had a war. Alma led the Nephites and 19,094 people were killed on the battlefront, twice as many Amlicites as Nephites. But this was a temporary victory, because Alma sent spies to follow the retreating Amlicites and they discovered that the Amlicites had hooked up with the Lamanites who far outnumbered either group. So a second battle ensued, and after much bloodshed and much faith, Alma was able to slay Amlici and the Lamanites, seeing their ally destroyed, retreated. But the ultimate price was paid by thousands and thousands of men, women, and children. Mormon records the number of the slain were not numbered because of the greatness of their number.
Alma 4—Alma Resigns
Now let’s skip to chapter 4. They got rid of Nehor and his priestcrafts, and they got rid of Amlici and his king-men, but it all well? Not by a long shot. People are people and it doesn’t take long before the righteous, as soon as they are materially blessed for their righteousness, fall prey to the sin of pride and start thinking they are hot stuff. More often than not they forget about the law of obedience, sacrifice, and consecration and fail to take care of those around them.
It seems to be human nature that as soon as we get a little extra cash we tend to buy nice things or spend it on luxuries and pleasantries. We forget that we are supposed to use that excess money to bless the lives of those who are less fortunate—for those who don’t have sufficient for their needs.
And when that happens, sin creeps in, blessings stop, and the natural consequences are doled-out. In the Book of Mormon, both positive and negative consequences seem to happen very fast and very regularly and both good and bad behaviors. Now-a-days, we seem to be able to get away with our sins for much longer periods of time.
Pride and its associated lack of humility and beneficence is not only a stumbling block for the members of the church, but for those outsiders and investigators watching their behaviors. So after watching his people yo-yo up and down the righteousness scale, Alma decides something has got to change.
After spending only nine years as chief judge, Alma decides that even though he is the most powerful elected official in the land, there is only one thing that will help the Nephites stay righteous and avoid the pride cycle. And what is that?
He decides to turn the judgement seat over to Nephihah and go on a full-time mission and preach the word of God to his people. He uses the phrase “bearing down in pure testimony.” .
We live in a world where our governments love to create social programs and new agencies to take care of this and that. Our leaders are absolutely besides themselves as they try to communicate their willingness to throw money and every problem the special interest groups identify. But the sobering reality is that these programs will never change lives because they are only changing environments. Alma, the most powerful person in his government also had access to resources—if he couldn’t do it, who could?
The Savior, who created all the heavens and the earth, certainly had this power at his disposal. He could feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes. He could heal the sick. He could raise the dead. He had the power to eradicate every social issue. But that wasn’t his mission. Just after he fed the 5000 some of the Jews wanted to “take him by force, to make him a king.” (John 6:15) But Jesus “departed again into a mountain himself alone.” (John 6:15)
Jesus knew what Alma knew—that the only way to really change people is to start on the inside. The sequence looks like this:
As President Benson once said, “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (President Ezra Taft Benson: Ensign, Nov. 1985, p. 6).
As we contemplate these lessons from the Book of Mormon, and try to figure out how to establish good governments, please keep in mind that you can always start with yourself. Govern yourself in a way that would bring upon you the blessings of heaven. If you have a family, try to govern your family in that same way. We may not be able to save the governments of the world or in our nation, or our states and cities, or even our neighborhoods—but we can govern ourselves by following the pattern set by the King of the Universe!