January 19th, 2007

Authoritative Law

Supreme Court

Sometimes I’m astounded at how loaded a single verse can be. The other day during my morning scripture study I read only one verse:

Now it came to pass that in the first year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, from this time forward, king Mosiah having gone the way of all the earth, having warred a good warfare, walking uprightly before God, leaving none to reign in his stead; nevertheless he had established laws, and they were acknowledged by the people; therefore they were obliged to abide by the laws which he had made. (Alma 1:1 (see also verse 14), emphasis mine)

The political implications of this single verse are amazing. A person with recognized authority (King Mosiah) established some new laws. Because his authority (and hence the laws he created) was recognized by the people, they were obliged to obey.

Other scriptures shed additional light on this (in my opinion) very interesting subject:

It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it? (D&C 128:9, emphasis mine)

When actions are done with proper authority (in this context, the priesthood), it becomes a law that must be obeyed. The person giving the law (the priesthood holder) has authority that is generally recognized and so his actions are trusted.

When somebody does not have the proper authority, their actions/words/laws do not require obedience. Take, for example, Oliver Cowdery:

But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom; (D&C 28:5)

All that which was taught by Cowdery was merely done so “in wisdom” and not “commandment”, since he did not have the proper authority.

That authority is sought after and usurped by persons lusting after power. Take, for example, the Gadianton Robbers doing so. Or, the prime example, Satan himself:

Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world. (3 Nephi 6:15, emphasis mine)

Satan’s first attempt to usurp proper authority sheds some interesting light on its source:

And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; (D&C 29:36, emphasis mine)

God’s power stems from the honor he receives from those below him. Because we trust and honor God, we are willing to obey His commandments, and thus the authority he has takes effect with those in his stewardship.

Similarly, a Bishop, Young Womens leader, or choir director all have effective authority over those in their stewardship when they are honored. The principles we read in the well known verses of D&C 121 specify exactly how we can receive such honor and promote obedience to the law given by that authority.

Think of a leader you’ve had, be it in church, work, or another organization, where that person was mistrusted, despised, or disliked. Not being honored by his/her “subjects”, any “laws” given by that person weren’t obeyed, were they? And if they were, it was done grudgingly with a strong sense of disapproval.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, that single verse in Alma has amazing political implications. It is the basis upon which the Declaration of Independence was signed! The Founding Fathers did not recognize the authority of a distant tyrant (King George) who imposed absurd laws upon them. And so, they were not “obliged to abide by the laws which he had made”.

This begs the question, at what point in our current government do we abolish certain laws and legislation because we don’t recognize the authority under which they were issued? When King George (Bush) repeatedly states that he is above the law by imposing dictatorial orders, at what point do we cease to obey (civil disobedience, yeah!) because we refuse to recognize such a usurpation of authority?

Read quotes about “authority” on Quoty

8 Responses to “Authoritative Law”

  1. Michael L. Mc Kee
    January 19, 2007 at 2:39 pm #


    Before I go down that long, and winding road which is my rant, I would like to direct your attention to a very spirited talk delivered by Elder Dallin H. Oaks at the July 3, 1994 America’s Freedom Festival at Provo in the Marriott Center. The talk was entitled “Some Responsibilities of Citizenship.” You are probably aware of other ways to retrieve the archive, but it is viewable at http://www.inspiredconstitution.org/talks/DHO_citizenship.html

    I believe you will find it quite interesting, and informative. I must say that I found it somewhat hard to grasp, but it may have been due to my resistant nature. That being said, I do sustain his remarks, and I remain absolutely loyal to his Apostolic Authority.

    I believe we are to understand that King Mosiah laid the proposed laws before the people before they were decreed, and enacted. He then sought for, and received their approval, and it seems that it was unanimous in the affirmative.

    When we are operating under the Priesthood authority within the Church, we are called upon to raise our hands for or against a proposal. I presume that means any form of a majority will carry the motion, and any abstention will be duly noted, and recorded. I cannot say what might happen after that as I have never witnessed that situation before, and I cannot reliably state that it has ever taken place. Perhaps in the earlier years, but in more recent years, I do not know. You will likely possess a better understanding than I do since I lost 30 years of participation with my 30 years of inactivity.

    One thing I have often considered when I participate in discussions with other members of the Church such as your website is that many of us raise our hands, but do we really sustain everything. Do we do it just so we will not be embarrassed, or do we really mean it? I do feel inclined to state that when I raise my hand I do fully sustain the person or the proposal, but that I may say things, or conduct myself later as if I failed to grasp the importance of casting my vote. I also must state that I am angered at those who say things, or do things after the fact that indicates to me that they should not have raised their hand. If you sustain the Prophet, it seems to me you should do so without hesitation, or reservation, and you should never vocally express your dissatisfaction with something he may say or do. If that is the case you should perhaps withdraw your name from the rolls because you are in danger of apostatizing.

    I am afraid as members of the Church we are bound to do what the Lord requires or we “have no promise.” If we have no promise we are without hope. The Lord knows the end from the beginning, and I believe it is wisdom to do what the Lord asks as He will never lead us astray, and He will never permit His Mouthpiece to do so either.

    While I am angered at the way President Bush has so arrogantly defied the people in many ways, he is able to do so largely because the Congress is also defiant of the people. Together both of the predominant political parties are able to wrest the power from the people because for over 100 years the Supreme Court has gradually usurped the power in the name of “Constitutional Interpretation.” They have been able to do that largely because the peoples representatives have not paid due diligence toward those who lent them their power. Simply put, the Supreme Court DOES NOT, I repeat DOES NOT have the power to reverse the will of the people’s decisions, and they NEVER, I repeat NEVER, did have that power.

    As for the civil disobedience, we must rely upon the Constitution as originally signed, and agreed upon because it has been proved that the basic foundational principles would never need to change for any reason. It is only in the minds of some who teach Constitutional law that there is a higher power than the people. We are a nation of laws, but the majority does rule for the sake of the minority. Were it any other way, we would all need our own little world which, of course, many of us believe we already have one.

    Finally, I must say that you should never refer to the person holding the office of President as anything other than by his/her title. However it is quite permissible to say Mr. President you are being dishonest, and are defying the will of the people. Mr. President you are in defiance of your Constitutional oath, and responsibilities. It is also important to note that many of the Honorable Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms. are guilty of the same impeachable offense.

  2. Kelly Winterton
    January 19, 2007 at 4:07 pm #

    I think we are now seeing the results of the beginnings of some civil uprisings. We can plainly see that a very large majority see the Iraq War as a mistake, and a very large majority want the war to end and the troops to come home, if not redeployed. We also see the leading military authorities and experts suggesting an increase in troops is a mistake, and we also see recognized experts such as the Iraq Study Group suggesting we look to withdrawal on some sort of timeline. We also see some key Republicans voicing against the President’s new plan of troop INCREASES. Yet, here we witness a ruler who is clearly dismissing the vast majority’s desires, and doing what HE wants. Thus, we are now witnessing a major dissent against what Bush is saying he can do without the approval of Congress or the People. This is but only one example. He has done this now numerous times. It is clear he has violated not only the Spirit of the Constitution, but the letter.

    As far as calling him Mr. President, I have quit doing that with Bush. He does not deserve that title any longer, nor does Cheney. He is not MY president. I have disowned him. Perhaps that is my way of displaying my civil disobedience.

  3. J. Stapley
    January 19, 2007 at 6:06 pm #

    All that which was taught by Cowdery was merely done so “in wisdom” and not “commandment”, since he did not have the proper authority.

    This isn’t particularly true. The section you talk mentions writing not teaching. He was the second elder of the Church, for heaven’s sake! By the same logic, you would be saying that President Faust has no particular authority to teach beyond wisdom.

    All that and still the D&C has writings of Cowdery in it.

    God’s power stems from the honor he receives from those below him.

    This isn’t particularly true either. God has power independent of others. Seems like you are sipping a bit of the Skousen Cool-aid.

  4. Connor
    January 19, 2007 at 6:57 pm #

    The section you talk mentions writing not teaching. He was the second elder of the Church, for heaven’s sake!

    True, and perhaps “all” wasn’t a good choice of words. However, in relation to the First Elder, Joseph Smith, he didn’t have the authority to set law and policy. That comes directly from the Prophet, just as it does in our day. So in that sense, yes, President Faust doesn’t have authority to issue new Church law.

    God has power independent of others. Seems like you are sipping a bit of the Skousen Cool-aid.

    Does power exist independent of objects/beings upon which to use it? We’re told in the Book of Mormon that some things act, and some are acted upon. You can only act upon things that can be acted upon, and hence (in my opinion) one can only have power when there is a object/being of a “lower order” upon which to use it.

  5. J. Stapley
    January 19, 2007 at 7:02 pm #

    Well, the situation where nothing exists except God isn’t a possibility, because there would be still space (and time?) that would be subject to him.

    You say: God’s power stems from the honor he receives from those below him.

    This is simply not true. We could all dishonor him and he would have all the power of God.

  6. Connor
    January 19, 2007 at 7:07 pm #

    This is simply not true. We could all dishonor him and he would have all the power of God.

    I see your point. How, then, do you interpret D&C 29:36?

  7. J. Stapley
    January 19, 2007 at 7:11 pm #

    I’m not sure that we need to. I don’t think that Satan is the best source for how to understand God’s power.

  8. fontor
    January 21, 2007 at 8:12 am #

    [grabs popcorn]

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