22 And it came to pass that the people desired of them that they should anoint one of their sons to be a king over them.
23 And now behold, this was grievous unto them. And the brother of Jared said unto them: Surely this thing leadeth into captivity.
Why would people want a king? I can think of two possible reasons:
- They’re afraid, and they believe that consolidating power in a single individual will maximize their probability of survival.
- They want to shift responsibility for their prosperity and security to someone else rather than bearing this burden themselves. (See Mosiah 29:33-34.)
Throughout history, prophets have discouraged monarchies. In this passage, the brother of Jared gives one reason: because they lead to captivity. God wants us to be in a position to act for ourselves, not to be acted upon. In the interest of living in harmony with the people around us, we all make some concessions. But when we relinquish our autonomy inappropriately, we may reach a point where we are no longer capable of obeying the commandments, because we have given up the right to make our own choices. As Mosiah reminded his people:
Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage (Mosiah 29:18).
Today, I will be grateful for the freedoms I enjoy as a citizen of a constitutional republic. I will not take for granted my ability to choose nor the responsibility I must take for my own decisions.