They Could Not Be Governed by the Law – Helaman 5:2-3

2 For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.
3 Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.
(Helaman 5:2-3)

We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by…morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, [and] Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral…People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
– John Adams, Letter to the Massachusetts Militia, 11 October 1798

There is a limit to the power of any government. That’s the message I get from the passage above. Mormon tells us that the increasing wickedness of the people had two corrosive effects:

  1. The laws were becoming corrupted. The people were championing laws that were not in harmony with true principles, so that the government was no longer a force for good.
  2. At the same time, their laws were becoming less relevant. As morality eroded, people had less respect for the rule of law, which meant that the government had less influence generally.

The only way a free society can thrive is for its members to uphold high moral standards. King Mosiah made that clear to the people when he introduced the system of judges. As long as the collective voice of the people was in harmony with true principles, then this system of government would function effectively for them. But, he warned, “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” (Mosiah 29:27)

The Lamanites understood this principle and applied an effective remedy. When the false teachings of the Gadianton robbers began to spread among them, they proactively and energetically worked to teach true principles to the people who had been deceived. “They did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites” (Helaman 6:37).

Unfortunately, the Nephites weren’t so wise. “They did build [the robbers] up and support them…until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites.” “In the space of not many years,” their government had been infiltrated by the robbers until “they did obtain the sole management of the government” (Helaman 6:32, 38-39).

Today, I will strive, as the Lamanites did, to uphold high moral values and to persuade others to do the same. I will remember that good government depends on the goodness of its citizens.

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