2 And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
3 And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.
(4 Nephi 1:2-3)
The ideal government is small because perfect people are largely self-governing. They may need a minimal amount of coordination, but when you are surrounded by people who (1) avoid contention, (2) care about the well-being of the people around them, and (3) are committed to fairness, a lot of the functions of government become irrelevant.
After the Savior’s visit to the American continent, the Nephites and the Lamanites were forever changed. As Mormon relates in the passage above, their Christlike attributes had a profound impact on their community and on their economic and social systems. “There were no contentions and disputations among them.” There were no social classes. “They were all made free.”
The other day, I wrote about a group of Nephites who were so immoral that they could not be governed by the law. In today’s passage, we see the inverse situation: a group of people who are so good that they need no law to govern them. It reminds me of Joseph Smith’s description of how he governed the members of the Church, as reported by Brigham Young:
The question was asked a great many times of Joseph Smith, by gentlemen who came to see him and his people, “How is it that you can control your people so easily? It appears that they do nothing but what you say; how is it that you can govern them so easily?” Said he, “I do not govern them at all. The Lord has revealed certain principles from the heavens by which we are to live in these latter days…. The principles which He has revealed I have taught to the people and they are trying to live according to them, and they control themselves” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 24: “Leading in the Lord’s Way“).
Today, I will remember that living according to true principles makes us truly free. I will strive to live as the Nephites and Lamanites did in the passage above, by avoiding contention, giving generously, and being fair to the people around me.