Governed by Law

I’ve been thinking today about the role of law in establishing a peaceful society and a happy life.

In the Book of Mormon, happy times are associated with obedience and unhappy times with disobedience. Consider the following contrasting examples:

  • “We did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses…. And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:10, 27).
  • “They were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction” (Helaman 5:3).

The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the following principle:

That which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:34, italics added

And He added the following warning: “That which…seeketh to become a law unto itself…cannot be sanctified by law” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:35).

We hear a lot these days about the importance of preserving personal freedom. Less popular is a willingness to submit to norms and standards which protect us and help us improve. I might be stating the obvious, but no one ever achieved their full potential by doing whatever they wanted. We grow and progress by following guidance from knowledgeable teachers, by striving to live up to high standards of behavior, and by incrementally improving when we fall short. In other words, happiness and growth come from being governable, not from being unrestrained.

Today, I will choose to be governed by law. I will remember that compliance with appropriate rules of behavior brings safety, growth, and peace.

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