Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I find it extremely poignant that at the end of this discussion with Senator Bennett a women interrupts their conversation using as strong a fallacy of appeal to emotion as I have ever read. Indeed, the logical fallacy of an appeal to emotion -- and its sibling fallacy, an appeal to false dichotomy -- are perhaps the strongest driving forces that keep failing socialistic programs running. Apparently, according to this women, either the government needs to take care of her or else she would starve. Are those really the only two choices? Starvation or government intervention? No, but an appeal to a false dichotomy is a strong argument when accompanied with an appeal to emotion -- regardless of the illogical assertion.
After reading this, take a moment to realize that this Senator is a prominent "conservative" leader in the US Federal Government. And I wonder why people stare at me with blank faces when I tell them that there is little-to-no difference between the political right and left anymore.
Today, I went to a Q&A forum hosted by Senator Bennett. There were many thoughtful questions asked. My overall impression, however, is that Bennett never once justified a decision in terms of moral principles or principles of good government; rather, he justified his decisions in terms of political and economic expediency.
Senator Bennett spent a large amount of time advertising his Social Security reform. According to Bennett, the changes would eliminate the present insolvency of the system. Not only that, but it would allow us to perpetuate the Social Security program down through the generations, "providing our children and grandchildren" with even more benefits than we receive today.
I was the second to the last person to ask a question (after having my hand raised for nearly two hours). I said,
"Senator Bennett, you've talked today about Social Security and entitlement reform. I would like to hear your perspective on this question: Where do you, as a senator, derive the Constitutional authority for these programs in the first place?"
"I never really researched it. Social Security is as entrenched a program in the American public as there is, and so the issue has never been much of a concern for me. This is because even if the program were found to be unconstitutional, there is such an overwhelming public support for the program that a constitutional amendment would pass by a landslide. Also, no court has ever declared the program unconstitutional. Some early New-Deal programs were challenged in the courts, and they were deemed perfectly appropriate, so I have no doubt this one would be too. Beyond that, I've never thought of it, nor have I researched it, because it has never seemed relevant. The people have decided they want it, and that's all I need to know."
After the meeting closed, my mom and I approached the senator and asked him some more questions. Here is my report of a portion of that conversation.
My mom asked, "Are we so far gone as a nation, and so reliant on government support, that we can't even address whether we SHOULD have Social Security?" She explained herself, "I don't want my grandchildren to have Social Security. I don't want them to feel as though they have a RIGHT to taxpayer money and government benefits. I want them to learn about self-reliance, not government entitlement."
Senator Bennett responded, "Well, I understand your position. However, this is a democracy, and the people have decided that they want Social Security."
I said, "Actually this is a REPUBLIC, governed by law. If the Constitution doesn't give the government authority, then no matter what the people say, the government shouldn't do it."
Bennett: "Actually, although we are structured as a Republic, we are accountable to the people. The preamble of the Constitution says that 'We the PEOPLE' are the source of government authority. Thus, the people can authorize the government to act according to their wishes, and we accountable to the voice of the people."
Mom: "That wasn't the impression I got last fall, when you ignored the voice of your constituents by voting for the bail-out. Polls show that the majority of your constituents were against it, and pleaded with you to vote against it. Yet you voted for it, and encouraged others to vote for it."
Bennett: "As you said, this is a Republic, not a Democracy. The people vote for me because they want me to use my brains, rather than just parrot the polls. They expect me to use the judgment and information I have to make an informed decision, rather than simply parroting the voice of the people. Otherwise, we would need no representatives, just polls."
Me: "I believe that we should do our best to maintain the principles of self-reliance and small government this nation was founded upon, including principles of constitutional government. Government should never act outside of its constitutional authority."
Bennett: "Unfortunately, the majority of people don't think that way. People want government benefits. We can't try to change everyone's mind... a campaign in favor of self-reliance isn't going to solve anything, because people have already made up their minds in terms of want they want from government."
Me: "When you embark on a campaign in favor of self-reliance and small government, that is when I'll respect you as a senator. Those are the principles we need as a nation."
Bennett: "I'm not going to try to overthrow the government."
Me: "I'm not asking you to. I'm just asking you to stick to small-government principles."
At this moment, a woman who was listening to our conversation interrupted us. She began to tell us all about how poor she's been her entire life. She described how she's lost six thousand in her retirement fund. She described how she's been a single mother for many years. She began to weep, and said, "Life has been so hard. Without Medicare, Social Security, and other government aid, I wouldn't have a home. I wouldn't have a life. I wouldn't have been able to care for my children."
She was extremely emotional. Senator Bennett gave her hug, and said, "This is exactly why we will never get rid of Social Security. It helps everyone, especially people like you. That is why my Social Security reform needs to pass, so that future generations won't have the same worries as you do."
Friday, June 19, 2009
The Limits of Language
Language is an interesting thing. For any person who has learned a second language, it is of no surprise that there are entire concepts, thoughts, and ideas that exist in one language, culture, or society that do not translate or even find place into another language, culture, or society. Why is this? Without trying to make an easy concept more complicated, the simple answer is that differing cultures and societies will grow to interpret ideas, beliefs, and meanings differently than another. Words offer the means to meaning, and a word is nothing but the associated symbols, ideas, and structures that we associate and give to it. Many words lose their meaning, as a society grows and finds new meanings to fit old concepts; in this way, absolute meanings in one generation often grow to mean something entirely different in the next generation.
Many of the Greeks after Aristotle, in their first philosophical quest to know things for as they are, used the first steps of syllogistic logic to fulfill their quest. They used language to define, associate, and understand things for as they were. In scriptural language, they used logic to define truth. This process of inquiry had many benefits, but one particular great flaw: that because of their language, the Greeks could only ever define a substance by its attributes, and was never able to actually understand a thing for what it was intrinsically. This limit of language (to only define a thing by its attributes) reduced the knowledge of a thing to its characteristics, and by so doing the absoluteness of truth was made variable by its perceived practicality within society. In this way, the Greeks ended up losing before they ever began! The question "What is gold?" was answered: Gold is a soft substance; God is metal; Gold is shiny; Gold is rare; Gold is a solid substance; etc. Never could the Greeks ever classify gold as an intrinsic substance for what it was, but only for what it was perceived to be by its human usefulness and interpretation through its attributes. In short, language reduced the Greeks to only defining something from the outside looking in upon that substance.
What does this have to do with anything? When such abstract concepts such as love, faith, hope, or unity are presented, this understanding of the Greek influence in our current society is quite important. It was the Greeks that first divided up love into certain characteristics: eros (romantic), philia (brotherly love), and agape (the greatest characteristic of love that's not bound by perception). They could not comprehend love being something that existed as a whole, but they desperately found need to break it down into its perceivable parts. Accordingly, unity has also gone through its own transformation of being reduced to its characteristics; this concept has gone through many categorical interpretations and social understandings to mean basically whatever anyone wants it to mean.
The Hebrew Understanding:
A logic professor once told our intro deductive logic class (Phil 205) that the Old Testament was "logically empty". There are, he said, absolutely no found cases of structured logic in the entire compilation. The New Testament, however, is engorged with cases of logic and structured arguments (especially in the books outside the four-gospels) that are influenced by the Greek philosophical thought. The ancient Hebrews did not study philosophy; they did not try to understand the world around them in terms of deduction or induction; they did not create elaborate and structured arguments to prove their points... In the Old Testament, truth (knowing things as they are) is not found through logic, but by and through direct revelation from God. Whatever God said made something so, and whatever was was just that way because the Lawgiver said it was so. This difference in understanding gives light to the Lord's answer to Moses when he wanted to find out what and who God was. The Lord's response "I AM THAT I AM: and he said, This shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." (Exodus 3:14) The Greeks would have had a field day with this, "You ARE what, God? You can't just say I AM! You 'AM' what? What do you DO? Who ARE you?" The Greeks would have sought to know God through His attributes, not by through his intrinsic substance and self. This answer, however, given to Moses was absolutely appropriate and in line with their understanding. Whereas the Greeks sought to know a thing from the outside looking in, the Hebrews believed in truth as revealed from God and looked at substance from the inside looking out.
Lawful vs Unlawful -- Equity and the Eternal Existence of Matter and Nature
Law is merely the thing that defines the intrinsic substance of an element for what it is (whether law is actually a thing or not is irrelevant to this thread; it is merely important to note that it is law that defines). In other words, law defines truth. There is an old Mormon ideology that gained much momentum through various LDS researchers in the mid-to-late 1900's that basically states that "God is bound by law, and he cannot go outside his law". This basic thought, however, is built on a false premise (here I go being all Greek). The concept of God being bound by law is only understandable within a Grecian philosophical paradigm; a paradigm that only perceives God through His attributes, and not through his actual intrinsic existence.
Nature exists independently, as does all matter (spiritual or physical). The Creator does not control or force matter into existence, but he -- in knowing the ultimate amount of joy of each intelligence -- can lovingly call forth on matter-unorganized to obey to his words in trust and faith that his call will lead each intelligence to the greatest amount of joy possible. It is not the being of God to ever make something of that which it is not, but he uses law to perfectly define things as they are and exist independently. By being the "Lawgiver", this does not give the Creator the power to force things into compliance, but it is a key of Priesthood wherein He can with perfect and eternal clarity and knowledge define truth; in other words, He is capable of seeing the beginning from the end, and he knows how to define the actual substance for what it is and not by its attributes. This was yet another fundamental flaw of Lucifer's plan when he wanted the glory (priesthood) of God. It was Lucifer's mistake to believe that by taking upon himself the role of the "Lawgiver" he could define things as he saw fit, and force nature to bend to his arbitrary outcome; Lucifer did not understand the actual being of God or of the Lawgiver, in that this office of Priesthood did not force or make something out of nothing, but it only defined nature as it existed eternally (with that pure perception). God is not bound by a definition (law), but his being will not act outside of its existence. There is a law that can define what type of being our Father IS, but it is still just a definition...
As a tangent, I'll address a pet-peeve. The concept of "binding" God is often misunderstood. This idea of having "God hold up his end of the bargain" is ridiculous. The Lord's entire being ("work and glory") exists to bless his children, and it is strange indeed for man to take the assumptive role of an expecting and childish brat waiting for a parent to give him the expected candy-reward for obeying a specific command -- as if the parent would think about withholding the said treat. That kind of thinking is absurd. The Lord knows the eternal nature of matter, light, and our intelligences; He knows the path wherein each and every molecule of our being will find ultimate joy; He has given us a blue-print to become as He is (commandments), and has shown us the way wherein our own light can become as His own; He has given us the tools and every opportunity to use them to gain more light and truth (understanding things as they are) in this life (and in the life to come); and, above all, we have our agency. Our perception is misplaced in thinking we can chain God down to his word, and this entire thought denies the absolute love of our Heavenly Parent. No, to say that God is bound when we do what He says is an analogy to know the absolute natural promise and surety that the path our Creator has given us will actually and naturally lead us to ultimate joy and light... His call is to still "prove" him... I will not chain my God down to my ridiculous perception of what he owes me, but I surrender my will to his loving guidance.
Occasionally in the scriptures we read that something cannot be written or spoken because it is "unlawful". What does this mean? Shortly explained, it means that there are some ideas, concepts, and experiences that our failed language or natural state of existence cannot define. The law, based on our spoken language, cannot define the experience -- it is impossible to communicate in such a crude mode of communication an experience of the spirit. Only those of a spiritual nature can comprehend, understand, and be in communication with that which is of a spiritual realm. There are things that exist in a spiritual realm (actual matter); otherwise, of what substance do we determine our spirit is actually made up of? Many of the early brethren talked extensively on the subject of spiritual matter. Parley P. Pratt, in his work entitle Keys to Theology, spoke of spiritual matter. But what is this spiritual matter? And can we even know what it is -- based on the corruption of our language?
There is a concept in Hebrew language wherein our current idea and use of the word "equity" comes from. It is the Hebrew word "qav" which is actually the Hebrew name for what we call a "plum-bob". A plum-bob was used -- and still is in some less advanced places -- to find a perfect vertical line. A weight was attached to a string, and the top of the string was held on the desired location (such as a door-frame) and the weight at the bottom would show a perfect line up and down. It was an ancient vertical level. The qav denoted "uprightness" and "straightness" in all things, and it was the basis of thought for what keeps man's actions in check.
It is the spirit of man that controls his thoughts and from where all desire (or lack thereof) comes from. Descartes thought the spirit was actually physically connected to the brain; however, baring this resolution, we have been taught that "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he". The "heart" is an ancient symbol for the spirit of man, and was used to link the disposition of man's spirit in connection with his physical actions. When the heart was hardened, the spirit was dead (it had no life); but when it was softened, the spirit of man was alive and well. "As a man thinketh in his spirit, so is he" is yet another way of clarifying the scripture.
In the New Testament the following phrases are read: "Faith is the substance..." (Heb 11:1); "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16); and "if ye had the faith as a grain of a mustard seed" (Matt 17:20). It is argued in academics whether these are figurative or actual statements. Is God made up of a substance called "love"? Is faith an actual "substance"? Joseph Smith translated Heb 11:1 to read the "Faith is the assurance...", but also noted that while a substance, faith's outward and manifest characteristics is assurance. And was Christ stating that if all the element/substance of faith that make up one's spirit would equal the size of a mustard seed that miraculous things would happen? This we know, however, that such spiritual characteristics of love, faith, and hope (as well as anything that can be defined as a being verb: be patient (patience), be wise (wisdom), be loving (love), etc.) constituted what was known as the qav -- or our modern English translation of equity. Equity (or, in other words, the spiritual elements of love, faith, hope, etc.) is the source of our desires; a spirit in possession of these spiritual elements will attract their own (love to love, faith to faith, etc), and will become the source of the desire towards the outward actions associated with each element of spirit.
The absence of equity constitutes a lack of physical desire to do "good" things. In Latin, the absence of a thing is characterized by placing the prefix "in" in front of the word. For instance, the absence of equality, is inequality. The absence of equity, was written as inequity, until around the 12-century when the (e)quity was conjugated to an (i)quity, and we now have the word "Iniquity". Iniquity, therefore, literally means the absence of spiritual equity, and the absolute loss of desire to perform any good works; all things are done selfishly, and the heart has become hardened. Iniquity, we find through patterns in the scriptures, is the source wherein language becomes corrupted; it is the lack of desire to find actual and eternal joy, to substitute for it the false promises and securities of the carnal man.
Law defines truth, and truth (things are they are) is the study of equity. Just as gold exists independent of our definitions of its attributes, so do the elements of the spirit (love, faith, hope, meekness, humility, etc.). The problem becomes this: How do we define (by law) the characteristics of the spirit (equity) in our Earthly realm of corrupt and fallen language? I can imagine Socrates pondering over this question for years, just repeating to himself "Love is... Love is... Love is..." without ever figuring out exactly what love really is (ironically, his question "Love is...?" was his answer... Love just is). This is the very thing the Greeks hated the most! They could not find out what something is, so they had to start explaining what it does. Herein we now have the fundamental understanding for why we have the different kinds of love! And in this very situation we have come back full circle! The Hebrews understood that "Love just is..." (just as they understood that God just was; after all, it was the Lord himself who said "I AM" without telling us exactly what that was, except for saying that He was spirit and we could know who He was through the spirit.) and that there are certain things that cannot be defined by mortal tongue (things that are unlawful); however, the Greeks had to fight on figuring out how to define love within our mortal sphere, and this is how we ended up with the various types and categorization of "love" (eros, philia, and agape, etc).
What is Unity?
The world defines unity by its characteristics, and there are many applications wherein the world can pigeon-hole the concept of unity. As I stated, empty political slogans spoken of in bland-political discourse and as seen on nationalistic bumper stickers, the concept of "United We Stand" is a true statement, but carries a slew of sophist ideologies and false philosophies. I was raised on the principle that "One with God is a majority", and on this principle I have learned that true equitable unity can only be found by adhering to the principles and precepts of Christ. To be "united" under false ideologies is nothing short of falling under the banner of Lucifer's pre-mortal and mistaken plan of trying to coerce an outcome that was not naturally sound. We must be united under the banner of righteousness and freedom; however, even the terms of "righteousness" and "freedom" have been distorted to mean so many various ideas, that there is no true or sound appeal to language anymore.
Can the only truth that can be said now be considered unlawful to speak? Has our language become so corrupted that to find absolute truth, our relationship with God must be such that we are revealed truth through that mode and means by which -- in our current situation and society -- has become unlawful to speak of? As a prophet communicates the ideas of God through a language which has become so distorted and convoluted as to render any appeal to language moot, the only appeal to truth appears to be through that medium of the Spirit of God which will testify to the spirit (our heart, our equitable selves, etc.) those things that are unlawful (impossible to define) to say. Surely the Lord's prophets continue to speak for the Lord, but for whom? Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; those who have eyes to see, let them see... but how? Through the communication of the spirit that is impossible nowadays to define to the public... Of a principle, has truth become unlawful in our society?
Perhaps we have not yet reached this point. But this certainly gives an interesting foundation to understanding why a Lord's mouthpiece has often been shut for the lack of belief of the people -- an event we are told will happen before the coming of the Lord again to this earth. I am reminded of a recent quote I found by Ezra Taft Benson:
"Now, part of the reason why we do not have sufficient priesthood bearers to save the Constitution, let alone to shake the powers of hell (Alma 48:17), because, I fear, unlike Moroni, our souls do not joy in keeping our country free, and we are not firm in the faith of Christ, nor have we sworn with an oath to defend our rights."
Where are those who understand the principles of the Spirit and Liberty that are taught within medium that is unlawful to speak?
Monday, June 15, 2009
"Now part of the reason why we do not have sufficient priesthood bearers to save the Constitution, let alone to shake the powers of hell, because, I fear, unlike Moroni, our souls do not joy in keeping our country free, and we are not firm in the faith of Christ, nor have we sworn with an oath to defend our rights." (Ezra Taft Benson)
Friday, June 12, 2009
... I believe that your paradigm is sound. Thank you for your insights. I hope you know that I am a sincere seeker of the truth. I almost hesitate to ask another question... though I appreciate every word, and every word is valuable in answering my question.
Another question(s) then?
What in natural law reveals to us that we are justified in removing from liberty him who does not respect the supposed natural law rights of another (while remembering that those natural law rights are determined by a constitutional republic interpreting the natural law as imperfectly as an individual might)? Does this involve the social contract idea, which you mentioned in the first letter, that it might be consistent with natural law that 'the people' can contract out some responsibilities to a government? If so, where do we find that the natural law condones such contracts?
Can it not be argued that the 'natural law' demands that we coerce nobody, bad or good, for it appears to us that God himself does not do such?
Further, if Christ says to judge not, to resist not evil, to turn the other cheek, and reminds us that God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and unjust, and commands us to be perfect as He is perfect, and if the Book of Mormon shows that defense and force are necessary at times, perhaps especially against a secret combination (which could be interpreted to be socialistic anything), how have you found to draw the line between when to allow our enemies their liberty and when not to (all the time remembering that we are not perfect judges of right or wrong or the heats of men)? I ask this with many theories floating around in my head, and with the sincere desire to simply know what is right so that I may not offend God in my attempts at valiance, and without great expectations, however, as I have said, I see that you have thought these things out very well, and I thought I might try my luck.
P.S. You have my permission to keep and use our correspondence and use it for any purpose you might deem proper (then your writing perhaps can benefit more people than myself).
Please don't hesitate to ask as many questions as you like. With your permission, I have sent this email to a few people who I think would be edified by our conversation (for those others reading, you may want to start at the bottom of this email and work your way up). I understand those times when ideas are racing around and it's hard to connect the dots. I believe that those who really seek the truth as a life endeavor will eventually experience what Joseph Smith said was a "war of words and tumult of opinions". Indeed, this is the very thing we've been talking about: what do words mean, and what is the correct idea to those words?
Words and Their Power
It has been said that words offer the means to meaning. Sadly, today, even the reading of the Founder's words leave people more confused than before, or -- even worse -- the new convoluted terms/words send them down the path of supporting ideas that will enslave them. As Goethe said: "None are more helplessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free".
There has been a revision to the meaning of words today. The problem is that when the meaning behind a word has changed to include more than its original intent (or something completely and altogether different), what word takes the place of the old idea? The restoration of the correct ideas behind the words given through historical text and ancient scripture is a blessing that we are heir to through the restored gospel.
The Foundation of Natural Law
The application of natural law appears to have many limits, and many people get hung up on certain details when studying natural law wherein they dismiss the entire principle. They do this, not because of a flaw in natural law or its natural force/power upon man, but because the definitions that they use conflict with natural law. We must not confuse the application of natural law for its foundation.
Outside the scope of a Creator, natural law is nearly as arbitrary as Socialist-Democratic law that only follows the whims of the people's customs, norms, beliefs, and traditions. In defining the foundation of natural law, allow me the use of an example from the Book of Mormon.
Social Contract Theory
Before I talk about the Book of Mormon, allow me to address a quick detail in your last email. The social contract theory is anything but absolutely understood. Which social contract theory do we adhere to? Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau? I personally accept Proudhon’s version before Rousseau. No one really cares to qualify their absolute foundation of the Social Contract, and I have yet to hear anyone (including myself) that doesn't cross at least three or four contradicting philosophies and ideas when speaking of such things. Lysander Spooner gives excellent arguments against the Social Contract that I actually find very interesting.
Constitutional Republic Built on Natural Law Within the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a masterpiece of political theory and government. Within the Book of Mormon, we see the proper role of government and the deterioration of government through the inability of the people to govern themselves. While I believe the idea true, it has been falsely attributed to James Madison to have said:
This is what the Book of Mormon teaches. King Mosiah turned over to the people the accountability of self-government. There is a discourse that can be written concerning the paradigm of self-government under a monarchy, but suffice it to say that the people were accountable that if they were to "commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads" (Mosiah 29:30), "that the burden should come upon all people, that every man might bear his part" (Mosiah 29:34).
As we stated before, a Constitutional Republic is based on law first wherein the majority must check and admonish itself before giving any type of ruling over the minority. This is what is type of government the Nephites were given. As King Mosiah told the people:
"And 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; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.
"...I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land, yea, even as long as any of our posterity remains upon the face of the land." (Mosiah 29:26-27, 32)
One of the most confusing differentiations when speaking of natural law is to understand statutes. Natural law exists outside the will of the majority. For example, the entire population of the United States could unanimously vote to reject the natural law of gravity, but gravity -- in spite of man's law (definition) -- will still exist. Man cannot make law; if man could make law, then the majority's rejection of gravity would send us all spinning into space! What man may do, however, is define gravity (defining natural law), and then admonish each other in specific application to that new understand of law. God told Moses that he is a respecter of life (the natural law), and Moses admonished the people with a specific application to God's law: Thou Shall Not Kill. When man admonishes each other according to natural law, he must find application to that law; this particular application to God's law is called a statute.
This confusion between laws and statutes is often what leads people into convoluted theories pertaining to coercion, force, and obedience to the laws of the land. Natural law exists regardless of man's acknowledgment of its existence or consequence, but how man admonishes each other according to that which is eternal is called statute.
By what power do we know of a surety that we have defined natural law for what it is (not what we want it to be), and to establish admonish each other with statutes that are justified before the Lord? The answer is, the people have to be righteous and know their God, and only then will they know natural law. What is the blessing of the people in doing this? What is the consequence of the people in forgetting this?
Consequence of Remembering
In the Book of Mormon it states:
In this particular story in 3rd Nephi, the terrorist organization known as the Gadianton Robbers had established themselves in the desert and mountains. They had, for some time, come down from out of the mountains and caused great conflict, murder, and robberies amongst the Nephite people, and had become a severe affliction to them. In their desire for wanting to rid themselves from these Gandianton Robbers, the people came together under their Chief Captain, Gidgiddoni, to preemptively go up to the robbers and kill them in their own lands. Yet Gidgiddoni responds:
Consequences of Forgetting
The Book of Mormon also gives us the example of the people in forgetting that natural law can only be understood by the humble and penitent.
"Yeah, they began to remember the prophecies of Alma, and the words of Mosiah; and they saw that they had been a stiffnecked people, and that they had set at naught the commandments of God;
"And that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted, and that they had become a wicked people, insomuch that they were wicked even like unto the Lamanites." (Heleman 4:13, 21-22)
What is the Mental Transition from Remembrance to Forgetting the Source and Implication of Natural Law?
How does a people who once adhered to and perceived natural law (through revelation and prophecy) reject it? Here again, the Book of Mormon provides a perfect illustration.
"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." (Heleman 5:2-3)
I hope this helped make more sense and connected a few dots. Liberty cannot be taken away except by God himself (and he gave himself as the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our liberty and agency); any perception of lost liberty can be more accurately explained in a paradigm where liberty is inalienable.
Please feel free to answer back with any further questions, or to ask me again a question I may have been ambiguous in answering. Thank you for the correspondence.
For further study, may I suggest some books/articles you probably have already heard about and read that I find are excellent primers for this topic of study:
(1) The Law, by Fredric Bastiat (there are a few ideas that I argue against, however, this is an excellent primer).
(2) Many are Called, But Few Are Chosen, by H. Verlan Anderson (out of date book, often found on Amazon or Ebay; also found in the BYU Library. Excellent book written by a later member of the Quorum of the Seventy that establishes the legitimacy of government coercion in limited areas.)
(3) The Ancient Law of Liberty, by Hugh Nibley (available through google search)
(4) Prophets, Principles, and National Survival, by Gerald Newquist (endorsed by President McKay in General Conference)
(5) The Proper Role of Government, by Ezra Taft Benson (available through google search)
Thank you. You exceeded my expectations. I may not understand the delicacies of the interactions between self-government, Old Norse, and inalienable rights. May I ask a question to focus in on my confusion? Would you agree that the 'inalienable' right, although 'inalienable' in theory, because of Old Norse, in all practicality, in fact is alienable under law. The use of the terms 'rights' confuses me inasmuch as our theory pretends to inalienable rights but will restrict the inalienable right to what it deems is right (not wrong), which, to my mind, reduces it to the level of a mere law that is not to be broken. What is a right's value if it is subordinate to a law of right and wrong? What is its practical benefit to society? We have a right to free speech, as long as it is tolerable. We have a right to carry arms, as long as it meets with the demands of politicians, we have a right to live our religions, as long as it meets with social norms. My point is that, in the end, I have a right to keep the law, not a right to violate it - this hardly seems reassuring to me when it is men who decide where the line is drawn, the line where a right ends and begins - in practice.
I suppose the answer is that there would be utter chaos unless the law intervened on the 'misuse' of our rights. But who determines what a 'misuse' is? To me, it appears, in the end, that we are taken back to square one with a government that is not a protector, but a dictator of what is right and wrong. What is the use of 'rights' if we treat them the way we do?
Further, if my rights, in practice, end when I violate a law, then who of all of us really have any rights, for are we not all violators? I suppose this question points to Christ, and the parable of the certain king, and the unjust servant - but what does our temporal law do to fill this gap?
Within our current political structure, I believe you're absolutely correct. What you are witnessing is the transition from what our Founders called a "Constitutional Republic" to what they feared most -- a "Democracy". In explaining this, allow me a few words to build a foundation.
Original Foundation of Law
Law, in its basic and generic sense within the parameters of nature, is defined: The entity or power that defines things as they are. The question that immediately arises is this: How are things? and Who is going to be the authority to define them?
When I throw a ball in the air and watch it fall to the Earth I ask myself, "what is that motion?". The law responds by saying, "That is gravity". This is overly simplistic; however, the point is that law defines how things are. We, as creatures of reason and thought, therefore have the ability of observing occurrences in nature and defining law. John Adams made an important distinction when he noted that man does not make law -- only God makes law -- but man, because of his divine ability of thought and logic, can define and interpret the motion of natural law as established by the Creator. God, as the Lawgiver/Creator, has set nature in motion, and we -- as his Children, having been given the divine spark of reason and logic -- work out our own salvation to find out what that order is.
But who defines the way things are for the rest of us? This is where things often become confusing. I interpret things differently than another man (we each adhere to a different law; or, in other words, we adhere to a different definition of the way things are), and who is to say that my definition is right or wrong? From a religious standpoint, this is what is known as the doctrine of repentance. The LDS Bible Dictionary defines repentance as the changing of the heart and mind to be in line with God's own heart and mind; or, in other words, repentance is the process whereby we define our law (interpret how things are) according to how God has decreed things are. Is it any wonder that Alma, when holding both the highest political position in the land and also the highest religious position in the land, decided to give up his political seat to preach repentance to the people suffering from gross inequality, irreligion, and persecution one from another? Government is a poor master when governing the hearts of man, and it is best left to the physical relationships of each sovereign after the infringement of life, liberty, or property has been violated.
How is Law Interpreted Today?
Today, law is no longer seen as the definition of how things exist naturally, but it is considered a list of rules and regulations fabricated by man wherein the masses are controlled into compliance. This revisionism of terms is at the heart of the transition from a Constitutional Republic towards Democracy.
This is a sad occurrence. Before the separation of America from Great Britain, the Founders looked for a foundation in law wherein they could make a legitimate claim for separation from the then considered "divinely called Monarch of England". When it appears that God himself has called the Monarch you are fighting against, what legitimate claim do you make to declare yourself free and independent? The Founders, as inspired men of God, knew the foundation of law wherein they must adhere: to "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them". They appealed to the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God as their foundation of law. The Founders knew they could not make law, but they were capable of applying the laws of nature wherein they knew that God had made them free. Sadly, we no longer adhere to a concept of natural law as dictated by Nature's God; today, the majority may pass at will and take God's place as the Lawgiver to pass any legislation whatsoever they want.
What Is a Constitutional Republic?
A Constitutional Republic, like I mentioned in my previous email, is a government that is created by the people -- as independent sovereigns -- wherein they adhere to a codex of laws before a majority's consensus. What is this codex of laws? It was the Laws of Nature that we just addressed. Society may work according to the majority vote, but when the majority must check itself against the Laws of Nature -- that is, laws that exist outside the scope, power, and regulating parameters of the majority -- the minority is therefore protected from the onslaught and persecution of the majority.
What is a Democracy?
Democracy does not adhere to an outside codex of laws, such as the Laws of Nature. The majority decides what is law, and how it is applied to the minority. There are no inalienable rights in a majority, because it is the majority that granted rights in the first place, and what can be granted can be taken away. A Democracy is a majoritism, and it has no other foundation or code for legitimacy other than the majority's consensus.
When applied to society, Democracy is synonymous with Socialism. When the workers of a corporation (majority) rise up against the owners of the corporation (minority) to take control of the corporation in the "name of the people" -- do we not call this Socialism? When there is no other claim for legitimacy of government other than there mere majority's consent, this is Socialism. In order to clarify such a distinction, we call this Social-Democracy (Socialist-Democracy).
Within this paradigm, everything you've addressed in your email is absolutely correct: Rights are merely a fabrication, and really only exist in the abstract consciousness of the people. Law is not a constant of nature, but is continuously changed according to social-norms. Law is nothing other than the imposed rules of the majority wherein they decide how best to control, manipulate, and coerce the rest of the people. All "rights" are therefore considered alienable/alterable and we end up with an influx of confusion and political turmoil.
Inalienable and Alienable? How Was the Transition Made?
The crux of this problem lies merely at the door of perception and semantics. After all, perception is the determining factor of law, right? Law is that which defines how things are, and our differing perceptions will vary what laws we adhere to and accept. This is tricky, because people -- at times -- will become so fixated on a particular issue that they will basically deny the existence of gravity to make sure their theory of the world is correct. They deny the obvious existence of natural law (natural consequence) to force their own perceived reality (forced outcome).
The same event can be seen in two different perceptions. When I see a man incarcerated for violent misconduct, I do not see a man who has lost any freedom or liberty. I see a man who stepped outside his natural law rights to violate the natural law rights of another; as such, this man, by the definition of natural law, is no longer capable of self-conduct and government and must be placed in a location of like-acting individuals (jail) until he may regain self-government. This same event, however, can be seen in different eyes. When rights are alienable, the masses take control over the individual (as a God-type figure), and punish him for breaking their social norm (whatever that may be). This man's "rights" are then taken away (by virtue of the masses that allowed him to even have any rights to begin with), and he remains without any rights until the masses decide that he may have them again (if any at all).
While the same consequence/outcome has been achieved, the perception of what has happened is completely different. Is this perception and difference important? Indeed it is! This is the very point wherein the transition from a Constitutional Republic to a Socialist-Democracy has been made! This is a subtle difference, and for one making the mental transition from a Democratic mindset to that of a Republic mindset there is often a lot of fear. Fear -- and the forced sense of security that immediately follows fear -- is the antithesis of freedom; in fear, the masses reject natural law for physical control. It appears that people find more perceived safety when they can control their neighbor than in allowing freedom to exist.
Law, within the parameters of nature, only define natural and inalienable rights -- they do not compete with them. When laws appear to compete with natural and inalienable rights, you know the transition is being made from freedom to coercion -- from our Constitutional Republic to a forced Socialist-Democracy.
We do not have the right to violate another sovereign individual's life, liberty, or property; however, when we do and step outside the limits of natural law to infringe upon our neighbor, then the natural law defines that such a person be dealt with in order to not do such a thing again.
It is important to always maintain the thought of inalienable liberty, freedom, and property. Why? Because it will always allow for freedom. Historically, Republics have lasted between 500 - 800 years, whereas Democracies have never stood longer than 200. The Founders hated Democracy with a divine passion that does not exist in our body politic today. George Washington, the man who would not be king, was noted to have wanted to be subject to a tyrannical monarch than to a Democracy. We were given a Republic (the only guarantee in the entire U.S. Constitution -- Article IV Section 4), and we must fight to make it so. The only guarantee of being safe in our inalienable liberty is within the protection of a Republic.
Hopefully this helped clarify a few issues. Please let me know if this helped.
Dear Shiloh Logan,
I read of your club on the internet, and went to visit your website. I am currently struggling with identifying the justifications for coercion by government. I thought the below remarks were interesting. I hope they may add further light to my understanding. I would like to ask you to, if you can, tell me of its authoritative source, and if its source is 'a student', then, what prompted him to come to the conclusions made, particularly the one underlined below, and to expound on exactly what is meant. For example, from where does the government get its authority to use coercion, and, how does one determine if one is 'incapable of self-government'? Please add any other thoughts you may have.
“When speaking of liberty and freedom, the natural course is to speak of government. Government is the only authority in the world that can legally use the power of coercion to fulfill its duties upon society. In acknowledging the inherent and inalienable ability of choice, good government's focus rests on maintaining the outward expression of these abilities and only uses the power of coercion towards those who are incapable of self-government. This principle, however, has not always been maintained nor regarded among those who have led governments.”
Thank you for your help.
Thank you for contacting me. Sorry it has taken me a while to get back to you. Hopefully I can answer a few questions. Even better, perhaps I can elicit a few more questions.
What is government, and are inalienable rights alienable?
Legitimate Constitutional government is nothing but a collection of individuals chosen to perform a specific enumerated duty. Each of us are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. These rights cannot -- at any time -- be alienated from us; however, the physical movement and application of these inalienable rights may be physically curtailed (jail). As Sam Adams stated:
Individual Sovereignty and Equality of Man
Our Constitutional government was established upon the philosophy that each individual was a sovereign of his own property or personal "kingdom" (as it were). There are obvious perceived discrepancies that are initially presented to this idea (such as the accepted use of slavery during the foundation of our country, and the lack of "woman's rights"), but these concerns and arguments are easily resolved -- although I will not argue that here. Suffice it to say that each individual is "created equally" and that is how the Founder's intended it: Equality exists at birth, as per the inalienable rights given by the Creator.
Individual Sovereignty Within Society
Since each individual is created equal with certain inalienable rights (such as Life, Liberty, and Property), then each sovereign individual has the power and freedom to constitute his own personal relationship with others and to create society. Each individual that realizes the benefits of society may also join the fellowship of other individuals. Because each individual is equal with each other (as per rights given by a Creator, and not assumed or given by a majority's consensus), no majority may assume a power that the individuals alone do not possess. Society may choose to do their business by a majority's consensus and permit, but never can the majority (collection of individuals equal with all men) violate the rights of the minority (collection of individuals equal with all men) in the process.
Simplified Use of Coercion
The concept wherein coercion can be legitimately used (especially in United States history), is most easily explained by the Old Norse tradition of law.
The Old Norse believed that law was a basic liquid or floating substance that existed in the space between all things. The law -- as they reasoned -- prohibited one individual from violating the rights of their equal. Whenever an individual violated the rights of their neighbor, then their own cloak and protection of the law around their own person disappeared; in other words, they had stepped outside the protective bounds of the law. This is where the term outlaw came from: as the individual violated the rights of another, his cloak and protection of the law disappeared. After a person had lost the protecting cloak of the law and become an outlaw, it was legitimate for any person to abuse, prohibit, coerce, and curtail his actions -- even unto death itself.
America's Fundamental use of Coercion, and Self-Government
Our American institution is based and built upon self-government; for the individual to be a religious and moral person. Government is nothing but a collection of individuals, and to find the morality in government you need look no further than those who occupy office. Freedom is not measured by the amount of perceived "moral" laws in society, but by the ability of man to govern his own self through individual morality. When man understands correct principles, he will govern himself. Morality cannot be enforced upon the individual; virtue cannot be coerced. Self-government is not something that can be itself coerced. Individually, I have no power to coerce another man into self-government; however, should that individual violate the rights of another, then I have the ability of restraining this person because his actions are outside the bounds of natural law.
Can I force my neighbor to be accountable? No. But I shouldn't have to pay for his blunders either. There are natural consequences to actions, and current political theory and philosophy often seeks to force a different outcome than what nature offers in consequence.
Until my neighbor infringes upon the inalienable liberty of another individual, his action of non-self-governance cannot be addressed by society. Legitimate Constitutional government (a group of individuals with specifically enumerated duties) can only take action when personal equity has been lost through negligence or willful intent by a person lacking self-government encroaching on the inalienable liberties of another. This is the only time when the majority (collection of individuals) may ever legitimately coerce the individual: when the cloak of law has been breached and a person has been found incapable of self-government by violating the rights of another. Otherwise, each individual is an individual sovereign having equal rights individually as the masses possess collectively.
It must be understood, however, that unlike the Old Norse traditions, the American institution -- while coercing the individual who has infringed upon the rights of another -- does not stipulate that the individual ever loses their own rights. We must remember that all rights are inalienable, we are simply restricted in our ability of expressing these inalienable rights when we have gone outside the bounds of law to infringe upon another's inalienable rights.
I apologize for the length of this email. Hopefully this helped to clarify what was written by the Freedom Society. Please contact me with any further questions.