Corruption of Government;
Another characterizing condition described in the first half of the book of Helaman is the Nephites' adulteration of the laws of Mosiah and the penetration of Gadianton's secret combination into the Nephite government. Comparing their situation with ours today offers perhaps the most fitting treatise on our present political predicament found anywhere in the scriptures.
Previously we showed that fundamental principles which characterized the laws of Mosiah found concrete similarities with the Constitution of the United States.(1) Like the Constitution, the laws of Mosiah did not remain in their pristine state. In this period of Nephite history about which we are speaking, the record reports that the Nephites had "altered...the laws of Mosiah..., and...their laws had become corrupted...." (Hel. 4:22.) The same thing seems to have befallen our beloved Constitution and the laws of our land.(2) Ammendments have been made to the constitution that are not in keeping with its original intent.(3) Many laws have been passed, agencies formed,(4) and executive orders created which disregard the principles that framed the Constitution. Our government has extended far beyond its shackled, limited role to becoming a burgeoning bureaucracy that stifles instead of protecting the inalienable rights of individuals.
Not only did the Nephites make changes in the laws of Mosiah, but they "trampled [them] under their feet...." (Hel. 4:22.) Many in our day as well hold the same disregard for the Constitution.(5) The prophet Joseph Smith prophesied that the time would come when the Constitution would be "upon the brink of ruin."(6) How close have we come to that period?(7) The following illustrates how precariously we stand at the time.
In the last few years there has been a call by the states of the Union to hold a constitutional convention. (Thirty-two of the thirty-four necessary have applied as of the time of this writing.)(8) The avowed purpose of holding such a convention is to draft a balanced budget amendment. However, there are no safeguards or proscriptions written into the Constitution that would prevent such a convention from straying from its declared course, becoming a runaway convention such as the one that gave birth to our Constitution--only this time under the hands of less-than-inspired men.(9) In fact, new constitutions have already been drafted: ready to be presented.(10) If such a convention is held and a new constitution produced, what sort of national debate might we see when this goes back to the various states to be ratified?
Whatever the cause, when the time comes that "this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground," as Joseph Smith prophesied, we should be prepared to "be the staff upon which the nation shall lean...[to] bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction."(11)
In Book of Mormon history as well, fundamental political issues created tremendous contentions which divided the Nephites.(12) Some fell for the deceptive lines of the corrupt government leaders, and others sided with Nephi. (Hel. 8:7; 9:39-41; 10:1.)
1. See "Establishment of a Free Land" section in chapter two.
2. Ezra Taft Benson declared, "Unfortunately, we as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders." (Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 6.)
3. For example, the Sixteenth Amendment introduced the Marxist graduated income tax. The Seventeenth Amendment eliminated the Senate's restraining influence on demagoguery. (Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1986, p. 22.)
4. One of the most detrimental steps taken by our country was the debauching of its currency and placing it in the hands of a less-than-inspired, non-elected few, through the creation of the Federal Reserve. (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 638.)
5. President David O. McKay said, "...There has been an alarming increase in the abandoning of the ideals that constitute the foundation of the Constitution of the United States...." (Ezra Taft Benson CR, Oct. 2, 1966, p. 120.)
6. Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 6.
7. Ezra Taft Benson recently said that we are "fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith...." (Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 6.)
8. Representative Howard C. Nielsen, (R) Utah, "Keeping in Touch," Bulletin from the 101st Congress, June 1989.
9. Professor James MacGregor Burns, a member of the board of directors of the Committee on the Constitutional System (who are pushing for this convention), said, "Let us face reality. The framers [of the Constitution] have simply been too shrewd for us. They have outwitted us. They designed separated institutions that cannot be unified by mechanical linkages, frail bridges, tinkering. If we are to `turn the founders upside down'--to put together what they put asunder--we must directly confront the constitutional structure they erected." (James MacGregor Burns, The Power to Lead, 1984.)
10. For example, in his recent book, Reforming American Government: The Bicentennial Papers of the Committee on the Constitutional System, (1985) James MacGregor Burns presents forty working papers and drafts seventeen proposed reforms of the Constitution that stand in opposition to the fundamental principles set forth by the Founders. (Gary Benoit, "Bicentennial Plot," American Opinion, Feb. 10, 1986, p. 22.)
11. Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 6.
12. Ezra Taft Benson said, "It was the struggle over free agency that divided us before we came here [in the pre-earth life]; it may well be the struggle over the same principle which will deceive and divide us again." (CR, Oct. 1963, p. 16.)
"Would God that ALL the Lord's People Were PROPHETS"