Just so everyone doesn’t think I’m an anarchist scofflaw, I figured I might as well post a follow up (already) to my last post.
For the record, I don’t take much interest in politics and law in general, and my personal approach has always been one more of practicality and principle more than anything else (do good, don’t harm your neighbor). In that vein, fair use seems evident as long as I’m doing no specific harm when it comes to something simple as ripping DVDs for personal use. I can understand, practically speaking, the Hollywood side of it (even in their misguided capitalist philosophies) that legally given any loophole, it will be abused by those skirting the law. Practically speaking, though, honesty is the best policy. Simply say that something is wrong and expect people to abide by it and everything will work out wonderfully. That doesn’t happen of course, which is why we have laws and then enforce them. Unfortunately, just as there are unjust people, there are unjust laws. And that’s where I get a bit confused as to where the line should be drawn when abiding by them.
Religiously speaking, as Latter-day Saints, we believe in upholding and sustaining the law, and so as a matter of congregational membership, I’ll confirm that as my stance as well.
Joseph Smith, when asked what the basic precepts of our religion were, compiled a short list which was later considered as modern-day scripture and compiled collectively as the Articles of Faith. The 12th (of 13 total) states: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” As a matter of principle, I think the 13th actually applies just as well when it comes to proper government: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul–We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
As things go down the crapper for this nation, as our civil rights and liberties are systematically removed, I often find myself wondering how much we are held to the 12th Article of Faith to sustain and uphold the law, when it is completely unjust. Historically, in the Book of Mormon, the Lord has preferred an evil, corrupt government to none at all. I’m not going to go into great detail of the story, since you can read it in 3rd Nephi (starting around chapter six for the actual events, but reading the whole book would encompass much better the whole story), but I’ll try to paraphrase some points the best I can.
The Nephites (native Americans, circa 30 to 32 A.D. at this point) were having internal problems nationally from secret societies who were trying to overthrow the democratic government in order to establish a king. Well, they succeeded in killing the chief judge (the leader of the gov’t), but instead of establishing a king, a mix of anarchy and mobocracy established itself, and the people united into tribes.
Very shortly after was the death of Christ in Jerusalem, and there were great storms in the Americas that changed “the whole face of the land” and destroyed many cities. In chapter nine of 3rd Nephi, the Lord Himself bemoans the destruction of the people, and mentions many of the great cities that have been destroyed. Of the people that destroyed the government, this is what He had to say: “And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them.”
I’m not going to claim to be a religious or historical scholar, but I find the whole thing interesting. A corrupt government is better than none at all, though I’m having trouble figuring out why. I can only infer that it is because it provides *some* certain rights, privileges and peace to the people that without that basic structure, it makes the Lord’s work even harder. I suppose, in a sense, it’s simpler to reform government by reforming the people individually than it is to massively recollect a divided continent of people wandering in lawlessness. I’m just guessing here. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, when it comes to the moral ground of obeying unjust laws, I’m a bit perplexed on the matter of what stance we should take. I haven’t made it a serious study, and if I did, I’m sure I’d find some answers, it’s just something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and I thought I’d do a bit of a brain dump on the matter.