The statutes and judgments of the law of Moses are known as the carnal commandments. These commandments, along with much of the ceremonial law, were fulfilled in Christ. America is unclean. She must be cleansed and purified.
Ether 12:11 states,
“Wherefore, by faith was the law of Moses given. But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that [the law] hath been fulfilled.”
There is little wonder why men rely on law for salvation. It is because they lack faith (Mormon 9:19-20), not unlike Sherem, and bring about their own enslavement and destruction at the hands of the wicked. If we truly had faith on Christ, we would seek our enemy’s repentance, not his punishment.
The Bible Dictionary says that the law of Moses was a replacement of the law of the Gospel for those of a lower spirituality (who sought occasion against each other). After Christ’s appearance in the Americas, reference to the law of Moses cannot be found. We do read of apostate Christianity erecting a false church with prisons in which to throw the peaceable disciples of Christ (4 Nephi 1:29-30). Enough cannot be said about a failure to live the law of the Gospel.
In Doctrine and Covenants 19, the Lord reveals the “mystery of godliness” throughout the ages. God’s judgments are spiritual, not carnal. God is an agent of reconciliation, not of wrath. In Galatians 5:13-15 we read,
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
“But, if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”
The lack of a forgiving and loving heart leads to the law and, as has been the case with all carnal kingdoms, the end result does not bode well for those who go to law. To go to law makes one subject to law and law cannot save, it can only condemn. In the words of Christ, he who lives by the sword, “dies by the sword.”
Commander Mormon had something to say about this. It is as though he had a moment of clarity, a moment of truth. He comes to his senses, puts away the sword and says the wicked slay the wicked. In Mormon 4:5, he states,
“But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.”
He desires to proclaim the gospel of peace but the Lord prohibits him from doing so because it is too late. Not only would the Nephites and Lamanites refuse his message, but, as a Commander in the armies with much blood on his hands, it is unlikely anyone would have seen him as anything more or less than a hypocrite despite his sincerity. The cycle of destruction is out of control. God withholds his gospel as judgment upon them. They are all consumed with a bloodlust. The wicked destroy the wicked.
Instead of going to law and breaking each other to pieces, the Lord desires reconciliation and ministry. This was the state of affairs which existed during Christ’s visit to the Americas and for the next 200 years thereafter before apostasy brought the state. It was the same state of affairs that existed in America before the social power was expropriated by the political power in a Constitution. Edmund Burke, observing the localism of America is 1774, writes that the American colonies had decided to established parallel government through provincial conventions and committees. This was in large part due to the “big-stick” policies of the British empire. Edmund Burke set forth the necessity of appeasement as the prime foreign policy of a truly strong government:
“I mean to give peace. Peace implies reconciliation; and reconciliation does in a manner always imply concession [forgiveness] on one part or on the other. In this state of things, the proposal ought to originate from us [the offended]. Great and acknowledged force is not impaired, either in effect or in opinion, by an unwillingness to exert itself. The superior power may offer peace with honor and with safety. The proposition of peace. Not peace through the medium of war [or litigation]; not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations [diplomacy]; not peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from principle [unitary democracy], not peace to depend on the juridical determinations of perplexing questions [arbitration], it is simple peace, sought in its natural course, and in its ordinary haunts. It is peace sought in the spirit of peace; laid in principles purely pacific [love].” [Clarification Added]
Burke came to these views when observing that the legal government began to break down in America and was being replaced by popular private institutions founded on property rights, what Tocqueville called “democracy.” Government in America began to veer towards anarchy. As Burke phrased it:
“We thought, Sir, that the utmost which the discontented colonists would do, was to disturb authority; we never dreamt they could of themselves supply it. They have formed government sufficient for its purposes, without the troublesome formality of an election. Evident necessity, and tacit consent, have done the business in an instant. So well have they done it that the new institutions are infinitely better obeyed than the ancient government [state] ever was in its most fortunate period. [Voluntary] obedience is what makes government, and not the names by which it is called. This new government has originated directly from the people; and was not transmitted through any of the ordinary artificial media of a positive constitution. It was not a manufacture ready formed, and transmitted to them in that condition from England. The evil arising from hence is this; that the colonists have once found the possibility of enjoying the advantages of order in the midst of a struggle for liberty, such struggles will not henceforward seem so terrible to the settled and sober part of mankind as they had appeared before. We were confident that the first feeling, if not the very prospect of anarchy, would instantly enforce a complete submission. The experiment was tried. A new, strange, unexpected face of things appeared. Anarchy is found tolerable. A vast province has now subsisted and subsisted in a considerable degree of health and vigor, for near a twelve-month, without governors, without judges, without executive magistrates.” [Clarification Added]
And without police. The forgiving spirit, the reconciling spirit brought peace. The people still made mistakes, but they had learned to reconcile. Mutual trust had been achieve. Those who made mistakes repented exactly because they were allowed to survive their mistakes doing so. The experiment of anarchy was tried and in the words of Burke, it not only succeeded, anarchy was “tolerable.”
In order to maintain this state of affairs which existed during Christ’s visit to the Americas and which had been achieved in the Americas circa 1774, disciples of Christ would need faith to renounce the sword and to proclaim the gospel of peace. Paul, once an ardent defender of the law and for whom it was hard to “kick against the pricks,” describes this new role for the disciple as a “struggle,” not against “flesh and blood,” but against “spiritual wickedness” (Eph. 6:12). It begins, as Christ counseled, by resolving disputes in private or before the Church. Paul reiterated that counsel when instructing the Saints to never take a dispute before an outsider (1 Cor 6:1-11).
Through the Atonement of Christ, the Father willed to facilitate social salvation for the cause of repentance. The Church became man’s new schoolmaster. Instead of violent enforcement of the law through war and punishment, the Father hoped that man would embrace the missionary effort, the Church, and reconciliation through forgiveness and repentance. Persuasion and love became the new means by which law was to be enforced.
As mentioned previously, this liberation from the punishments of the law in a probationary state should be recognized and valued for what it is: a time in which to bring about the salvation of mankind through repentance. It is a precious commodity not to be squandered by oneself or denied others. Punishment, then, becomes, at best, an attempt to coerce repentance and, at worse, an attempt to deny it. The Lord did not send forth his disciples to destroy those whom they were set apart for the sacred purpose of saving (nor to forcibly integrate outsiders into a covenant-they neither understood nor to which they consented-for the sole purpose of punishing their sins). Nevertheless, man is an agent unto himself. The Lord willed to permit full scope in the use of agency by admonishing the disciples to renounce war against sinners and proclaim repentance of sin.
Elder Talmage, in his book “The Great Apostasy,” stated that the Lord willed to permit 100 percent personal responsibility by abrogating the carnal commandments (Matt. 5:38-48). Elder B.H. Robert reiterated this point when describing the will of the Father as facilitating the ability of each individual to “fill the cup of his iniquity to overflowing” by going to law with each other or “to round out the measure of their righteousness” by doing good continually.
Man, therefore, has been given a choice through Christ (D&C 98:30-31), to subject oneself to law and punish each other or to pardon and seek reconciliation through missionary effort. There is an immutable law inherent in human nature which Christ described as “reaping and sowing.” Elder Brown called it cause and effect in his “Final Testimony.” Cause and effect are not limited to the physical sciences. It applies to the social sciences of psychology, praxeology, and ethics. God is a merciful God, but it is man who demands justice. The Father is not an unjust judge and, therefore, permits man to establish the kingdoms of his desires while revealing and inspiring limitations to be imposed upon those carnal kingdoms.
These are the kingdoms fallen man is willing to accept, not the kingdom the Father would have his children inherit. Unlike the Church, civil government is not revealed. Civil government is the product of man’s reason (faulty at best) and before that reasoning gets out of hand, civil government, in its conception, is given limitations inspired by God. Such was the case in ancient Israel. The Lord foresaw the dealings of the Israelites once they inherited the promise land (Deut. 31 and 32). They would desire a king and this displeased the Lord very much. It was idolatrous in his eyes to have other gods before him. It was idolatrous in his eyes to serve two masters. It was idolatrous in his eyes that man should love and obey a Caesar more than God. It was idolatrous that they should seek a secular lawgiver.
The Lord does not punish Israel for her wanton desire of a king. It is their king who will punish them. The Lord explains all the dealings the king will have with the people and the hardships they will suffer as a result of their own short sightedness (1 Sam. 8). In the day of their mourning, the Lord will not hear them. Despite his disappointment, the Lord suffers his people to have a king, but not without first inspiring limitations upon this assumption of power (Deut. 17 & 20). From this experience, we can derive certain principles about civil government. Its existence is a usurpation of God’s authority by man. The inspiration from God behind all civil government is in its limitation. The Lord would that his disciples build the church, but in their wickedness they build the state. It is not soon thereafter that destruction comes as it did to the Jaredites, the Israelites, and the Nephites.
The Church is our new schoolmaster and missionary work our new hope. The Lord has called us to leaven society, not to police it. The disciple can hardly achieve the sacred purpose for which he is set apart (sanctified) if his only desire is to destroy those he is in the world to save. Carnal kingdoms that violently enforce the law are not our best hope for peace, rather the Church and missionary effort. As Joseph Field Smith was quoted in “Teachings of the Prophets” to have stated (cf. D&C 1:20-25),
“The gospel is the sole hope of the world, the one way that will bring peace on earth.”
No More War
America is unclean. She must be cleansed and purified: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil…. (Isa. 1:16-18). “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isa. 2:4)” Or again: “All the armor of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. (Isa. 9:5-6)” This is the program of God for His people who have been redeemed from the sinful ways of backslidden America. This is the order of the new covenant in preparation for the Lord’s millennial reign. This manner of life will not be found in those who are not Saints. Until the wicked destroy themselves, war will continue. Even though nations engage in war, the disciples of Christ are commanded to “follow his steps. (1 Pet. 2:21)”
How will the cleansing of America come about? Maybe it will be in similitude of the cleansing Israel underwent in the days of Isaiah. Though Israel lay between the hosts of Assyria on the one hand and those of Egypt on the other and in constant danger of invasion, especially from the East, Isaiah makes it clear that it was not God’s program that Israel should strike with the sword:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, … be not afraid of the Assyrian, though he smite thee with the rod, and lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. For yet a very little while, and … Jehovah of hosts will stir up against him a scourge…. And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall depart from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck…. (Isa. 10:24-27)”
Again and again Isaiah refers to the oppressor nations whom God will chastise, but Israel herself is not commanded to take up the sword against the enemy (Isa. 13 and 16). He warns Israel not to form a military alliance with Egypt; not to trust in horses and chariots; but to trust in the Lord. The Assyrian oppressor will be destroyed, but not by the sword of God’s people. God in His own way will perform it (Isa. 30 and 31). True to the word of the prophet, when King Sennacherib led the hosts of Assyria against Israel, Jehovah in His own way turned back the invader without the good King Hezekiah striking a single blow (Isa. 37 and II Kings 19). This deliverance is almost as remarkable as that at the Red Sea, and it would seem that Israel was just beginning once more to fit into the program and manner of life which God had planned for His people from the beginning, and which they had rejected in the days of Moses and those which followed.
The prophet Jeremiah, a century later, went even farther than Isaiah, and actually urged Judah to submit to the rule of Babylon: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live (Jer. 27:12).” Jeremiah made it clear that this nonresistant attitude toward the invader was according to the will of God: “Thus saith Jehovah,…the God of Israel: If thou wilt go forth unto the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and thy house. But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand. (Jer. 38:17, 18)”
So nonresistant was Jeremiah in his attitude toward Babylon that his fellow Israelites charged him with treason and cast him into prison (Jer. 37:13-15). But the nonresistant prophet was misunderstood. Jeremiah was not guilty of treason; he was not disloyal to Judah. He knew that the Babylonian captivity was coming as a judgment from God upon the sins of Judah. For this reason it was useless for King Zedekiah to resist. What Judah needed was not resistance, but repentance from his sins.
Jeremiah does not stop, however, with his advice to surrender. The time was coming when Judah’s punishment would be complete, and then he would be freed from captivity again. “Behold, I will turn again the captivity of Jacob’s tent, and have compassion on his dwelling-places: and the city shall be built upon its own hill, and the palace shall be inhabited after its own manner. (Jer. 30:18)” But the escape and return from captivity were also to be entirely without warfare on Judah’s part. True, the warfare of wicked nations would have a part in the release from captivity: “Jehovah hath stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: because his purpose is against Babylon, to destroy it: for it is the vengeance of Jehovah, the vengeance of his temple (Jer. 51:11).” But God’s people were not to fight. Isaiah says they were not even to flee, nor to go in haste: “For ye shall not go out in haste, neither shall ye go by flight: for Jehovah will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward (Isa. 52:12).”
Surely if the message of the prophets means anything it means that the day of warfare for God’s people was over. The moral lapse represented by the harsh features of the Mosaic code could no longer be condoned, and the bloody wars of the days of the Kings were past. In the time of their ignorance God may have winked at Israel’s inferior moral performance; out of mercy for a backslidden people He may have permitted it. But the day of redemption was not at hand, and under the new covenant which Christ at His coming would shortly establish God’s people must walk in a newness of life in which warfare and strife have no part.
No More Physical Injury or Depravity
Question: Does punishment precede repentance or is punishment precluded by repentance?
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were cut off from His presence. The natural or causative consequence for disobedience was physical death. The eternal consequence was spiritual death. Therefore, without Atonement, punishment for Adam and Eve would have been immediate and final. As a result of the Atonement, which transcends all time and space, and instead of punishment, Adam and Eve were permitted, in God’s infinite mercy, a probationary period in which to repent. Heavenly Father, through Christ, facilitated social salvation for the cause of repentance. Punishment would have to wait. It would be reserved to the end of that period of man’s probation and only applied for failure to repent. The claims of mercy, then, satisfy and overpower justice exactly because Christ already suffered the punishments for transgressing the law. He can, therefore, postpone or waive the penalties in order to facilitate or accept repentance, respectively.
Question: What are the eternal implications of the two views on punishment and repentance?
If punishment precedes repentance, then damnation cannot be eternal (progress continues within and amongst the various degrees of glory) exactly because one can repent after having been punished (physical injury or depravity become acceptable motives for true repentance).
If repentance precludes punishment, then damnation is eternal (no progress amongst the various degrees of glory) exactly because there is no repentance after having been punished (physical injury or depravity being a lesser motive and is, therefore, not true repentance).
Question: What do the scriptures teach?
Mat 5.25 states, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.”
Jesus is instructing sinners to repent “lest” they be punished. “Lest” here meaning “or else.” It is apparent that Jesus is attempting to preclude punishment by persuading repentance.
D&C 19 states that God’s punishments are eternal, not transitory, and to “repent, lest I smite you.” It is apparent that in order to avoid a punishment from which there is no escape (once imposed), one must repent.
In short, the instruction is “Repent or Perish” and not “Perish and Repent.” Repentance precludes punishment and punishment does not precede repentance.
Question: What is the difference between God’s wrath, God’s justice and God’s mercy?
God’s wrath is the law of cause and effect. The consequences are causative and natural. This includes the natural man which observes the law of talion. The law of man’s nature, or of retaliation and retribution, is temporal and carnal. God’s justice is the law of the gospel. The consequences are spiritual and eternal. God’s mercy is also a part of the law of the gospel. It is the ministry of reconciliation. As a result of the Atonement, Christ has asked his disciples forgo wrath and extend mercy. In doing so, man’s probationary period is preserved, along with God’s mercy, exactly because one has faith in God’s justice.