There are two communities to which an individual may align oneself: The Church of Christ or The Church of the Devil. Mankind is free to choose liberty and eternal life or slavery and eternal death. The individual cannot serve two masters, for it is chaos that one pledge allegiance to competing orders. Nevertheless, the individual is free to choose whom one will serve. If Caesar be one’s god, render unto Caesar. If Baal be one’s god, render unto Baal. If Christ be one’s god, then render unto God.
Both the wicked and the righteous are permitted by God to organize themselves according to conscience (D&C 134:1). The wicked organize themselves according to lesser laws, ie. natural laws (Gen. 9:6 cf. D&C 63:33,89:2-3, 134:11). The righteous are prohibited from organizing themselves after the manner of the wicked (D&C 63: 25-32), but are yet free to choose for themselves. The Lord organizes the righteous after the manner of higher laws, ie. divine law (Gen. 4:15; Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19, 13:10; Luke 3:14; Matt. 26:52; John 18:36, 15:18, 19; D&C 24:16, 43:8-9, 134:10). The goal of the righteous is not primarily to delegitimize violence, but to overcome it in their own lives. Although the Lord has a property right in the earth under lesser laws to require violence from the Saints at some future date, because He loves his enemies, repays evil with good, and allows the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the unjust, His disposition makes it unlikely He would do so (D&C 45:70 cf. 134:6 cf. 45:69). In an effort to expand the jurisdiction of each, the wicked engage in war and the righteous engage in ministry. The righteous attempt a reconciliation of the wicked, first, by respecting human institutions (1 Cor. 6:12 cf D&C 63:26, 134:2) and, second, by proclaiming repentance through the missionary effort (D&C 64:21 cf Alma 26:25-27 cf D&C 38:6).
The Lord may make exception for sinners participating in human institutions (e.g. civil marriage) because it is expedient to do so, but is not required to recognize the human institutions themselves (e.g. same sex marriage). The Lord respects the authority of human institutions but is not required to recognize their authority. Human institutions can be legal snares to the Saints feet. The Lord does not require of Saints what human law prohibits, nor does the Lord prohibit what human law requires (D&C 124:49). Those choices are reserved to the individual, according to conscience, who desires to obey God rather than men. The wicked are at the Lord’s disposal to carry out purposes that are unbecoming of Saints who, having been set apart for a special purpose, wish to remain blameless before the Lord and who wish to obtain eternal life (Phi 2:15 cf. D&C 98:16, 105:14, 121:34-46). By respecting human institutions, the Lord creates a common understanding of arbitration between the two communities called Home Rule (Matt.22:21). It effectively maintains the peace between the communities by respecting the jurisdiction and sovereignty of each (D&C 134:2). If a Saint offends an outsider, he is subject to the victim’s will under human law. If a Saint offends a Saint, he is subject to the Lord’s will under divine law. If an outsider offends another outsider, he is subject to the victim’s will under human law. If an outsider offends a Saint, he is subject to the Lord’s will at Eternal Judgment.
THE SINNING SAINT
The Lord has counseled that Saints who offend are to make right the offense (Matt. 5:25-26). It is not only a requirement of repentance, it may protect one from the wicked. It is important to note that “agreeing with thine adversary” in order to save oneself from court action, punishment, condemnation, and prison is a viable reason for reconciling the victim. It may be a lesser motive than, say, remorse for injury or depravity caused one’s victim, repentance despite the outcome, or remorse for leading one’s victim into temptation, but self-preservation is a mitigating circumstance that facilitates opportunity for genuine repentance in the long term. The Atonement facilitates exceptions for any good deed or misdeed motivated by self-preservation, but, in the case of misdeeds, those of a higher spirituality might find a claim of “self-preservation” unconscionable lest they be understood as not having faith in the resurrection (Matt. 16:25).
Therefore, the future of the sinning Saint is subject, not to Caesar’s, but to the victim’s discretion. According to D&C 42, theft and false accusations can be forgiven by the Lord if the sinner repents, i.e., reconciles the victim. The Lord will not deliver the sinning Saint to Caesar, but the victim is still at liberty to do so. Where a warrant is issued, the Saint delivers oneself to human law. When Caesar acts independent of the victim’s will, when a victim seeks more than repentance requires, or when false accusations have been made, it is at the discretion of the Saint to utilize any exception provided by human law that will require Caesar to prove guilt. A confession is not required. Should a merciless victim call a penitent Saint to suffer the uttermost farthing, the Saint should be comforted to know that his repentance has satisfied eternal justice. The penitent Saint patiently suffers the uttermost farthing if it will provide emotional healing for the victim despite knowing that forgiveness is the more excellent way to healing. Should the Saint suffer the unmerciful penalty with patience, he will be blessed by the Lord. The unmerciful victim is to be pitied. He calls down upon his own head the eternal judgments of the Lord and rarely, if ever, does the victim find the emotional healing he seeks by abusing his offender. Those Saints who use the force of human law to resolve their disputes are numbered among outsiders (1 Cor 6:1-11).
Those who kill are subjected to the laws of the land, either as required by the victim’s family or by Caesar. If a killer is found to be guilty of murder, he is excommunicated from the community of Saints and becomes an outsider. Just because a murderer is excommunicated does not mean the Lord feels the same way as the outsider about how to treat the murderer. Murder is only unforgivable for those who are sealed in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (D&C 132:27). Therefore, the Lord does not require the Saints to condemn murderers in this life. Exception should be made for murderers in this life to repent of their sin. This does not mean that Caesar or the victim’s family will not exact vengeance and shed blood nor that they should be prohibited from doing so. It is a law of natural man that the wicked destroy the wicked. The Lord simply leaves it to the victim’s family and the community of outsiders to decide.
In some States, such as Indiana, “murder” is broadly defined as nothing more than “killing.” This includes self-defense. In other States, “murder” is more narrowly defined as “illegal” and “malicious” killing. In Pennsylvania, one can be guilty of “murder” simply by association with a murderer at the time of the killing. Since “murder” is a legal term, it can mean almost anything according to human law, especially since any killing without the Lord’s express sanction or command is murder. A Saint who cares about saving a sinner’s soul will facilitate repentance by forgiving. Since the wicked are unmerciful, making no exception for sinners, the Lord gives the general command, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” which is comprehensive of all killing. He does so for the protection of the Saints. One does not want to fall into Satan’s snare of legal semantics. This includes killing in war, since the Lord forbids war (D&C 63:31, 98:16, 105:14), abortion, euthanasia, suicide, assisted suicide, manslaughter, capital punishment, human sacrifice, ethnic cleansing and ritual killings, all of which have, at one time or another in human history, been legal and illegal.
Just because it is legal, does not mean it is moral. So do not kill…at all, especially since stricter limitations on even accidental, negligent, and reflexive killing (all of which may involve the shedding of innocent blood) may be required under higher laws than those imposed under human law or the Law of Moses (D&C 89:3). Remember, just because the Lord makes exception for sinners who commit legal killings does not mean God has made exception for the sin nor for the human institutions that perpetuate the sin by requiring one to kill. According to Principles of the Gospel for Service Members, legal killing as a participant in war or while in the line of duty is as grave a sin as murder in the eyes of the Lord when done with malice in one’s heart. Since an impenitent murderer will neither escape the buffetings of Satan nor the demands of Eternal Justice, great discretion should especially be taken when deciding to inflict retaliatory death.
SCRIBES AND PHARISEES
Our righteousness as Saints must be more righteous than that of the Scribes and Pharisees. Living higher laws means being more merciful and forgiving of others. It means overcoming violence and the provocation of others to violence. (Matt. 5:21-22) It means suffering others’ offenses in love and forgiveness. It means creating and cultivating relationships through forgiveness and repentance up to and including suffering the uttermost farthing if it is demanded. It means loving one’s enemy, being no respecter of persons, allowing the unjust to enjoy their inalienable rights as much as the just, to be as the lilies of the field—neither toiling nor spinning injuries, depravities, or insults. It means relying on the Lord, rather than in the arm of the flesh.
The Saints are called to redemptive suffering and away from the redemptive violence of vipers and serpents for three reasons: 1) To facilitate the salvation of the wicked through repentance, 2) To remain blameless before the Lord, and 3) To leave no excuse for the wicked who repent not. Stately rituals of redemptive violence were permitted under lesser laws for those of lower spirituality. Stricter limitations on violence under gospel law are given “not by commandment or constraint” but “for a principle with promise” of greater blessings to come. Limitations on violence under the Law of Moses were “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who [were] or [could] be called saints” (D&C 89:2-3). The Law of Moses limited the amount of violence one could use in retaliation as well as the types of sins one could retaliate against. The violence permitted was not preventive of, but retaliatory against, sinners. Therefore, to be more righteous than the Scribes and Pharisees means not only to be more worthy, but to be more merciful. The wicked desire vengeance and institutionalizing it under human law is self-destructive. It results in nothing more than the wicked destroying each other (D&C 63:33).
The Saints will not cleanse the world through violence. The unmerciful “righteous” will be resisted unto death by the unmerciful “wicked,” neither side being wholly right (there should be righteousness) or wholly wrong (there should be mercy). The wicked will cleanse themselves from the world in wars, revolutions, insurgencies, terrorism, and other crimes of retaliation with the goal of extirpating sinners from the community along with the sin. If one does not learn to be merciful, then, when higher principles are revealed, even the “righteous” of lesser principles will be destroyed (D&C 63:34). In 1942, President Heber J. Grant stated,
“But there is an eternal law that rules war and those who engage in it. It was given when, Peter having struck off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, Jesus reproved him, saying:
‘Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword’ (Matt 26:25).
“The Savior thus laid down a general principle upon which He placed no limitations as to time, place, cause, or people involved. He repeated it in this dispensation when He told the people if they tried to secure the land of Zion by blood, then ‘lo, your enemies are upon you’ (D&C 63:61). This is a universal law, for force always besets force; it is the law of an ‘eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ (Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20); it is the law of the unrighteous and wicked, but it operates against the righteous who may be involved.”
It is best not to develop the attitude or habit of persecuting those who fall short of divinely revealed principles (D&C 43:19). This is called egocentric altruism. It is to conflate the Lord’s call to renounce personal sins into a call to force others to renounce their sins either by punishing or condemning them. Denying sinners their inalienable rights does not facilitate repentance, rather it provokes the retaliatory reflexive nature in man. One cannot teach a sinner to be forgiving or merciful towards those who offend by punishing him. It works only to one’s own condemnation and destruction. Those who fail to live the higher laws of righteousness and mercy will destroy themselves and each other thereby clearing a path for the righteous to inherit the earth. The retaliatory reflex, by its very nature, runs amok. The renunciation of violence requires an understanding that the Lord will judge all men in his own due time, none will escape the Eternal Judgment that is coming, and the victim of violence most to be pitied is its perpetrator who is in dire need of repentance. Perpetrators of sin are still glorious beings created in the express image of the divine even if their light is at present merely telestial.
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things cannot produce faith sufficient for exaltation.” –Joseph Smith
The call to overcome violence is a call to initiative, discipline, creativity, contingency planning, and community. In order to overcome violence, every aspect of one’s life must be in harmony with the Laws of the Gospel. If one does not have an assurance of worthiness to stand before the Lord, one may be greatly tempted to preserve one’s own life at the expense of another’s life. Killing can occur as a result of being tired and irritable. Therefore, be healthy by exercising, getting sufficient rest, and maintaining a proper diet to keep up one’s strength. Killing and rape can result from failure to control the sex drive or by being under the influence of conscience and judgment impairing substances. Adultery and fornication can lead to competitive aggression, such as exists in the animal kingdom, over a female. Manslaughter and rape can result, even murder (e.g. David). A person hoping to overcome violence does not risk impairing or compromising his inhibitions or conscience nor does he subordinate himself to individuals or institutions who will compromise him. Renounce participation in human institutions that claim to act, either by oath or covenant, in the name and on behalf of the Lord. Such institutions are as compromising, if not more so, as sex perversion, alcohol, drugs, and poor diet.
The Lord has established his church and it is the institution in which the Saints should participate and to which any allegiance should be pledged. It is true that the Lord makes exceptions for sinners who participate in human institutions, but the Saints have been counseled to do otherwise. It is also true that the Lord will not prohibit what human law requires or require what human law prohibits. It is one thing to be constrained by human law (i.e. Subjected by overwhelming force) and another to volunteer one’s loyalty (i.e. Subordinate oneself by recognizing a false authority). Therefore, seek a “redress of wrongs” through “proper dissent” and every exception provided by law, either personally, as a disciple, or collectively, as the Lord’s church. The Kingdom of God cannot be built on estrangement, only reconciliation. The quickest way to estrange others and oneself from community is to sin. A Saint who hopes to build the Kingdom of God will do all he can to overcome the effects of sin on the community. If the Saint is the perpetrator of sin, he will repent. If the Saint is the victim of sin, he will forgive.