Legally or Lawfully Married? An Anarchist Solution to Yet Another Statist Problem: Part I


BS-012715-LDS-Press-Conference-13-1 On January 27, 2015, in the wake of the Vatican Summit on marriage, the Church made national headlines, calling a news conference and issuing a statement defending LGBT rights. Elders Oaks, Holland, and Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve, along with Sister Marriott of the Young Women general presidency, attempted to stake out a middle ground between religious freedoms on the one hand and gay rights on the other. The conference was not so much about LGBT rights as it was about rights in general. Elder Holland best summed up the proceedings when he said, “Accommodating the rights of all people…requires wisdom and judgment, compassion and fairness.” He called everyone in the political sphere to “the highest level of statesmanship.” He didn’t elaborate on this statesmanship, but I would like to think, in the tradition of the Federalists, that statesmanship involves, above all else, a healthy skepticism of the State.

The biggest problem with the Church’s handling of the gay marriage issue thus far is not that it has clung too ideologically to the past and refused to “change with the times.” Quite the contrary. The Church has not clung strongly enough to the past, to its past, a past which included, among other things, fleeing blood-thirsty mobs in Missouri who all, incidentally, had the sanction of the State. As Latter-day Saints, we should not forget that the exodus to the Salt Lake Valley had a lot to do with escaping what was perceived at the time to be a tyrannical United States government.

How much has changed in 170 years? In his portion of the conference, Elder Oaks cited multiple examples in which he believed the State transgressed the Constitution, denying, at every turn it seemed, both the freedom of speech and of religion. These examples were instructive. What the examples should have indicated to the careful listener is that the State, as an institution of legitimized coercion, cannot be trusted to keep within the bounds it has set for itself (history has shown that self-imposed boundaries, because they are self imposed, can be changed more or less on a whim). And because the State cannot be trusted to keep within these bounds, the power it has over the populace should be radically curtailed or eliminated completely. The famous free-market anarchist Murray Rothbard said that the idea of a limited government that stays limited is truly utopian.

Elder Oaks, during his portion of the broadcast, exhibited this same kind of utopianism, you could say. He was right that the list of State atrocities against religion is “expanding”; however, the examples he provided, while indicative of bigotry and hatred, were not open-and-shut cases of rights violation. One such example was that of Christian student groups in the California university system. The student groups, according to Elder Oaks, were denied recognition by their respective universities because the groups required their leaders to share their Christian beliefs. The university system, he said, forced the groups to “compromise their religious conscience.” In situations like this, private-property anarchists are wise to point out that free speech issues are most of the time easily resolved when thought of as property issues. Though this case is complicated by the fact that the universities are state universities (paid for in part by taxes), it is clear that if one accepts a state’s right to taxation, then each university in question has property rights to its buildings, facilities, and, yes, money, and can therefore make demands on people using them. I do not, then, have a right, for example, to set up a table on a public sidewalk in order to sell my baseball cards to passersby. The State makes certain demands on people using their sidewalks.

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In using the term “utopian,” to describe the Church’s ambivalence toward the State, I do not want to suggest that the Brethren are naïve or idealistic about the function of government. I mention Rothbard and his quotation, instead, to point to a kind of axiom that exists deep in the minds of all non-anarchists: that is, the government is good as long as, and in so far as, it doesn’t bother me. For the anarchist, though, there is no such thing as a government that doesn’t bother everyone all the time. The lifeblood of government is taxation, and what are taxes if not a gigantic bone in the throat?

During the news conference, all three speakers rightly defended the freedoms of religious people to worship according to the dictates of their conscience. Elder Holland quoted from the Doctrine and Covenants. Sister Marriott framed the debate between gay rights and religious freedom. Elder Oaks expounded principles, listed and numbered them. While he spoke, one could sense a simultaneous aversion to, and endorsement of, the State. Early in his remarks, there was a yearning for a better time, hundreds of years ago, when the government still respected the First Amendment. By the end, Elder Oaks was invoking the State and its LGBT laws—which the Church was “on record as favoring”—as if to anticipate objections from the gay community. So what’s wrong with defending the government when it does good and defending yourself from the government when it does bad? Isn’t it normal to agree sometimes and to disagree other times?

I would say, in most cases, yes. However, there is a difference between agreeing with a principle and agreeing with praxis, the process by which a principle is actualized. I might, for instance, agree with people taking home more money at the end of the week but disagree (for various reasons) with a minimum wage law. The Church—and all religious institutions—should do its best to endorse principles and, outside its own welfare program and disaster relief, leave praxis to the politicians. Some might call this “utopian.” What happens when—not if—the State violates religious freedoms? Doesn’t this thrust the Church into the political sphere?

The answer is no. Latter-day Saints should know better than most Christians that the Church (with a capital “C”) is not equal to its membership. The Church is perfect, we like to say, but the members are not. Therefore, when religious freedoms are in jeopardy, it is these imperfect members, in their capacity as citizens, the church with a lowercase “c” in other words, that should respond politically. There is a long history of church leaders speaking not for the Church but for themselves. Joseph Fielding Smith, for example, denounced the theory of evolution, while the Church remained, officially, undecided on the matter. J. Reuben Clark wrote extensively about the evils of communism. I see no reason why things should be different now. This distinction between principle and praxis—that the business of revelation exists, and should exist, independently of politics—helps to explain why the Prophet Joseph Smith ran for President of the United States in 1844. When churches (with a capital “C”) get involved in politics, it not only grants legitimacy to the State and its coercion, but it strips churches of their revolutionary potential; it makes the church, its members, and its doctrine handmaidens of the State, subject to the wiles and caprices of special interests.

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The Nephite Artifacts


Meg Stout blogged the following on January 22 of this year:

Don Bradley wrote an intriguing paper titled Piercing the Veil: Temple Worship in the Lost 116 Pages. In the final section, Bradley discusses a lost story about how the interpreters, or Urim and Thummim, were found.

According to Fayette Lapham, Joseph Smith related some of the stories that were contained in the book of Mormon prior to publication. In one of these stories, the Liahona led the travelers to a curious set of implements. Unable to determine what these implements were, the man who found them (presumably the high priest of that time), took them into the tabernacle and present them to the Lord. The Lord tells the man  to cover his head with skins. Once he had done so, the high priest was able to see the spiritual. And according to the story, after this point Liahona stopped working.

Now that the high priest (probably Lehi, as this story describes a migrating people before the portion of the plates that described events in the current book of Mosiah) had the interpreters, or the Urim and Thummim, he no longer needed the Liahona. Thus we do not see the Liahona used as a guidance device in the rest of the book of Mormon narrative. Despite this, the Liahona is one of those relics which is passed down along with the sword of Laban and the interpreters.

At this point, I stopped reading (and I never did get around to reading the rest of her post) and was going to write a comment on Meg’s blog and offer a correction according to my understanding, (which understanding I gained that very instant upon reading her words), but decided against it, “For,” thought I, “my understanding is not based upon what is written in the scriptures and they will just chalk it up to a supposition, best guess or just an opinion and not something to put any weight or faith behind.”  But I’ll put it here on this blog, despite its lack of scriptural proof.

Now, before I begin, here is the pertinent part Meg linked to in that passage:

In the story as Lapham recounts it from Joseph Smith, Sr. is that sometime after the people have arrived in the New World, they’re traveling and they’re being led by the Liahona. And the Liahona leads them to this strange object, and the guy who finds it doesn’t know what it is. So they have a tabernacle, which shows you that they’re in between temples, which would’ve only been the case either when they first arrived in the New World and had not yet built a temple or during the exodus Mosiah led from the Land of Nephi, where they had a temple, to Zarahemla where they would build a temple. He brings this object into the tabernacle and immediately the voice of the Lord asks him a question, presumably from behind the veil covering the Holy of Holies where the Lord’s presence was understood to dwell. And the voice asks him, “What is that in your hand?” And Lapham says the man responded that “he did not know but that he had come to inquire” – those are Lapham’s exact words. So the Lord tells the man to take this object and put it on his face, and then to cover his face with animal skins. And when he does, he’s able to see anything supernaturally, it’s the interpreters. At that point the Liahona actually stops working; the Liahona, which led him to the interpreters, is actually now replaced by the interpreters. This would explain not only how the Nephites get the interpreters, but also why the military expeditions in the book of Alma ever uses the Liahona for guidance.

Five artifacts

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, at Fayette, New York, June 1829, prior to their viewing the engraved plates that contained the Book of Mormon record. Joseph and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, had learned from the translation of the Book of Mormon plates that three special witnesses would be designated (see Ether 5:2–4; 2 Nephi 11:3; 27:12). Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were moved upon by an inspired desire to be the three special witnesses. The Prophet inquired of the Lord, and this revelation was given in answer through the Urim and Thummim.

Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea.  (D&C 17 section heading and verse 1)

The plates, the interpreters and the breastplate were obtained by Joseph Smith, used by him to accomplish the work of translation, and then immediately retrieved by the angel.  Joseph never got to hold onto them (keep and preserve them), nor did he ever get to obtain the sword of Laban and the Liahona.  He never got the gift required to preserve these artifacts, which was the miraculous strength of the Lord, because they were never meant for him, but were always intended to be used by the next seer that followed him, who would have that gift.

Nevertheless, it was essential that the Three Witnesses be able to testify that these five artifacts were real things, for it was always the intention of the Lord to bring them back, that they be used again among men.  I will explain why this is so.

The Liahona

In the post Lehi’s Trek to China and North America, I went into some detail as to how the Liahona worked, so I won’t rehash that, but I will say that after the group got to the promised land, it was most definitely used again.  Even though the text doesn’t explicitly say so, I will show where it was used.

It was used by Nephi to get to the land of Nephi:

Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren.

But behold, their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life.

Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to rule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs unto us, who are the elder brethren, to rule over this people.

Now I do not write upon these plates all the words which they murmured against me. But it sufficeth me to say, that they did seek to take away my life.

And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.

Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.

And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents.

And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi.

And all those who were with me did take upon them to call themselves the people of Nephi.

And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.

And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind.

And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass; and also the ball, or compass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord, according to that which is written.  (2 Ne. 5:1-12)

It was used by Mosiah to get to the land of Zarahemla:

Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness—

And it came to pass that he did according as the Lord had commanded him. And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla.  (Omni 1:12-13)

[This part has been removed, due to errors.  See this comment to read what was originally written here.]

Okay, so that’s enough.  I just wanted to show that the interpreters did not replace the Liahona.  The interpreters were for translation, whereas the Liahona was for guiding the people to and from their promised lands of inheritance.  Thus, the Liahona was not a relic, but a compass that was kept and preserved for future migrations of the people, in which they needed to be guided to another land of promise.

Joseph Smith never needed the Liahona, for the migrations of the Gentile saints were, more or less, along known paths.  Also, he didn’t have the strength of the Lord to keep it safe, therefore, as it wasn’t needed, and giving it to him posed a very real danger, for it wasn’t safe with him, it was retained.  But the ancient Nephites did not have such a restriction placed upon them.  The Liahona was with them to the very end and they were given the strength, and even commanded, to keep and preserve it, along with the other artifacts.

The Liahona will be used again in the future, by the next seer, because it will be needed, for the land will be completely changed or altered, and everyone will be, essentially, lost, in terms of point of reference.  Thus, the physical will match the spiritual, for as their souls will become lost, through their sinfulness, so will they physically be lost, or not know how to get from one point to the next.  Our modern compasses will no longer work, the satellite systems will be down, and nobody will have any frame of reference upon which to rely.  Even the starry skies will be altered, so that navigation by the stars will be impossible.  Thus, the Liahona’s need.

The interpreters and breastplate

The story given at the start of this blog post sounds about right to me.  Meg is incorrect, though, about that man being Lehi.  It was not Lehi, but Mosiah.  Mosiah is the very first person mentioned in the record who translated anything:

And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.  (Omni 1:20)

Mosiah needed the interpreters, therefore, he got them.  But they did not replace the Liahona.  Later on, the interpreters were used to translate the plates of Ether.  Again, this shows that God prepares these things for future purposes.  These same interpreters were for translating the plates of Mormon the first time, via Joseph Smith, and also will be used to translate them the second time, via the second seer, as well as all the records of this and other continents.

Again, when the interpreters return, like the Liahona’s return, they will be kept and preserved by the next seer, to be used and preserved perpetually, for they were never intended to be temporary measures, but a permanent thing.  We can expect, then, that the next seer will have all three of these items in his possession, or at least claim to have them.

Now, about that breastplate.  It was likely of Jaredite origin, like the interpreters.  It may have been created by the brother of Jared, or by the Lord, but it surely proceeded from the time that the brother of Jared received the interpreters from the Lord, and not from the Nephites.  Therefore, it was made either by the Lord, or by the brother of Jared (or some other Jaredite) specifically for some person.  That person was not Joseph Smith, nor any of the ancient Nephites, but for the next seer.  In other words, it is a custom fit for him, but for all others, it was an imperfect fit.  The next seer, who will be the Josephite, then, will be a man large in stature, for he must fit into this breastplate perfectly, for it was made specifically for him.

The plates of Mormon

Not much to say here, except that when the next seer gets these plates, they ain’t going back.  They will remain kept and preserved, safe in his possession, and stay with the people of God throughout their generations, like the rest of the artifacts.  Their use will be specific, even after he translates them, for the sealed portion, which was written in the ancient language of the Nephites, was for the Nephites of the future, to read via or sans the interpreters.  Remember what I wrote about captain Moroni being a man of perfect understanding?  History is going to repeat itself, for the new Nephites are going to need to re-learn the old languages and read their scriptures in these languages, too.

The sword of Laban

We don’t know the history of the sword of Laban.  It may be that Laban made the sword himself, or caused some steel-worker to make the sword for him.  But I highly doubt it.  The sword of Laban strikes me as a historical (and practical) emblem of the deliverers, for this is how it was used by the Nephites, and they followed the same custom of the Jews.  In other words, Laban inherited the sword from the previous deliverer.  Now, I have written before about deliverers and the principle of deliverance (see The significance of captain Moroni) and I have also written a little bit about the need to kill Laban and why he was entrusted with the plates (see, for example, Nephi slaying Laban in light of D&C 98), but I don’t think I have ever explained that Laban was the appointed Jewish deliverer at that time.  Unfortunately, instead of being a righteous man, he was a murderer.

The sword of Laban was the emblem of deliverance, for both Jewish times and Nephite times.  It was passed down from one appointed deliverer to the next, to be used to protect the people of the Lord from the wicked who were trying to slay them.  The first recorded use of the sword of Laban, by Nephi, shows him using it for that very purpose, for Laban was actively trying to kill them, and Nephi delivered himself and his brothers by using the sword to end Laban’s life.

Later on, Nephi wields the sword again, in the protection of his people from Lamanite attack.  The sword then gets passed down, from one king to the next, who use it as the appointed Nephite deliverers, to protect the people from the Lamanites, ending the life of the murderous, wicked Lamanites, so that the righteous Nephites are spared.  During the times of the judges, it gets used again, this time by the chief commanders, who were the appointed deliverers.

Now, the Book of Mormon text does not explicitly state this stuff.  Nevertheless, this is my understanding of these things, and that this sword was passed down and used by all these men who were appointed chief captains over the entire Nephite armies, as the emblem of the Lord’s deliverance.

Joseph Smith, however, did not get the sword.  Why not?  He was not appointed to be a deliverer.  But the next seer, the Josephite, will be like unto Moses, and will deliver the Lord’s people from captivity.  And guess what that guy is going to be wielding?  The very sword of Laban.  The Lord is going to make such a show before the people that the Gentiles are going to be astounded by what they see, for this man is going to be decked out, in Nephite clothing and armor, wielding the sword of Laban, and, being of large stature, he is going to intimidate all those around him.

Now, this may sound like a bunch of foolishness to people, for we use guns, not swords, today.  But remember that post I wrote back in 2010?  (“And thus, with the sword…”)  So, these artifacts are all coming back, and will be used by this guy.  They were used by the ancients, but they were specifically made for the end times, to be used and wielded by the Josephite.

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