Anarchy in action: congregational nullification


Jury Nullification

Jury nullification means making a law void by jury decision, in other words “the process whereby a jury in a criminal case effectively nullifies a law by acquitting a defendant regardless of the weight of evidence against him or her.”

Jury nullification is more specifically any rendering of a verdict by a trial jury, acquitting a criminal defendant despite the defendant’s violation of the letter of the law. This verdict need not disagree with the instructions by the judge concerning what the law is, but may disagree with an instruction, if given by the judge, that the jury is required to apply the law to the defendant if certain facts are found.

Although a jury’s refusal relates only to the particular case before it, if a pattern of such verdicts develops in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offense, it can have the practical effect of disabling the enforcement of the statute. “Jury nullification” is thus a means for the people to express opposition to an unpopular legislative enactment.

The jury system was established because it was felt that a panel of citizens, drawn at random from the community, and serving for too short a time to be corrupted, would be more likely to render a just verdict, through judging both the accused and the law, than officials who may be unduly influenced to follow merely the established law. Jury nullification is a reminder that the right to trial by one’s peers affords the public an opportunity to take a dissenting view about the justness of a statute or official practices.

(Taken from the Jury Nullification entry of the Wikipedia. See the entire entry for more information.)

Jury nullification occurs when a jury judges both the facts of a case and the law it is based upon. In modern times it doesn’t occur very often, perhaps because juries are not aware that they have this common law right or power due to modern judges not informing them of the entire jurisdiction of a jury. In fact, judges often do the opposite and give them instructions that they must apply the law. However, the truth is that juries do have this power regardless of what a corrupt judge may say.

Congregational Juries

Our system of church government consists of judges, courts and councils, with witnesses and advocacy, but apparently without juries. However, as all appointments/callings must be approved by the congregation through common consent vote before an appointment/calling is solidified, in reality and practice the congregational members are the juries of the church.

Again, any calling in the church needs to be ratified by the congregational jury. A name is read and a call to ratify is made to the members, who raise their hands in approbation or in opposition, or who do not raise their hands, at all. A count is made and if the voice of the people (the majority) is for the appointment, it goes through. If the voice of the people is against it, it does not go through. In this way the congregational jury renders a verdict of their approval or disapproval of the various appointments/callings. We call this vote sustaining. Nothing in the church happens, nor can happen, without a sustaining vote of the members of the congregation, as that would be tyranny and a usurpation of powers, because all things must be done with the consent of the congregation.

Congregational Nullification

There is, however, another way that the congregational jury renders a verdict. Sometimes policies or instructions are handed out to the members from their leaders without taking a vote. For example, recent First Presidency letters read in sacrament meeting contained instructions to the members concerning the passage of a constitutional amendment on marriage (for California saints) and sacrament meeting behavior, specifically, not using visual aids or asking the congregation to turn to a scripture while giving a talk. These instructions are similar to those received by trial juries from the presiding judge concerning how they are to apply the law to the case. In both instances, neither jury is instructed that they can pass judgment upon the judge’s instructions and discard them if wisdom so dictates.

Many saints get offended when instructions they feel are overbearing or tyrannical come down from their leaders. To prove their point, they’ll sometimes take actions that end up pitting the church against them, such as taking a public stand against the church. This is not the wisest course to take and may lead to their being disfellowshipped, excommunicated or even them just leaving on their own.

The Lord has given us the means to nip all tyranny in His church in the bud via the law of common consent. Just as trial jury nullification exists as a common law right, it also exists as a right of the congregational juries. Simply ignoring all instructions deemed to be unjust, unwise, overbearing, tyrannical or humiliating nullifies the instructions. End of story.

Most instructions given today by leaders are called “counsel.” When members are asked to do something, usually that is the very word used: ask. Anybody can ask anything they want of you. Asking you to do or not to do something does not rob you of your agency. It also does not obligate you to do the thing asked. Like trial juries, congregational juries have the choice to obey instructions received by them from the leaders without another thought, or they can render the instructions null and void by ignoring them.

Anarchy in Action

Both congregational nullification and the raising of the hands in approval/disapproval during a sustaining vote is anarchy in action. Ultimately, always, the people decide all matters of the church. The leaders can do nothing without the consent of the people.

Taking the two examples given above, for those saints who agree with the First Presidency letter on the marriage bill, they can sustain the letter’s instructions by donating time, means and effort to that cause. For those saints who disagree with the letter’s instructions, they can ignore the petition entirely and donate no time, means or effort to it. Just as during sustaining votes, members do not campaign other members to sway votes in favor of or against particular church callings, campaigning need not occur for non-voting uses of the law of common consent. Everything remains peaceful, ordered and anarchic, each man, woman and child of the church casting a verdict on the instructions by their actions.

In the second instance mentioned above, congregational nullification can also occur, should the people think the instructions are unneccessary or unjust. Or, congregational ratification can occur should the people think the instructions are wise and timely. All that is necessary is that each speaker either obey the instructions and stop using visual aids or asking the audience to open their scriptures, or disregard the instructions and use visual aids and ask the congregation to turn to such-and-such a verse.

The bishop or other leaders may attempt to correct a single person who ignores counsel or instruction, but if that person continues to ignore the counsel, or if more than one person ignores the counsel and it becomes apparent that the congregation has passed a verdict against the counsel, by ignoring it, then congregational nullification has occurred and that counsel is now null and void. There is nothing a leader can do with a group of people who refuse to ratify an instruction by obedience to it.

In my own experience, eventually even the most power-tripping leaders will throw up their hands in frustration because peaceful, ordered, anarchic congregational nullification cannot be stopped. No one can be tried for ignoring counsel or petitions. There is no law against it in the church. There are only laws against sin.

Use of Common Consent Stops Tyranny

Jury nullification drives leaders up the wall with frustration, as it limits their power and control over a congregation, but it is one of the means the Lord has set up to stop tyranny in His church. Used as a proper check to usurpation of power, it properly balances the church and puts all saints, leaders and members alike, on equal ground.

So, the next time you receive instructions from your religious leaders you do not agree with, even after prayer and fasting, instead of publicly fighting them and becoming an apostate, instead of striving to get other members in your camp and pit member against member or member against leader, or instead of trying to win the leader over to your cause (which never works), just apply the principle of congregational nullification and ignore the instructions.

Next Anarchism/Anarchy article: Anarchy in Education

Previous Anarchism/Anarchy article: The dissolution of the corporate LDS Church via “gay marriage”

Next Common Consent article: Apathy is not a problem, it’s a symptom and a solution

Previous Common Consent article: Power of the Law of Common Consent

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

Book of Mormon Anarchy


In 3 Nephi chapter 7 there is the very interesting account of the destruction of the Nephite government and the introduction of tribal-based anarchy. A quick summary: The chief judge is murdered by the secret combination (v. 1) and it causes a great contention in the land, causing virtually everyone to become wicked (v. 7); the government and its regulations are destroyed (v. 2, 6); the people separate (v. 2, 14) into exceedingly large tribes (v. 4) with appointed leaders or chiefs (v. 3) consisting of family, kindred and friends (v. 2, 4, 14); the tribes have their own separate laws (v. 11, 14) including laws on how to interact with other tribes (v. 14); the tribes have no wars among them (v.5) and are united, but not according to their laws (v. 11, 14); the secret combination forms a monarchy with king Jacob as the monarch (v. 9-10); the tribes are united in their hatred of the kingdom of Jacob (v. 11) ; king Jacob and his subjects escape to the north (v. 12-13); the tribes stone and cast out any prophets that come among them (v. 14); Nephi ministers with great power and authority to the tribes, making but few converts, who also witness of their conversion through signs and miracles (v. 15-22.)

One of the arguments against anarchy, made chiefly by statists, is that anarchy cannot exist without a totally moral people. They argue, essentially, that since the natural man is an enemy to God, people living in anarchy would murder, rape, steal and do other very wicked deeds without a government to check their wicked ways. Nevertheless, 3 Nephi chapter 7 flies in the face of that logic, showing that even wicked people living under anarchy had “in some degree…peace in the land” (v. 14.) Obviously, “some degree of peace” applied to a temporal sense, as spiritually, these people were completely devoid of the peace of Jesus.

People normally learn about anarchy from statists, who have a vested interest to vilify and smear anarchy, because anarchy is the natural enemy of statism. Thus, a statist will say that anarchy breeds violence and chaos. Yet the Book of Mormon account of anarchy, an admitted account of a wicked people that stoned prophets of God, is one of an ordered society that, although separated into tribes, were still united and had strict agreements (treaties) between the tribes.

Some believe that once a government is removed and the natural anarchic order is allowed to settle in, family ties are strengthened exceedingly and families naturally start to coalesce into clans. (See the articles that Mary Ruwart and Phillip E. Jacobson have written on this very subject.) This is based upon historical, non-Book of Mormon data. However, the ancient books of scripture used by the LDS add to the body of evidence for this belief. Both the Bible and Book of Mormon examples of anarchy are tribal-based, a tribe essentially being a clan, or a very large clan. Tribal or clan-based anarchy appears to be the natural order of anarchy.

Jacob and his followers were king-men, attempting to establish a monarchy so that they could rule over the souls of men. These were die-hard statists and it is telling that as soon as the government was dissolved, they grouped together and created their own little state, a kingdom with a monarch (Jacob, not Jesus) to rule over them.

Another interesting point to note is that Mormon explains that it was the dividing of the people and their separation into tribes that destroyed the government (v. 2.) On the surface this might not seem like enough to destroy a government, but when you live in a tribe of your family, kindred and friends and your tribe has laws, your allegiances become torn. As they say, blood is thicker than water. These people are your relatives. To which laws do you owe your allegiance, the government or your tribe, if there is a conflict between the two sets of regulations? As long as families are nuclear and small (a mother, a father and children,) the power and pull of a family will be small and the power and pull of government will be large, but when families group together in common biological or friendship links (blood brothers), the power of a tribal family becomes large. The allegiance to it also increases. This may be why organized crime Mafia clans, which have blood ties and their own laws, command greater allegiance from their members than the legal government around them does. So, if you take the entire country, the USA, for example, and suddenly have everyone placed into a family clan or family tribe, suddenly the government loses all power, as allegiance to the government goes down to zero and allegiance to family, clan and tribe becomes all important.

A last thought: Before I learned anarchy from anarchists, I learned anarchy from state propaganda. I, like most, thought of anarchy as a great evil, to be avoided at all costs. I thought that any government was better than no government at all. Reading verse 5 of 3 Nephi chapter 7 seemed to solidify the propaganda. When Mormon used the phrase “all this iniquity,” I just figured he was talking about the anarchic, empowered tribal state, in other words, the destruction of the government. Now, though, I realize that tribes are not intrinsically evil. In fact, as LDS, we are placed into one of 12 tribes. So, Mormon was talking of different iniquities and not the ones that my state propaganda-ized mind was assigning, the iniquities of which he explains in this and the preceding chapter.

Next Anarchism/Anarchy article: Stateless in Somalia: How Clannish Anarchy Works

Previous Anarchism/Anarchy article: Biblical Anarchism

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist