Seeing the attacks in France and the attacks on our people here in the United States, both by ISIS and by the Black Lives Matter movement reminds me of how important law is. By law, I mean the natural law that applies everywhere at all time, that assigns a value of right or wrong to every action we take.
We live in a world where we think we can invent laws. This is not so. The universe is already governed by laws. Our choice is between governments which enact laws accordingly or governments which presume they can rewrite the laws of nature. We suffer under the fools who take upon themselves the role of God and decide they can control people and shape them with unjust and unworthy laws.
If you want to see what a moral law looks like, a law that is tuned to set a people free from their own faults and live in peace with themselves and their neighbors, you don’t have to look further than the Law of Moses as outlined in the Bible.
I shall revisit that law to recover some of the essential elements.
First, the laws that there shall be no God but God. This is encoded in the first three commandments. The first says that God is the same God who freed the Israelites from the Egyptians, and there shall be no other god before Him. The second that there shall be no worshipping of idols. The third that you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. The first law says that the position of God is already filled, and that by a God who redeems and liberates people. Can there be a greater God with greater good than this? The second says you should not worship things that aren’t God. We have a tendency to worship things rather than God, and doing so sets us up for disappointment. The third says that you should not invoke the name of God unless He told you to. It says that the false prophets who proclaim to represent God but fail to deliver should not be tolerated.
Can I emphasize how important it is that we, as a people, align our worshiping instinct and settle on the worship of a being who has at in his heart’s desire our freedom and liberty?
The next law has to do with the Sabbath. The Sabbath is more than a day off from work. It is a day to recognize the importance of rest and the importance of re-tuning ourselves to God. It is a sign that we believe there is something more important than work. It is a time to re-teach ourselves, our families, and our neighbors what is truly most important.
The fifth law is about family. The Bible only commands us to honor two beings: Our mother and our father. Without the family and a proper respect for parents, how long can a society last? Thus, the promise that we can live a long time in the land if we simply remember to honor our own parents.
The sixth law forbids murder. (Although it is often translated as killing, subsequent punishments make it clear that God wants certain people to be killed.) I think it is safe to say that we all agree, world-wide that murder is wrong. Or do we? How important it is that we place life at such a high priority!
The seventh has to do with sexual purity by forbidding adultery. The Laws of Moses made it clear that adultery or anything like it was a gross sin and violation of the fundamental commandments. In marriage we find the only appropriate place to express our sexual desires. The result of sexual activity is, of course, children. Certainly, the opposite of “thou shalt not commit adultery” is “thou shalt have plenty of sexual relations with your spouse.”
The eighth has to do with property. Don’t steal. Again, the opposite would be “respect other’s property.” Property rights is the key foundation to material wealth.
The ninth is a restriction on speech. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” In other words, don’t lie about what you see. The punishment according to the Law of Moses for bearing false witness was to punish the liar with the same punishment the victim would’ve received. How sound our legal system would be if we prosecuted those who lie in their testimony! But more important, it sets a limit to how far you can exercise your speech, and deceiving and lying to people is not ok.
The last commandment has to do with coveting. The point of coveting is not to have the same things as what your neighbor has, but to have the very things your neighbor has. If we want something our neighbor has, we should work to make it ourselves, or trade for it. The converse of the commandment is “Be happy that your neighbor has nice things.” I am reminded of the tradition found in almost every society of people calling for celebration when something good happens to them. Not to brag, of course, but to share the joy.
These ten basic commandments are the foundation of Western Civilization. They are the key to peace and happiness in any society. We cannot omit one and expect good things to happen.
But these are only ten basic commandments.
The Savior spoke of the two great commandments: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments provide a framework for everything we do. Atheists might object to the “loving God” part, but let’s be clear: The worship of God is the worship of perfection and the embodiment of all that is good in the universe. Who can do anything but worship perfection? And by satisfying our in-grown desire to worship something, we eliminate any possibility of being lead to worship something less. And the commandment of our neighbor is the basis of the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. What wise words!
But the Savior expanded upon the ten commandments, setting them as the bare minimum of behavior. He called for people to not even get angry with each other and call each other names. He called for people to forgive one another. He called for people to not even break the laws in their hearts. The Savior’s way is the better way. It doesn’t eliminate the Ten Commandments but elevates them as the bedrock of society. You can choose to live on the rock, but we can build our houses on that rock, too.
Once we agree to a law, the question then becomes: What should we do to those who refuse to keep them? The Law of Moses makes it clear what to do with murderers and rapists and thieves. It is even clear on what should be done to those who fail to acknowledge their parents or God. There must be some punishment attached to a violation of the law, and there must be some system of fairly distributing that punishment. Some of the commandments God reserves punishment for himself. Others he commands us to deal out the punishment. We would be wise to consider carefully which system makes the most sense for our people and our time.
The bottom line, though, is this: We cannot wish or hope the world would be a better place. We have been entrusted with sovereignty, the right to rule ourselves. We must acknowledge that our laws need to be enforced, our enemies fought, and victory won.