The Book of Mormon
and the Constitution

Chapter 18: The Duties of Man

Prefatory Statement

      In pursuing our goal of demonstrating that the Golden Rule should apply to the actions of government, we have shown that: (1) Only by complying with divine natural law can we hope to achieve any goal; (2) That all people, regardless of other differences, want freedom above any other possession; (3) That only by protecting man’s rights to life, liberty, property and knowledge, can government protect freedom.

      In this chapter we consider the fact that a right in one person is always represented by a duty in another, and that the only way a right can be protected is by compelling those who owe the corresponding duty, to observe and discharge it.

      We shall classify rights and duties as being either natural or acquired and shall show that regardless of their type, they involve the elements of freedom. We shall also show that only governments may properly enforce duties and therefore all men have a duty to support it in doing so.

Rights Exist Only If Represented by Duties

      If it is assumed that all men are endowed by their Creator with a set of unalienable rights to the four elements of freedom, it must also be assumed that all men are burdened with a corresponding set of duties respecting those rights. Basic to an understanding of a right is a realization that it cannot exist without a matching duty; for what can a fight consist of other than the enforcement of a duty concerning it? By very definition a right cannot exist in one person unless there is a corresponding duty in another. Unless there is someone who can be compelled to do, or refrain from doing something to give the fight meaning, it has no substance. [p. 126]

      Rights and duties are as inseparable as are the concepts of light and darkness, positive and negative, good and evil. One term standing alone is meaningless because it can neither be comprehended nor explained without considering its opposite with which it must be contrasted.

      Once this fact is recognized it becomes apparent that if all men have been endowed with a right to the four elements of freedom, all men have had imposed upon them a set of duties concerning these rights. And what is the nature of these reciprocal rights and duties? Each member of society is entitled to have all others refrain from injuring or taking his life, liberty, property or knowledge, and each is obligated in turn to refrain from invading or violating these endowments of his fellow men.

Natural Rights and Duties

      Let us denominate the rights and duties just described as “natural” because we are born with them. They have been conferred upon us and imposed upon us without any conscious action on our part. Our Creator in granting each of us our rights, of necessity imposed upon us the duty of respecting the rights of others.

      These “natural” duties may be regarded as negative in nature because they obligate us to refrain from acting. We are required to abstain from that conduct which will cause harm to others. Only when we have violated this negative duty by committing a wrong, are we obligated to take affirmative action and make amends for the injury inflicted.

Acquired Rights and Duties

      But in addition to our natural negative duties which require us to refrain from acting, there are also what might be termed acquired or assumed duties which require us to take some positive action. These are brought into existence only when we voluntarily agree to assume them. They are acquired and assumed as a result of a deliberate and premeditated intent that we do so.

      The most common and familiar type of such rights and duties arises out of the business contract. In the typical case the parties enter into a [p. 127] binding agreement under the terms of which one party assumes an obligation to deliver goods or perform services in exchange for the right to receive money. The other party assumes the duty to pay the money, and acquires the right to compel delivery of the goods or performance of the services.

      Another type of acquired rights and duties arises out of the family relationship. Under the marriage contract each party acquires legally enforceable rights against the other and assumes obligations in exchange therefor. The rights and duties between parents and children are different in some respects from those created by agreement, but are nonetheless real. Even though no formal agreement is entered into, when parents bring a child into the world they voluntarily assume the duty to support and care for that helpless infant until he is able to fend for himself. In exchange for such benefits, the child owes the parents obedience and also the duty to provide for their needs if their positions become reversed with the parents becoming helpless and the child able to sustain them.

      It is observed that the rights and duties which we acquire concern the elements of freedom just as do those which we have called natural. The rights acquired under a business contract or because of a family relationship, entitle the holder thereof to have his life or liberty maintained, or his property or knowledge increased. On the other hand the duty assumed requires an expenditure or utilization of these possessions. Whether the right is natural or acquired, the owner thereof is entitled to have others observe a duty respecting the elements of freedom—either to refrain from injuring them or to take some affirmative action concerning them.

Rights and Duties Without Substance Unless Enforced

      Just as a right does not exist without a duty, neither rights nor duties exist unless enforced. Unless the person who violates a right is compelled to atone for the wrong and make restitution for the injury, it is a misuse of the term to call it a right.

      The substance of a right consists of the power to compel the invader of the right to do something, and the substance of a duty consists of being compelled to perform. Unless the performance of the duty is compelled, [p. 128] the right is without a remedy and the failure to perform without a penalty. It is enforcement which brings both into existence and gives them substance.

      The doctrine of the rights of man then necessarily includes the use of force on humans for without such physical violence and the threat thereof, they would not exist.

Government Necessary for the Enforcement of Rights and Duties

      If it be true that rights and duties do not exist unless enforced, it is also true that they exist incompletely or not at all in the absence of government; this being the only agency which is at once powerful enough and impartial enough to exercise the force required.

      Government is the supreme physical force in society. To perform its functions it must be supplied with sufficient manpower and means to enforce its will against all persons and groups. Only with such power can it adequately enforce human rights.

      When government functions properly it enforces rights and duties in a just manner. It is not subject to bias or partisan pressure. It correctly appraises the character of the wrong committed, the restitution required and the punishment deserved. This combination of superior force and impartial judgment is indispensable if human rights are properly protected. It is most apparent that if each person had to rely on his own resources to enforce his rights, many would remain unenforced and would therefore not exist. The strong and cunning would prevail over the weak regardless of whose rights had been invaded. Thus, in the great majority of cases, rights and duties would disappear for want of enforcement.

      And in those cases where the strong happened to be in the wrong, there would be little chance for justice since the natural bias of men makes them unfit to be judges in their own cases. In view of these facts, we can conclude that the rights of man are in essence the right to use the force of government to punish wrong and compel the performance of duties. This is in harmony with the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence which says:

To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men . . . [p. 129]

      It is also in harmony with the scriptures. The right to use the force of government to punish crime and compel the performance of duties is taught by the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. The following scripture from the Book of Mormon for example, states the right of a creditor to compel payment of a debt:

Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber. (Alma 11:2)

The Duty to Support Government

      The list of man’s rights and duties would be incomplete without noting his right to call upon government for protection and his duty to support it in doing so. It has been seen that only the agency of government can properly protect rights. Once it is established and assumes this responsibility, each citizen is entitled to call upon it for protection of his own rights. But no one can lay claim to this right without assuming a corresponding duty; and the duty in this instance is to provide the means and manpower required for this purpose. Government cannot operate unless supported, and such support must be provided by those it protects.

      From this it must be concluded that the duty to support government is an integral and indispensable part of the doctrine of the rights of man. Human rights do not exist unless this duty is performed. And let it be recalled that a duty is without substance unless enforced; therefore government must have the power to compel those it protects to pay taxes and perform other necessary duties such as serve in the armed forces and on juries.

      As long as government restricts itself to the function of protecting the elements of freedom, and as long as it apportions the taxes and other essential duties equitably, no one can justly complain about his own political obligations.

      Since everyone desires and needs to have his rights protected, and since government is the only practical means by which this can be done, everyone should realize that for his own benefit it must be supported. [p. 130] Each should be able to see that it would be unjust and destructive of his own rights if others were permitted to withhold their support. Therefore, if he fails to bear his fair share, he knows he is shirking a duty which is rightfully his. Logic tells him that force may be properly used to compel him to perform. As is stated by the scriptures:

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; . . . (D&C 134:5)

      Having defined the task of protecting human freedom as being that of enforcing the duties of man, we are now prepared to discuss in chapters which follow, those divine natural laws governments must obey in performing this function. [p. 131]

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