Heretofore it has been concluded that since freedom is the paramount need and desire of mankind, and since, when attained, it makes possible the achievement of all other purposes to which men can aspire, it can be made not only the primary purpose of government, but also its exclusive purpose.
To achieve this universal goal we developed the following natural laws for government to obey:
(a) Inflict punishment or the intentional violation of duties but for no other purpose;
(b) Stand ready to enforce all existing rights and duties but never create rights nor enforce any except those which are natural or have been acquired with the consent of the obligor.
While these laws establish that line between those circumstances under which government should and should not take action, they fail to specify exactly what that action should be. While they state when punishment should be inflicted and restitution should be compelled, they do not set up a standard for determining the nature of the punishment nor the amount of the restitution. Obviously such a standard is necessary if a government is to perform its duties properly.
Punishments can range from a slap on the wrist to death; from a day in prison to incarceration for life, from a fine of a dollar to one of a million or more. A similarly wide range of choices is open in granting restitution. To leave such matters to the whim or caprice of judges, juries and bureaucrats is to establish a government of men rather than one of laws. It is to introduce inconsistency, unpredictability and inequity into a system which should treat all men [p. 38] alike. People cannot be expected to respect nor voluntarily support a government with such infirmities.
The standard which is adopted must enable those who use it to obtain exact answers to the questions raised because whenever a case comes before a court or other tribunal for resolution, government is faced with the unavoidable task of giving precise answers to those questions. If it be a criminal case where the defendant has been convicted of a crime such as murder or robbery, an exact penalty must be imposed. If he is not sentenced to death then the precise number of years or days he must spend in prison or the exact amount of his fine must be determined. An accurate determination of the damages to be assessed in civil cases also must be made.
Difficult and disagreeable though the task may be, there is no escape from the necessity of giving precise answers in every case which arises. This being so, the standard which is established to guide judges and juries must provide exact answers. Does such a standard exist? With this question in mind, let us consider the principles of justice.
According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
WE believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. (D&C 101: 77; 134:1)
When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make [them] know the statutes of God, and his laws.
And Moses father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest [is] not good.
Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that [is] with thee: for this thing [is] too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: [p. 39]
And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place [such] over them, [to be] rulers of thousands, [and] rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, [that] every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear [the burden] with thee.
If thou shalt do thus thing, and God command thee [so], then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.
So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.
And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land. (Exodus 18:16-27; See also Mosiah Ch. 29)
The need and desire for justice seems to be inherent in every person who believes in moral values and the distinction between good and evil. One who believes in good and evil also believes that the good should be rewarded and the evil punished. But in the final analysis, this is what justice consists of. Or to put the matter otherwise, when people believe there is a right and a wrong, they also believe that when a wrong is committed, it remains such until a proper punishment is imposed, a correct restitution is made or both. The situation can be made right and their sense of justice satisfied only when this occurs.
Furthermore the punishment must fit the crime and the restitution be equal to the injury. If the penalty is either too severe or too lenient or the restitution too great or too small, to this same extent justice has not been done.
To summarize, moral people possess an innate sense of justice which insists that there exists in nature an exactly deserved reward for every good, a fitting punishment of every evil, and a precisely correct restitution for every injury. Dictionaries s confirm that this is the meaning people intend when they use the term. For example one dictionary definition reads: [p. 40]
Conformity to truth, fact or reason, correctness, rightfulness, ... to treat fairly or according to merit.
Another defines justice as:
The constant and perpetual disposition to render every man his due.
It is this universal belief in good and evil and the accompanying desire to see that justice is done which prompts men to establish governments and confer upon them the power to punish evil, protect good and make restitution for injuries. Justice is, indeed, the great object of government. As was stated by Madison and Hamilton in the Federalist Papers:
Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. (Fed. Papers #51)
The various definitions given of the word justice do not ordinarily specify what punishments and rewards consist of. It is assumed that everyone will understand that a reward always consists of an increase in the elements of freedom while a punishment consists of a denial or deprivation of one of those elements. Certainly when government acts to dispense justice it does so by granting or taking life, liberty or property. With this fact in mind we might more completely define justice as:
Allotting to each exactly the amount of freedom he deserves.
We will now turn to the Golden Rule of the Christian religion to determine exactly how much freedom a court should take from or award to an individual in any given case to achieve justice.
We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same, but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from, the unlawful assaults, and encroachments, of, all persons [p. 41] in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded (D&C 134:11)
The Golden Rule is stated in the book of Matthew in the Bible in these words:
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: For this is the law and the prophets. (Matt. 7:12)
As set forth in this quotation, the Golden Rule constitutes a commandment to treat others as we would be treated. But it also states that this is the law and the prophets. In what way does it constitute a law? That is, if the Golden Rule is the law, what are the rewards for obedience and the penalties for disobedience? Simply this: as we do unto others, so shall it be done unto us. This was made plain by Christ in another statement in the Sermon on the Mount wherein He said:
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matt. 7:2)
It might be assumed by some that the Golden Rule was intended to have application only in an afterlife but not here on earth. The teachings of the Bible do not justify such a conclusion. The law spoken of by Christ was, of course, the one given to the Israelites through Moses. In criminal cases there was a one to one correspondence between the injury inflicted and the penalty imposed as the following familiar quotation indicates:
And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deut. 12:21)
In the above quoted passage the fundamental rule of Christian justice which decrees that a criminal shall be treated as he treats his fellow man is set forth in simplicity and plainness. However the following explanations seem necessary to avoid unwarranted conclusions regarding its meaning.
(1) Except in cases such as murder where restitution is impossible, the wrongdoer in a criminal case was not required to suffer in the same manner as did his victim if he was able to atone for his [p. 42] crime otherwise such as by paying a fine or rendering a service.
(2) The accused was judged by his intent to do evil rather than by the amount of harm he had caused. If the injury was inflicted accidentally or in justifiable self-defense for example, no punishment was imposed.
(3) In cases of theft or malicious destruction of property, the wrongdoer was required to pay his victim several times the value of the property taken. This was considered necessary for two reasons: (a) To effectively deter crimes of this nature; and (b) To adequately recompense the victim not only for his lost property, but also for his lost time, trouble and inconvenience.
In civil cases, that is in those situations where one person had caused harm negligently but without intending to do so, he was required to make restitution equal to the damage inflicted and thus suffer to the same extent as he had caused another to suffer.
Not only does the Golden Rule provide government with a precise standard regarding what it should do, but it sets up an equally precise standard regarding what it should not do. It applies to all of the actions of men whether they are committed alone or while acting in concert with others and thus places the same restraints on governments as on individuals. This conclusion may seem novel to some since the rule is generally thought of as having application only to individual behavior. But there are compelling reasons why men should obey it when they act under the authority of the state. Before enumerating them, we desire to point out that when men act through government they use force and the threat of force on humans. This fact seems to be so little understood and so commonly overlooked that it deserves special attention.
No matter how governments may differ from one another otherwise, there is one feature common to all: they use force and the threat thereof to accomplish their purposes. This is the exclusive method by which they secure obedience to their decrees.
There are two methods of influencing human behavior: one is by compulsion, the other by persuasion. A distinct line separates these [p. 43] methods. Let us examine it. When compulsion is used the one being compelled is not allowed his choice in the matter. He is commanded or forbidden to act in a specified manner and if he fails to do so he is physically punished until he complies. If he resists he is overpowered or punished until his resistance ceases. Punishment consists of depriving him of one of those possessions which every person desires to retain-life, liberty or property.
When persuasion is used the one doing the persuading may use argument, pleading, logic or even the offer of a bribe. However, the one being influenced is left free to make his own decision as to whether or not he will comply. He knows that if he decides not to obey he may incur the displeasure of his persuader but nothing more. Neither his life, liberty, nor property are in jeopardy. No physical punishment is inflicted or even threatened, otherwise the case is one of compulsion.
When governments act they use the compulsion method. Every law which they adopt contains a penalty clause which directs the officers of government to take either the life, the liberty or the property of those who disobey. Unless a law provides for the loss of one of these possessions it cannot be properly termed a law. It is nothing more than a request or a recommendation which the people are as free to disregard after its enactment as they were before.
Some may imagine that certain types of government action are nothing more than voluntary cooperation with no compulsion being involved. This view is demonstrably false and cannot be held by those who understand the true nature of laws and government. The only reason we pass any law is to force those to obey it who would not do so unless threatened with death, imprisonment or fine. If we desire to use only voluntary means to influence others we either proceed alone or through some voluntary organization such as a club, a church, a lodge or some other non-governmental group. The only ones who conform and join such organizations are those who do so of their own free will. The only ones who pay dues and obey the rules are those who consent thereto. No one is threatened, compelled, or physically punished for non-conformance.
But when government is used every person must obey the laws whether he agrees with them or not. Every taxpayer must support government programs no matter how violently he may oppose them. Even those laws which merely provide for making gifts or hiring administrators to carry out so-called optional programs involve the [p. 44] use of force because no gift can be made nor administrator hired without collecting taxes under laws which compel their payment. If anyone refuses to pay his taxes, his property is taken from him by force; and anyone who attempts to obstruct a government program is physically prevented from doing so. Non-compliance is put down with any necessary force. Physical violence and the threat thereof lie behind every law and every government activity and anyone who does not realize this does not understand the true nature of this organization. With this fact clearly in mind let us observe why the Golden Rule should apply to government action.
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. (D&C 134:4)
Now there was no law against a mans belief for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.
For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.
Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him. (Alma 30:7-9)
It cannot be denied that the nature and consequence of an act of force is not altered merely by changing the number engaged in its commission. The effect is the same whether done by one person or a million. The one against whom it is used is just as dead and just as surely bereft of his liberty or his property in the one case as in the other. Insofar as he is concerned it makes not the slightest difference [p. 45] from whence it proceeds. Furthermore the mere passing of a law which legalizes an act of violence has no effect either. Clothing force in the robes of legality may obscure or hide the naked fact from view but it does nothing to change its nature. Legislatures, monarchs and even democratic majorities are as powerless to alter the effect of an act of compulsion on a human as they are to alter the effect of the law of gravity on him.
Therefore if it would be wrong and a violation of a persons rights for him to suffer at the hands of an individual, it would be equally wrong and equally violative of his rights for him to suffer at the hands of the multitude. If the act is reprehensible, it remains so regardless of who does it. On the other hand, if the use of force is proper, that is, if the one against whom it is employed deserves to be punished or compelled to pay a debt the effect upon him is again the same regardless of its source. This being so, logic requires that we use the same standard to determine the propriety of its use in both cases. If the Golden Rule is a proper rule for individual action it is proper for government action.
Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man. (D& C 1:10)
JUDGE not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:1-2; See also Alma Ch. 41)
It is a basic and familiar tenet of American political philosophy that all power which the state possesses comes from the people. The fundamental documents of both the national and state governments acknowledge this fact and the writings of the founding fathers repeatedly refer to it. The Declaration of Independence asserts it in these words: [p. 46]
That to secure (our inalienable rights) ... governments were instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The United States Constitution recognizes the people as the source of its authority in the preamble which reads in part as follows:
We, the people of the United States ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Virtually all state constitutions expressly affirm this truth with over half of them using words identical with, or similar to, the following:
All political power is inherent in the people.
The writings of the men who founded our nation are further evidence of how deeply this principle is imbedded in our American system. In his Farewell Address, Washington states that: The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to alter their constitutions of government. Alexander Hamilton in arguing that the people themselves were the only ones competent to ratify the United States Constitution stated:
The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority. (Federalist Papers #22)
James Madison who is commonly referred to as the father of the United States Constitution expressed his belief in this doctrine in these words:
The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on one side, not only that all power should be derived from the people, but that those intrusted with it should be kept in dependence on the people, by a short duration of their appointments ... (Federalist Papers #37)
Since all political power comes from the people and since it is a fundamental axiom that a power can rise no higher than its source, the right of government to use force is coextensive with, and limited [p. 47] by, the right of the individual to do so in its absence.
People are unaccustomed to thinking about the right of individuals to use violence on one another since the need therefore so seldom arises. Nevertheless the right to do so exists and the laws of the various states recognize it. For example the laws of the state of New York contain this provision:
A person may use physical force upon another person in defending himself or a third person, in defending property, in making an arrest or in preventing an escape. (New York Penal Law, Part 1, Sec. 35.10 (6))
Even the use of deadly force or force sufficient to cause death is authorized under some circumstances. As an illustration we cite the California Penal code which justifies homicide under these circumstances among others:
Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in any of the following cases:
1. When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony; or to do some great bodily injury upon any person; or,
2. When committed in defense of habitation, property, or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein ... (California Penal Code, Title 8, Sec. 197)
The right of the individual to employ force is much more extensive than is generally thought. However when governments are formed, this right is delegated to it and may be exercised thereafter by the individual only in those cases where government is unavailable to perform its duties. But the right to do so in such cases is firmly and plainly established. And why should this not be so? If we take a contrary view, then the rights of man cease or become suspended whenever there is a failure of government. But this would be to deny the proposition that mans rights are inherent and unalienable. They existed before government came into being and will exist after it is destroyed. If such be not the case then men do not have within themselves the power to protect life, liberty and property; and if they lack this power, they cannot transfer it to government; and if they cannot do this, government is without any legitimate authority [p. 48] to use physical violence on humans.
But individuals do have the right to use force on one another and the extent of that right is limited by the Golden Rule. When they delegate that right to government, those same limitations are still attached since no one can delegate a power he does not possess.
And what are those limitations?
(1) We cannot authorize government to commit an act which would be evil or wrong for the individual to commit.
(2) We cannot authorize the use of force on another if, being in his position, we would consider it wrong to have that force used on us.
It is observed that these restrictions imposed upon government by the Golden Rule are identical with those imposed by the natural laws previously developed for the protection of human freedom. According to those laws, government was forbidden to punish anything except the intentional violation of duties and was restricted to enforcing only existing rights. Since it would be manifestly evil and a violation of the Golden Rule for the individual to use force for any purposes other than these, the restrictions are the same.
I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.
According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. (D&C 98:8; 101:77, 78; See Also D&C 121:34-40)
Some may object to the use of the Golden Rule as a standard of political justice on the ground that to do this would violate the principle of separation of church and state. They might feel that it would [p. 49] be contrary to the first amendment of the United States Constitution which says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
Does this restraint on government power prohibit the use of the moral teachings of religion as the basis for the laws of the land?
In response to this question we might ask why men form governments at all if not for the purpose of enforcing a moral code which is derived primarily from religious beliefs? If we do not use our religious or moral convictions as a guide in distinguishing between the good which government should protect and the evil which it should punish then what do we use?
It will be admitted that there are in the world today utterly amoral people such as the Communists who deny God, ridicule religion and reject the idea of moral law. They would use government, not as an agency to enforce justice, but as a means by which they, a self-anointed elite can dominate and control those they regard as the ignorant and deluded masses who are so foolish as to believe in God and moral law. Fortunately the overwhelming majority in the United States reject atheistic materialism as a political philosophy and subscribe to the view of the Founding Fathers that governments should not only enforce, but also obey moral law.
Another question which might be asked of those who object to the use of religious principles as a guide in political matters is this: Can the principles of justice professed by a person in his religion logically be in conflict with those professed by him in his politics? Can that which is evil and injurious according to his church be, at the same time, good and beneficial according to his government? Obviously not.
However, being consistent in religion and politics does not require that the code of justice taught by ones church must be coextensive with that taught by the state. A Church ofttimes teaches its members to obey rules with which the state has no concern. For example a religious denomination may instruct its members that they have a duty to support that organization with their funds and participate in its activities. It may tell them that according to the justice of God, their very salvation depends upon their doing so. But to make such church commandments a part of the laws of the land [p. 50] enforceable by the police power would be a direct violation of the First Amendment.
On the other hand, everything which government does should conform to the individuals code of private morality. The reason for this is most apparent. A moral person who believes that the taking of life, liberty and property always has moral consequences and who realizes that each man-made law has this effect, will recognize that every law is either good or evil. If there is sufficient moral justification for executing, jailing and fining those who violate the law and, for threatening violence to induce all men to obey it out of fear, then ones moral principles are not offended. However if such justification does not exist, then he must regard those who befriend such a law as murderers, slave masters and thieves. A just person cannot countenance the unjustified denial of life, liberty and property by the state any more than he can by the individual.
Thus while it is logically feasible for a person to believe in religious laws which should not be enforced by the state, it is not consistent for him to hold political beliefs which do not conform to his moral principles whether they are derived from his religion or elsewhere.
According to this analysis, every moral person should be intensely interested in seeing that the laws of the land conform to his moral beliefs. There is no violation of the First Amendment in doing this. On the other hand any law which would prevent a religious person from seeking to incorporate the moral principles of his church into the laws of the land would violate that amendment. Such a law would also contravene those other provisions of the First Amendment which provide that:
Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press ...
The people should have as much freedom to write and speak about religious principles and the desirability of having them made a part of the laws of the land as they have to write and speak on other subjects.
The First Amendment had for its purpose the placing of restraints only upon government and not at all upon the liberties of the citizens. Of course every citizen, as he writes, speaks and practices his religion, is obligated to obey the criminal and tort laws. [p. 51] If he makes fraudulent statements, commits perjury, defames or otherwise injures his fellow man, not only is he subject to punishment, but is civilly liable to those he has injured as well.
Granted that the enforcement of a code of justice derived from moral or religious convictions should be the object of government and that every person should strive to have his own moral beliefs enforced, which of the various codes should be adopted? It must be recognized that only one set of moral principles can be contained in the laws at any one time and that all people, regardless of the differences in their religions and beliefs must conform to that one set. Is there one standard which will satisfy everyone?
It is submitted that the Golden Rule is the only universal standard of justice known to man. It is the fundamental moral law of all great religions and the only code of justice upon which all men can agree. One who is punished or compelled to make restitution according to this standard has no grounds for complaint. By his actions toward others he has adopted a standard of behavior. Can he object when he is subjected to that same standard? Is this not what he would consider just if he were the injured party or the one administering justice?
The Golden Rule would appear to require that before justice is administered, the one doing so should mentally place himself in the position of the defendant and consider the propriety of the action being taken. This added precaution if done honestly, would help to insure that justice is being attained.
The Golden Rule is easily explained, understood and remembered even by the uneducated, the simple and the young. It has the indispensable virtue of being unchangeable and therefore predictable. It incorporates into the administration of justice those elements of certainty and stability so essential to the public tranquility. Let that person who would reject it as a standard, undertake to formulate another to take its place. [p. 52]
I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed his stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of heaven sent some of His choices spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and He has sent other choice spirits-even you who read my words-to preserve it.
President Ezra Taft Benson,
(The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner p.31)
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