(An Open Letter to all Latter-day Saints)
The Book of Mormon is a prophecy for our time.
This has been my thesis since the mid-1980s, when I wrote Parallel Histories: The Nephites and The Americans. It was written over 20 years ago in response to then church president Ezra Taft Benson’s call to carefully and diligently re-examine the Book of Mormon. It was my effort to comply with his earnest request.
Following Pres. Benson’s cue when he observed that we are the modern counterparts of the ancient Nephites, I explored the thesis that our two cultures were more than superficially similar. They are remarkably alike, in profound and meaningful ways. Because it was apparent that my fellow saints weren’t seeing the things that seemed obvious to me, I felt a book was needed which outlined and elaborated that thesis.
Several articles followed over the years, updating, authenticating and validating that book and its thesis. (See the four part series A Harbinger For Our Time, on this blog.) This monograph will further that approach by demonstrating that America has now crossed the final threshold in our headlong rush to unknowingly duplicate Nephite history in our time.
When comparing the two cultures, as we will do herein, one caveat must be kept foremost in mind: While the two histories are similar, displaying similar conditions and events, the two cultures, Nephite and American, are fundamentally different from one another. The resemblance or similarities may be profoundly significant, but the way events played out in Nephite times is unlikely to be identical to the way events play out in our time.
These differences are important to keep in mind. Don’t expect an exact fit. Theirs was a simpler, agrarian-based society; ours is far more complex, based in a largely industrialized and technology oriented society. Their theater was restricted to a regional one; ours is national and international in scope, with many factors that were nonexistent in Nephite times. Thus, events in the two histories must be compared carefully—allowing that each will unfold in different ways, yet they will display remarkable and significant similarities.
In this monograph, we move beyond the astonishing similarities identified in the original book’s presentation. We move beyond the resemblance of the last Lamanite/Nephite War to our Second World War. We move beyond the postwar economic boom that enriched both nations in their respective eras. We move beyond the identical moral and political corruption that ensued. We look beyond the ideological battles that characterized the campaign of the corrupt judges against Nephi, the son of Helaman and their similarities to the Clinton presidency. We look beyond the Gadianton wars and equivalencies that allowed the accurate prediction that today’s terrorists would become our counterpart to the Nephite’s Gadianton robbers during the Clinton and Bush presidencies.
Now we come to the crux of this monograph, the next major parallel between our two cultures. It is the failed internal struggle the Nephites fought to retain their representative form of government, complete with its freedoms and justice.
The Nephite culture had been governed for generations by a representative form remarkably similar to our own. Mosiah said it best: “Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.” (Mosiah 29: 25, 26.)
Mosiah’s observation later proved prophetic in the days of Third Nephi: it is nearly always a minority that wants to venture away from correct principles of governance. The time came, as it always does, when wealth led to pride and a division of Nephite society into classes, “… and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions.” (3 Nephi 6:10.)
Social equality dissolved. “And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches … for there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers. … thus there became a great inequality in all the land.” (Ibid. 6: 12, 11, 14.)
Immediately, the wealthy, ruling class within the Nephite nation decided that they wanted to set aside government by the voice of the people and replace it with a monarchy, which would be indebted, naturally, to those of their elite status: “And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country … and to establish a king over the land, that the land should no more be at liberty but should be subject unto kings.” (Ibid. 6:30.)
Something strikingly similar seems to be happening before our very eyes today, though no one is trying to set up a monarchy. They don’t need to. The governing class has seen to it that our presidents will be “elected” from their ranks simply because a man of the people has no chance in the corrupt system set up by our politicians in the last half-century. A ruling class of elites, who have no desire to relinquish power, has infiltrated our two party system. They have set rules that make it nearly impossible to unseat them.
The will of the people is no longer of any concern to them. Progressivism (the newspeak term coined to replace the pejorative moniker, “Liberal”) has come to dominate Washington, with its doctrine that the “experts” from the elite social strata—such as corporate heads (“merchants” in Nephite times), politicians (“lawyers” and “priests” in Nephite times) and government officials (“officers” in Nephite times)—should make decisions for us.
When recent protests, populated by ordinary, mainstream Americans, erupted around this country in order to make their voices heard, those who govern and their media minions angrily derided, denounced and dismissed them as dangerously misguided malcontents. So it was in Nephite times when “those who were angered were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers; yea, all those who were lawyers were angry with those who testified of these things.” (Ibid. 6: 21.)
Third Nephi records how it transpired in his day. “And they [the angry chief judges, high priests and lawyers] did enter into a covenant one with another … to combine against all righteousness.” (Ibid. 6: 28.)
Many in our day have made the same decision. They espouse the philosophy that God should have nothing to do with government, in spite of the fact that the founding fathers made just the opposite affirmation. Today’s ideologues obviously seek to constrain religion in any way possible, insisting that the people not allow it to have any part in the operation of their government, that there should be an impregnable firewall between government and religion so that governance cannot be informed by any religious creed or hegemony.
Religion has become the enemy of the Progressives in our day. They make every effort to marginalize and demean people of faith. In effect, those with this secular bent seek to divorce this nation from its religious or sectarian roots, “… to combine against all righteousness.”
The net effect of this initiative among the Nephite cultural elite was clearly manifest. “And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country … that the land should no more be at liberty …” (Ibid. 6: 30.)
Something appallingly similar seems to be afoot in our nation today. While politicians give flowery lip service to individual rights, public service and moral rectitude, their personal behavior is often just the opposite. Presidential associates and appointees, for example, are found to hold opinions that are blatantly contrary to constitutional principals and morality, some even openly condemn America and its traditional values. Hypocrisy seems rampant in both political parties. None seem trustworthy any longer.
The good news for us, perhaps, is that the chief judges, high priests and lawyers in Nephite times failed in their endeavor. No Nephite king was enthroned. This bodes well for the outcome of our similar state of affairs. But the net effect of the struggle utterly demolished their government, and it threatens to do so to ours as well.
Will this be our fate? “And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.” (3 Nephi 7: 2.)
Yet, there was no warfare: “… there were no wars as yet among them.” (Ibid. 7: 5.) However, what we have certainly feels like a war, a contest of wills for power and supremacy, where the ammunition is words and the casualties are truth and justice.
But “the regulations of the government were destroyed, … and they did cause great contention in the land.” (3 Nephi 7: 7.)
Contention is the order of the day in Washington. Our government seems to be descending into chaos amid an extraordinary level of acrimony and controversy. There is an unprecedented rush to pass questionable legislation, without due deliberation and consideration. No one, including the legislators themselves in some cases, seems to know what provisions legislation contains or what it will cost. Our economy is staggering. Unemployment is rising. Our leaders are sending conflicting messages to us, to our allies and to our enemies.
Our condition bears ominous similarities to that of the Nephites.
“And thus six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire.” (3 Nephi 7: 8.)
Numerous pundits have commented on how quickly we have turned from our constitutional roots in recent years. We’ve done an about-face almost as quickly as did our Nephite cousins. They united to defeat terrorism, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, in their time. Then, in a handful of years, they tore their nation apart from within.
While the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers immediately brought us together as a nation, speaking with one voice, subsequent events have moved rapidly to undermine our culture and our government. Like the Nephites, we have gone from united to divided in a few, short years. It seems apparent that if we continue on our present course, our nation will suffer a fate equally grievous to that of the Nephites.
Surely the inclusion of this tragic saga in the Nephite narrative was meant to warn us that we would suffer a similar outcome in our day. Surely, Mormon meant us to clearly see our time in this highly polished Nephite mirror.
Will we, too, live the Nephite nightmare?
This viewpoint, provided by an analysis of Nephite history, allows us to sort out the truth, to see through the subterfuge, confusion and contradiction that dominate our present political discourse. The media, the politicians and the pundits cannot misguide those of us who take the Book of Mormon as our guide. It provides a certain compass we can use to steer a course through the present and coming chaos. It is the “more sure word of prophecy,’ as Peter put it.
Given this perspective, no LDS politician who truly believes the Book of Mormon to be the word of God can, in good conscience, support the present movement away from constitutional principles where “the voice of the people” governs. He or she would have to first dismiss the Book of Mormon as irrelevant to our time. He or she would have to deny the God given rights that Nephite prophets declared were vested in the people. In effect, they would have to ignore the Book of Mormon, the very cornerstone of our religion.
I am well aware that my position will infuriate some Latter-day Saints. So be it. It was so with those who sought to undermine freedom and agency in Nephite times; it will be so now. Those who are so angered thereby betray their perfidy.
At the same time, this discourse will strike a chord of recognition in those who truly embrace the Book of Mormon and the Restored Gospel. They will see the remarkable similarities that mark the two histories, and they will want to do something about it.
So, you may ask, “What can I do?” The answer is both easy and hard.
First, as a believing Mormon, your concept of the sanctity of agency requires that you get involved—“anxiously engaged” is the Lord’s terminology. Of that I am certain.
But what I cannot tell you is ‘what’ you should do. You must make that determination for yourself. All I can add is to suggest you follow the counsel of Pres. Spencer W. Kimball: “Do it … now!”
We Latter-day Saints have not heeded the lessons chiseled in the Nephite record. We failed to take note of a vital part of that sacred witness, meant to warn us of our national folly. The diligence of those ancient prophets, who patiently carved their crucial message on precious plates of gold, the determination of a modern prophet to publish their revelation to the world at all odds and the repeated efforts of recent church leaders counseling us to re-read the Book of Mormon, saying that the church is under condemnation for failure to do so, has been set at naught by our indolence. We have the ignominious misfortune of watching the government of our nation self-destruct before our very eyes, just as did the Nephites, while we scarcely lift a finger to oppose it, let alone rush to save our Constitution. That sacred document has too long hung by a thread while we dally. As a result, the forces of evil and darkness are rapidly moving to grind it under the unforgiving foot of oppression and tyranny.
The time for mincing words is far past. It is time to declare our allegiance—either to God, agency and freedom or to watch our great nation follow those that have preceded us onto the scrapheap of failed nations down through history.
What happens next is too terrible to contemplate. If you care to know the details of what awaits us just around the corner, read 3 Nephi, chapter 8. And don’t think it couldn’t happen to us; every prophet since the beginning of time, including the Savior himself, has predicted our fate. Read it, O Zion, and weep, O Israel. Judgement is now at our doorstep.
© Anthony E. Larson, 2009