Can we legislate morality?
In between family reunions last Saturday and this Saturday, Carol and I visited several of our favorite bookstores in Utah. I know. What a crazy thing to do on a vacation. We also go to the main Church Distribution Center since the California stores are small. In the past, I have liked to visit Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore. A new one for us this year is the Deseret Book Outlet store in South Jordan.
Although we already have a huge library and keep lamenting that it seems to grow larger by itself, Carol picked up a few bargains there. Most books are overstocks available at one third the price. I resisted everything I saw until this one caught my eye: The Sex Industrial Complex, America’s Secret Combination – Pornographic Culture, Addiction and the Human Brain. What a title!
As usual, I read the back cover of the dust jacket and saw an endorsement from Marie Osmond. That caused me to open it and read the inside front of the cover where I saw something else that caught my eye – the Lighted Candle Society. Where had I seen that before? Oh yes, it was one of those organizations I listed in the additional resources in my previous post on porn addiction.
The Survival of the Republic
A scan through the book looked like it would be interesting reading but what got me to buy it was the last chapter. I confess that I read it first. It is entitled, “The Survival of the Republic.” There are some amazing quotes there that resonated with me as I read them, especially in light of my recent post about the founding fathers and a long dialog with Crusty about freedom.
Benjamin Franklin said at the conclusion of the Constitutional convention in 1789, “This Republic, which we have given you with this constitution, will end in despotism, as other forms of government have done before it, when the people become so corrupt that they are incapable of any other form of government.” Was he speaking with a foreknowledge of coming events?
John Locke, the English philosopher said, “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be where there is no law.” We need laws to be governed and to live in peace.
Successful government and moral values
George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these finest props of the duties of men and citizens.” Moral values are required for a Republic to endure.
Referring to the Constitution, James Madison said, “We base this whole experiment on man’s ability to be governed by law.” Our Republic can only continue as envisioned by the founding fathers as long as we as a people believe in the rule of law. It takes personal conviction in the value of law and willingness to submit to it that allows a people to be governed and yet free.
Can we legislate morality? Yes, we can and we have and it is a good thing. Morality is about right and wrong, and that’s what laws put into legal form. The only question is whose morality should be legislated? Thomas Jefferson answered that when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
Standards of morality come from God
Our Declaration of Independence gives us the direction we should look for defining standards of morality and conduct in our Republic in order for all citizens to be free. The source for morality and therefore the source for our laws is God. Our founding fathers understood this and gave us a platform for defining our laws – the word of God. Yes, we were founded as a Christian nation.
John L. Harmer, the author writes, “Today, our nation is under an attack by a combination of forces that if they prevail, will effectively destroy the basis upon which this nation’s freedom and liberty were conceived and founded. The entire fabric of our government is based upon the commitment of the American people to standards of dignity, integrity and virtue.”
“We believe very strongly that the greatest threat to our political freedom is the loss of moral values. To put it in a positive sense, the most vital factor in the preservation of our freedom and liberty is the individual citizen’s respect for moral values and their commitment to them.” As moral and ethical virtues erode in our people, hedonism will replace government and freedom.
Summary and conclusion
Although the book is about fighting against pornography, I found the insights into the connection between freedom, government and morality to be most enlightening. I have seen examples of this loss of freedom in many individuals. Because they do not adhere to moral standards that have been well established by God and his prophets, they find it very difficult to be governed.
As more and more members of our society refuse to accept and live by moral standards, the effect is a rejection of a government that is based on those standards. Not content to live above the law, they advocate changing the law or abolishing the law to suit their rejection of morality. The day will come when they will attempt to create laws proclaiming that morality is punishable.
There is a battle being fought in California today in the form of an amendment to the state constitution that demonstrates how this rejection of morality is a rejection of government. Our nation has a history of laws that are based on morality as defined by God and his prophets. A rejection of this amendment is a rejection of God and his right to set the standards of morality.
Four Simple Things to Help our Families and our Nations, Gordon B. Hinckley
Religious Values and Public Policy, Dallin H. Oaks
Personal Morality, David B. Haight
Let our Voices be Heard, M. Russell Ballard