The Book of Mormon and elections: a brief observation

First, let’s start by acknowledging that the ‘reign of the judges’ described in the Book of Mormon bears almost no resemblance to a constitutional democracy or republic. There is no separation of powers, the office of chief judge (or governor, as it is sometimes called) is most often passed from father to son, the office of chief judge does not require periodic re-election and changes only when the chief judge dies or resigns, and so on. The “voice of the people” only appears to come into play in certain circumstances:

  • choosing lower or lesser judges (cf. Mosiah 29:39; note that this process is only mentioned once, at the initial selection of lesser judges);
  • when there are multiple replacement candidates for the dead/retiring chief judge (cf. Helaman 1:1-5)
  • the occasional national referendum, such as whether to change the form of government back to a monarchy (cf. Alma 2:7), or deciding whether and where to allow the people of Ammon (Anti-Nephi-Lehis) to settle in Nephite territory (cf. Alma 27:21-22).
  • ratification of the chief captain over the Nephite armies (see Alma 46:34) and granting him broad powers (cf. Alma 51:15-16).

Nothing terribly new here; this has all been discussed many times by better scholars. But here’s my point: how often in all this — or, for that matter, through the entire Book of Mormon history — does God intervene to ensure that a particular leader is chosen?

Answer: never.

To be a touch more accurate, there are a few instances when God chooses a leader — Lehi, Nephi, Mosiah1 — but those are in critical (and rare) circumstances where people must choose to follow that leader physically out of the current civilization and into wilderness. There are no cases where God Himself takes a hand in changing who ends up being the leader in a ‘voice of the people’ setting, or even in a monarchy; remember that Mosiah2 dissolved the monarchy precisely because of the risk of ending up with a ‘wicked king’, as happened with Zeniff’s son and successor, Noah (cf. Mosiah 29:16-25).

One of the dominant themes of the Book of Mormon is agency and its consequences, and that is applied to government as well, whether it be monarchy or judgeship. We are accountable for the government (and leaders) we choose and the results thereof; we cannot attribute the outcome to the Lord, only to ourselves.

Something to remember, whatever the results of tomorrow’s election here in the United States.  ..bruce..




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