Helaman 8: 1-7
"I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government."Henry David Thoreau
Growing up, my brothers and the kids on our street would get together to play Monopoly ( Milton Bradley.) We could set the game up and play it all week long until someone finally won. The joys of playing meant learning about choices, one another, and life. The downside of playing came when someone became power-hungry and would try to change the rules mid-game, or cheat by throwing the dice while someone was distracted and unaware of the consequences. Inevitably we would pull the game box lid out and read through the rules one more time. At that point, we would either decide we had had enough for the day and leave it for tomorrow or we might forge forward with the "power hungry" player put back into their place. Why do we do this? Why are human's so drawn to power plays?
Our Western beliefs and culture bases its beliefs of justice upon Judea-Christina morality. Nephi is about to delve into the beliefs that God has always protected us when we live his laws, and now the people have allowed the system of laws to become corrupt. The laws of his land no longer lead them to a greater understanding of God's love, but have veered to a journey of the selfish pursuit of gain.
Christianity teaches that each of us is responsible for our own agency. In our constitution we are reminded of our individual rights so that we can have justice. Justice cannot come without mercy and mercy cannot work without justice. If we have all mercy and no justice we have chaos. If we have all justice and no mercy we have no rights.
Rights must come with limitations. The limitations come in the form of privileges for obeying the law and punishment for disobeying the law provided we get caught. Law's act as a kind of contract (either with God or with man). When we break the laws of God we receive the consequences. Likewise when we break a law of the land or step over a boundary that society has set, society will punish you for your choice.
So how do laws become corrupt? When someone gets into power who wants mercy without justice, he changes the law, or he changes the circumstances so that society will no longer want to punish him. The laws do not become corrupt. Laws are philosophical morals that lead the people who set them. They are the rules of the game that we play with one another that guarantee we will all find justice. It's when the players decide to change the rules so that they have the advantage that the corruptness begins to set in. Once one player decides to "cheat" , another sees him and must either tell or join him.
I remember the feeling of watching one player throw the dice while another was distracted and unaware of that a certain player was on his "property". I wanted to tell, but remained quiet. I now knew that when my turn came I could do the same because I had an ally. It would save me from having to pay "rent" and help me "get gain" so that I might win. If I chose to tell, then I would have made an enemy. If I kept quiet then I would have become an accomplis. What to do? Pressure? Peer Pressure. No one wants another to think badly of us?
Sometimes we think that corruptness of the law is a difficult and complicated thing. But it is not really. It really is as simple as a game of Monopoly. We can choose to remain quiet and become a part of the corruptness, or we can choose to stand up for what we know as justice and rightness. At the end of the game, if we all played fairly, then all who played can feel good about their efforts to play fairly, to help another, and to learn valuable life lessons.
Words and Phrases
vs. 1 men who were judges ... secret band - Are there secret bands in our government today? Yes there are? Where-ever the place for pride, greed, and power exist unchecked there will be secret bands who seek to get gain. And just like the players of my youth who became angry when we called them down on the "rightness" of their rule changes, or remembrance of the rules, they become angry at being called out. Most importantly.. they have turned the tables on a righteous man. So empowered they are with their social position they believe that all whom they serve have lost their sense of justice (as they have).
vs2 against our law - here they have called the laws "our law", but if it were truly "our law" there would not be the corruptness that steals the justice from some to give advantage to another.
vs 3 corruptness of the law - laws do not become corrupt without a "judge" or other leader helping to make them so. Judges make rulings on the law setting precedences of the law. Judges need to be checked in the power they have over the laws. Without the checking of their power they have power to dictate the law according to their own moral position.
vs 3 contrary to the commandments - What Nephi said was the truth. Those who do not live or know the truth have a hard time accepting it when it is before them.vs 4 they feared the people - here we have a good idea of how far the corruptness had gone. not so far as they did not fear the people. The people still had some say in their rights, their justice, and their understanding of the laws.
vs 6 our enemies have no power over us - the thing about corruptness by power, is that you are unaware of just who your enemies are? and even if you have a good understanding of them, you are so empowered by your own sense of greed, and strength among the people that you become blinded to your own strength or weaknesses.vs 9 if he had not been a prophet - there were some who still believed in the power of Nephi's words. Here we have the reason why we need prophets. We become so blinded by the trees that we cannot see the forest. Without the prophet to help us gain perspective, we lose sight of the eternal goals that we strive for (not only personally but as a society). We need one another, but most importantly we need our prophets (who stay close to God) to be our Heavenly barometer. If we chose to ignore the readings of the barometer we set ourselves up for destruction.