Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's so nice when someone agrees with me: Book of Mormon vs. America

I've been reading Bushman's biography/study of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling, and was gratified to read the following passage on politics and government in the Book of Mormon:
American constitutionalism is faintly invoked and then dismissed. Book of Mormon governments are monarchies and judgeships. Old Testament governments, not democratic legislatures and elected presidents. Monarchy is terminated at one point ..., surely a republican moment, but not by revolution. ... The king's recommendations for a new government, moreover, are not democratic. ...
There is one apparently democratic gesture at this turning point. The first judge is selected by the voice of the people. But this step toward democracy is immediately retraced. Successors to the chief judge inherit their offices... . Thereafter, judges are appointed. The voice of the people is consulted only when the former judge's sons fight over the judgment seat or no natural successor is available. ... The most valued features of republican government -- regular elections, a representative legislature, and checks and balances -- are absent. Moreover, throughout the text, church and state are liberally intermixed. The first chief judge is also the high priest, and the prophets and the judges collaborate in ruling the people. Righteous rule is the prophets' object rather than limitations on power. ... Against republican government, it proposes righteous rule by judges and kings under God's law.
Chest-thumping, flag-waving American I may be, but I have been surprised that I have never been able to convince anyone of these notions. The Book of Mormon people is neither democratic [day to day decisions made by the people] or republican [decisions made by elected officials], and there is no sense of a separation of church and state. It's so very nice to hear someone of Dr. Bushman's standing agree.

Yes, people are not thrown in jail for not belonging to the dominant church. That doesn't equate to "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There was a dominant religion and its norms determined the laws... until the chief judge was wicked. Then the whole system is overturned and a new set of morals are put into play.