I was really trying to avoid getting political but I can’t ignore the many chapters in this part of the Book of Mormon that provide timely counsel about choosing government leaders. Bear with me. I will not make any allusions to past or current leaders in any country of the world. I want to present the information contained in these chapters because I find it important and instructive. Maybe it will help you, too.
I never cease to be intrigued by how quickly the Nephite and Lamanite nations organized themselves with some form of law and government out of nothing. Remember, three families sailed across the ocean in about 600 BCE to an unknown, uncharted land and created whole civilizations from the ground up. Their initial means of political organization––kingship––lasted for hundreds of years.
Mosiah 11 continues the history of a splinter group that left the core Nephite population (then under the guidance of King Mosiah I) and founded its own community some distance away in the land originally inhabited by Nephi’s family. They appointed their community’s founder, Zeniff, as king. By Mosiah 11, the son of Zeniff has become king:
Noah began to reign…. [H]e did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart…. [H]e laid a tax of one fifth part of all [the people] possessed…. [H]e put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father…such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts…. [A]nd thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms. (Mosiah 11:1-3, 5)
It is bad enough that “the people labor[ed] exceedingly to support iniquity” (remember the heavy tax?) and that their king was really wicked, but what I find most instructive is how the attitude and behavior of the king impacted his subjects: “And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness” (Mosiah 11:2, emphasis added). In one generation, this brand new community founded and led at first by righteous leaders, turns to sin. “They also became idolatrous” (v. 7), “they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts…they did boast, and did delight in…the shedding of the blood of their brethren [the Lamanites]” (v. 19). The Book of Mormon writers make it abundantly clear where the blame lies for the degeneration of this community. The community became wicked “because of the wickedness of their king and priests” (v. 19, emphasis added).
This topic of the effect wicked rulers have on society surfaces again at the end of Mosiah and elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. It behooves us to pay attention. One lesson I take from this theme is a warning against wicked leaders and the damage they cause to society. Another lesson that has informed my application of the American political process is that the merits of a potential government leader can and should be judged by what s/he inspires his/her followers to do. In other words, look at how the supporters of a candidate behave and how they apply the candidate’s platform/rhetoric in their active support (e.g. stumping, at rallies, on social media). “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20, NT; 3 Nephi 14:20, BoM). A candidate who inspires his/her supporters to do anything contrary to God’s laws is a candidate who likely does not deserve my vote.