Thursday, November 17, 2011

How Jesus Christ Exemplified The LDS Twelfth Article Of Faith In His Dealings With The Adulteress

The Twelfth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law".

But does this mean blind obedience? Does this mean we cannot rebel against a government which has become fully ripe in wickedness? Jesus Christ actually provided a noteworthy example on obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law in his dealing with the adulteress in the New Testament.

John 8:3-11 gives us the account:

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Let's recap:

(1). The scribes and the Pharisees, who were the official secular authorities of the society, proposed to execute an adulteress by stoning in accordance with their official law.

(2). Jesus Christ did not render a judgment one way or another, but merely said "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her".

(3). The scribes and the Pharisees decided to voluntarily depart without exercising judgment, thus effectively vacating the charge against the adulteress.

(4). Jesus Christ then merely confirmed the dismissal of the charge, telling the adulteress that He also did not have an issue with her. He set her at liberty and counseled her not to re-offend.

Unlike the activist judges of our era who frequently overrule the expressed legislative will of the people, Jesus Christ did not overrule the authorities. Thus he obeyed, honored, and sustained the existing law. Through his power of persuasion, He was able to convince the secular authorities to vacate the charges. This effectively counters the false notion held by some that Jesus was some sort of revolutionary insurgent bent on overthrowing society and turn it upside down. Far from wanting to turn society upside down, Jesus Christ merely sought to change hearts, in keeping with his ultimate mission of serving as a Redeemer to mankind by first taking upon Himself the sins of the world at Gethsemane, and then offering up his life as a substitutionary atonement for those sins on Calvary. For these actions He was extended the privilege of resurrecting Himself three days later, thus breaking the bands of death and hell.

The Twelfth Article of Faith is further reinforced by Doctrine & Covenants 58:21-22:

21 Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.

22 Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.

In the Mormon Worker, Ron Madson poses the interesting question of whether or not civil disobedience is a breach of the Twelfth Article of Faith. He cites the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who refused a royal command from Nebuchadnezzar to worship a golden image of him. Another example cited is Ammon's qualified pledge of obedience to King Lamoni stated in Alma 18:17, where he said “...whatsoever thou desireth which is right, that will I do". From both these examples, we get the message that the Twelfth Article of Faith does not require us to violate our consciences, and that civil disobedience is in keeping with it if we subject ourselves to the consequences of such disobedience, as did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they allowed the authorities to arrest them and throw them into a fiery furnace, from which they emerged unharmed.

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