Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Good Emperor

In this post I discussed how the editor, Mormon, went to great lengths to illustrate how the lifestyle of King Noah justified the withdraw of divine favor and his violent overthrow. Now I will show the opposite. Mormon inserted a lengthy speech from King Benjamin, who ruled at roughly the same time as King Noah. King Benjamin extensively details his righteousness, not to boast but to show why he has received God's favor and ultimately why his people have been blessed. I will show from ancient Chinese texts how a ruler had to qualify for the "Mandate of Heaven", and how the rulers mandate then blesses his people.

From the Six Secret Teaching by T'ai Kung we read:

King Wen inquired of the T'ai Kung: "The world is replete with a dazzling array of states-some full, others empty, some well ordered, others in chaos. How does it come to be thus? Is it that the moral qualities of these rulers are not the same?...
The T'ai Kung said: "If the ruler lacks moral worth, then the state will be in danger and the people in turbulence. If the ruler is a Worthy or a Sage, then the state will be at peace and the people well ordered. Fortune and misfortune like with the ruler, not with the seasons of Heaven."...
[King Wen then asks about a worthy ruler from history named Emperor Yao]
T'ai Kung: When Yao was king of the world he did not adorn himself with gold, silver, pearls, and jade. He did not wear brocaded, embroidered, or elegantly decorated clothes. He did not look at strange, odd, rare, or unusual things. He did not treasure items of amusement nor listen to licentious music. He did not whitewash the walls around the palace or the buildings nor decoratively carve the beams, square and round rafters, and pillars. He did not even trim the reeds that grew all about his courtyards. He used a deerskin robe to ward off the cold, while simple clothes covered his body. He ate coarse millet and unpolished grains and thick soups from rough vegetables. He did not, through the [untimely imposition of] labor service, inure the people's seasons for agriculture and sericulture. He reduced his desires and constrained his will, managing affairs by nonaction.
He honored the positions of the officials who were loyal, upright, and upheld the laws, and made generous the salaries of those who were pure and scrupulous and loved people. He loved and respected those among the people who were filial and compassionate, and he comforted and encouraged those who exhausted their strength in agriculture and sericulture....
He preserved and nurtured the widows, widowers, orphans, and solitary elderly and gave aid to the families who had suffered misfortune and loss...
What he allotted to himself was extremely meager, the taxes and services he required of the people were extremely few. Thus the myriad peoples were prosperous and happy and did not have the appearance of suffering from hunger and cold. The hundred surnames revered their ruler as if he were the sun and moon and gave their emotional allegiance as if he were their father and mother."
King Wen: "Great is the Worthy and Virtuous Ruler!"

We learn in this section that a ruler that seeks power must first gain heavenly favor. This ruler does this through a humble lifestlye that does not disturb the people. Emperor Yao was recognized as an example through 1: Not adorning himself with riches. 2: He avoided unrighteous and licentious behavior. 3: He did not overburden the people with excessive building projects. 4: He supported and protected the farmers and widows. 5: He kept taxes extremely low.

In the Book of Mosiah we read towards that beginning of King Benjamin's speech:

11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.
12 I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;
13 Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—
14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
15 Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.
16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.
17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?...
31 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you

We read that King Benjamin did not seek riches. He suffered "in body" for his people, which could be similar to wearing a simple deerskin coat during the winter. He led by example in living a righteous life, and points out his and his people's avoidance of adultery and "all manner of wickedness". He labored with his own hands to avoid burdening the people with building projects and taxes. He spent his days serving his people. And he concludes by saying that he and his people have been blessed. After reading this I have to remark as King Wen did: Great is the Virtuous ruler!

In conclusion, just as the Book of Mormon matched an ancient editorial insertion in the description of the Bad Emperor, Mormon's inclusion of a Good Emperor's speech is verified by ancient record. This is not a silver bullet that seeks to prove the Book of Mormon's historicity. I don't think their is such a thing. This is one more example of a bulls eye verified by ancient record when we should expect nonsense if this were fiction.


Shannon said...

This is quite a post! I never would have looked for the parallels in other ancient history. Thanks for you perspective.

Morgan Deane said...

Thank you for posting a comment, I felt like saying was so quite around here.

BRoz said...

Unfortunately some in our society claim that the personal virtue of our leaders doesn't affect their ability to lead.

Morgan Deane said...

True, I think thats a vital mistake. Usually to show that character matters I inverse the proposition. What if somebody was incredibly scrupulous in their private life, but a totally dirty politician? We would demand his head, but somehow the other way around doesn't matter to people. If you can't keep an oath to your life partner, how are you going to keep your oath to the American people?