D&C 134:1-12

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Home > Doctrine & Covenants > Section 134
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  • D&C 134: Mediating with man and with God. Section 134 addresses the relationships between church, state, and man. One framework for understanding these relationships is to see the church as mediating the relationship between man and God, and the state as mediating the relationship between man and man (and lawyers as mediating between man and the state, and doctors as standing between man and death).
  • D&C 134: Church, state, and agency. Among the relationships addressed in D&C 134 is the relationship between church and state. One framework for understanding that relationship is to see these two institutions as each protecting a different aspect of agency. Given the importance of agency to the Father's plan (see this discussion at Matt 5:48), it can be expected that institutions that protect agency will themselves be important to the Father's plan. The relationship of church and state to agency becomes clear when agency is understood in terms of principles of action.
Principles of action: beliefs, desires, and abilities, or head, heart, and hands. Lectures on Faith begins with the statement that faith is a principle of action. (Lectures on Faith 1.11). The argument is that you would never act by planting seeds in the spring unless you had faith, or believed, that you would be able to harvest your crops in the fall. Thinking in terms of principles of action, or of necessary conditions for deliberate behavior, suggests that there are three principles of action: belief (head), desire (heart), and ability (hands). When all three necessary conditions are satisfied, the result is deliberate behavior, When any of the three principles is unsatisfied, such behavior does not result.
For example, imagine that you are 13 years old. It is a hot August afternoon. Your neighbor offers to hire you to mow his lawn before guests begin arriving at his house that evening. Imagine further that he offers to pay you a million dollars. Do you mow the lawn? No. Why not? Because you do not believe that he really intends to pay you a million dollars and therefore doubt whether he will pay you at all. In this example the obstacle to action is with what you believe - or think, know, have faith, are convinced, expect, suppose, assume, or have some idea - about how the world works. In this example the cause of inaction can be said to reside in your head, which is used here to represent your beliefs about the world.
Imagine next that your neighbor offers to pay you ten cents. Now do you mow the lawn? The answer is still No. Why not this time? Well, the problem this time is not that you disbelieve the promise. Of course your neighbor would pay such a paltry sum. In fact, this is such a good deal for your neighbor that now you do not even want the deal. The problem this time is that, while you do now ‘’believe’‘ the promise, you no longer ’‘care’‘ about the promise. Ten cents is simply not a sufficient incentive to get you outside to mow anybody’s lawn on a hot August afternoon. In this example the obstacle to action is with what you desire - or want, love, value, crave, or are motivated by. In this example the cause of inaction can be said to reside in your heart, which is used here to represent your desires.
Finally, imagine that your neighbor offers to pay you twenty dollars, and that this is the usual and fair rate for mowing a lawn. Now does the lawn finally get mowed? Well, it still depends. There is no problem this time in either your head or in your heart. The price is low enough that you believe the promise to pay, and yet high enough that you are motivated to act. But there is still a third principle of action to consider. Do you in fact have the ability to mow the lawn? And the answer to this question is No, not if your lawn mower is at the repair shop, or if your leg is broken, or if you are on the way out the door to attend your big sister’s wedding. If any of these conditions exists, then you are not going to spend the afternoon mowing your neighbor’s lawn. Even though you want the twenty dollars, and even though you firmly believe that mowing the lawn would result in your receiving that twenty dollars. In this third example the obstacle to action is that you simply lack the ability - or the strength, skill, tools, knowledge, time, energy, money, social or political connections, or other some other ability or resource - that is necessary to engage in the action. In this example the cause of inaction can be said to reside in your hands, which is used here to represent your ability to act.
So deliberate behavior results only when all three necessary principles of action are satisfied. Or in other words, when: (1) your head says that a particular outcome is possible and that a particular course of action is likely to result in that outcome; (2) your heart says that you want that outcome more than the cost of acquiring it; and (3) your hands are capable of engaging in the required course of action.
False belief versus true belief. In this framework, beliefs channel our behaviors into the courses of action that we think will get us what we want. Two investors who both want to make money and who both have the exact same amount of cash will nevertheless act differently if one of them thinks the market is about to go up and the other expects that it will soon go down. One will obviously buy and the other will just as obviously sell. To generalize, people with identical desires and abilities will nevertheless act differently if they have different beliefs about the world. Thus beliefs function to channel deliberate behaviors toward some courses of action and away from others. In this example it makes no difference whether a belief is in fact true. Investors do not sell because the market will in fact go down tomorrow, but rather because they believe that it will. Action is not determined by what is actually true, but rather by what we believe is true. This does not mean that the actual truth of a belief is unimportant. Just ask the investor who sold, believing that the market would soon go down, shortly before it instead went up. Economists say that optimal decisions are made in environments of perfect information. When our beliefs are false, we end up with unintended and often undesirable outcomes. But the difference between true belief and false belief is a difference in outcomes, not a difference in behaviors. Actions are thus determined by our beliefs about what is true and not by what is in fact true. The functional role that belief plays as a principle of action can thus be understood without having to first determine whether a particular belief is true or false. The truth or falsity of a belief only matters when we start looking at the consequences of behavior. (So while faith is a principle of action, true faith is a principle of power, or of actually achieving outcomes rather than simply engaging in behaviors). This matters when you move from exercising agency to choose what you wan to do, to exercising agency to choose what eternal results you want to achieve.
Agency defined in terms of principles of action. Agency can be defined in terms of these three principles of head, heart, and hands. We are able to: (1) intelligently exercise agency in the pursuit what our heart desires (2) when our head is filled with accurate beliefs about what outcomes are possible and what behaviors are required to obtain those outcomes, and (3) when our hands are at liberty to engage in the behaviors that we believe will lead to those outcomes.
Church and state protect the exercise of agency. One way to understand church and state is that the church is intended to provides our heads with accurate information about the eternal nature of our choices, while the state is intended to protect the liberty of our hands to in fact act on our choices. Accurate information may not be required to choose what we want to do, but it is required to accurately choose what we want to become in eternity. One of the roles of the church is to provide that accurate information.
When church and state are understood as the protectors of such a central principle as agency, it makes sense that the Book of Mormon would occupy itself so much with these two principles. In Mosiah 25-29 (discussion) church and state are separated, and Alma must figure out the relationship between the two institutions. It unsurprising that the Book of Mormon also describes two opposing social institutions that limit agency: anti-Christs, who provide false information to our heads about the nature of our choices, and secret combinations, which seek to destroy our liberty or to tie our hands.
Much of D&C 134 can be understood as rules that implement a more general principle of protecting agency through the free exercise of conscience (head) and protecting liberty through the maintenance of law and order (hands).
Ripeness for destruction defined in terms of respecting agency. Societies are destroyed when they cast out the righteous, or when they tie the hands of the people so they are unable to choose the right. (See the discussion at Hel 13:14). There appears not to be an analogous condition regarding the head, perhaps because all mankind has access to the light of Christ. (Moro 7:16).
  • D&C 134: Life, liberty, and property. Section 134 addresses the relationship between the state and the individual. There is always a tension between the needs of the group as a whole and the needs of each individual. Political parties that give more weight to the needs or survival of the group are called "nationalistic," while those that give more weight to the needs and rights of the individual are called "liberal" (this usage of "liberal" dating from the 1700's differs from frequent current usage that distinguishes conservative parties from those that are progressive or "liberal"). Section 134 draws a line at which the needs of the group and of the individual should be balanced.
The manner in which Section 134 balances the rights of the group and of the individual can be understood in terms similar to "life, liberty, and property."

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