If Ye Shall Say There Is No Law

One of the most powerful verses in Lehi’s teaching is a masterclass in agency, law, and government that applies not only in life, but into the eternities …

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” – 2 Nephi 2:13
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Here is what I think Lehi is trying to say …
“If you remove law, then it’s true there would be no notion of wrong or sin, no reason to feel guilt, and no consequences for violating the law.
But if you remove the law, then you also remove all sense of right and good.
And if you remove law, you destroy the protections, blessings, and benefits provided by the law.
And if you remove law, you destroy agency by removing the opportunity to choose happiness and freedom.
And, If you were to succeed in removing these things, then God would cease to be God. He would lose His kingdom and ability to govern.
And if God ceases to be God, then all the blessings and benefits His law and kingdom provide us—including our creation, our agency, His ability to sustain life on earth, His plan of redemption, Christ’s Atonement, our ability to be perfected and refined, and the Resurrection—all of these things would vanish away.
And we would cease to exist because this great sphere in which He has placed us to exercise our agency would cease to exist.
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The plan of our Heavenly Father for His children is designed to provide the maximum possible range of expression of our agency and the maximum opportunity for joy and happiness. When we study God’s plan in depth, we discover an intensely sophisticated, perfect system of agency, law, justice, and mercy designed to propel us toward eternal life, while simultaneously allowing us to ultimately decide for ourselves what we will become.

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#comefollowme

Extended discussion:

Note that God will never cease to be God. And it’s because He will never cease to uphold his plan.
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Alma, in explaining the plan of salvation to his son, Corianton, stated three times the condition upon which God would “cease to be God” (Alma’s words).
That condition is if “the works of justice [were] destroyed” or if “mercy robbed justice”. (See Alma 42:13, 22, 25)
Moroni uses the same wording in Mormon 9:19.
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Corianton, who had committed serious sin, was trying to rationalize that it was unnecessary or unfair that there be consequences for sin.
After all, Corianton may have argued, why can’t God just let us all off the hook and excuse our sins? Why does Christ need to come or suffer for our sins if God could simply excuse them or alter the law for us?
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We live in a time when many people rationalize that laws are unnecessary, that it’s unfair to enforce the law, that agency is the ability to do what we want without consequence.
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Alma was trying to teach his son that God cannot simply change the laws of his kingdom, excuse our sins, dismiss justice and let us all into heaven regardless of our willingness or ability to live the law. Any government that fails to enforce justice eventually falls. Justice must be upheld for God to continue to be God.
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These are the same principles Lehi was trying to teach to his sons in 2 Nephi 2 (particularly Laman and Lemuel who similarly rationalized their behavior).
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Understanding these principles was essential so Corianton could understand and appreciate the need for a Savior to rescue us from sin and “satisfy the demands of justice.” (Alma 34:16)
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Christ’s atoning sacrifice makes mercy available to us while still allowing God to uphold the law and justice, making Him “a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” – Alma 42:15
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Therefore, as Alma taught, “God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.” – Alma 42:23
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I’m so grateful for a perfect God who has the ability to govern His kingdom in righteousness and justice while still making mercy available to us.
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And I’m so grateful for Jesus Christ, who’s atoning sacrifice makes it possible for me to gradually improve, repenting of my sins, and be perfected in Christ.

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