Beckwith on Mormonism and Natural Law
by Charles Cherry
Francis Beckwith, in an article entitled “Mormonism and Natural Law,” defends the LDS church against the argument that the worldview of Mormonism is incompatible with Natural Law.
Now that may or may not be true, and I would hardly put myself forward to argue with an intellectual giant like Beckwith; however, I would at least like to throw in my two cents worth.
Beckwith bases his argument in favor of Mormonism’s compatibility with natural law on statements by Joseph Smith concerning the eternal nature of “the elements” and says that “Smith seems to affirm a view of government that is in the natural-law tradition.”
Now, it is well known that Smith’s writings (and those of other LDS prophets and leaders) have been altered over time, some more significantly than others. (See The Changing World of Mormonism by Gerald and Sandra Tanner.) In light of these ever-changing “doctrines” and “revelations” by Smith, and his successor, Brigham Young, it would be somewhat foolish to base an opinion on Mormon thought on their writings. Which versions do you use on which to base an opinion? The original, if it can be located, or one of the many changed versions, or the latest revision? And if you base your argument on the latest revision, what happens when the LDS leadership decides again that it’s time for a change?
It is well known that Smith “revealed” many things, both verbally and in writing, and then went on to contradict himself with later revelations. His private (and public) life was also at odds with his writings on many occasions. (See Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History; Grant Palmer, An Insiders View of Mormon Origins, etc.)
Smith’s words cannot be relied upon to form any basis of solid opinion concerning Mormon thought, except perhaps that it is ever-changing and cannot be relied upon.
It is important, too, to keep in mind that both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young boasted that they were “above the law.” For Brigham Young’s assertion “I live above the law, and so do this people,” see Journal_of_Discourses 1/52 #361.
It is very interesting to note that even while Brigham Young was boasting that he and his people were “above” the laws and Constitution of the United States, he was lying about one of the very laws they were breaking, i.e., polygamy. Many authors have pointed out that Young, as well as Smith and many other top Mormon leaders were practicing polygamy in secret for years, even while they were publicly denouncing the practice.
Mormonism is a dangerous cult founded upon outright lies and subtle deceptions. It continues to be sustained by an ever-changing set of “doctrines” that supposedly “sprang full grown from the words of Joseph Smith” and “have never been worked over or touched up in any way…free of revisions and alterations.” (Hugh Nibley, “No Maam, Thats Not History”)
In light of the many more obvious and ultimately more serious flaws with Mormonism, I think whether or not the Mormon worldview is compatible with Natural Law is irrelevant.