The Value of Rights and Respect
Value: Rights, Respect
- Rights: Things due a person by law or tradition
- Respect: Holding another’s rights or person in high esteem
- "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." – 1 Peter 2:27
- "Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden." – 2 Nephi 26:28
Moroni was angry as he wrote to Pahoran. His armies were losing ground at the front, while the government repeatedly ignored their petitions for men and supplies. In his stern epistle, Moroni demanded an explanation for this lack of action and made some not-so-subtle accusations. The freedom and rights of the people were at stake, and Moroni was ready to march to Zarahemla, if necessary, to root out the problem.
The problem was that the government had been overthrown and a wicked man had been proclaimed king. But Pahoran overlooked the undeserved reprimand — he respected Moroni’s dedication to preserving the people’s rights. He wrote back immediately, “…And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran…seek…only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people…And now, behold, we…would not shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land…if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us… Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words…let us resist them with our swords…”
Read these leaders’ spirited letters to each other in Alma chapters 60 and 61, and the wonderful outcome in the following two chapters. For the entire context, begin at chapter 56 with Helaman’s epistle.
People have a way of turning the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness into a license to do whatever pleases them. Many thousands of years ago, under a tree, a serpent tricked our first parents into believing that lie. On a different tree, the Son of God exchanged the honor and respect due Him to be sacrificed for the rights of others.
To understand human rights, we must likewise abandon our own selfish interests and exercise respect toward all mankind. Had Pahoran been hanging onto the respect owed him as chief judge, he would have taken offense at Moroni’s severe reprimand. But he was more interested in what was best for his people. He clearly spelled out in his letter that both words and swords have their proper place. The love that both of these men had for God’s people, and their respect for one another, allowed them to work together, under Moroni’s Standard of Liberty, to conquer their enemies.
Let us respect others — particularly the weak and oppressed — and vigilantly guard their God-given rights — the only rights worth fighting for.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela
Points to Ponder
- Which scriptures help you decide which rights are worth fighting for and which aren’t?
- What are some ways you can make God’s goodness available to more people?
- How are evildoers “invading our lands” and threatening our rights today?
- How do we defend ourselves, and win their souls for Christ, at the same time?
- What about the right to teach our children right from wrong?
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This article has undergone ministry review and approval.