Only a Virtuous People

(M B, May 13, 2007.)

When the American colonists were contemplating self-government newspapers around the country demonstrated examples that made it painfully clear that they were not ready. This began a tide of moral reform in the colonies.

As the colonists became more virtuous, they began to take a more personal interest in the affairs of government and called for a speedy separation from England. As they became more virtuous, the abuses of King George became more intolerable for them to bear.

In 1798, John Adams pointed out that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

James Madison warned us about apathy towards government. He said:

“I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure.”

When a people refuse to take interest in government, or they do not measure their leaders by correct principles (because they do not know them themselves), they are suffering from a loss of virtue.

This may give more meaning to the scripture:

“Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.” (Ether 8).

Why is he telling us to repent? Because we have let it happen. If we are a virtuous people, we are less able to bear abuses of government, not more so. One of the primary immoralities the Founders were warning us against is apathy.