About a month after writing that post I watched a talk given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The talk was entitled Moral Discipline and I found it very interesting because he spoke on almost the exact same topic that I had covered, but with more insight and more advice as to what to do about the problem. Here are some excerpts from the talk that I found very interesting.
Essentially the argument is that as societies fail to maintain and encourage moral codes the only other alternative to maintain a civil society is to increase the number and enforcement of laws, or as Elder Christofferson put it, "The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments." It is with these ideas in mind that I look at societies like those in France or Greece and find it odd that they accept or (as in the case of Greece) actively encourage protest and violent protest as a legitimate means of expressing political frustrations, and then they complain about living in a "police state". In my own experience with places where I have lived, the places where protest was not the first resort of political expression have tended to be more peaceful and less prone to be characterized as having a "police state" mentality. But in places (such as Argentina) were protest and violent protest was a societal tradition the people tended to complain more of government oppression and viewed police and other government forces as adversaries rather than protectors.
"The societies in which many of us live have for more than a generation failed to foster moral discipline. They have taught that truth is relative and that everyone decides for himself or herself what is right. Concepts such as sin and wrong have been condemned as “value judgments.” As the Lord describes it, “Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god” (D&C 1:16).
As a consequence, self-discipline has eroded and societies are left to try to maintain order and civility by compulsion. The lack of internal control by individuals breeds external control by governments. One columnist observed that “gentlemanly behavior [for example, once] protected women from coarse behavior. Today, we expect sexual harassment laws to restrain coarse behavior. …
“Policemen and laws can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we’ve become.”2
In most of the world, we have been experiencing an extended and devastating economic recession. It was brought on by multiple causes, but one of the major causes was widespread dishonest and unethical conduct, particularly in the U.S. housing and financial markets. Reactions have focused on enacting more and stronger regulation. Perhaps that may dissuade some from unprincipled conduct, but others will simply get more creative in their circumvention.3 There could never be enough rules so finely crafted as to anticipate and cover every situation, and even if there were, enforcement would be impossibly expensive and burdensome. This approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone. In the memorable phrase of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, “We would not accept the yoke of Christ; so now we must tremble at the yoke of Caesar.”4
In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay. Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin and moral discipline takes its place in the pantheon of civic virtues.5"
What I have learned from observing these different societies is that if people want peace then there needs to be more moral discipline and less unbounded personal freedom. More responsibility and less entitlement. More reminding and less enforcement. Only then can we be free.