If you would have asked me before today, which form of government the Book of Mormon people lived under, I perhaps would have pointed to Mosiah 29:26, said, "Democracy," and thought the point settled at that.
"Do your business by the voice of the people," it says.
But, as I searched Book of Mormon passages this morning, I realized I had overlooked some things, some parallels to the republican form of government set up by our founding fathers. Although it may be hard to determine exactly how the Book of Mormon people operated their government, the verses we do have, do, indeed, point to wonderful parallels with what was established by our founding fathers.
We elect representatives who then enact the laws. Even so, Mosiah 29:26 says, "Choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that you might be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers."
Laws given by their fathers? That sounds like being governed by a constitution, same as we are.
Shortly after the Book of Mormon people adopted this form of government, Alma, the first chief judge, stepped down. At that time, we are told he turned the government over to another, "to enact laws according to the laws which had been given."
It sounds to me like it might have been, then, that the judges created laws that fit under the existing laws of their constitution. That they enacted -- created -- them is significant. This indicates that rather than the people voting on every matter, the judges created the laws.
That's representative government. That's a republic.
I also find interesting the process by which the government was transferred to Nephihah when Alma stepped down. "He selected a wise man who was among the elders of the church, and gave him power according to the voice of the people . . ." (Alma 4:16)
Whether Alma appointed the next chief judge, or just recommended someone and the people then ratified his choice, I do not know. I only know I see similarities to the way our leader was to be selected, according to the Constitution. We were to have an Electoral College -- composed of elected electors -- and that group was to select the president. Even so, Alma, who had been elected, was selecting the chief officer of the land.
That's the republican form of government.
Well, I remain a fan of democracy. I ascribe to the words of Abraham Lincoln, that we should not let government of the people, by the people and for the people perish from this land. Despite what I have learned this morning, I still consider that perhaps the people wielded the ultimate authority in Book of Mormon times, for it remains, that if they did their business by the voice of the people, then it was the people who were in charge. But, principles of the republican form of government were also dominant in the Book of Mormon society, even as principles of both are part of our society.
We are not just a democracy. Nor, are we just a republic. We are a democratic republic. Even so, perhaps, the Book of Mormon society was a democratic republic.