Liberty in Alma?
Posted by douglashunter on August 25, 2008
In reading Alma and in listening to the lessons on Alma the past few weeks. I am struck by how the notion of liberty is used throughout the text. It seems to me that the concept is present in the text in a fully modern sense. This would be in the sense that it was present in a young post revolutionary America and as found in the writing of John Stuart Mill. This really jumps off the page for me every time I read the sections of Alma that give captain Moroni’s reasons for going to war, in that he gives his reasons directly in terms of liberty as such. Am I alone in thinking that this is curious or begs to be investigated?
Its my understanding that certain aspects of the notion of liberty were present in Greek thinking prior to the time of Christ but they were not full developed, and not couched in terms of liberty. Maybe someone who has more knowledge of philosophical history can comment on this. But what about in the Hebrew tradition? I don’t really know the answer but it does not seem to be a fully developed idea in the OT for example, despite there being a glimpse of it here and there, further, doesn’t the notion of liberty as such cut against the grain of a great deal of Hebrew teachings? So how did liberty in the modern sense come to appear in the Book of Mormon? I think there are a number of possible ways to address such a question.
One possible answer come to me from a friend who reminded me a few weeks ago that I asked him at one point if he thought the Book of Mormon was a political text. He thought there were several ways in which it is indeed politically motivated or influenced. One of these being on the level of Joseph Smith having a degree of mediation in the transmission of the text. Granted many will reject the idea that Joseph’s voice appears at all in the BOM but it seems like a reasonable suggestion to say that the times in which Joseph lived and was receiving the BOM via revelation were saturated with that kind of thinking about liberty. And it’s appearance in the text could be a reflection of that.
So what do people think? Was the modern notion of liberty present in the America’s long before it was developed anywhere else in the world? Obviously many Mormons do believe this but how do people here address the issue? Is it an issue at all? Am I just confused? Thoughts?