History Lessons, Lord of the Rings, and Politics of Nations

History Lessons, Lord of the Rings, and Politics of Nations

History Lessons

Critical Thinking

keyA nation’s quality of government reflects the character of its citizens.


lord-of-rings-frodoIn The Lord of the Rings, every character is tested by the Ring’s compelling power— including Frodo, who was chosen to carry it to Mount Doom to destroy it. Even the most innocent were not exempt from its influence. Tolkien manages skillfully to embody all that is evil— be it on the personal or national level— into one inanimate object, a ring. In other words, the ring represented every conceivable temptation the devil could contrive to thrust upon the human race. Tolkien’s metaphor is extremely effective, and his book makes very instructive reading.

Unfortunately, temptations in our own lives are never so forthright. Evil can be maddeningly subtle, often imperceptible.

Theater MaskDavid O. McKay taught that temptation could be divided into three recognizable categories:

1) A temptation of the appetite or passion;

2) A yielding to pride, fashion, or vanity;

3) A desire for worldly riches or power and dominion over lands or earthly possessions of men. [1]

Our private battles to overcome personal weaknesses may be known only to ourselves. But at the end of the day, the character of an entire nation will reflect the integrity of its individual citizens.


Politics of Nations in Ancient America

enemy-sowed-tares-bible-storyIn ancient American history, a band of robbers led by a man named Gadianton became a powerful political force.

For there was one Gadianton, who was exceedingly expert in many words, and also in his craft, to carry on the secret work of murder and of robbery;. . .

Therefore he did flatter them, . . . that if they would place him in the judgment-seat he would grant unto those who belonged to his band that they should be placed in power and authority among the people. (Helaman 2:4,5)


A Tale of Two Nations

bible-word-of-godWe can see the contrasting response of two different nations: the Nephite nation, which was traditionally Christian, and which had labored among the Lamanite nation, and won a number of converts to the Christian faith.

The Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.

On the other hand, . . . the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the goldrighteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.

And thus they [the Gadianton robbers]did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.   (Helaman 6:37-39)

Both peoples were fully exposed to the flattery, deceit, and enticing campaign promises of Gadianton and his organization of robbers. The Gadiantons put money and personal gratification over moral values.

robbers-gadiantonIronically, it was the Nephites, once the more righteous people, who had the democratic system of government. The Gadiantons took over the government, not by force, but by persuasion. Whether by public voice or private ballot, the Nephites voted for the policies of the Gadiantons. Even the “more part of the righteous” came down to believe in their works. They voluntarily made Gadianton robbery legal.

How could they willingly support something which to us is so obviously evil? One prophet said that the Nephites were a “stiffnecked and a gainsaying[2] people” (Jacob 6:4), thus they were vulnerable to Gadianton flattery, and could not resist the promised spoils of plunder. Plunder is “something taken by force, theft, or fraud.[3] Gadianton flattery appealed to Nephite covetousness.

Any righteous Nephite would have abhorred the very thought of stealing from his neighbor. Yet they somehow rationalized: “I am personally opposed to it myself, but if the government does it in the name of public welfare, it is different.” Thus the Nephites were seduced by the Gadianton philosophy.

The Lamanites, on the other hand, chose to resist the temptation for riches and dominion over lands of others.

Every time you choose to resist temptation, you diminish the devil’s power over you.

dinnerDinner Talk Topics

A nation’s quality of government reflects the character of its citizens.

*Agency, Citizenship

  1. In the native American history, how did the government reflect the character of the governed? Does our government today reflect the character of most of the people, or is it out of touch with the people?
  2. Why did Nephites choose Gadianton plundering when they would not think of robbing their neighbor?
  3. How does Gadianton plunder resemble modern socialism?
  4. What is a double standard, and how is it sometimes used to rationalize doing wrong?
  5. How can covetousness and pride lead to deceit, immorality, and even murder?
  6. How can we diminish the devil’s power over us?

Copyright ©2010 by Christine Davidson

            [1] Teachings of the Prophets: David O. McKay, p. 82

            [2] gainsay— [ME gainsayen fr. gain~ against; to say more at again] 1. deny, dispute 2. to speak against; contradict Merriam Webster Dictionary, p. 341

                [3] Merriam Webster Dictionary, p. 652


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