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Ancient American Governments in Book of Mormon Article Three

Updated on September 19, 2022
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Leaders of integrity or infamy found in The Book of Mormon provide the fodder for spiritual growth and self-improvement. It was made for us.

Nephite Governments

In Ancient America, the Nephite society transitioned through several types of governments with only one of them relatable to the republicanism of the United States, it being a political stretch to do so. The freedom and liberty referred to in the record, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, centered around preventing harm to Nephite families and communities and the right to worship God according to the desires of the people.

Noel B Reynolds of BYU stated in his work entitled Government and Legal History in the Book of Mormon, that

The Nephites were ruled by hereditary kings from 550 to 91 B.C. when the rule changed to a reign of judges. After the coming of Christ, two centuries of peace under the government of his Church were followed by a breakdown of society into tribal units and finally by the destruction of the Nephites. (para. 2)

Where Reynolds conducted an academic study of the types of governments for the entire record of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, this article focuses on the Nephite society in particular. (Lamanite, Jaredite, and other groups mentioned in the record are excluded.) From Reynolds's description, there existed four major governmental types among the Nephites, with one divided into three subcategories for the purposes of this article:

  • Theocracy
    • Patriarchal Theocracy
    • Theocratic Protectorate
    • Ecclesiocracy or Organizational Theocracy
  • Monarchy
  • Hereditary Succession “Democracy”
  • Tribal Federation (or Confederation)

Each of these government types provided different protections to Nephite citizens and served a purpose for the people regarding their religious and civil liberties. the three division of the Theocracy, Patriarchal Theocracy, Theocratic Protectorate, and Ecclesiocracy or Organizational Theocracy is discussed here.

Voting God Out

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other supporters of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ believe somewhere upon the American continents the Nephite nation existed before they were destroyed as a people. The majority of the Nephites chose to go counter to the commandments of God by rejecting Jesus Christ, even though several prophets pronounced a blessing and a cursing on the land. The Blessing/Cursing is that any nation occupying the soil must worship the God of the land or be removed.

The god of the lands of the Americas is Jesus Christ. Indeed, He is the God of the entire universe, but ancient prophets revealed a special claim upon the Americas. Nephi chronicles in his record that God referred to the Americas specifically when he said “it is a choice land … above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon … worship me.” [2 Nephi 10:19] The reference not only applies to the United States of America, but to Mexico, Canada, Greenland, and every other nation in the Americas—North and South America.


Jesus is the God of America and the whole Earth!

Every power in the Americas where the people decided to reject Jesus Christ fails economically, has rampant poverty, pervasive crime, abysmal dictatorial leadership, or utter destruction. One important aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the mandate to allow all people to worship what they may as long as that practice does not infringe upon the rights of other people to worship. When the governments of any nation restrict the religious liberties of its citizens, they incur divine wrath, especially so in the Americas.

Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written. Ether 2:12

Jesus set the Americas apart as a choice land, though He still created all the world. In a farewell address before departing out of the national seat of the nation in the city of, Zarahemla, Alma stated:

Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Alma 45:16

With the prominence that the Americas have in the world, specifically the United States of America, the Lord wanted it to be a shining example of religious freedom to the world. With the imperfection of humanity that lives in the States, the ideas, laws, and protections safeguarding religion make America such a choice land. Other nations who model their acceptance of religious freedom after the US can expect prosperity.

True Democracy

The deciding factor in a democracy is one vote for a permanent change to take effect. Democracies, true democracies are potentially very dangerous. King Mosiah teaches in The Book of Mormon that the voice or vote of the people determined what direction any democratic society took, though he referred to Nephite society when expressing that sentiment. Usually, he instructed, that the majority of the people do not choose any action that is wrong. But on the occasions that they do, then is divine judgment executed. [Mosiah 29:26]

It took almost 400 years for the deed to occur, but the Nephites eventually rejected Christ and failed. Firstly, their government transformed to allow the people to have a voice in its function. The voice they executed or the power they wielded did not compare to the voting powers of the democracies currently occupying the Americas. They could not lobby for laws; their government was not authorized to elect representatives.

Serendipitously, they had rulers who judged their lives based on ancient laws. Why serendipity? The majority of people appreciated the limited involvement afforded them. Only those desiring to be kings seemed ever displeased with their limited freedom. Their singular vote occurred when deciding which of the sons of a former judge would be the next chief judge.

Secondly, they destroyed the 121-year-old faux-democracy; thirdly they murdered the 200-year peace under the ecclesiocracy; fourthly, they committed adultery against the God of the Americas, and lastly, they found extinction as a people and a nation. The church Jesus established vanished.


It goes deeper than the majority vote in each nation deciding to favor Christianity. In fact, there is no stipulation that the people of the nation need to mostly be Christian. What brings the curse upon the lands in America is not the political aspect of associating with a religious group in name, but the association in life-style. If the majority of the people in any American nation espouse the commandments of God, be whatever religion they will, they are worshiping the God of the land.

What that means is if they are taking care of the poor and needy, they will prosper and honor God. If they are treating each other with respect and kindness, they are worshiping the God of the land. Jesus Christ has stated through his prophets in ancient America and in the Old World:

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Mosiah 2:17

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

The true test of a person's devotion to God is how he treats his fellow being. The Book of Mormon's purpose is to convince the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ and the Savior of the world. Reading from its pages about government and ideologies helps people to best decide how to curry favor with the Lord. It is by treating each other with love and respect. Everything else falls into place after that.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson


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