From one birthday to the next — there but for the grace of God go we all:
Civil War in London. Unimaginable?
From Foreign Policy,
“Today, over 5 million children [in Syria] are in need of assistance, including over 1 million children who have sought refuge in neighboring countries. These children are at risk of becoming a ‘lost generation’ and cannot be ignored.”
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We think we’re immune to this in our currently stable Western democracies. This collapse of civil society and these nightmarish scenarios of civil war happen far away, “in those countries.”
I think it is far more possible than any of us realize for this to be in our future. From a scriptural perspective, The Book of Mormon suggests this is a possible, even probable, trajectory for a society that is “puffed up” with pride in which the people “seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Ne. 6.15). Once such people begin putting the interests of their own particular tribes ahead of the good of society as a whole (by refusing to be beneficial participants in civil society), the scene is set for this kind of outcome.
Take the “thirtieth year” since the birth of Christ (see 3 Ne. 6:17 to 3 Ne. 7:13). By the beginning of 30 A.D. in the society depicted in 3 Nephi 6 & 7, the people had recently experienced several years of uninhibited peace, order, and prosperity (see 3 Ne. 6:3-9) — “there was great order in the land” because “they had formed their laws according to equity and justice” (3 Ne. 6:4). Although the text implies that this prosperity and peace had not yet disappeared at the beginning of 30 A.D., the society was no longer characterized by “great order” and “equity and justice”; rather, by the beginning of 30 A.D., their society had become characterized by a “great inequality in all the land” (3 Ne. 6:14) because “the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches” (3 Ne. 6:12). By the end of that single year, the government had collapsed and civil society was in tatters (3 Ne. 7:2).
It is true that “all this was done, and there were no wars as yet among them” (3 Ne. 7:5) — in this example from the The Book of Mormon, the civil war depicted in this video hadn’t come about in the space “from one birthday to the next” simply because the tribes, though “they were enemies” (3 Ne. 7:11), had been able to reach a tenuous agreement “that one tribe should not trespass against another” (3 Ne. 7:14). Other similar episodes in The Book of Mormon, however, do end up in all-out societal warfare in such a short space of time.
In any event, their rejection of prophetic injunctions and political mandates relating to order, equity, and justice, specifically with relation to the poor and less fortunate, precipitated the collapse of their government (which had administered over a period of unprecedented prosperity) and the splintering of their society into tribes each seeking its own interest at the expense of or without regard to the interests of the community as a whole — a situation fundamentally opposed to the establishment and flourishing of Zion.