(To see Cal Grondahl’s cartoon that goes with this post, click here.) A year ago, Connor Boyack, a Lehi political activist, published “Latter-day Liberty,” an interesting book that maintains that libertarian political ideals are compatible with Mormon doctrine. (It’s reviewed here) Boyack, a president at the Libertas Institute, possesses strong opinion-writing skills. A year later, Boyack is back with “Latter-day Responsibility,” (Cedar Fort), which explores agency deeper, arguing that the God-given liberty of agency requires initiatives by God’s children that further liberty. To not do so is opposition to God’s will, argues Boyack.
The doctrine agency, also known as free agency, was the core of the War in Heaven between Jehova (Jesus Christ) and Lucifer (Satan). A theme of Boyack’s book is that the battle fought in the pre-existence has never ended. Satan, the great persuader, is still fighting, on earth, to destroy the agency of individuals. Boyack argues that statism, through excessive law enforcement procedures, excessive regulation, welfare policies, public education, wars of choice, health care regulation, etc., are tools Satan can exploit to make us less free, tethered to the demands of others, and subsequently deprive us of our liberty.
However, taking his argument a step further, Boyack argues that it is a divine commandment to avoid personal dysfunctions that deprive us of our agency, and lessen our freedom. “Latter-day Responsibility” sees debt accumulation, such as credit cards, as a sinful deviation from God’s law of agency.
Where “Latter-day Responsibility” gets more provocative is the author’s assertion that political involvement is a requirement of agency. To avoid it is a failure to obey God’s intentions for agency, Boyack argues. His book is peppered with suggestions of how to get involved politically, along with suggestions of particular causes to follow, and one admonition to avoid the mainstream media, comparing much of it to the folks who mocked believers from the Great and Spacious Building, from “The Book of Mormon’s” First Nephi.
As I mentioned in my review of “Latter-day Liberty,” Boyack asserts that the core of religious doctrine is one between enslavement and freedom. Boyack is a follower of Libertarian Republican Ron Paul and shares Paul’s strong disapproval of the War on Terror, the drug war and regulations. His secular creed is more or less summed up as, “if you aren’t harming another individual, an action shouldn’t be prohibited.”
But “Latter-day Liberty” and “Latter-day Responsibility” are mainly religious books. Boyack’s knowledge of LDS history, as well as his ability to find quotes from LDS leaders that espouse libertarianism, is impressive. Within the religious context of his books, Boyack seems to argue that living libertarian values is a requirement of the Gospel. In fact, even a failure to be involved in opposing the gradual creep of socialism, militarism, and over-regulation in society is a sin, he argues.
Latter-day Saints are a politically diverse people, and groups from liberal Mormons to conservative Mormons are likely to take issue with some political stances within “Latter-day Responsibility.” Boyack, to his credit, has presented a strong case for his arguments and anyone taking him on will need to move far beyond conservative dogma or liberal scorn to win any debates. I’m impressed by his knowledge of the concept of agency, and how the adversary uses modern marketing, greed, and pleasure to lure us into dysfunctions which ultimately reduce our agency, and freedoms. And, Boyack equates nearly 13,000 lobbyists and $3.5 billion infesting our government’s Congress with the “secret combinations” that destroyed the Nephite civilization.
Despite being a stern lecturer in his book — and I found myself wondering how I could fulfill all the doctrines that Boyack insists are part of the law of agency — the author is not obsessed with forcing his beliefs on others. In fact, he cites the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as welfare and federal regulation, as examples of why force, whether bureaucratic or bloody, cannot impose order or righteousness. Both “Latter-day …” books — and they should be bought together; a suggestion would be to bound both in one set — stress persuasion as the only acceptable way to promote agency and its policies. Boyack makes it very clear that he’s opposed to violence. As evidence, he cites the dysfunctions that 10-plus years of war have inflicted on invaded countries, our soldiers, their families, and the national debt and psyche. Frankly, on that point, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
Several concepts are explored in depth, from financial freedom, to self reliance, self-defense, the family, faith and morality, education, education, civic duties. All begin with a few study questions, followed by the meat of the chapter, which answers the questions with the doctrine of agency as the foundation. Each chapter contains several suggestions on implementing what was discussed. The theme of the chapters stresses being as independent from government as much as possible.
Government is getting bigger, and while Boyack’s prescription to avoid it may not be to most readers’ tastes, his understanding of agency, and how it’s too often misinterpreted as a mandate to do what one wishes, is a concept that’s needed today. There are powerful interests, in both the private and public sector, dedicated to enslaving us to debt, excessive laws, high taxes, and iniquity. Whether Satan’s behind it or not, we need all the advice we can get to be self-reliant. And “Latter-day Responsibility” is full of good advice.