Rather than refute each assertion made by Chris is his article which was a response to my initial article, a new argument will be presented which I believe provides conclusive evidence that the scriptures support limited taxation. This will have the net effect of dismissing Chris’ conclusions and reaffirming my own. This article will not address Old Testament scriptures brought up in my original article or tax rate limitations due to length.
I will begin by revisiting Alma 11:1-3 and how Chris missed some very important components:
Now it was in the law of Mosiah that every man who was a judge of the law, or those who were appointed to be judges, should receive wages according to the time which they labored to judge those who were brought before them to be judged.
Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber.
And the judge received for his wages according to his time—a senine of gold for a day, or a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold; and this is according to the law which was given.
Alma 11:1–3 (Emphasis added)
“The goal of any monopoly is to reduce the quantity supplied of some scarce economic resource.” The purpose of the government in this example was to limit violence. In these verses, the government is established as the sole service provider (monopoly) of adjudication. If Smith refused to honor the contract made with Jones, the later did not have the right to take back his property through violence. He was required to appear before the judge and present evidence of breach of contract.
The judge would then ‘execute authority’ by sending law enforcement officers who were authorized and recognized by the people to use coercive force to bring Smith to appear before the judge. If Smith was found guilty he was ‘compelled to pay’ restitution to Jones. In other words, the government was authorized to use coercion (violence) to force Smith to pay Jones. If Smith could not pay, he could either have property seized from him, or be publicly branded as a danger to society. The government in this scenario is an authorized agent of violence.
This public service does not come free however. These scriptures only discuss the lawful wages for judges although it is reasonable to assume the ‘officers’ would be paid for their services as well. So who pays the judge for services rendered? If the defendant was found guilty, the court fees might be imposed upon him; if found innocent, the plaintiff might be given the bill. In either case or in any other scenario, it would be the consumers of the public service who would foot the bill.
If payment is not made to the judge however, then another breach of contract has occurred. After all, the law demands payment to the judge for services rendered. The consumer of the service would be ‘compelled to pay’ this court bill. Jones has no choice but to use this public service to resolve his dispute with an uncooperative Smith. If Jones takes matters into his own hands to retrieve his property, then he would be guilty of unlawful use of violence. Thus Jones is forced to use the court system to adjudicate. If Jones takes matters into his own hands he might very well be forced to pay the court fees associated with his own prosecution.
What is the definition of a tax?
Tax: A charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.
The court fees required by law in this example meet the definition of a tax. Taxation is imposed; it is coercion. This coercion was established by King Mosiah (Alma 1:1). It was said of King Mosiah at his death that he had walked uprightly before God. These scriptures provide a clear and irrefutable example of coercive taxation. An entity with a monopoly on the use of violence forced all people within its jurisdiction to resolve matters of dispute according to its terms and then charge those same people for services rendered. This type of taxation and the service it was used for are authorized by the Lord as a means to establish peace, economic prosperity, and to protect the property rights of citizens.
This interpretation reject’s the conclusions drawn by Chris and his interpretation of these scriptures. Despite the incredibly obvious example of taxation within these scriptures, which I believe is proof enough to show righteous men used coercive taxation to fund government services, Chris stated:
“To assume the above verses implies a tax would require understanding how taxes would fit with other passages in the Book of Mormon…Caleb would have to explain how the scriptures he uses mesh with other scriptures in the Book of Mormon. Not only has he not done this, but I think the task is impossible.”
Let me illustrate the ‘impossible’
A common theme is found in all references to taxation within the Book of Mormon. The theme is weight. In Mosiah 7:15 the people of Limhi are “taxed with a tax that is grievous to be borne.” In Mosiah 11:3 King Noah “laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed.” In Ether 10:5 Riplakish “did lay that which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes”. Before moving to the forth reference in the Book of Mormon, please indulge me in this reference to the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 12:4 the people of Israel ask Rehobaom to lower their tax burden saying: “They father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of they father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter”. In Mosiah 2:14 King Benjamin reminds his people that they had not been “laden with taxes”. Each of these references describe taxation in the context of weight, with some taxes being heavier than others. Each of these verses however, describes a tax that was laid, even the last reference.
The People of Limhi
The people of Limhi had a 50% tax imposed upon them (see Mosiah 7:22-23). In Mosiah 7:15 we read they were “taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne.” This statement does not suggest all taxation to be grievous and is condemning a type or level of taxation. The people of Limhi did not consider taxation oppressive, just the “grievous to be borne” kind. For example the way this sentence is worded suggests it is possible to be ‘taxed with a tax that is not grievous to be borne’. This scripture portrays oppressive or unreasonable taxation in a negative light; it is not a definitive statement declaring all taxation oppressive.
The other example portraying heavy taxation in a negative light is Ether 10:5 where we read: “And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.” His sin was not in levying taxes, but in levying ‘heavy taxes’ then using the funds for things not sanctioned by the Law of the Lord. Again, this scripture portrays oppressive or unreasonable taxation in a negative light.
The example of King Noah provides many interesting insights. Based on chastisement from Abinidi, King Noah and his priests needed a refresher course on many aspects of the Law of Moses (see Mosiah 12 and 13). In the beginning of his reign he “put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new ones in their stead, such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts” (Mos. 11:5). His priests perverted the Law of Moses, and violated the boundaries placed by the Lord on kings (Deut 17:14-20). The Priests of Noah may have presented the King with scriptural evidence of one of their descendants, Joseph in Egypt and his tax policies. For Joseph had recommended to Pharaoh a 20% tax on Egypt then later implemented the tax. (Genesis 41:33-36 see here for an excellent article on this event). Note that I do not use this as support for scriptural authorization for taxation just as an example of where Noah may have gotten the 20% idea.
King Noah’s tax policies provide an example of a departure from the Law of Moses, and the misuse of tax revenue, and almost a point by point violation of the Lord’s restrictions placed on kings (Deut 17:14-20). The similarity of his tax rate and Joseph’s tax rate suggests he may have ‘returned’ back to Egyptian policies in violation of Deut. 17:16. Bottom line, King Noah provides an example of using tax revenue to ‘commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness’ instead of enforcing the Lord’s negative sanctions against such actions.
Practically all people who have read Mosiah 2:14 believe this to mean King Benjamin did not levy any taxes upon his people. Closer examination of the words used however, and in context with the other scriptures previously mentioned, suggest the opposite conclusion.
“And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.”
Based on the definition of the word laden from the 1828 edition of Webster, I believe it would be inaccurate to say this verse means King Benjamin levied no taxes at all. Laden means loaded, charged with a burden, oppressed or burdened. This verse does not implicate or definitively state that King Benjamin levied no taxes at all.
King Benjamin was a Prophet-King; head of the government and the Lord’s mouthpiece upon the Earth. Not wanting to give the appearance of being paid for his service as a Prophet and not wanting to appear oppressive to his people, King Benjamin said:
“I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you”
King Benjamin labored with his “own hands” for his support, so as to not use any tax revenue for personal gain. He did not use his position of authority to enrich himself, only to serve the people. He reigned and enforced the law over several cities :
“Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes…”
To pay for law enforcement over his kingdom, I believe King Benjamin levied a tax, but the tax he levied was not burdensome, or oppressive, or unreasonable, hence he had not laden his people with taxes. For example, I would not consider the tax levied in Alma 11:1-3 to be burdensome and I do not consider it a stretch of the imagination to assume King Benjamin levied a similar type tax. Bottom line Mosiah 2:14 is not a definitive statement that he did not levy any taxes, and in connection with other scriptures and phraseology used, it is more reasonable to believe this verse implies non-oppressive taxation.
The Stewardship Principle
Since the Lord is the owner (right of property) of all things upon the Earth, including our mortal bodies, he has the right to set the terms and conditions over man’s use (right of possession) of his property. The Law of Moses provided a code of worship and a civil code. The Lord granted man according to the civil code, the authority to enforce the Lord’s negative sanctions so as to provide peace and stability amongst his people.
A compilation of various writings of Gary North best illustrate the following:
“The Law of Moses makes it clear that the judicial role of the State is derived directly from God. The State is an agency that applies negative physical sanctions in addition to enforcing restitution. The authority to bring negative physical sanctions is granted by God to the fathers (the “rod”) and to the State (the “sword”). The family lawfully brings positive sanctions; the State does not. The family creates wealth; the State protects wealth, but does not create it…Civil sanctions must be exclusively negative. They are penal sanctions. They punish those who have violated the protected legal boundaries. Any attempt to transform the State into an agency that lawfully dispenses positive sanctions is an aspect of political messianism. A messianic State is regarded as a healer, meaning an agency that is a legitimate source of wealth rather than the absorber of the wealth of the citizen-priests who constitute it judicially.”
“The State makes wealth-creation possible for individuals by protecting private property, i.e., by protecting individuals who own property. The State is required by God to enforce the decisions of property owners to exclude others from using their property. The State is therefore to enforce legal boundaries that are established by private contract. Property owners are given legal immunities – rights – by God in history, and these immunities are to be defended by the State whenever the victim of an unauthorized invasion appeals to the civil magistrate. The State is to defend the rights of stewards over the property that God has assigned to them by covenant (lawful inheritance) or by contract. As Rushdoony says, “All property is held in trust under and in stewardship to God the King. No institution can exercise any prerogative of God unless specifically delegated to do so, within the specified area of God’s law. The state thus is the ministry of justice, not the original property owner or the sovereign lord over the land.”…By remaining exclusively negative judicially, a biblically restricted State serves as a beneficial agency of government within society. This is the only way that it can remain an exclusively positive force in society, given its source of funds. The State is financed by the collection of taxes.”
The examples given in the Book of Mormon, I believe, provide conclusive evidence against oppressive taxation, but they do not prohibit nor forbid taxation. In Alma 11:1-3 a very clear example of taxation is demonstrated. King Mosiah enacted government which levied taxes to enforce God’s negative sanctions in accordance with the civil aspects of the Law of Moses (Alma 1:1). There are no verses however, as Chris concludes, which prohibit all forms of taxation. The scripturally restricted and confined State is an authorized agent of the Lord to enforce property or stewardship rights. In application to modern times,
“We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.”
I believe the tax structure set up in the Constitution was non-oppressive. I believe our current system due to the 16th amendment is oppressive. The concept of the scripturally restricted and confined State which recognizes God as the true Sovereign is the greatest threat to current false messianic states. Modern libertarianism rejects the God of Abraham’s authority to delegate to the State the authority to adjudicate. Modern messianic States have sought to replace God as the sovereign authority and actively seek His removal from their societies. Both dismiss turning to the Lord and his Word as valid alternatives. The scriptures provide incredibly powerful examples of limited government funded by very limited taxation. Christians would do well to learn from scriptural examples of limited government, and how far out of bounds modern governments have tread.
 – North, Gary. “Boundaries and Dominion” p. 686.
 – Defenitions
- Laden: (1) Loaded; charged with a burden or freight. (2) Oppressed; burdened.
- Burden, n.: That which is borne with labor or difficulty; that which is grievous, wearisome or oppressive.
- Burdened, pp: Loaded with weight; incumbered; oppressed.
- Oppressed: Burdened with unreasonable impositions; overpowered; overburdened; depressed.
 – During the reign of the judges there clearly many cities part of the Nephite government which was transformed from a monarchy under King Mosiah who inherited the kingdom from his father King Benjamin.