The human right to live is the result of a God-created law which prohibits murder. The Lord will ultimately enforce all violations of this law, and it is the enforcement of the punishment affixed to murder which creates the right to live. This law (or right), is unique to the mortal condition of human beings. As the rightful property owner of the mortal body, God has the right to establish laws governing its proper use.
WHAT IS A RIGHT?
Simply defined, the definition of what a right is will be demonstrated through investigation of the human right to live. Why do human beings have the right to live, and where does this right come from? A right comes into existence through the establishment of a law. In order for a law to exist, there must be a punishment affixed to its violation. For as the prophet Alma explained: “How could there be a law save there was a punishment? (Alma 42:17). If the punishment affixed to the violation of a law is not enforced, then there is in reality, no punishment. If there is no punishment, then there is no law, and by extension no right.
The following verses from the Book of Mormon help clarify the nature of God’s commandments or laws. The prophet Alma is explaining to his son the nature of law, punishment, repentance, mercy and justice:
Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.
And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God (Alma 42:17-22).
There is no human right to live if there is no punishment enforced for the violation of that right. The human right to live has therefore been established by the Lord as follows:
- Law: “Thou shalt not murder” (Ex. 20:13 see also Matt. 5:21, Matt. 19:18, D&C 42:19).
- Mortal Punishment: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6,see also JST Gen. 9:10-15, Ex. 21:12, Alma 1:14, Hel. 1:12).
- Eternal Punishment: “He that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come” (D&C 42:18 see also Gal. 5:21, 1 Tim. 1:9, 1 John 3:15).
- Enforcement: “…And in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore [David] hath fallen from his exaltation…” (D&C 132:39).
God has established my right to live because he has created a law prohibiting murder, and will enforce punishment upon anyone who murders me. God has even given me the right to use lethal force to defend my life, which act of defense is not considered murder (see Alma 43:47). The enforcement of the penalty attached to a murder creates my right to live.
UNIQUE TO MORTALITY
The law which prohibits murder is a law unique to the mortal condition and has no relevance before or after the mortal state. Murder is an action whereby one human being intentionally and unlawfully causes the physical human body of another human being to no longer be able to house his spiritual body. As man did not have a physical body prior to the mortal state, the act of murder was not possible. As resurrected man can never again have his spiritual and physical body separated, the act of murder will be impossible (see Alma 11:45).
My right to live is therefore only applicable to my mortal state, for the general condition of my resurrected body will make it impossible for my spirit and body to ever be separated. It will be impossible for anyone to murder me or deprive me of my life after my death and resurrection. A law prohibiting murder amongst resurrected beings would therefore be irrational.
THE RIGHT TO MAKE LAWS GOVERNING YOUR OWN PROPERTY
God organized this world from unorganized matter. He established a condition whereby his spirit children could inhabit physical bodies as stewards. He is the rightful property owner over all matter of which the earth is comprised, including the matter of the physical human body (see Mos. 2:25, Gen. 1:27, Gen. 2:7-8, Deut. 32:18, D&C 93:10, D&C 104:14). As the rightful owner of the earth and the mortal human body, God has the right to dictate how that property will be used.
God took unorganized, unused matter, which was uncontrolled and hence un-owned by anyone. He “mixed his labor with the soil” and made this world a unique creation suited to his purposes. By this action, he converted the matter of the earth into his property. In the mortal state, the physical matter of the human body belongs to the Lord, and man has been given a stewardship right over this property. Self-ownership is not attained until the resurrection. Until this point, God can make laws, rules, covenants, or codes of conduct regarding the use of this property as he sees fit. To deny this, is to deny the concept of ownership. Note that God does NOT own the matter of the spiritual body, only the physical matter of the mortal body. This concept is fundamental to understanding the atonement (and a more in depth discussion of this topic will be provided shortly).
Therefore God established laws in a state where none previously existed or were necessary or rational. One such established law, as has been discussed, prohibited murder, or in other words, prohibited one man from depriving another man of his right of stewardship (or life) of his mortal body.
God is not subject to this law which prohibits murder (i.e. he does not have the ability to commit the act of murder). Every human body is made of matter drawn from the earth and is rightfully his property as its organizer. God has the right to grant stewardship titles to his children and to take them away as he sees fit. From God’s perspective, it is not murder to remove one of his spirit children out of the physical body (which belongs to the Lord) when they have violated the terms and conditions to remain in that body (1 Nephi 4:13, see also Deut. 12:29, Psalms 139:19, and D&C 98:32-38). Furthermore, God by definition cannot murder a pre-mortal spirit (see Alma 42:9), and he cannot separate a resurrected body from its spirit (Alma 11:45, see also D&C 63:49, D&C 88:116). A resurrected being cannot be murdered; his state is one of a general condition, and is therefore no longer governed by such laws.
There is a distinction between the types of law which governs the right to live versus what is referred to as natural law. No being has the power (i.e. the ability) to violate natural laws within the sphere of their current state of existence. For example, it is impossible to destroy the matter, consciousness, or essence of a spiritual body. It is also impossible to murder a resurrected being. These are natural laws which are impossible to violate. It is possible to murder a mortal human being. The Lord however, has prohibited this action by establishing a law as previously discussed. Only laws which can be violated, and whose punishment can be enforced, can be claimed as a ‘right’.
The God of Abraham lives. He has created a law to protect my life and the property of my stewardship. He will enforce His law. Humans may deprive me, and have deprived countless others of such rights without ever receiving justice in this life. But none will escape the justice and judgment of the Almighty God.
The Lord has endowed man the right to live by establishing a law in the mortal state which prohibits murder. He has commanded his children to enforce this law in the mortal state in addition to his everlasting punishment. Our right to live exists because any violation of that right will be enforced by God. Without enforcement, there can be no claim to have the right to live in the mortal state. The Lord extends his divine protection of the right to live to all of his children through universal enforcement of His law. No man, no king, no government agent has the right to murder a human being. All individuals, no matter who they are, will stand accountable to God in relation to these laws.