I Think This Is A Bad Idea

When the Babolinan empire was busy constructing the tower of Babel, there was a group of people that left the spectacular city, their homeland, in search of a new place to live. And they didn’t just move from one city to the next, they moved from one continent to another. They built their own barges and sailed across the ocean to a land they had probably never heard of before.

It took them more than a year to travel from Asia to the South American continent where they began creating their new society. Jared and his brother were led the people on this tremendous journey and then became the founding fathers of the new country.

Years later, after being established in their new land, these two brothers approached their people and asked them what they could do for them before they died. 

The thing the people wanted, was a king. They wanted one of the sons of Jared or his brother’s  (who remains nameless in this record) sons to become their king.

“And now behold, this was grievous unto them (Jared and his brother). And the brother of Jared said unto them: Surely this thing leadeth into captivity. But Jared said unto his brother:‘Suffer them that they may have a king. And therefore he said unto them: Choose ye out from among our sons a king.” (Ether 6:19-24)

And so they gave their people a king.

The Worst Hard Time, a historical non-fiction book written by Timothy Egan about the Dust Bowl, covers 6 years of history in 352 pages. 

The only remaining record we have of these people covers nearly 2,000 years of history in thirty-one pages. In one section of this abridged record, six generations of kings is described using 100 words and five sentences. 

It’s a historical cliffhanger, leaving the reader wondering what more happen, but not even google can provide those answers. The value in this fast paced overview of these people is that it allows one to view plainly the impact of that one leader can have. The kings who sought to do that which was just and right had a positive impact on their people. The kings who were focused on their own political, social, and economic gains, had a detrimental impact on their people and always seemed to get their people involved in some kind of war.

Jared and his brother and all the people who had traveled with them to this new land had personally experienced what it was like to live under a King who was obsessed with power and riches. Their previous King was so obsessed with power that he enslaved thousands of individuals to build a tower that was exceedingly bigger than any other. A tower that anyone and everyone would see when approaching his land so that people knew before they even got to his land, that he was the greatest ruler. 

They themselves were refugees and pilgrims, leaving their native land to get away, in part, from the monarchy that ruled over them. Jared and his brother had good reasons to be concerned and cautious about setting up their new society under a monarchy. 

And still Jared and his brother moved forward with the decision to give their people a king. Is this an act of good leadership? Or did they compromise their integrity to keep the people happy with them? If it is an act of weak leadership, Is Jared the only one to blame?  He was the one who essentially said, “Give them a king, that’s what they want.” Does his brother hold any responsibility in the decision even if he didn’t agree with Jared? 

Both brothers felt that choosing someone among them to be a king would be “grievous.” They believed that a monarchy would eventually lead their people into captivity, and they were right. In the brief pages recounting 2,000 years worth of history, it is plain to see over and over again the destruction that one bad monarch created. But for some reason, they helped their people set up a monarchy even though initially they felt it was a bad idea. 

We aren’t given any insights as to how and why they decided to give their people a king. We are inclined to judge a person’s character primarily by their actions, but doing so is problematic and often distorts the truth. Our true character is exposed not by the actions we take, but by the driving force behind our actions. 

“Most of us think as ethics as the rules of moral behavior, you are what you do…A more theological approach [is] called virtue ethics. Virtue ethics says that who we are is not determined by the actions we take but why we take them. So you can’t just spin out some wild theory based on a few cherry picked facts from [someone’s] record. You have to consider [their] motives.” Madam Secretary, Henry McCord

Two individuals may volunteer their time at a homeless shelter, or take out the overflowing garbage from the kitchen, or get a PhD in law, or pay their alms, or fast, or pray. The actions might all be the same, but what matters more is the reason why they are doing it.  It’s not the action, but the motivating force behind the action that reveals someone’s true character. 

Though the record of these people is brief, nearly eight pages is dedicated to telling us about the brother of Jared. In James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, he said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible.” Plainly laid out among those eight pages is the evidence that this man governed his actions with integrity. It’s no wonder the people wanted one of his sons to be their king.

A good leader has the ability to hear a different perspective from their own. A leader who lacks a strong sense of self will feel threatened by different views or the suggestion that their view might be incomplete or wrong. A strong leader has developed the capacity to exercise sound judgment, or  ‘“the ability to orbit a problem and see it well, including through the eyes of people very different from them (James Comey.” A good leader is more invested in understanding than in being understood. A good leader does will cling to a decision out of integrity. A weak leader will cling to a decision out of arrogance. 

December 7, 2019

Writing time: 5 hours

Research time: 4 hours

Total time writing on this blog: 167 hours


The Book of Mormon, Ether 1-23

Madam Secretary, Season 6 Episode 8

Smithsonian Channel, Secrets: Tower of Babel

Matthew 6: 1-18

A Higher Loyalty, Jame Comey