'I Will Give Unto You My Law': Section 42 as a Legal Text and the Paradoxes of Divine Law

EMBRACING THE LAW: ESSAYS ON DOCTRINE & COVENANTS SECTION, Jeremiah John, ed., p. 42, Salt Press, Forthcoming

18 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2011  

Nathan B. Oman

William & Mary Law School

Date Written: April 15, 2011

Abstract

The idea of divine law occupies an uneasy place in the modern world. In most modern legal systems, divine law is relegated to liminal spaces unoccupied by the authority of secular law. Hence, divine law is generally seen as legitimately speaking only to private, moral, or religious issues. For believers, however, this truncating of divine law's authority presents the problem of how to reconcile the primacy of God's authority with the practical dominance of secular over sacred law. This paper explores how Mormonism has responded to this problem by providing a close reading of section 42 of the Doctrine & Covenants, a passage of Mormon scripture written in the 1830s. It argues that ultimately Mormonism presents a paradoxical conception of divine law that both insists on its own ultimate authority while simultaneously sacralizing its own retreat before secular power. The resulting conception has proven spiritually unsatisfying for some, but has allowed Mormonism to successfully negotiate the tensions created by the idea of divine law in the modern world.

Keywords: divine law, Mormonism, religion, jurisprudence, decalogue, law of consecration, law and religion, legal history

Suggested Citation

Oman, Nathan B., 'I Will Give Unto You My Law': Section 42 as a Legal Text and the Paradoxes of Divine Law (April 15, 2011). EMBRACING THE LAW: ESSAYS ON DOCTRINE & COVENANTS SECTION, Jeremiah John, ed., p. 42, Salt Press, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1811086

Nathan B. Oman (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

HOME PAGE: http://nboman.people.wm.edu

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