Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Voice of the Church - Elder Dallin H. Oaks Encourages Civic Responsibility

From "Where Will It Lead?" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The following is an excerpt from an address given on 9 November 2004 at Brigham Young University.

First, I am concerned about the current overemphasis on rights and underemphasis on responsibilities. Where will this lead in our public life? No society is so strong that it can support continued increases in citizen rights while neglecting to foster comparable increases in citizen responsibilities or obligations. Yet our legal system continues to recognize new rights even as we increasingly ignore old responsibilities. For example, so-called no-fault divorces — which give either spouse the right to dissolve a marriage at will — have obscured the vital importance of responsibilities in marriage. Similarly, I believe it is a delusion to think that we help children by defining and enforcing their rights. We do more for children by trying to reinforce the responsibilities of parents — natural and adoptive — even when those responsibilities are not legally enforceable.

The same principles apply in public life. We cannot raise our public well-being by adding to our inventory of individual rights. Civic responsibilities like honesty, self-reliance, participation in the democratic process, and devotion to the common good are essential to the governance and preservation of our country. Currently we are increasing rights and weakening responsibilities, and it is leading our nation down the road toward moral and civic bankruptcy. If we are to raise our general welfare, we must strengthen our sense of individual responsibility for the welfare of others and the good of society at large. (See Dallin H. Oaks, “Rights and Responsibilities,” Mercer Law Review, 36 [1984–85], no. 1 [fall 1984]: 427–42.)

Read the rest of the article here, or the full text here.
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