Rights and Privileges in Scripture

Apr 04
rights and privileges in scripture

Last week as I was studying Mosiah 3:8 for the experimental boggle webinar, I thought about the phrase “Son of God” in a different way. Being that Christ was the Son of God the Father, and heir to the throne, I thought that would give him certain rights and privileges. So I thought I would look through the scriptures for what those might be.

I saw that doing a wildcard search for right* was out of the question with 1,233 results including things like righteous, righteously, rightly, right [direction or body part] type of uses, so I just limited myself to a search for the exact word:

Rights

This produced results that surprised me. The word “rights” doesn’t appear at all in the Bible.

Rights in scripture

Privilege was easier though with 36 results using a wildcard search:

Privile*

Again I was surprised to see that none of the results were in the Bible.

Privileges in scripture

I did try to look briefly for synonyms but since I was limited on time and trying to study each phrase of the verse during the week, I didn’t put a lot of effort into it. In writing this post I reflected on the thought that Christ has a right to the throne and looked up “throne” in the New Testament. I saw in Revelation 3:21 the word “grant” and thought that might be another interesting word search.

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

It’s a little related to privilege but coming from Christ to us. I suppose that really is a privilege of Christ to grant unto those that overcome a throne to sit upon.

Rights in Scriptures

The 23 verses that contained the word “rights” can be broken down as follows:

  • 20 spoke of maintaining rights of freedom within the law
  • 1 on rights of the priesthood
  • 1 on rights of those holding priesthood keys
  • 1 on Christ’s rights

In the Book of Mormon we see an effort by the righteous to ensure that everyone has rights and privileges. On the other hand, the wicked seek to rule over and bring the righteous class of people into bondage by controlling and stripping away their rights and privileges. Reading the verses on rights really brought the idea home that this book was written for our day.

However, it’s this last verse that was what I was looking for. In Moroni 7:27 we read:

27. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?

By finishing the work of the atonement, Christ obtained the rights of mercy, or in other words, the ability to forgive sin and grant privileges to lesser beings that we might be joint-heirs with him and not suffer the torments of eternal damnation.  He became our advocate which Doctrine and Covenants 45 describes in this way:

3. Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—

4. Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;

5. Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.

Note that Jesus doesn’t tell the Father, “look at what Oak did in life and have mercy on him.” He doesn’t even say, “look at Oak’s sincere repentance.” He says “Father, look what I went through to bring glory to thy name. Spare these that believe on me.” Rights of mercy. Is repentance necessary? Absolutely. We are commanded to repent, which means “to turn” toward God and away from our sins. We are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. That’s a process of continual refinement, but it’s not what saves us. We have to be oriented in the right direction, seeking to do the will of the Lord as he has asked of us, and then the grace of God saves us.

We also understand Christ has the rights of justice which is balanced by mercy. He is the judge. I just didn’t find that specifically in this brief set of verses that use the word “rights.”

Privileges in Scripture

My first thought on this topic was of the statement made in General Conference by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in April 2011. He related the story of the individual that wanted to go on an expensive cruise and after purchasing his ticket, brought an extra suitcase full of crackers and food to keep his costs down. At the end of the trip he was informed that all the activities and food on the ship was included in his ticket price and he had missed out on all the privileges his ticket afforded him. President Uchtdorf concluded:

“The question this parable raises is, Are we as priesthood holders living below our privileges when it comes to the sacred power, gifts, and blessings that are our opportunity and right as bearers of God’s priesthood?

Brethren, we are faced with a choice. We can be satisfied with a diminished experience as priesthood bearers and settle for experiences far below our privileges. Or we can partake of an abundant feast of spiritual opportunity and universal priesthood blessings.”

I opened Webster’s 1828 dictionary and looked at the definition of the word. It means an advantage, favor, or benefit that comes to individuals or groups, and may be granted by law (citizenship) or bestowed on specific individuals (ex. king) or groups (ex. religious).

So what are the privileges we find in scripture? Below is what I recorded in my collection note to go with these verses. There are more besides these if we were doing a comprehensive search, but these are the ones listed in the 36 verses that use the word privilege or a variation of it.

1) All men are privileged to partake of the Lord’s goodness (2 Nephi 26:28). “Goodness” appears 80 times in scripture. In Exodus 18:9, Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel. That word goodness comes from the Hebrew word ṭôḇ which means good, beautiful, bountiful, precious, prosperity, wealth, welfare, etc…

2) In a land of liberty where there is no inequality, people enjoy rights and privileges (Mosiah 29:32). Inequality comes by poor government such as having kings who then do iniquity. And outright insurrection (Alma 61:14; 3 Nephi 2:12). Other references to rights and privileges under a free government (Alma 43:9; 51:6; 55:28). The U.S. Constitution is for all mankind and justifiable before God (D&C 98:5).

3) It is a privilege to assemble and worship God (Alma 2:4; 6:5; 50:39; 61:14)

4) It is a privilege to hold the priesthood (Alma 13:4) and we obtain it by faith and not blinding our minds or hardening our hearts.

5) If you believe in God, it is your privilege to serve him (Alma 30:9)

Why is it an “advantage, favor, or benefit” to serve God? We are all unprofitable servants (Mosiah 2:21) no matter how much we serve. We aren’t saved by works. However, serving God by serving others (Mosiah 2:17) changes us to be like Christ. This is a tremendous privilege. Nephi taught that before we do anything, pray that God will consecrate the performance unto us for the welfare of our souls (2 Nephi 32:9).

6) Freedom of travel is a privilege (and a right) (3 Nephi 4:16).

7) Joseph Smith was privileged (favor or benefit) to show the plates to other witnesses so they could assist in testifying of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon (Ether 5:2).

8) It was a privilege for Joseph to translate and he lost that for a time after not trusting in the Lord’s answer to not give Martin Harris the 116 pages (D&C 3:4; 9:5).

9) It is a privilege to bear the priesthood and ordain others (D&C 20:66; OD 2:8)

10) It is a privilege to organize according to the Lord’s laws (D&C 51:15)

11) It is a privilege to gather to Zion (D&C 58:55; D&C 72:24)

12) It is a privilege to rend the veil and see the Lord (D&C 67:10)

13) It is a privilege to have the Lord show you the mysteries of the kingdom and his glory (D&C 76:117).

14) It is our privilege to allow all to share what they have learned that all may be edified (D&C 88:122).

15) It is a privilege for those called to preside to have counselor presidents to assist in his duties (D&C 102:10)

16) It is a privilege in a church court for the accused (and accuser) to speak for themselves after evidence has been presented so that they can testify of the evidence for themselves (D&C 102:18).

17) It is a privilege to be delivered from bondage by the Lord when we are humble and call upon his name for victory (D&C 104:84, 86).

18) It is a privilege through the power of the Melchizedek priesthood to receive the mysteries of the kingdom, have the heavens opened, commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. It is a privilege through the Aaronic priesthood to receive the ministering of angels and administer in the outward ordinances of the gospel. (D&C 107:19-20)

19) It is a privilege to have the free exercise of religious beliefs and a duty of government officials to protect such (D&C 134:7). A religion that mingles influence with civil government to obtain an advantage over other religions is unjust (D&C 134:9).

20) It is a privilege to worship God according to your own conscience (AOF 1:11).

So the question to ponder is, to what extent am I settling for experiences far below my privileges? Are we shackled in our beliefs about what is possible? If so, it’s time to burst those chains like the image above shows and embrace our true spiritual nature.

 

(image by manopphimsit @ 123rf.com)

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    About the Author

    Oak Norton - Sometimes inspired, sometimes perspired.

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