The founders understood that the only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations was what they termed "Natural Law." According to Sir William Blackstone, they knew that it was the only reliable basis for a stable society and a system of justice.
"A fundamental presupposition of Natural Law is that man's reasoning power is a special dispensation of the Creator and is closely akin to the rational or reasoning power of the Creator himself.
"One of the founders' favorite political thinkers was Marcus Tullius Cicero... He cut through the political astigmatism and philosophical errors of both Plato and Aristotle to discover the touchstone for good laws, sound government, and the long-range formula for happy human relationships." (W. Cleon Skousen)
Cicero (106-43 B.C.) was a Roman political writer who studied law in Rome and philosophy in Athens. He became the leading lawyer of his time and rose to the highest office of the state (Roman Consul). In the following citation, keep in mind that Cicero was a citizen of a pagan nation.
True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions...It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be free from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst punishment.Natural Law, therefore, is based on absolute reality, not perceived reality.
Key to our ability to follow Natural Law is what Cicero and others have called the divine gift of reason. Said Cicero, "...what is more divine, I will not say in man only, but in all heaven and earth, than reason? And when it is full grown and perfected, is rightly called wisdom." This "right reason", when applied to government, becomes justice.
So what is the foundation justice? Jesus, when answering the lawyer's question about which commandment was the greatest, answered that to love God is the greatest commandment, and to love one's neighbor is the second great commandment. Cicero also recognized this. "For these virtues originate in our natural inclination to love our fellow-men, and this is the foundation of justice."
When the principles of divine and neighborly love are followed, man obeys Natural Law without any external motivation from artificial laws. The Confucian Code of Rights (Liji) is meant to be a guide on civilized behavior, not a law. The rule of law is only applied to those who are incapable of civilized behavior. Civilized individuals are expected to observe the natural order. "Only social outcasts are expected to have their behavior controlled by law. Thus, the rule of law is considered a state of barbaric primitiveness, prior to achieving the civilized state of voluntary observation of proper rites. What is legal is not necessarily moral or just." (Henry Liu)
I raise these points in an attempt to create awareness of the awful precipice towards which our great nation is hurtling at frightening speed. We have long since ceased to become a nation that follows Natural Law, and are now a people who are compelled to follow laws created by mortal and imperfect men. Imperfect men inherently create imperfect laws. Imperfect laws, by their very definition, will inevitably possess characteristics of injustice, regardless of the spirit with which they were created. We are relying more and more on our government to tell us how to behave, and in so doing are stripping ourselves of that most precious gift with which our Creator has endowed us: reason and agency. "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward." (D&C 58:26)
So what is the danger in adhering to man-made laws in lieu of Natural Law? If a society sanctions immoral acts through the decrees of the people, decisions of judges, or edicts of kings, does this make these laws just or right? Of course not. And yet, that is danger we face when we voluntarily hand over our agency and reason to government, and become compelled to follow an assumed code of acceptable behavior. Acceptable behavior does NOT equate to right reason or just behavior.
Let me close with this final thought from Cicero.
But the most foolish notion of all is the belief that everything is just which is found in the customs or laws of nations...What of the many deadly, the many pestilential statutes which nations put in force? These no more deserve to be called laws than the rules a band of robbers might pass in their assembly. For if ignorant and unskillful men have prescribed deadly poisons instead of healing drugs, these cannot possibly be called physicians' prescriptions; neither in a nation can a statute of any sort be called a law, even though the nation, in spite of being a ruinous regulation has accepted it.