In our continuing study of the Book of Mormon in Sunday School the word “Iniquity” comes up again and again as a sin for which God is going to destroy this nation, so I decided to look it up. I thought it wise to understand what the Lord means.
Iniquity is almost always ascribed as a sin of society. “For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction?” (Mosiah 29:17) Speaking of wicked king Noah and his cronies, Mosiah notes, “For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God.” (Mosiah 29:18)
Notice how iniquity is a sin of society in this verse, “And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” (Mosiah 29:27)
We get a broader view of what the Lord considers iniquity in this verse, “Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this – Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches and the vain things of the world.” (3 Nephi 6:15) In other words, seeking these riches and vain things by subjugating other people with power and authority.
The root of the word iniquity is the Latin word “iniquitas”, meaning uneven, unfair, gross injustice. It also carries the meaning of a violation of authority. It can also mean great wickedness in general.
Wicked King Noah consecrated priests who were “lifted up in the pride of their hearts. Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity.” (Mosiah 11:5-6)
King Noah was committing iniquity by taxing the people, and using that money to raise himself and his priests to opulent splendor. This is the meaning of iniquity.
“Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering words unto them. And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine works of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper; and he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things. And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood and of copper and of brass. And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people. . . . he placed his heart upon his riches, and he spent his time in riotous living with his wives and his concubines; and so did also his priests spend their time with harlots.” (Mosiah 11:7-14).
The scriptural definition of “Iniquity” is when one class of people subjugate another and then lives off of their labors. The more opulent and palatial the ruling class, the more iniquitous their sin becomes, and the more damning in the eyes of the Lord.
Just thought you’d like to know.
© May 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.