The Doctrine of Revelatory Justiciability

October 12, 2009 | 18 comments
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A good friend, while studying constitutional law for the bar exam this summer, emailed me some thoughts he scribbled down when he should have been hacking away at a few more MBE questions on judicial review. Instead, however, he hammered out a constitutional analysis on the justiciability of prayers.  You see, in case you weren’t aware, in order to receive an answer to a prayer, one’s prayer must involve a “case or controversy” that is fit for review. So, without further adieu, allow me to present the doctrine of revelatory justiciability (a.k.a., what studying for the bar does to your brain).

The Doctrine of Revelatory Justiciability
by Eric Taylor Woodbury

Abiding by the laws of heaven, in order for God to answer a prayer, the soul offering the prayer (hereinafter, the “Petitioner”) must present a valid “case or controversy.”  This requirement is met so long as the Petitioner’s prayer meets four requirements: (1) Standing; (2) Ripeness; (3) Mootness; and (4) The Political Question Doctrine.

The requirement of Standing refers to whether the Petitioner is the proper person to be bringing the matter in prayer before God.  The Petitioner is the “proper person” for purposes of this requirement if, first, he can show that he or she has been or imminently will be injured, affected, harmed, confused, vexed, or perplexed.  In general, a Petitioner is only allowed to receive revelation from God in regards to injuries that he personally has suffered.  While this seems somewhat limited, it should be noted that in fact a broad array of circumstances can satisfy this requirement as will be shown.  If the petitioner is asking God to prevent some future event from happening, it is crucial that the likelihood exist that the Petitioner will be affected by that future event.  Additionally, if the Petitioner is simply searching for “answers” to the unknown, there must be some connection between the Petitioner’s life and the knowledge he is seeking.

Second, the Petitioner must demonstrate causation and redressibility.  Specifically it is required for Petitioner to have thought through and studied the injury sufficiently to have identified the root cause of the problem and specifically what information the Petitioner is seeking.  At times, and under certain circumstances, God may grant an answer with less than a full understanding of causation and redressibility (i.e. divine activism), but in general, it is first required for the Petitioner to “study it out in his mind” and at the very least understand the question brought before God.

Third, must be addressed the corollary to the requirement of personally suffered injuries – there is no such thing as third party standing.  A Petitioner cannot bring third parties’ questions before God.  While this seems an unreasonable restriction to be placed on the Petitioner, it is important to remember that this restriction is limited by three very important exceptions: Third Party Standing is allowed (1) if there is a close relationship between the Petitioner and the injured third party (family, friends, and other dependents); (2) if the third party is unlikely to be able to bring his own question to God (i.e. Brother of Jared); (3) if a priesthood leader is bringing a question to God on behalf of those under his stewardship or in his organization.  Additionally, all of God’s children have the right to question matters pertaining to the establishment of religion in the world in an effort to determine which church is true (a biblical taxpayer’s standing if you will).

Fourth, and finally, the Petitioner must refrain from bringing to God generalized grievances only concerned with complaining that something is unfair.  It the Petitioner feels sincerely confused or injured by something, an answer might be warranted, but complaints made for the complaint’s sake are not generally answerable.  This is of course unless, God, or an ordained leader, has granted the right to an individual to seek understanding regarding a law or commandment.

The second requirement of Ripeness refers to whether revelation from God would be coming at the right time.  Obviously, the greater the hardship faced by the Petitioner, the greater the likelihood God will answer the prayer.  This may seem unfair, but its important to remember that in order for revelation from God to have the proper effect on the mind of an individual, the events or circumstances giving rise to the injury must be fully developed.  “All these things” are for our good and we have to be patient as life’s lessons develop to a point where we will truly appreciate the answer received.

The requirement of Mootness refers generally to times when, in fact, the Petitioner’s plea or question has already been resolved.  The answer from God or resolution to the issue has already occurred and it is left to the Petitioner to remember that God has already spoken peace to his mind and heart in regards to the issue and that he should be content with the answers already given.  It can be generally thought of as a requirement to be forward looking and to live in the present; to accept the challenges that life brings.

Lastly, the Political Question Doctrine refers to the idea that while the law of God transcends all things and that God could provide an answer to any question brought to Him, at times, it is left to the leaders placed on the earth to study out the questions and arrive at an appropriate understanding and conclusion regarding some questions in this life.  While obviously God’s prior commandments and words will provide sound guidance as these leaders sort through the issues at hand, God does leave to duly ordained and anointed leaders in the other branches of His church the ability to lead.  As always, however, the Petitioner is within his right to take decisions and choices made by these leaders to God for confirmation that they are following His will.

If the preceding requirements are met, the Petitioner is within his right to bring his question or injury to God for an answer or redress.  Depending on to what extent the Petitioner has met the above requirements and depending on the imminence or urgency of the matter present, God may answer his prayer.  Over time as the Petitioner grow in wisdom and knowledge, the likelihood of receiving answers from God increases as he a develops an understanding of these requirements and learns to properly frame his questions.  Once he becomes the spiritual equivalent of an organization like the US Chamber of Commerce (though perhaps slightly less morally bankrupt), he will find that the vast majority of his prayers are answered.

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18 Responses to The Doctrine of Revelatory Justiciability

  1. Keri Brooks on October 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Brilliant! I’m glad I’m not the only person whose mind has been warped by the study of the law.

  2. Bill of Wasilla on October 12, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Great. Now I must hire a lawyer to see if I have the right to pray.

  3. Kaimi Wenger on October 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Nice analysis. But you left out two important issues:

    First, whether a pray-or must be admitted to the bar in order to be heard. (Cf. Moroni 10:34).

    And second, the possibility of Rule 11 sanctions for violation of any of these requirements.

  4. Kaimi Wenger on October 12, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    (Note that Jacob 6:13 may be even more on-point as to the first issue.)

  5. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 12, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    As I understand the scriptures, a prerequisite to submitting our petition is an admission of guilt. Petitioners who seek to justify their actions to the court will be dismissed with prejudice. On the other hand, petitioners who throw themselves on the mercy of the court are provided an advocate who will argue for mitigation of all sanctions and penalties on the grounds that counsel has already paid the penalties for petitioner.

  6. Dan on October 12, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Can’t you just say a prayer of thanks?

  7. Hans on October 12, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Marc, where do (did) you go to school?

  8. James Olsen on October 12, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    How fun! You’ll never get me to convert to the dark side with rhetoric like this, though. If I were God, and you were asking me for confirmation of the truth of this passage, I’m not sure you’d get an answer. Can you re-write it a lot more sexy? I’ve got to throw my two cents in on a couple points though:

    Dan is certainly on to something. You intend this for a “Petitioner’s” prayer, but you state upfront that this concerns God’s giving an answer to prayer generally. Don’t forget gratitude and praise, either of which God will answer. Also, one can certainly “complain” or express grief without specifically seeking redress. It’s not clear Enos was doing more than expressing his hunger – or if he was, one can certainly imagine him merely hungering. I certainly do. I’m not sure the if-seeking-answers-the-?-must-be-connected-to-one’s-life is more than trivially true. I’m not sure Moses and Abraham’s revelations concerning the heavens and earth were what we typically think of as directly connected; but if we consider anything leading toward exaltation as connected, than all knowledge is connected, and thus the clause is trivial. As to the “no third party” clause, exception 3, surely a woman can likewise petition (e.g., a primary teacher petitioning for her class, relief society president for a new sister she doesn’t yet know, etc., etc.).

  9. Keri Brooks on October 12, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    “As to the “no third party” clause, exception 3, surely a woman can likewise petition (e.g., a primary teacher petitioning for her class, relief society president for a new sister she doesn’t yet know, etc., etc.).”

    Amicus curiae, perhaps?

  10. John on October 13, 2009 at 7:49 am

    I feel more justified than ever in being angry at BYU for creating a law school.

  11. Dave Kitchen on October 13, 2009 at 8:05 am

    #7 – Marc and Taylor both went to lawschool at George Washington University in Washington DC (aka Babylon).

    Taylor – very nice analysis. As a practicing attorney, I’ve learned that the quality of the judiciary is just as important (if not more so) than the quality of the petition. Do you have an opinion on whether god is an elected or appointed position?

  12. Taylor on October 13, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Kaimi – I would think for purposes of petitioning God, everyone on the planet is, in a sense, admitted to the bar. (But, see legal disclaimer at the bottom warning this is not my legal opinion and that no tax advice has been offered.)

    Dan – Not trying to imply that this analysis applies to all prayer, just prayer searching for an answer to a question. I would think that the best prayers of praise and thanks would be those that aren’t always searching for answers, but rather true time spent thanking God for answers given and blessings received.

    James and Keri – Never meant to imply that the 3rd exception to the rule regarding 3rd party standing didn’t apply to women. My wording was rather short sided of me. This was originally written with me as the primary audience. The 3rd exception to 3rd party standing would most readily apply to all individuals prayers for those under their stewardship. The more remote the connection between the individual brining the petition and the one needing the answer, the less likely that petition would be answered.

    Dave – I’m sure you’re right on the quality of the judiciary. Unlike SCOTUS judges here, one advantage we have with God is a true knowledge of his characteristics. We know his motivation for everything He does: bringing the pass the immortality of man. Even with this knowledge, however, it doesn’t always make us the best predictors of how God will rule on a particular subject.

    As to your second question, my best guess is that God is an appointed position with a confirmation hearing. The only difference is that instead of a democratic election, it is similar to a sustaining.

  13. Dan on October 13, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Taylor,

    But if we’re going to be lawyerly about prayer, you didn’t specify in your piece that you were referring to “petitioning” prayers. :)

  14. Taylor on October 13, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Dan – True, but I did state at the outset, “in order for God to answer a prayer”. Still sloppy lawyering on my part. Just goes to show you that if Bill of Wasilla were to be trying to hire a lawyer to determine whether he has a right to pray, he’d probably want to look elsewhere. Besides, considering the stress I just went through trying to pass my State’s Bar Exam, I don’t think I’m up to heaven’s bar exam. ;)

    Though, considering the recession and other factors in the world leading more people to turn to prayer, this would potentially be a growth industry for lawyers. :p

  15. Dan on October 13, 2009 at 10:26 am

    God can answer a prayer of thanks with a “you’re welcome.” :)

  16. John Buffington on October 13, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    So why is it that people mock economists? Seems to me that there is a much easier target…

  17. Peter on October 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I think I agree with Taylor about all of us being entitled to petition God. Of course, we all have some representation through the Advocate with the Father, but in many things we are left to represent ourselves pro se.

  18. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on October 17, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Another try at binding God, our Father in heaven to a man created legal system. It won’t be successful, because it didn’t work for the the high priests of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.

    Where do the concepts related to the condescension and atonement of the Only Begotten Son of the Father fit?

    Bohn’s miserable attempt at politicizing gospel doctrines. I would leave that to the Born Again Christians!

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