Lesson 44: Being Good Citizens
1900: Deseret Sunday School Union Leaflets
Lesson 211: Submission to Secular Law
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. (No. 12 of the Articles of Faith.)
Thou shalt not revile the gods [or judges] nor curse the ruler of thy people. (Exodus 22:28.)
Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes; and they shall judge the people with just judgment. (Deut. 16:18. See also Deut. 1:16; I Chron. 23:4; 26:29.)
My son, fear thou the Lord, and the king. (Proverbs 24:21.)
I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. (Ecclesiastes 8:2. See also 10:20.)
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work. (Titus 3:1.)
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive unto themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. (Romans 13:1-7.)
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks; be made for all men, For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (I Timothy 2:1-3.)
(For instances of Christ’s recognition of and submission to the law of the land, see Matt. 17:24-27; 22:15-21.)
Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land: wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet. (Doc. & Cov. 58:21-22.)
And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them; and that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me; therefore, I, the Lord, justifying you and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land. (Doc. & Cov. 98:4-6.)
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man, and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, either in making laws or administering them, for the good and safety of society.
* * * * * * *
We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same, and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people (if a republic) or the will of the sovereign.
* * * * * * *
We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgment are best calculated to secure the public interest, at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.
We believe that every man should be honored in his station: rulers and magistrates as such being placed for the protection of the innocent, and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws, all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man, and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.
We believe that rulers, states, and governments, have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws, and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.
Declaration of belief “with regard to earthly governments and laws in general,” presented by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Doc. & Cov. 134:1, 3, 5, 6, 7.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men, to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might, and with all they have, to perform that work; and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them, and hinder them from performing that work; behold it behoveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings; And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments, I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not and hate me, saith the Lord God. (Doc. & Cov. 124:49-50.)
Read Lecture xxiii – “Submission to Secular Authority” – in Talmage’s “The Articles of Faith.”
Secular Law is the law of the land as distinguished from church requirements or ecclesiastical law. The word secular is thus defined: “pertaining to this world or the present life; as opposed to eternity and the life to come; having reference to temporal rather than spiritual or religious affairs: worldly; temporal; as, secular pursuits.” (Standard Dictionary.)
Magistrate. – An executive or judicial officer clothed with civil authority, e.g., governors of states, mayors of cities; judges and justices of the peace. To the highest civil officer of a nation as a president of a republic or a sovereign, the title chief magistrate is often applied.
Sovereign. – Literally, one who possesses supreme authority, or who exercises absolute control; specifically, a monarch, as an emperor or a king.
Republic. – A state or nation in which the governing power resides in the people, and is exercised by officers whom the people elect.
The Latter-day Saints believe, teach, and practice, the principle of obedience to the laws of the land. Governments are necessary for the proper control and regulation of society; and governments cannot exist without officers to make and enforce the laws. These laws of the land are called secular laws, as distinguished from the rules of churches or other religious organizations. We believe that in temporal affairs no church has a right to oppose the laws of the nation, or to encourage disobedience thereto. The Old Testament scriptures, as well as the teachings of Christ and his apostles enjoin obedience to the officers in authority. Christ set an example by paying taxes because the law required such, although the government under which the people were then living was in some respects oppressive and unjust. In the present dispensation the Lord has given specific revelations requiring the members of His Church to sustain and honor the laws of the countries wherein they live. The Prophet Joseph Smith was inspired to publish a declaration of belief in this matter. We believe that no government is justified in making laws that interfere with religious liberty or freedom to worship among the people. If the people strive to obey the commandments of God, and are hindered in or prevented from so doing by unjust laws, the Lord has said he will not hold the people accountable, but will punish those who have thus hindered His work. The Church of Christ is not opposed to secular law. The teachings of the Church, if faithfully practiced, will make men better citizens and truer members of society.
WHAT WE MAY LEARN FROM THIS LESSON.
1. The Church teaches obedience to the laws of the land. 2. These laws are known as secular laws. 3. Old Testament scriptures teach obedience to the officers of the government. 4. Christ and His Apostles taught and practised this principle. 5. Governments are necessary for the control of the people. 6. Officers with authority are essential to every stable government. 7. The Lord has given revelations in this dispensation requiring obedience to the secular law. 8. The Prophet Joseph Smith strongly taught this principle. 9. We believe that governments ought not to interfere with religious liberty. 10. If the people strive to obey the commandments of God and are prevented by unjust laws or by wicked men, the Lord will not hold the people responsible for their failure. 11. He will hold accountable those who prevent His people from carrying out His requirements. 12. members of the Church of Christ are law-abiding people.
QUESTIONS ON THE LESSON.
1. Repeat No. 12 of the Articles of Faith. 2. what is meant by secular law? 3. Cite passages from the Old Testament that teach obedience to the officers of the government,. 4. Give instances of Christ’s compliance with the law of the land. 5. Give a passage from Paul’s letter to Titus touching the matter of obedience to government officers. 6. Cite other teachings of Paul on this subject. 7. Give instances of modern revelation on the same subject. 8. Give the principal points in the declaration of belief published by the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding obedience to law. 9. Show that governments and government officers are necessary. 10. What has the Lord said concerning the people who strive to obey His commandments and prevented from so doing?
1917: Y.L.M.I.A. Guides
Lesson 8: Civil Government
Government of the United States Divinely Inspired. the Latter-day Saints as a religious and civic body bear a peculiar relationship to the United States, since they believe that the patriots who framed the Constitution were inspired of Almighty God; that this nation was preserved by Him to be a refuge for the oppressed, and an ensign to all nations; that this land should be choice above all other lands, and is selected for a mighty destiny; that the establishment of Zion in the last days, as referred to by Isaiah (Isaiah 2:3.) shall be in America; that Zion shall be fortified against all nations; and that those who fight against Zion shall perish. (I nephi 22:19.)
Ancient Israel Instructed in Matters of Government. Judicial appointments were given by divine direction to govern ancient Israel. Moses through revelation gave to the people the following law: “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes; and they shall judge the people with just judgment.” (Deut. 16:18; I Chron. 23:4; 26:29.) the law aas given on Mount Sinai has been used as the basic foundation for laws in general for many generations; in fact it forms the fundamental principles upon which the governments of most nations are formed.
Christ’s Example of Obedience to Secular Law. the Savior during His earthly ministry was a wonderful example of submission to law and order for in many instances when being questioned by the lawyers of His day that they might thereby find some cause to condemn Him, His answers were always in direct accord with their law. An example is the Pharisees’ attempt to ensnare Christ by asking the question, “What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not?” Christ’s answer was a direct recognition of civil authority. He answered them thus, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:15:21; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-25.)
Christ also complied with the existing laws of the Jews in the matter of His personal ministry, for it was a law among them that no man could become a rabbi or teacher until he became thirty years of age. The Savior’s ministry, it will be recalled, began when He was thirty years of age. Many other instances are recorded in Holy Writ of His recognition of existing laws in His day.
Inspirational Teaching of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith the Prophet of God gave to the Latter-day Saints in revelation many great truths pertaining to obedience to law and order. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. wherefore be subject to the powers that be until He reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under His feet. (Doc. and Cov. 58:21, 22.)
One opposed to the teachings of Joseph Smith might ask the question, “Suppose the laws of the land were in direct opposition to the law of the Church, what attitude would the Church take under those circumstances?” the answer can readily be found among the revelations of God to the Prophet Joseph. Again we refer to the Doctrine and Covenants:
And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them; and that law of the land which is constitutional supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me; therefore, I the Lord justify you, and your brethren of my Church in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (Doc. and Cov. 98:4-6.)
To quote still further:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men, to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might, and with all they have, to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them, and hinder them from performing that work; behold, it behoveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings; and the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God.” (Doc. and Cov. 124:49, 50.)
Loyalty of Latter-day Saints. There are perhaps no people in the world who can boast of greater loyalty to their government and have their claims substantiated by their history, than can the Latter-day Saints. In the early days of the Church many problems came up before the people that gave them opportunity to display their loyalty. After they had been robbed of their properties in Missouri, driven from their homes, and subjected to mobbings, and after an appeal for redress had been refused by the Governor of that State, an appeal was made to the President of the United States. The reply came, “Your cause is just, but we can do nothing for you.” This they accepted as final. After being driven from the beautiful city of Nauvoo, the exiled saints started westward across the plains to be soon followed with a request from the President of the Nation to send five hundred of their young men to Mexico to defend the Nation against the invasion of the Mexican Government. The Latter-day Saints proved their loyalty by responding to the call. President Young made the statement that the government should have their army if it were necessary to include old men and women. The record of the Mormon Battalion is a matter of history. Their story is one of hardship and endurance, but above all one of loyalty.
When the body of the pioneers arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, July 24, 1847, Utah belonged to the Mexican Government. Two days later, Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City, was named and selected as the proper place for raising the ensign of the United States. Soon after this application was made by the people for admission into the Union as a state. It is a matter of record that the Latter-day Saints not only believe in being “subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in honoring, obeying, and sustaining the law,” but that it is truly practiced by them.
Pioneer Provisional Government. A distinctive form of government was instituted by the early pioneers in Utah. It was shortly after their arrival in the Great Salt Lake Valley that the city of Salt Lake was organized with Jedediah M. Grant as the first mayor. The main part of the present city was surveyed and platted, and to each householder was allotted a portion of ground for a home.
In March of 1849 the first territorial election was held and all the officers of a regular commonwealth elected with Brigham Young as their first governor. Subsequent to this was the organization of a state militia, the establishment of the Overland Mail Service, and the Deseret Mint.
Two years later the county of Salt lake was organized and Elias Smith was appointed as the first Probate Judge. Following this movement came the establishment of the first public school system, the building of stores, mills, and mercantile houses in general. Thus the foundation for the future great western empire was established through the cooperation of the people politically and religiously.
Justice properly blended with mercy was administered by the State, county, and city officials, and for many years, without monetary consideration. The second great commandment, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self,” was indeed complied with and at the same time the necessity of obedience to their laws was indelibly impressed upon the minds of the people. The remarkable feature of the pioneer community was the almost universal absence of transgression of law. In the early days before communities became very large there was no need of prisons or places of detention for punishment. Surely the Latter-day Saints in their trying times set an example well worthy of the true followers of Christ.
Government in the Home. The home is the foundation of good government and where the members unite in the proper observance of obedience to God’s laws and their duty to each other – is found the highest type of citizenship.
The Lord has commanded His Saints in this dispensation to set their own houses in order that they may be better qualified to do His service.
Order is the fundamental principle in the home, but before it can be maintained the value of obedience must be learned. If the individual therefore succeeds in establishing such a condition in the earth-home, will it not equip him for the future life which will be a state of harmony, happiness, and progression?
In the home there must be a head, a leader. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives instructions in the matter as follows: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church; Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” And further: “Children, obey your parents in all things for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.”
Where children are properly taught and obey their parents in the home they seldom transgress any civil law and wherever transgression or delinquency is found, the cause is primarily due to disobedience to parents.
Conclusion. As a result of proper teaching and faith in the divine destiny of this nation the spark of loyalty in the hearts of the sons and daughters of Latter-day Saints is even now a living flame and up and down this broad land from the north and south, the east and west they are rushing to the defense of Old Glory which stands for “Liberty and Justice for all.”
1. Read the 134th Section of the Doctrine and covenants.
2. Give a brief account of the civil organization of your town and county.
3. Repeat quotations from the Presidents of the Church found on page 712.
1933: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 25: Obeying, Honoring, and Sustaining the Law
1. The Basis of Civilized Society.
The basic security of society is a tacit agreement to live together in peace for the good of all concerned. It is easily conceivable that early men lived separate and apart from one another, each looking after his own interests and protecting his own property – each, too, guided only by the laws that he himself imposed. Later for the purpose of making life and property more secure, agreements were made between various individuals, whereby interests were mutually respected and perpetuated. by entering such a unit the various members surrendered certain of rights and received certain guarantees in return. they surrendered the right, for example, to do anything contrary to the best interests of the whole, and received a guarantee in return that life, property, and the pursuit of happiness would be maintained secure.
2. Society, then, has an obligation to the individual, and the individual has an obligation to society; each is thus mutually obligated to the other. It is the chief duty of society to protect the life and property of the individual. to this end civilized governments not only permit individuals to acquire holdings but guarantee their titles to them. We thus rest secure in our homes, with no fear of being dispossessed by an intruder. Our homes are guaranteed sacred to us; no one is permitted to enter them without our permission except in cases wherein we ourselves have violated the law. Moreover, we may leave our homes and return to them at will, and we may otherwise do whatsoever we choose unless by doing so we invade the rights of others. Society protects our lives against foes both at home and from abroad. For this and other purposes systems of protection are established in every community, also in every state and nation.
3. In return for this service the individual owes full allegiance to the country that renders it. by accepting citizenship he tacitly pledges support to the government in all of its various ramifications. he not only pledges allegiance to its laws, but he holds himself in readiness to enforce and uphold them. He agrees to do nothing that will militate against the progress and happiness of society as a whole. he willl not be an obstructionist, neither will he retard the progress of justice. Moreover he is provided with a means, at the polls, or repealing seemingly unjust and undesirable laws. So long as a law remains in force, however, he will uphold its provisions. He will never resort to violence, subterfuge, or chicanery. This, and more, the individual offers in return for the protection that society affords him.
4. It is readily apparent, even to the casual observer, that if these mutual agreements break down, society will crumble and anarchy will arise in its place. Moreover, anarchy would result in barbarism, and barbarism would defeat the purposes of God and destroy the very foundations of civilization.
5. Present Problems.
15. Constitutional Law. The duty of the Latter-day Saints toward constitutional law of the land is clearly set forth in the word of the Lord, as follows: “I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them. And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land: and as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil. I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought to diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (Ibid. 98:4-10.)
16. The Twelfth Article of Faith reads: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
17. For a further statement of beliefs concerning governments and laws see Doctrine and covenants, Section 134.
1940: Gospel Messages
Lesson 32: Religious and Temporal Government (from The Vitality of Mormonism by James E. Talmage)
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. (Articles of Faith, 12.)
Religion is essentially a matter of everyday life. It has as much to do with the adjustment of the individual to his material environment as with his abstract belief in matters spiritual. A man’s religion should be a concrete demonstration of his conceptions concerning God and the Divine purposes respecting himself and his fellows. anything less lacks both the form of godliness and the power thereof.
The Master associated love for God with love for fellowman; and surely love comprises duty, and duty means effort and action. (See Matt. 22:35-40.) A very large part of the course of education provided in the school of mortality is attained through association with our kind and the righteous observance of duty in community life. We are not here to be recluses nor to hold ourselves aloof from public service, but to live in a state of mutual helpfulness an effective cooperation.
It is a fundamental necessity that laws shall be established among men for general governance; and obedience to law is the obvious duty of every member of organized society. Violation of the law, therefore, is not only a secular offense but a transgression of the principle of true religion. this world would be a happier one if men carried more religion into their daily affairs – into business, politics, and statesmanship. mark you, I say, religion, not church. Under existing conditions it is imperative that State and church be kept separate; and this segregation must be maintained until the inauguration of Christ’s personal reign.
Loyal citizenship is at once a characteristic and a test of a man’s religion; and as to the incumbent duties of citizenship, the voice of the people, as expressed through the established channels of government, must determine.
Obedience to secular authority is enjoined by Scripture; and the Lord Christ exemplified the principle in His own life, even to the extent of meeting a demand that could have been legally challenged. When the tax collector called for tribute money, the following instructive colloquy occurred between Jesus and Peter: “What thinkest thou, Simon, of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money; that take, and give unto them for me and thee.” (Matthew 17:25-27. For a discussion of this incident and lessons associated therewith see the writer’s work, “Jesus the Christ.”)
On another occasion a treacherous snare was laid to make Christ appear as an offender against the Roman power. Certain wicked Pharisees sought to entangle Him by the question: “What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” the Lord’s reply was a telling lesson in the matter of submission to the law. “Shew me the tribute money,” said He. “And they brought unto Him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15-21.)
The Apostles made it clear that respect for the law and its officers was a part of the religious duty of the saints. In writing to Titus, who was in charge of the Church at Crete. Paul thus admonished him to teach his flock to be orderly and law-abiding: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” (Titus 3:1.)
To the saints in Rome the same Apostle wrote, emphasizing their duty toward the civil power, pointing out the necessity of secular government, and designating the officers of the law as ministers of God:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. … For for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1-7.)
To the same effect the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ has come to the Church in this age. Thus spake He in 1831:
“Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land; Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until He reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under His feet.” And the distinction between the laws of the Church and the laws of the nation is emphasized in the further word: “Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the Church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:21-23.)
Loyal and whole-souled support of the government, service to country, and devotion to the interests of the nation, are requirements of the religion embodied in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
1941: Gospel Doctrine Sunday School Lessons
Lesson 86: Political Government
(Read Section 134)
1. The Situation: this is not a revelation, but a statement prepared by Oliver Cowdery and adopted by “a general assembly of the Church” held in Kirtland, Ohio, on august 17, 1835. The occasion was the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Prophet was absent at the time, having gone to visit the Saints in Michigan. (History of the Church, Vol. II, pp. 243-51.)
The purpose is expressed in the preamble to the document: “That our belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general may not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood, we have thought proper to present at the close of this volume our opinion concerning the same.” for even at that early date there were current misconceptions of the attitude of the Saints toward civil government and political laws. The Articles of Faith had not been formulated then, in which the world was informed that “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.
2. Origin of Political Government: It is not believed today that “governments were instituted of God.” What the Lord did was not to institute any of the governments which have been established but rather to lay down certain general principles on which human governments should be based.
“It should not be understood,” says Joseph Fielding smith, “that because Oliver Cowdery declared, and the Church has approved, the statement in this article that “We believe that governments are instituted of God for the benefit of man,” that therefore God has been the author of every government upon the earth. he is the author of government, for government prevails throughout the universe, but some of the despotic governments have been far from governments established or instituted by the hand of God.” (The Progress of Man, p. 371.)
3. Principles of Human Government: One of the principles that should lie at the foundation of every political government is that men should be free. “Satan … sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him.” (Book of Moses, 4:3.) That was in the pre-earth world. the principle was revealed to Adam, however, for the Lord said to him, according to Joseph Smith’s inspired revision of Genesis, “Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it; nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it.” (Ibid. 3:17.) In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: “Here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” (Section 93, verse 31.) Many other passages to the same effect might be quoted here. Men must be allowed to make their own decisions politically, so that they may be left free to make their other decisions. Mormonism is unalterably committed to democracies, politically.
Another basic principle is that only “good and wise men” should be chosen to govern the people. As early as August, 1833, the Lord said through His Prophet: “When the wicked rule, the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (Doctrine and Covenants, 98 9, 10.) Perhaps, in the end, people in a democracy get the sort of government and control which they deserve.
4. Constitutional Government: The Latter-day Saints believe that America was dedicated by the Lord for governments that are free.
In the Book of Mormon we are told that Columbus was led here by divine inspiration, as he believed that he was; that the early immigrants were led here in the same way; that the colonists were aided by the divine power to free themselves from the mother country; and in modern revelations, that, in the United States, god “raised up” wise men, to establish the constitution and the government. (Book of Mormon, I Nephi, Chapter 13; Doctrine and Covenants, 101:77-80>)
Thus the Lord does sometimes, as a matter of fact, “institute” governments “for the benefit of man,” but not in the sense that all governments are by Him.
5. Section 134: Several items in this document are of special interest.
a. Such laws must be enacted and upheld as will secure “to each individual the free exercise of conscience.” That is, freedom to worship God.
b. It is not enough, however, that good laws be enacted, these must be enforced in the spirit in which they were made, and to that end the “voice of the people” must be made expressive in the choice of proper officers.
c. The rights of religion are sacred. “Men are amenable to God, and to Him alone, for the exercise of religion,” and the only limitation on this freedom comes in when “their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the liberties of others.”
d. Everyone, in any government, is under obligation to support that government. There is no room under this document for “fifth columnists,” or any other group that would overturn such a government, as long as it does this.
e. There should be no union of Church and State, but each should exist by itself, and all the laws, with the officers chosen to enforce them, should be respected. The tendency in the United States during recent years is to pick and choose among the laws to be obeyed.
f. Crime should be punished according to its degree of wrongfulness.
g. The state should punish offenses against the state and the church offenses against the church.
h. If any laws are found to be unjust to any class of persons, there is a way to obtain redress: through petition.
This statement of principles on human political government has always been an expression of the views of the latter-day Saints, and they have sought to live up to its teachings, in spite of the fact that special laws have sometimes been made against them, particularly in the United States. The Church gave up one of its practices on this account.
Questions and Problems
1. What forms of government would the Lord not establish? What forms would He? Why should He favor some forms and not others?
2. Why is freedom so vital in revealed religion? What form of government goes best with the gospel in its broad scope?
3. Suppose a law does not meet with your approval but with that of the majority, what should you do about it?
4. What do you think of a man who comes to America for the Gospel and then “knocks” the government and joins with those who would overturn it?
1945: Advanced Senior Sunday School Lessons
Lesson 28: your Attitude Toward Government
Problem: What Are the Responsibilities of latter-day Saints Youth Toward Government?
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” – (Articles of Faith, 12.)
The Church and State.
The late James E. Talmage said, “It is a fundamental necessity that laws shall be established among men for general governance; and obedience to law is the obvious duty of every member of organized society. Violation of the law, therefore, is not only a secular offense but a transgression of the principles of true religion.”
He then continues, “This world would be a happier one if men carried more religion into their daily affairs – into business, politics, and statesmanship. Mark you, I say, religion, not church. Under existing conditions it is imperative that State and Church be kept separate; and this separation must be maintained until the inauguration of Christ’s personal reign.
“Loyal citizenship is at once a characteristic and a test of a man’s religion; and as to the incumbent duties of citizenship, the voice of the people, as expressed through the established channels of government, must determine.”
Talmage then goes on to show evidences of obedience to secular authority enjoined by Scripture. (See Matthew 17;25-27; Matthew 22:15-21; Romans 13:1-17. Read these in class).
In modern times we have a striking incident showing the relationship of church and state. In July, 1831, when the Colesville branch arrived in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri, the members were anxious to learn the will of the Lord concerning the relationship of the new Zion to the Federal government. In a revelation (Doctrine and covenants 28:21-23) given August 1, 131, the answer came:
“Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God, hath no need to break the laws of the land.
“Wherefore be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign …”
Joseph Smith and Government.
Interesting to note, the prosecution of Joseph Smith by corrupt officials, supposedly acting under the constitution, made him especially cognizant of the inherent worthy of this document. During his imprisonment in liberty Jail, Missouri, during the winter of 1838-39, he wrote: “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. it is a heavenly banner; it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of its liberty like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun. We, brethren, are deprived of the protection of its glorious principles by the cruelty of the cruel … (who) forget that the Mormons as well as the Presbyterians, and those of every class and description, have equal rights to partake of the fruits of the great tree of our national liberty.
The All-Inclusive State.
In his reference to other faiths, Joseph Smith hit upon the key to a democracy. As Professor John Dewey views it, there are two criteria to a democracy: 91) mutual interests – interests shared by all its members, matters of common protection, and common welfare; and, 920 reciprocity of interest between minority groups within the larger body – between the Mormons and the presbyterians, for example. A democracy, in contrast to a dictatorship, tolerates these smaller groups in the interest of the varied individuals who make it up. Thus we have churches, schools of thought, political parties, and individual reformers and fanatics all properly basking under its protection. As long as these minor groups do nothing to affect, negatively, the mutual interests of the larger group, their activities are not restricted. This is the genius of a democracy.
In commenting upon the all-inclusive nature of the state, Milton Bennion has said, “While the individual under normal conditions is born into a family he may later grow out of or escape from family control. he may withdraw from the Church if he chooses to do so and be subject to no church control. he may withdraw from school when he has passed the compulsory school age. He cannot, however, withdraw from a state without becoming subject to the authority of some other state. The state is, therefore, the most all-inclusive of any social institution. Moreover, there is compulsion behind the authority of the state. The church tells you what you ought to do; the state, what you must do. It is true that in some cases you may not do what the state requires, in that case, however, you are subject to penalties. if the law is enforced you must go to court and receive a reprimand, pay a fine, or go to prison.”
The Necessity for Government.
John Locke has given us one of the classic statements of the necessity for civil law: “It is necessary to have fixed explicit regulations, known to all, to determine what is just and what is unjust: laws are necessary. Where each is his own judge and executes his own judgment, passion, revenge, and barbarity, rule. There must be impartial judges. In the state of nature one may be completely in the right, yet a wicked man who is stronger will destroy him. … Men will unite into a society when its members prescribe laws and permit them to be executed through authorized agents. The liberty of the individual will thereby be limited, but he will gain the support of the entire community. True, he himself may no longer punish, but the power of the entire community will require the injury inflicted upon him and protect his life and his liberty, within the bounds of law, against other members of the society as well as against those who are outside of society.”
Conflict Between belief and Law.
In the face of the fact that the religionist desires to be obedient to the law of the land, there may be situations when the laws of the land are in conflict with the principles of the church, or with the consciences of individual citizens. how should this situation be met?
1. By remaining true to one’s conscience, but without seeking to escape the law with its penalties. this was the method of many of the great personages of history, including Jesus and Socrates. this is the law of non-resistance.
2. By recognizing the duty of full allegiance to the state and all its laws as taking precedence over other duties. After much trial and error, this was the manner in which the Mormons finally resolved the polygamy question.
3. By revolting, which may be justifiable “when it represents loyalty to the ideal state and therefore to the permanent welfare of humanity.” obviously, this method destroys the organized state. In great crisis, such ask the American and French Revolutions, it is resorted to, but rarely on religious grounds. Even in their darkest hour, the so-called “Echo Canyon War,” the Mormons have never revolted. The early volumes of the Journal of Discourses are replete with Tabernacle sermons on the subject of loyalty.
The “era of good feeling,’ wea re now enjoying, is due, in part, to the sensible position taken by the church in the manifesto of 1890. In harmony with the Articles of Faith this act probably preserved the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.
1. Why is the violation of law a religious offense?
2. Why do Mormons regard the Constitution as an inspired document?
3. What is meant by the expression: “the state is the most all-inclusive of any social institution.
4. What should I do if my beliefs and the laws conflict?
5. am I above the law?
1949: Doctrine and Covenants Studies, by Bryant S. Hinckley
Chapter 23: Respect for Law (Section 58)
The Prophet reports: “The first Sabbath after our arrival in Jackson county, Brother W.W. Phelps preached to a western audience over the boundary of the United States, wherein were present specimens of all the families of the earth: Shem, Ham, and Japheth; several of the Lamanites or Indians – representatives of Shem; quite a respectable number of negroes – descendants of Ham; and the balance was made up of citizens of the surrounding country, and fully represented themselves as pioneers of the west. At this meeting two were baptized, who had previously believed in the fulness of the gospel.
“During this week the Colesville branch, … and Sidney Rigdon, Sidney Gilbert and wife, and Elders Morley and Booth arrived. I received the following: … [Section 58].” (DHC, Vol. I, pp. 190, 191.) In it the Lord (1) promises glory to the faithful and warns of tribulation (verses 3-5), (2) sets forth the reasons why they had been commanded to go to Missouri (verses 6-14), (3) gives further directions concerning the land and its settlement (verses 34-65).
Section 58 was the first revelation given in Jackson County, Missouri. It was received on August 1, 1831. And the following day, with ceremonies appropriate to the great occasion, the land was consecrated and dedicated by Sidney Rigdon as the land of Zion for the gathering of the Saints. On the day following, the Prophet Joseph dedicated the Temple site in Independence. Those who were gathered in that land were no doubt eager to know what the Lord had in store for them. Their minds were full of concern over the great events which they thought would soon be accomplished. Little did they anticipate the suffering and hardships which were in store for them. In this revelation there are many direct indications of tribulations to come, as for instance: “For verily I say unto you, Blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.” (Verse 2.)
The Lord here told the Saints that they could not see with their natural eyes his designs and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. “For after much tribulation cometh the blessings.” (Verse 4.) All of this no doubt was to impress upon them the stern reality that the great events to which they looked forward could only be accomplished after much tribulation – how much they did not dream. They did not comprehend that the building up of Zion would involve trials, hardships, mob violence, persecution and suffering that would try the faith of the very elect. To see their hopes deferred and all their fond anticipation shattered was hard to endure – it was a supreme test of their devotion; only after much tribulation come the blessings.
The Reasons Why They Went to Missouri
Six reasons are given why the Saints should go to the land of Zion.
1. To teach them obedience. The kingdom of God could only be built by an obedient people. There must be one directing will. This is necessary in earthly concerns and equally so in the kingdom of God. The Lord does not dwell personally among his people but speaks through his inspired servants. When we obey their counsel, we obey God. That is an important lesson in respect for authority.
2. That their hearts might be prepared to bear testimony. The Lord revealed some truths in Missouri; only those who were there could testify of them.
3. It was their privilege to lay the foundation. They no doubt expected to build the city and construct the temple, but they were not privileged to do that. However, they did dedicate the land and the temple site, and in this way laid the foundation. From these people will come those who will build Zion.
4. They were to bear record of the land – to testify of what they saw and what they heard.
5. That a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor. It seems that one of the great purposes of God in establishing Zion is to save the world from the curse of poverty and destitution. To establish a social order in which the poor shall share the “fat things” with the rich and the learned. The present welfare program is designed to help in that direction.
6. That the testimony might go forth from Zion. The law was to go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Let No Man Break the Law of the Land
This refers to the Constitution and all laws that are constitutional. “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.” (D&C 58:21.) The laws of God are higher than the laws of the land and those who honor them will not be found in violation of the laws of the land. This people have been a law-abiding people.
On August 6, 1833, the voice of the Lord was heard again on this matter saying, “And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them. and that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (D&C 98:4-6.)
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes emphatic declaration of its belief and precepts regarding the duty of its members toward the laws of the land; and sustains its position by the authority of specific revelation in ancient as in present times. Moreover, the people are confident that when the true story of their rise and progress as an established body of religious worshipers is fully known, the loyalty of the Church and the patriotic devotion of its members will be vindicated and extolled by the world in general, as now are these virtues recognized by the few unprejudiced investigators who have studied with honest purpose the history of this remarkable organization.” (AF, pp. 413, 414.)
Perhaps we can present no better evidence of the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding its relation to the civil power and the respect due to the laws of the land than the official statement incorporated in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 134. This declaration regarding governments and laws was adopted by unanimous vote at a general assembly of the church held at Kirtland, Ohio, August 17, 1835, with the following preamble: “That our belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general may not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood, we have thought proper to present, at the close of this volume, our opinion concerning the same.” (See DHC, Vol. II, 247.)
Note: It would be edifying to read Doctrine and Covenants, Section 134.
In the days that were soon to come in Missouri, in Illinois, and in Utah, their loyalty to the United States Government and their allegiance to the Constitution was put to a most severe test; but their record through it all is unblemished. In every national crisis they have responded nobly and generously to every call for men and treasure. We believe in the Constitution, in the government established upon it and the great principles upon which it is built and endorse it with divine declarations. Our Twelfth Article of Faith declares: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.”
Men Should be Anxiously Engaged in a Good Cause
In this revelation it is made clear that all who engage in the service of the Lord are expected to act as intelligent, free agents and not to wait to be directed in everything. “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.” (Verse 26.) There are very few passages in scripture that make a stronger appeal to us than verses 27 and 28: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. …” Here the Lord places a premium upon initiative, upon a willingness to do service to his cause. He admonishes all to seek opportunity to do good, to be alert in the interests of the truth. the Lord loves those who are valiant in defense of the truth, who are vigilant for righteousness.
1949: Doctrine and Covenants Studies, by Bryant S. Hinckley
Chapter 38: Divine and Secular Law (Section 98)
This lesson is based upon the first 19 verses of section 98. The Prophet introduces this revelation with these words: “On August 6th I received the following revelation.” In it the Lord makes clear that among other things there are two important obligations resting upon his people:
1. To obey the constitutional law of the land.
2. To elect to public office good men.
Those are subjects of great practical moment, and the revelation makes clear our responsibility in this respect. This revelation was given seventeen days after the mobbing of the Saints in Missouri. It is evident from the circumstances that a knowledge of the mobbing in Missouri had not reached the Prophet through the ordinary course of events at the time this revelation was given. The Saints had appealed to the Lord and through their appeal, no doubt, the Lord gave this revelation to the Prophet.
A Glorious Promise
It begins with a glorious promise: “Verily I say unto you my friends, Fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks; Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament – the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted. Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (98:1-3.) These divine words of our Lord must have been a source of great comfort to the distressed people in Missouri; for there is nothing else that will sustain and strengthen people in days of tribulation so much as a settled faith in the beneficence of Him into whose hands are committed the destinies of men and nations, and the further assurance that he will rule and overrule all things for the good of those who serve him. This has been clearly shown in the history of our people. Their sufferings and hardships have ultimately redounded to their own good.
The Constitutional Laws Should Be Observed
The revelations of this dispensation require strict allegiance to the civil laws. “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” (D&C 58:21, 22.) And again in this revelation, it declares, “And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people shall observe to do all things whatsoever I command them. And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (D&C 98:4, 6.) This is clearly set forth in the twelfth article of faith: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates; in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.”
The Constitution of the United States
We believe that the Constitution of the United States was inspired of the Almighty, and that the government built upon that constitution was inspired of Him. The Lord declares, “And for this purpose have I established the constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.” (D&C 101:80.) Among the precious guarantees contained in this great document is freedom of worship, the right to worship almighty God according to the dictates of one’s conscience. The Lord delights in freedom. Salvation is based upon this principle. There can be no compulsion in the kingdom of God. In the very beginning the Lord gave to man the freedom to act for himself, to be an agent unto himself, with the privilege to choose evil if he so desires, or to accept the truth, which would make him free. Our government is built upon the idea that men can govern themselves, that they are happier when they do it, that no man has the right to rule over another without his consent. If we are to remain free from the mandates of dictators, we must exercise in righteousness our franchise.
In our government we are taught to choose good and wise men to hold office. When they are chosen, we should uphold them in their calling. He declares that “when the wicked rule, the people mourn.”
Choose Good and Wise Men
The government of the United States is a representative democracy, based upon the consent of the governed. We choose men to carry out our will in a governmental capacity. The power of sovereignty, the right to rule, resides with the people. This is one of the most precious things in human possession. It is the cornerstone of our government of freedom. We exercise this right through the ballot box, the sacredness of which must be guarded with the utmost care. We are responsible for those who rule over us. “When the wicked rule, the people mourn.” In this revelation, we are commanded, “wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.” (D&C 98:10.) No democracy can rise higher than its source. Whenever the source becomes corrupted, then the government is in jeopardy. The only security is the election of good, honest, and wise men to administer the affairs of government. Whenever political corruption manifests itself, forces are at work which will undermine and destroy the fabric of government, unless corrected.
The people were admonished in this revelation to forsake evil and cleave unto all good and to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of the Lord. “It is the will of God concerning the saints that they shall forsake all evil and leave unto all good. (Verse 11.) All evil includes everything that is contrary to the will of God and detrimental to the advancement of His children in holiness before Him. The Saints must forsake not only the sins and crimes common in the world, but a great many evils which are not recognized by the world as evils. Evil companionship, evil amusements, evil aspirations for worldly power and honor, evil conversation, evil thoughts, and evil sentiments are all included. All good includes all that is in harmony with the will of God, no matter whence it comes. Saints cannot be clannish or partisan. They must be cosmopolitans, for there is some good everywhere for them to recognize and to cleave to.” (D&C Com., p. 765.)
“And Whoso Layeth Down His Life in my Cause, for My Name’s Sake, Shall Find it Again, Even Life Eternal” (D&C 98:13)
We are told not to be afraid of our enemies because He has decreed that we shall be tried in all things to see whether or not we would abide in the covenant even until death. We are also told to renounce war and proclaim peace with these consoling words taken from the fourteenth chapter of John: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3.)
On December 5, 1833, the Prophet wrote a letter addressed to the Saints of Zion encouraging them to have faith and endurance. Among other things he said: “Call to mind a Daniel, the three Hebrew children, Jeremiah, Paul, Stephen, and many others, too numerous to mention, who were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, and wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, and tormented, of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and in mountains and hid in dens and caves of the earth; yet they all obtained a good report through faith; and amidst all their afflictions they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to receive persecution for Christ’s sake. [See Hebrews 11:37-39.]” (DHC, Vol. I, p. 450.)
1956: An Introduction to the Gospel, by Lowell L. Bennion
Lesson 37: The Church and Civil Government
The Church, if it is to be an effective instrument for God in the life of men, cannot live unto itself alone. it must be concerned with every phase of human activity which affects the well-being of men. one of these is political life. The very existence of the Church and religious liberty depends upon conditions in the state. In this chapter we shall set forth some basic attitudes and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ toward political life and civil government.
Early in the history of the church, in 1855, a “Declaration of Belief regarding governments and laws in general” was drawn up by leaders thereof and adopted unanimously by the membership. (Doctrine and Covenants 134) The wisdom of this document has stood the test of time. We shall draw upon it freely to present the basic views of the Church on civil government.
It begins by declaring the Lord’s concern with the political affairs of men.
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. (Doctrine and Covenants 134:1)
Civil rulers and officials have an obligation not only to their subjects or those whom they serve, but also to God who created man. they are amenable to him for the justice and mercy which they use or fail to use in the exercise of their authority over men. this point of view is wholly consistent with the teachings of the Hebrew prophets, such as Nathan, Elijah, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many others, and also Book of Mormon writers. When officials act contrary to the basic moral principles of religion, they pit themselves against God and man and, in the long run, will come to no good end, but to judgment. A political office is a sacred trust in the eyes of faithful Latter-day Saints.
SUSTAINING THE LAW
Our Twelfth Article of Faith reads:
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
This is the basic attitude and pattern which we take toward government and law. However, it needs qualification and this is made in the Doctrine and covenants, where we read:
We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments: … (Doctrine and Covenants 134:5)
Governments which will not protect their citizens in “their free exercise of religious belief” and in other legitimate rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness consistent with due respect for the same rights for others do not merit our support. They are not instituted of god in any sense of the word.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
Religious freedom is a basic tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do is is not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. (Doctrine and Covenants 134:4)
It is the responsibility of the state to guarantee to its citizens their basic religious rights, such as freedom to meet together in worship in the faith of their choice. This cannot be fully accomplished unless Church and state are separate. If church and state are one, political influence may easily be exercised over religion and one church may be favored over others. Therefore, separation of church and state is essential for the independence of religion from both state domination and the power of the dominant church over minority groups.
We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied. (Doctrine and Covenants 134:9)
DEMOCRACY — THE IDEAL GOVERNMENT
Latter-day Saints believe that democracy is the ideal form of political government. We respect other forms of government ane encourage our members living thereunder to obey the laws of the land and sustain their rulers “while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments …” (Doctrine and Covenants 134:5). However, democratic government is more consistent with the ideals and purposes of religion and life, we believe, than other forms of government. This is beautifully portrayed in advice given by king Mosiah in Book of Mormon history.
Near the close of his righteous rule, the people clamored for a king to succeed him. his sons, who were heirs to the throne, preferred missionary work to political power and refused the kingdom. The people would have taken someone else in place of the sons of Mosiah, had not Mosiah dissuaded them. He gave reasons in some detail why it is not wise to be ruled by an individual.
1. In the first place man cannot be trusted with power over fellow man. He may be a person of integrity upon assuming office, but this is no guarantee that he will remain such in his new status of power. Wealth, authority, and the honors of men have a way of effecting a change of heart in many persons. Another Latter-day Saint scripture dealing with the subject of authority, states:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:39)
2. A second problem in a government in which the supreme power is veste4d in an individual, such as a king or dictator, is the question of a successor. A king may reign in righteousness and be loved by the people, but who can guarantee that his son or successor will be like him in righteousness? The history of every kingdom on earth with which we are acquainted reveals the fact that no nation has enjoyed an unbroken line of able and just rulers.
3. Other evils of personal rule, of man governing man, are clearly stated by this king Mosiah. His words were written about 92 B.C., and they are so sound in judgment that they describe equally well what we have experienced in World War II and in many other periods of history.
And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood. 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: and he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness. And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you. (Mosiah 29:21-24)
Mosiah continues his counsel by advising that it is better to be governed by god, i.e. the laws of God, than by man, “for the judgments of god are always just but the judgments of man are not always just.” (verse 12) And to achieve this end, he recommends that people elect judges who will judge them according to the laws of God. other judges may be elected who will check on the lower judges. Not only are people to be judged by people of their own choice, but they are to choose higher and lower judges who may check on each other’s justice.
Mosiah places his confidence in the will of the people:
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law – to do your business by the voice of the people. (Mosiah 29:26)
There will likely always be individuals who cannot be trusted and minority groups who will pursue their own selfish ends at any price; but people at large can be trusted to desire that which is essentially right. And, if they don’t, they will pay a price; they will learn from hard and bitter experience, but at their own expense more than because of a will imposed upon them.
<,blockquote>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)
Mosiah continues in an appeal for democracy because it promotes greater equality among men – equality of privileges and responsibilities:
And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land, yea, even as long as any of our posterity remains upon the face of the land. and many more things did king Mosiah write unto them, unfolding unto them all the trials and troubles of a righteous king, yea, all the travails of soul for their people, and also all the murmurings of the people to their king; and he explained it all unto them. And he told them that these things ought not to be; but that the burden should come upon all the people, that eve4ry man might bear his part. (Mosiah 29:32-34)
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
The constitution of the Untied States of America, adopted in 1789, became the supreme law of the land. the first amendment to the Constitution, in force since December 15, 1791, reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
This right to establish a religion, to assemble peaceably, and to exercise the right of worship freely made possible the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in new York on April 6, 1830. We believe that the constitution was inspired of God to guarantee to men certain rights set forth therein.
At a time in our history, in 1833, when the civil liberties of our people were not being safeguarded in the state of Missouri as they should have been, and our people were at the point of despair, they were admonished
… to continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you – According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; that every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another. and for this purpose have I established the constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80)
We have a high regard for the Constitution of the United States of America. it has proved to be remarkably effective in maintaining a democratic form of government for over 166 years. In no country, to our knowledge, have people enjoyed as much freedom in the exercise of religion as in the United states.
Our Church is not, however, an American church. it is the church of Jesus Christ and belongs to mankind even as he did and still does. Therefore, we believe that god is on the side of freedom and liberty among men everywhere. “It is not right that ay man should be in bondage one to another” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:79) anywhere on the face of the earth. Men who exercise unrighteous and selfish dominion over their fellow men anywhere and at any time are enemies of God. Conversely, those who work and struggle to increase freedom among men are co-workers of Deity and will enjoy divine help and support. This is illustrated in a Book of Mormon account which equates the Spirit of God with the spirit of liberty. A Nephite judge, Pahoran, strong in his devotion to freedom and peace among men, wrote to his beloved compatriot, Moroni, encouraging him “… to conduct the war … according to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them. (Alma 61:15)
Democracy, based on constitutional law, is, we believe, that form of government best designed to show respect for the free agency of man and his basic and inalienable rights as a human being and as a child of god. In practice it falls short of the ideal, but we are willing to go along with it, assuming our full responsibility to help it succeed among men.
OUR OBLIGATIONS TO THE STATE
Earlier in this chapter we spoke of our obligation to obey, honor, and sustain the law while protected in our inalienable rights. There are other political obligations which an adult Latter-day Saint should assume. He is encouraged to vote intelligently whenever he has the privilege of exercising his franchise. He is likewise encouraged to take an active part in politics, to help choose good men to run for office, and to participate himself, as capacity and opportunity dictate.
The Church favors no political party as such. Members are free, for example, to affiliate with either Democrats or Republicans in the United States. Men of both parties hold and have held high political office in the Church. IN a recent conference of the church, President David O. McKay declared:
Twice, during the conference, reference has been made to the fact that we are approaching a general election, in which tension becomes high; sometimes feelings are engendered; often false reports are made, and innocent people are misjudged.
Recently we heard that in one meting, for example, it was stated authoritatively by somebody that two members of the General authorities said that the General Authorities of the Church had held a meeting and had decided to favor one of the leading political parties over the other, here in this state, particularly.
In Utah and surrounding states, contests for victory at the polls are being waged on national party lines. regarding reports already received that the General Authorities of the Church have held a meeting and decided to wield their influence in favor of the candidates of one of these political parties, we will say:
This report is not true, and I take this opportunity here, publicly, to denounce such a report as without foundation in fact.
In the church, there are members who favor the Democratic party. There are other members who sincerely believe and advocate the principles and ideals of the republican party. The First Presidency, the council of Twelve, and other officer who constitute the General Authorities of the Church, preside over members of both political parties.
The President as President of the church, is not favoring in this election either political party. The welfare of all members of the Church is equally considered by the President, his Counselors, and the General Authorities. Both political parties will be treated impartially.
The Deseret News is the organ of the Church. It will be equally fair and impartial in the treatment of both political parties. This does not mean, however, that error will be condoned. Teachings and ideologies subversive to the fundamental principles of this great Republic, which are detrimental to the progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be condemned, whether advocated by Republicans or Democrats.
We are all united in admonishing the members of the Church to register. We confirm the admonition already given from this pulpit regarding that important duty. We advocate the necessity of all members of the Church showing appreciation of your franchise, your citizenship, by voting, exercising your right to say who shall be your leaders. They become our servants. That is the spirit of the constitution. (123rd Semi-Annual Conference Report, October 1952, pp. 129, 130)
THE CHURCH – A MORAL CRITIC
There remains one other important function of the Church in political life, which should be mentioned. We believe that the church is in an ideal position to be a critic of all other social institutions. Inspired of God, guided by his teachings and Spirit, with an eternal, universal and moral view of life ever before them, Church leaders ought to do everything int heir power to help men in all walks of life do what God requires of them.
The Church has an obligation to keep before all men continuously the great religious and moral ideals of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, such as justice, mercy, freedom, human brotherhood, peace, and forgiveness. It has an obligation and right to condemn those practices in the body politic which are out of harmony with these ideals. this should be done with no reference to party politics.
The Church should also carry out practical programs as the need dictates, through which it can promote and exemplify its faith and ideals. This the latter-day Saint Church does in its welfare, educational, cultural, and recreational programs.
We of the Latter-day Saint Church believe that civil governments are instituted of God for the good of man and that officials thereof are amenable to him as wella s to men.
We believe in honoring and sustaining the law.
We believe that no man should be in bondage to another man. Therefore, a democratic form of government based on law is preferred over forms of government based on personal rule.
We believe that separation of church and state promotes freedom of religion and worship and is, therefore, desirable.
We believe that all adults should exercise their right to vote and participate intelligently in the affairs of state. The Church, without entering into party politics, encourages such participation.
We believe that the Church of Christ should be a moral critic of man and other social institutions, keeping Christian ideals ever before us and evaluating life in terms of them.
1961: Gospel Doctrine Class; The Good Life, by Harvey Fletcher
Lesson 12: Civic Laws
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. (Twelfth Article of Faith.)
This statement gives the attitude of our Church concerning our civic duties, and it should be the attitude of each latter-day Saint. The violation of the law of the land not only is a civil offense but is also a violation of one of the fundamental principles of our Church. We should remember this when we are tempted to disregard, for example, the automobile speed laws and only worry about the “speed cops.” Our greater worry should be that we are disregarding God’s advice to His children as well as committing a civil offense. I have known persons who would never think of drinking a cup of coffee but who think nothing of going over the speed limit ten to twenty miles when they are sure there are no officers to see them. So it is with all the other laws of the land. Some of them may be objectionable to us. if so, we should try to have them changed. But as long as they are on the books as our laws, we should try to abide by them.
The core of civil laws comes from the Ten Commandments, particularly these:
Thou shalt not kill,
Thou shalt not steal,
Thou shalt not commit adultery,
Thou shalt not bear false witness.
These laws, which were originally given to Moses as God’s laws, have since been incorporated into the civil law. Specific penalties are prescribed for offenses against them. but in the great scheme of things, whether or not offenders are caught by the enforcement officers of the land, their punishments are sure, for unless they repent they are punished by their sins as well as for them. In the good life we are describing, these fundamental laws must not be violated, or sorrow and affliction will follow instead of the joy and happiness which God intended for us.
Jesus on several occasions showed that he approved the policy set forth in our twelfth Article of Faith. As an example, take the treacherous plot laid for Him by the Pharisees when they put forth the question, “What thinkest thou? is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” Without hesitation He said, “Show me the tribute money.” And they brought Him a penny. He said to them, “Whose is this image and superscription?” They answered “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:17-21.)
Paul, in his letters, was constantly reminding his various groups of converts to Christianity of their obligation to sustain the law. Writing to Titus, he said, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” (Titus 3:1.) Then to the Romans he wrote:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. (Romans 13:1-7.)
Similarly, Peter gave this advice:
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme: Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (I Peter 2:13-17.)
All through the Book of Mormon there is constant reference concerning the duty of people to honor and sustain the law.
The early leaders of the restored Church put this principle in comprehensible form in twelve statements all starting with “We believe …” These were submitted at a general assembly of the Church in 1835 and were accepted by a vote of the m embers of the Church. They constitute the 134th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which you are admonished now to read as part of this chapter.
1961: Gospel Doctrine Class; The Good Life, by Harvey Fletcher
Lesson 13: Civic Responsibility
Without law all must certainly fall into chaos. (Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church 2:12.0
When the book of Doctrine and Covenants was first printed in 1835 there was placed at the end, in Section 102, an article entitled, “Of Governments and Laws in General,” with this preamble:
That our belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general may not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood, we have thought proper to present at the close of this volume our opinion concerning the same.
This section was then accepted by the membership of the Church by unanimous consent at the general assembly of the Church held on the 17th of August, 1835, at Kirtland, Ohio, then the headquarters of the Church. This has always been considered the official pronouncement of the Church on this matter and is printed in our current editions of the Doctrine and Covenants as Section 134.
The early part of this declaration reads as follows:
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws be framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right of control of property, and the protection of life.
We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the laws in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign. (Doctrine and covenants 134:1-3.)
These are very sweeping statements with a very broad concept of government, and every government which is not despotic and which governs with a sense of the well-being of the individual would be supported by this declaration. There is a good reason for this, for the type and character of a government must be suited to the intelligence, knowledge and understanding of its peoples. this is being well demonstrated in present world events. For example, the peoples of Africa are now attempting to change from their tribal existence and government, which has been guided somewhat by more advanced nations by whom they have been held as colonies, to a condition wherein they govern themselves as independent nations. it is quite obvious that they are not intellectually prepared to do this by completely democratic procedures, such as are exercised by some of the more dominant nations of the day.
The restored gospel, because of the conditions of its founding, causes us to be especially conscious of the government of the United States of America. The principles of the government, as is also true with many present-day governments, are based on a long experience of man with governments which are now known only in history. these include ancient Israel, the Roman Empire, Feudal England, and Colonial America. But we have a belief that God, also, influenced the organization of the government of the United States of America, so that His Church could find a suitable political climate in which its restoration could come about.
In a revelation, counseling Joseph Smith, the Lord said:
And again I say unto you, those who have been scattered by their enemies, it is my will that they should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you –
According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
That every man may act in doctrine and principle … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (doctrine and covenants 101:76-80.)
We can be quite sure that the Lord has guided the development of governmental systems in other nations also, where these nations recognized God as the Creator and established governments which would operate for the eternal benefit of the governed. Accordingly, there are on the earth today many good governments, and while they differ in detail and somewhat in method, the results for the governed may be broadly the same. all such governments should be supported by the Latter-day Saints who are subject to them.
We do not believe that the evolution of government into newer and more advanced forms is yet come to an end. This subject was discussed by Joseph Smith in an editorial in the Times and Seasons (Nauvoo newspaper) on July 15, 1842. (See also Documentary History of the Church 5:63.) In this editorial he wrote:
It has been the design of Jehovah, from the commencement of the world, and is His purpose now, to regulate the affairs of the world in His own time, to stand as a head of the universe, and take the reins of government in His own hand. When that is done, judgment will be administered in righteousness; anarchy and confusion will be destroyed, and “nations will learn war no more.”
Thus, the governments of the earth will ultimately unite as one and become a theocracy, and eternal righteousness will furnish the principles on which that rule will be based.
But until this comes, until God himself establishes this rule – and no man knows when this will be – men are left with the existing governments to coordinate and regulate civil affairs; and these governments must be supported by the people, for anarchy, misery, and death will be the lot of those who try to live without the shelter of responsible government, and in such condition men would revert to jungle living.
The Exercise of Citizenship
In many nations today where the Church thrives, the citizen is permitted, and even encouraged, to express his opinions on policy matters by means of the ballot. And by this same means he also elects those who are to exercise civil authority over him. In areas where the privilege of the ballot is now withheld, the people are usually not yet ready to guide their own destinies, because of the lack of education and information which leads to the understanding necessary to make choices in a proper manner.
When a citizen becomes of voting age, or when he moves into a new community, he should very early learn the details of the voting privilege and become qualified to perform this function of citizenship. Since the judgments at the ballot box are no better than the judgments of those doing the balloting, every voting citizen should seek information on the civic problems of the day, select the best alternatives, and then exercise his right to vote as a sacred duty as well as a privilege. It is hoped that every Latter-day Saint will gauge his thinking on civil matters on the basis of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the prophets of god, both ancient and modern; for then he will be pointing his choices toward eternal goodness. too many persons, when contemplating the vote, ask themselves the question: ”What do I gain by bothering about political questions and voting?” A good citizen does not ask such a question, but rather asks, ”What can I do to help in making my government better – better for all who live under its rule?”
A government regardless of its form is no better than those who are called or permitted to govern. On this matter the Lord has said:
… that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; and as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. I, the Lord god, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. nevertheless, when the wicked rule, the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. (Doctrine and Covenants 98;5-10.)
It is wisdom, as pointed out in this scripture, that we should be especially careful to use the ballot to select good and righteous rulers, and we should be diligent in this matter.
One should discover the persons who have political influence in his community, and inquire of their friends and neighbors as to their background, and why and how they happen to be in or seeking political position. Is it because they really want to serve the people, or do they have a personal motive, usually selfish, which leads them to seek this position? If their purposes are less than fully honorable and righteous, then we should do all we can to replace them in office with men who understand the second great commandment and at all times attempt to practice it. Every community has persons of high purpose who are civic minded and who could be called to rule over us, and these we should seek out and give our confidence and support. A vigilant citizenry, supported by a free and wide awake press, can usually force out of office dishonest, careless, and inept leaders. If this cannot be done, the government is likely to be a government by opportunists, or, worse, by despots.
If there be political parties in the nation in which you live, then it is your duty to examine the tenets of the parties and become an affiliate of that one which most nearly espouses the principles of government in which you believe. Not alone this, but you should also take an active part in moulding the tenets of the party to make them fully correspond with Christian principles.
In several of the democratic countries where political parties are involved in the processes of government, the members of the party not in power at a particular time speak of themselves as constituting the “loyal opposition”; loyal, in the sense that always they are for their nation and its best interests; in opposition, in that they examine carefully, and even challenge, the doctrines, philosophies, and activities of the party which at the moment is in the seat of government. This is good, for it keeps under close scrutiny at all times the processes of government, and reveals fraud, deceit, chicanery and other dishonorable practices. It subjects these to the fierce light of public information, and thus tends to keep governments, and the individual men in power, out of unholy and unwise practices and actions. We should never give up the privilege nor the practice of constituting ourselves as part of the loyal opposition when such is needed to correct wrong in government.
In the democratic nations today men are not condemned by high government officials, but by a jury selected from among their citizen associates. Thus a citizen may be called at any time to jury duty. Many people seek to evade this duty by various evasive means. One who does so is not a good citizen. The jury system was purposely organized so that men accused of crime could have a fair, unbiased trial. The fairness can be assured only when every responsible citizen accepts the call to ct on a jury. If the more capable citizens all sidestep this duty, the resulting juries may render strange and unintelligent decisions; and justice is not served in this way.
Other civic duties which every good citizen should accept are: the response to a call for help in emergency situations; the call to military service, the honest payment of taxes, willingness to serve on local committees established for the welfare of the community, and so on. In the last analysis, the real objective of good government is to provide a code of procedures and individual actions which will make it possible for a large group of individuals to live and work together in a community to the end that the common welfare of all may reach its most desirable state; and so to control those who are selfish and undisciplined that they cannot thwart this purpose.
The highest objective of government will probably only be reached when all citizens are converted so that they live the good life, and this is brought about by obeying the second great commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It may be that this will not be fully achieved until the Lord, Himself, comes to rule and reign as we are promised by prophecy.