Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Political Tuesday: LDS Political Thought: Preview (1948-49)

Political Tuesday: LDS Political Thought: Preview (1948-49)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 05, 2012

Okay, so there’s this thing going on in the U.S. right now. I don’t enjoy politics, but evidently many other people do. So from now until the election, every Tuesday will feature a lesson or sermon from the Mormon past that illustrates how Church leaders of the past tried to educate Latter-day Saints with regard to political principles and procedures. Mostly, of course, that means American procedures, but hopefully some of the principles are fit for wider consideration.

Most commenting rules are off, too. Talk about anything you wish, in as partisan a way as you wish. Please don’t attack each other, and please make your comments fit for believing Latter-day Saints (those two rules are non-negotiable).

And for those of us who aren’t political junkies, I’ll post something later in the morning every Tuesday that doesn’t address politics.


Relief Society Social Science Lessons
Latter-day Saint Political Thought
Elder G. Homer Durham

Preview of Lessons for 1948-49

Throughout the world a struggle is taking place for men’s minds, to influence their political beliefs as a stepping stone to new and uncharted forms of government. Questions of political theory are the questions of the hour. “latter-day Saint Political Thought” has therefore been selected as social science lesson material for the next two years. Seven lessons during 1948-49 will e devoted to certain main currents. The second year will offer a detailed analysis of the Declaration of Belief Regarding Governments and Laws in General (Doctrine and Covenants, section 134), its application, and general world significance. The objective of these lessons is to acquaint and familiarize the women of the Church with some fundamental issues of modern political thought, and to examine pertinent answers thereto as found in the literature and doctrines of the restoration; and thus aid them in teaching their children the meaning and value of free agency and liberty. Men everywhere search for adequate answers to these questions. Currently, Communism threatens to engulf Christian civilization. what contribution does Latter-day Saint thought make to modern man’s search for sound political theory?

In this quest, class leaders and members will have occasion and stimulus to re-examine modern scripture as well as the relevant material in the entire stream of literature of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. In addition to the standard works, the following useful references are suggested:

Smith, Joseph Fielding: The Progress of Man, Deseret Book Co., 1936, an entire book dedicated to the interpretation of political history in the light of gospel principles. It is one of the few systematic treatises of this type found in our literature.

Widtsoe, John A: Man and the Dragon, Bookcraft, 1945, especially part 1, is another recent work dealing with war, peace, social and economic issues.

Complete chapters of basic source material will also be found (usually in a chapter entitled “Political Government” or similar name) in each of the following:

Discourses of Brigham Young (Selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe), Deseret Book Company.

The Gospel Kingdom (Selections from the Writings and Discourses of president john Taylor, compiled by G. Homer Durham)(, Bookcraft.

The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff (Selected and Arranged by G. Homer Durham), Bookcraft.

Gospel Doctrine (Selections from the Sermons and Writings of President Joseph F. Smith), Deseret Book Company.

Gospel StandardsThe Improvement Era.

The political utterances of Joseph Smith are classified and explained in Durham, G. Homer: Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman, Bookcraft, 1944.

They are likewise to be found in Smith, Joseph Fielding, The teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret News, 1938, with the exception of a few public documents.

Teachers will find the current output of Church books, magazines, and conference reports invaluable sources for lesson enrichment. In addition, specific suggestions are carried in each lesson, together with questions for general discussion. If the claim that “the world’s problems” can be solved by reference to gospel principles is to be realized, these lessons and materials have deep meaning.

In these lessons the term State is commonly used to indicate an independent sovereign state (nation).

The titles and objectives of the lessons follow:

Lesson 1. The Meaning and Importance of Political Doctrines

Objective: To point out the modern tendencies in political thought to ignore spiritual resources and to seek a cure-all through unlimited government.

Lesson 2. Some Political Doctrines of the Book of Mormon

Objective: To learn, from a study of political doctrines expressed in the Book of Mormon, that a government to be good must be composed of good people.

Lesson 3. Political Ideas Advocated by the Prophet Joseph Smith

Objective: To better appreciate the political doctrines advanced by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Lesson 4. ”The declaration of Belief Regarding Governments and Laws in General”

Objective: To study section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants as the belief of Latter-day Saints in regard to earthly governments and laws in general.

Lesson 5. Main Currents in Latter-day Saint Political Thought as Revealed in Discourse and Literature

Objective: to appreciate the contributions to political thought voiced by some of the early Church leaders.

Lesson 6. Contemporary Domestic Problems.

Objective: To recognize the limitations of the state in its ability to solve problems.

Lesson 7. International Strife and the Quest for Peace

Objective: To appreciate the part some Latter-day Saints have taken in recent political activities and the obligation resting on Latter-day Saints to teach their children the doctrines of free agency and liberty in harmony with Latter-day Saint knowledge.



  1. I don’t really dislike politics as a study — it’s the ugliness and extremism of partisan political debate that makes me run for the hills.

    One politically-themed blog I do enjoy (he also branches into family history and religion) is Keepa’ninny Grant’s Passionately Moderate Mormon (permanent link in the sidebar). If all political discourse were as rational and rancor-less, I might survive the coming season with my nerves intact.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 5, 2012 @ 7:05 am

  2. One man’s extremism is another man’s trenchant political commentary.

    Comment by Vader — June 5, 2012 @ 7:32 am

  3. I majored in Political Science and use to love talking about it. But as I have aged I have found most political discussions useless posturing. Now I find the most pleasure in listening to a well thought out thesis on a particular stance instead of a debate between two people who don’t understand the nuances implied by their positions. I’m looking forward to this series.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 5, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  4. Thanks for the kind words and link! I am looking forward to this series. And I’ll try to keep my passionate moderation going. You never know, though. I could reach my breaking point and burst out in intemperate diatribes any time now.

    Comment by Grant — June 5, 2012 @ 8:20 am

  5. I’m really looking forward to this series.

    The reference books are interesting (and not just because half the books are complied by series author G. Homer Durham).

    Had this series been written 20 years later, it would have included a far different (and more conservative) list of books, I suspect.
    Clark’s “Stand Fast by the Constitution”
    Benson’s “An Enemy Hath Done This”
    and several other mentioned in General Conference (None Dare Call it Consiracy, The Naked Communist)

    Had it been written fifty years later, it wouldn’t have been written at all.

    Comment by The Other Clark — June 6, 2012 @ 11:41 am

  6. I agree with the Other Clark’s final line that we won’t be hearing any official church lessons like this today. And the reason for that is probably the list of books mentioned in his second paragraph. “We have learned by sad experience.”

    Comment by Grant — June 6, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

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