Lesson 6 – The Conditions for Achieving the Kingdom of God
Elder G. Homer Durham
For Tuesday, April 25, 1950
Objective: To show that civil and religious liberty must be maintained for the establishment of the kingdom of God.
Rise of National States
There are in the world today about sixty national States. The national State is the modern form of political organization. Before national States existed, there were first (so far as our civilization is concerned) the empire states of the ancient Middle East, then the city-states of ancient Greece, followed by the Roman world in which a single State (Rome) dominated the entire Western world. With the decline of the Roman Empire, the single world government that was Rome disintegrated into thousands of petty principalities and kingdoms. this was the feudal age. Between the ninth century after Christ and the peace of Westphalia (1648 A.D.) the modern national State made its appearance.
Sovereignty of National States
The modern national State is characterized by the doctrine of “sovereignty.” This means that each one of the sixty-odd national States extant in the world today, assumes and believes with patriotic zeal and fervor that its own government is the final judge of its course of action. This belief in sovereignty tends to be identified with truth and morality to the extent that each citizen of each national State tends to believe that his State is the embodiment of truth and justice – therefore is always in the right and is rarely, if ever, in the wrong. This is the situation which leads to conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, for example, and between the various national States of the world from time to time. They recognize no appeal by any higher body of authority.
Kingdom of God to be Established
The scriptures teach that the “kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.” In other words, Christianity looks forward to the establishment of a kingdom of God on earth in which the lamb will lie down with the lion, and men will turn their swords into plowshares and will study war no more. this ideal characterizes Latter-day Saint belief in a stronger sense, perhaps, than many fellow-Christian organizations. This is because the Latter-day Saints believe in a restoration of Christ’s gospel, the ultimate result of which will be to establish the kingdom of God on earth. Section 65 of the Doctrine and Covenants speaks concerning this matter:
The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
Modern man is weary and sickened of war. What are the conditions for achieving the kingdom of God?
In a certain sense, the meaning of the first eight verses of the Declaration of Belief concerning government and laws may be summarized as a guarantee of the right to proselyte truth. Possession and use of truth are the fundamental essentials for achieving the kingdom of God. The condition necessary for the discovery, use, and application of truth is religious freedom. Without religious freedom there can be no complete and free access to God, the creator of the universe. and if access to the Creator is denied, how can truth be found?
Independence of Civil and Religious Government
Verse nine tends to summarize the Declaration thus far:
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.
Analyzing this verse, we see that the Latter-day Saints accept the doctrine of separation of Church and State. Why? As an essential condition for achieving truth and thereby achieving a kingdom of God on earth. Why is this true? Why do we believe it to be unjust to mingle religious influence with civil government? This belief, of course, would apply to the Latter-day Saints and their Church as well as to any other church. In fact, Brigham Young thought that a man, any worthy man, could be a “legislator” in the kingdom of God, and that membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not necessary to be a legislator in the kingdom of God. This is a remarkable doctrine. Why then do we believe it unjust to mingle religious influence with civil government?
The answer may be given as follows: government is one of the essential elements of the modern national State. The other elements are: (1) people: (2) territory on which the people live; and (3) the sovereign power exercised by government.
The power of government is represented through its army, navy, industrial strength – in short, force. If religious influence were mingled with civil government, “whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges,” then the power of the State – force – may be used against the other groups. But, it might be asked, supposing the church, mingling its influence with the force of the civil government, were the true and correct church, and used force to accomplish its purposes as in the case of Islam?
The answer to this is clear in the gospel: any church which attempted to do so could never qualify as a true and living church because the fundamental principle upon which the gospel is based is the free agency of man.
Communism a Religion Without a God
Lucifer’s plan was to use force in order to save man. The situation described in verse nine is parallel to the plan proposed by Satan. It is also parallel to the situation found in many totalitarian States. Communism is a religion. It is a religion without God which harnesses the material strength, force, and power of the State, wielded by an intellectual elite (so-called) in the interests of “the proletariat.”
To date, the record of Communist States demonstrates that they do mingle this devilish religious influence with civil government whereby the Communist party (which might be likened to the “priesthood” of the State) is “fostered”: and all other groups are “proscribed,” not only in their spiritual privileges but in their political and every other privilege as well! Small wonder then that the Latter-day Saints do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government.
Provision of the U.S. Constitution on the Separation of Church and State
The Constitution of the United States, in limiting the power of the Federal Government, in limiting the power of the states, and in setting forth certain rights and obligations of local and national citizenship, goes a long way in providing a separation of Church and State in order that religious influence shall not be mingled with civil government. The results of this constitutional liberty are that in America there are many religious denominations. In fact, “pluralism” has come to be one of the unique features of American religious society and of its political and economic society as well. In other words, we not only have individual freedom in the United States, but there is group freedom as well.
Thus, man as an individual is left with the essential condition for achieving his individual happiness and making his individual contribution towards a kingdom of God upon earth. But it is not left at that. The constitutional liberty found in the United States, or any other State where there is limited government and freedom of conscience, means that groups of men, man and his fellow man, may co-operate together to achieve a kingdom of God upon earth. But the moment a man, or group of men, use force or constraint in any way, so that religious influence is mingled with civil government to the effect that others are proscribed in their privileges, then the conditions for achieving the kingdom of God cease to exist.
Free Agency in the Kingdom of God
What shall we do with this religious freedom whence flows our political, economic, and social freedom? The entire section 134 is a guide to such conduct. Verse nine is a brief and succinct summary of the essential condition. But, supposing that the Latter-day Saints use their freedom to proselyte the truth, and, supposing, eventually, everyone in the world became a Latter-day Saint, would it then be just to mingle religious influence with civil government? Not so long as one religious society is fostered and others proscribed in their spiritual privileges! On this our doctrine and history is clear.
President Brigham Young once asked the question:
What is the duty of a Latter-day Saint? To do all the good he can upon the earth … to build up, not to destroy; to gather together, not to scatter abroad; to take the ignorant and lead them to wisdom; to pick up the poor and bring them to comfortable circumstances. This is our labor – what we have to do (Discourses of Brigham Young, 1925 edition, page 655; 1941 edition, page 427).
But President Young warned:
If the Latter-day Saints think, when the Kingdom of God is established on the earth, that all the inhabitants of the earth will join the Church called Latter-day Saints, they are mistaken. I presume there will be as many sects and parties then as now. Still, when the Kingdom of God triumphs, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ … There are mansions in sufficient numbers to suit the different classes of mankind, and a variety will always exist to all eternity … (Ibid., 1925 edition, page 679; 1941 edition, page 439).
The Freedom of Conscience
Freedom of conscience involves an essential recognition that world order must recognize a basic “pluralism” of thought and feeling. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not require the power of the State to maintain it. However, the power of the State could be used to destroy it; at least to drive it underground and render miserable and intolerable the lives of individual men and women. Civil government must be maintained in its essential sphere. The sphere of religious liberty must always be recognized in any good society. Under that condition man must always support his government, but if the government proscribes the spiritual privileges and opportunities of its membership, to the extent that religious liberty is lost, then the Declaration of Belief Regarding Governments and Laws in General seems to indicate that men have a right to strive for a system that will hold sacred the freedom of conscience.
Freedom is a precious commodity, but where freedom exists, notwithstanding, it is available to all at little or no price. Accordingly, we may come to undervaluate it as we cease to be conscious of its priceless value. Any Latter-day Saint officeholder, or governmental official, as well as every citizen, has a strong obligation to see that the government never infringes the rights of any individual citizen or group. Individual and group rights for all are an essential condition for achieving the kingdom of God; and when, in God’s own time, as man puts forth his labor under these conditions, that kingdom is achieved, that kingdom, itself, will recognize the right of individual conscience and no power or force will be utilized to force any man to follow the “party line.” Even if the Priesthood should be called upon eventually to maintain a governmental system, the Priesthood, above all others, would recognize this limitation upon the power of the Priesthood.
Powers of Heaven Controlled Upon Principles of Righteousness
Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants, long emphasized by President Heber J. Grant in this modern age when political power and governmental strength are on the rapid increase, speaks as follows:
… the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled or handled only upon the principles of righteousness (“D. & C. 121:36).
Should members holding the Priesthood undertake to cover their sins, gratify pride, vain ambition, “or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D. & C. 121:37).
Again, says this section:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge he soul without hypocrisy, and without guile … (Ibid., verses 41-42).
The meaning of verse nine and its preceding companions in section 134, taken with the meaning of section 121, indicates clearly that if a kingdom of God is achieved and the restored Priesthood called upon to take the lead in its government, no man need fear that government. Why? Because that government, as under the Constitution of the United States, will be a limited government. The right of individual conscience will be protected, and no power “or influence” can be used by one holding the Priesthood in any degree of force or compulsion upon the souls of men. If he does, Amen to the Priesthood or the authority of that man – and the obligation to support such authority ceases!
To summarize, what is the outlook for the development of a more perfect governmental system and a more perfect world order? In Latter-day Saint belief, men everywhere should strive within their own governmental systems to secure constitutional limitations upon the exercise of force and power. They should also secure the rights of individual freedom and conscience. Basic to these rights of freedom and conscience, is the right of religious liberty. Religious liberty is necessary to the discovery of truth. The use of truth is a condition of achieving the kingdom of God. When the kingdom of God is achieved, it, too, will recognize limitations upon its own government in the interests of individual freedom. Why? So that the pursuit and discovery of truth may go on endlessly throughout all time in order that men may achieve eternal progress both in their lives and in their social intercourse.
Questions for Discussion and Lesson Helps
Special Project: The early leaders of the Church were quite explicit in their purpose to improve the world and to help or bring forth and establish the kingdom of God on earth. Have four members of the class examine, select, and read to the class brief statements of the thought on the subject of each of the following: (1) Joseph Smith (for example, Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman, pp. 102-103, 199-200; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 55, 271, 328; 92) Brigham Young (see Discourses, chapter 39); John Taylor (see Gospel Kingdom, chapter 19); Wilford Woodruff (see Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, chapter 10). If none of these materials is available, a single brief report on the building of Zion, etc., may be prepared by examining “Zion” and “kingdom of God” references in the index of the Doctrine and Covenants.
1. What is a “national State?”
2. What is the significance for modern man of the doctrine of “national sovereignty”?
3. Is it possible for a national State, in its law and practice, to embody “truth and justice”?
4. Does a nation, like a man, “rationalize” its situation so that truth and justice become what is convenient and advantageous?
5. Reviewing previous lessons and the verses of the Declaration, what are the tests by which it may be determined whether or not a nation does embody, or approximate, truth and justice?
6. What is the fundamental essential for achieving the kingdom of God?
7. Why is possession of truth fundamental?
8. On what grounds do Latter-day Saints accept the necessity of the doctrine of the separation of church and State?
9. Why is it wrong to mingle religious influence with civil government to the extent that one society is fostered and others proscribed? (If convenient, read again the ordinances on religious liberty and freedom of assembly, prepared by Joseph Smith, suggested as a special project for lesson 5.)
10. Explain the statement in the lesson: “Pluralism has come to be one of the unique features of American religious society.”
11. Read, comment upon, and have the class discuss Doctrine and Covenants, section 121, verses 36-37, 41-42 in connection with this lesson.