The Church and Government - Sustaining Just Law

(M B, February 2005.)

In the January 2005 Ensign, President Hinckley made the following statement:

“The Lord has given us counsel and commandment on so many things that no member of this Church need ever equivocate. He has established our guidelines concerning personal virtue, neighborliness, obedience to law, loyalty to government, observance of the Sabbath day, sobriety and abstinence from liquor and tobacco, the payment of tithes and offerings, the care of the poor, the cultivation of home and family, the sharing of the gospel—to mention only a few.”

So what has the counsel been regarding the preservation of and our loyalty to our Constitutional government?

We wish to reiterate the divine counsel that members “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness,” while using gospel principles as a guide and while cooperating with other like-minded individuals. (D&C 58:27)

Through such wise participation as citizens, we are then in better compliance with this scripture:

Governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them.” (D&C 134:1.)

Therefore, as in the past, we urge members of the Church to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs. Members of the Church are under special obligations to seek out and then uphold those leaders who are “wise,” “good,” and “honest.” (See D&C 98:10.)

Thus, we strongly urge men and women to be willing to serve on school boards, city and county councils and commissions, state legislatures, and other high offices of either election or appointment, including involvement in the political party of their choice.

While the Church does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties, members are counseled to study the candidates carefully and vote for those individuals they believe will act with integrity and in ways conducive to good communities and good government. Hence, political candidates are asked not to imply that their candidacy is endorsed by the Church or its leaders.

As always, Church facilities may not be used for political purposes, nor Church directories or mailing lists.

Sincerely yours,

The First Presidency
(Deseret News, Saturday, February 7, 1998)

Sustaining Just Law

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law — so long as we are protected in the rights which God gave us and declared are inalienable. It is my opinion, that we should be no more subject to those who violate these natural rights than we should be subject to the laws of a band of criminals.

The Doctrine and Covenants states:

“We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

“…the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

“We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, [and the important qualifier] while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments (Doctrine and Covenants 134:2-5)

Brigham Young:

“Sustain the government of the nation wherever you are, and speak well of it, for this is right, and the government has a right to expect it of you so long as that government sustains you in your civil and religious liberty, in those rights which inherently belong to every person born on the earth.” (Brigham Young, Millennial Star, July 17, 1852; 14:321-26)

Joseph F. Smith:

“We are told here that no man need break the laws of the land who will keep the laws of God (D&C 58:21-23). But this is further defined by the passage which I read afterwards—the law of the land, which all have no need to break, is that law which is the constitutional law of the land, and that is as God himself has defined it. And whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil (D&C 101:77-80). Now, it seems to me that this makes this matter so clear that it is not possible for any man who professes to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make any mistake, or to be in doubt as to the course be should pursue under the command of God in relation to the observance of the laws of the land. …

“I ask myself, What law have you broken? What constitutional law have you not observed? I am bound not only by allegiance to the government of the United States but by the actual command of God Almighty, to observe and obey every constitutional law of the land, and without hesitancy I declare to this congregation that I have never violated nor transgressed any law, I am not amenable to any penalties of the law, because I have endeavored from my youth up to be a law-abiding citizen, and not only so, but to be a peacemaker, a preacher of righteousness, and not only to preach righteousness by word, but by example. What, therefore, have I to fear?The Lord Almighty requires this people to observe the laws of the land, to be subject to ‘the powers that be,’ so far as they abide by the fundamental principles of good government, but he will hold them responsible if they will pass unconstitutional measures and frame unjust and proscriptive laws, as did Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, in relation to the three Hebrew children and Daniel. If lawmakers have a mind to violate their oath, break their covenants and their faith with the people, and depart from the provisions of the constitution, where is the law, human or divine, which binds me, as an individual, to outwardly and openly proclaim my acceptance of their acts?(Joseph F. Smith, General Conference, April 9,1882. Journal of Discourses 23:71.)

On questions of obeying the sovereign while we are protected in our inalienable rights, we should keep in mind who the sovereign — at least in America — is:

“Every government system has a sovereign, one or several who possess all the executive, legislative, and judicial powers. That sovereign may be an individual, a group, or the people themselves.” (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 669)

The Declaration of Independence contains the principles which formed the foundation for the writing of the Constitution. The men who wrote both documents were highly commended by the Lord, and pertaining to the principles found in the document, the Lord declared that they were established “according to just and holy principles” and “And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” (Doctrine and Covennats 98:5-7 and 101:80)

The Declaration of Independence states that “men...are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable secure these rights, Governments are instituted.” This is the foundation of American government. The document also outlines the abuses of king George and then describes when it is proper to throw off an abusive government:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The Articles of Faith like other instances of scripture were never meant to be a full exposé of religious beliefs, and must be taken in context and relation to all of the revealed word. Just as the commandment “thou shalt not kill” is not a full commentary on the justice or injustice of inflicting death on another human being. There are times of exigency where such a course is acceptable, and in the case of a defensive war, the Lord declared “Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.…Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.” (Alma 43:46-47)