Preface: Church and State, Religion and Politics
The Book of Mormon and the ConstitutionA Mixing of Religion and Politics
As the title of this work suggests, it consists of a discussion of the Book of Mormon and the United States Constitution. This involves a mixing of the subjects of religion and politics which to some may seem novel enough to require an explanation. Therefore, we are devoting this preface to a consideration of our reasons for doing so.
The Magnitude of the Problem of Government
For as long as man has been on earth, government has been one of his most difficult and serious problems. Both secular and religious history show that governments have caused more death, more destruction and more suffering than all other agencies combined. Even if we consider the losses caused by international wars alone, this is so. But when we add to this ghastly toll the millions upon millions who have been tortured, murdered, plundered, and enslaved by their own political masters, the problem of government looms above all others.
As serious as are the physical problems caused by government, it is submitted that those of a moral nature are infinitely worse. Of course, it is impossible to completely separate the two. But the adverse affect which governments are having on moral and religious values may be the most serious problem of mankind. [p. xii]
The Gospel Has the Solution to All Problems
It would be unreasonable to believe that the Lord has failed to provide the proper solution to the problem of government. To assume that He has not given us the correct answers would be to doubt or deny His love and concern for us. His gospel contains the knowledge necessary to solve every problem whether it be religious, political, financial, or moral. As Nephi said:
Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. (2 Ne. 31:3)
If the gospel has the solution to the problem of government, then we as Church members would appear to have an awesome responsibility to use our best efforts to implement its principles in the communities, the states, and the nation. We can most effectively do this by first coming to a unity among ourselves.
Why Is the Gospel Not Utilized More to Solve Political Problems?
It will be conceded by all that little attempt is being made today to use the principles of Christianity to solve the problem of government. Seldom do we hear the Lord and His teachings mentioned in connection with politics. Today the test of the propriety of a proposed law or political platform seems to be how it will affect the economy. The politics of virtually everyone appears to have become largely materialistic. The effect of government action on morals, justice, and freedom seems to be ignored. Why is this so?
Perhaps some see no connection between religion and politics. Even members of the Church who have complete faith that the gospel has the answers, may fail to go to it for political guidance. A variety of excuses are offered for this neglect. Let us examine a few of them. [p. xiii]
Is it Constitutional for Religionists to Become Politically Involved?
In the minds of some, the doctrine of separation of church and state forbids religionists from becoming involved in political matters. The constitutional provision upon which this doctrine is usually based reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; (1st Amendment)
The restraint or prohibition is against government, not the individual. Congress is forbidden to pass laws respecting religion. Instead of prohibiting religious leaders and organizations becoming involved in politics, it guarantees it.
Should There Be a Separation of Religion and Politics?
The answer is obvious when it is recognized that government is an agency of force. It exists for the exclusive purpose of adopting laws and compelling people to obey them. Every law either commands or forbids certain conduct and carries a penalty for disobedience.
The problem of determining when it is right or wrong to deprive a human of life, liberty or property, is a moral issue of the most serious nature. In fact, there is no question of greater moral significance. Since this is the problem which must be answered with respect to every law, every decree, every rule, and indeed every act of government, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that everything government does is either good or evil.
Governments are necessary, and laws must be enforced which punish crime according to the nature of the offense. Scriptures such as the Ten Commandments with their related statutes and judgments justify and command that crimes such as murder, robbery and theft be severely punished.
If innocent conduct is punished, those befriending such laws must regard themselves as thieves, enslavers or murderers, whether it is an individual or a government. It is immoral to fine, imprison, and execute without justification. [p. xiv]
There are no members of society who should be more concerned about politics than those whose duty it is to care for the moral and religious needs of the people. As was stated by Lincoln, ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Every citizen has not only the right but the sacred duty to uphold, support and defend the Constitution.
Do the Scriptures Prohibit Political Involvement by Religionists?
The following two scriptures might be interpreted by some to have this effect:
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. (Articles of Faith, #12)
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 fight it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet. (D&C 58:21, 22)
The scriptures require Church members to be law abiding. Befriending that law which punishes innocent conduct is another issue which should be examined. In this connection let us consider the following scripture:
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. (D&C 98:5-7)
Church members as citizens, have the constitutional right to speak and write against unconstitutional laws. They have a religious duty to do so as well.
When we encounter laws which contravene our principles, we might recall what the Lord did in a similar situation. The scribes and Pharisees [p. xv] along with their predecessors, had corrupted the code of laws He had given the children of Israel. For this He severely condemned them. Nevertheless, He submitted to their unjust laws and even permitted Himself to be crucified under one of them. He told His followers:
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses seat:
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matt. 23:2, 3)
Can Political Beliefs Affect Personal Salvation?
Some may remain aloof from politics because they believe it has nothing to do with salvation or exaltation. With this thought in mind let us look at this scripture:
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. (D&C 134:1)
In a nation of self-governing people like the United States, all citizens have a moral responsibility to the Lord for their political conduct. With the privilege of self-rule comes the obligation to exercise that privilege in accordance with the Lords commandments. Moral principle is as applicable in group action as in individual action.
When one decides to befriend or oppose a law, he exercises moral judgment. This judgment is also his personal political philosophy and code of justice. His judgment indicates whether he is just.
Ones political philosophy also contains his views on human freedom. Every act he would allow others their freedom to do is allowed by the laws he favors. Conduct which he wants to use force and the fear thereof to prohibit is forbidden by those laws. Thus, ones political philosophy is an expression of his beliefs on free agency. When we recall what the scriptures have to say regarding the fate of those who made the wrong decision on this matter in the pre-existence, we may want to be certain we do not use force to deny a rightful freedom here. This is the question at issue with respect to every law and every government action upon which we pass judgment.
It seems that one can jeopardize his eternal welfare through group [p. xvi] action as well as through individual conduct. Even though one acts in concert with others, and even though there may be thousands or millions who join with him in punishing the innocent, in judging unjustly and in opposing freedom, he is not thereby absolved from personal accountability.
If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine
There is probably no subject about which there is more dispute, disagreement, and contention than that of politics. Because of this, some may abstain from political activity. Others may desist for fear they might offend. Recognizing that this is a highly controversial subject, and that they might lose friends, business patronage, or social standing by becoming involved, they remain aloof.
Of course we should avoid contention both in the Church and without. Many scriptures affirm this and declare that the penalty therefore is exclusion from the Kingdom of God. Where the Lord dwells there will be harmony, as this statement regarding the City of Enoch indicates:
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind . . . (Moses 7:18)
But do we become one by keeping our differences to ourselves? Can we achieve unity by remaining silent? Obviously we cannot. To become of one heart and one mind, demands a free exchange of ideas and views in an atmosphere of love and harmony. Furthermore, we must recognize the impossibility of finding the correct answers to the problems of government anywhere except in the scriptures. Until we cast away the misleading precepts of men and recognize the Lord as our King and Lawgiver, we shall neither find the truth nor come to a unity. We can become united only on the basis of truth, and a knowledge thereof comes only from God. Our Lawgiver has given us a simple scripture on this. It is one universal standard applicable to individual action as well as political laws. Our Savior called it . . . the law and the prophets.
Having agreed upon these two fundamental truths, the next step should not be beyond our reach. It should not be difficult to come to a unity of belief in determining which laws are in conformity with the Golden Rule. That is the one universal standard for distinguishing good [p. xvii] from evil which all men of every nationality and in every age know and can apply. The Savior in His infinite wisdom has provided us with a short, simple, easily applied rule of conduct with respect to laws and government which will enable us to obey His commandment to be one. President McKay has said:
Next to being one in worshipping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States. (CR, Oct, 1939, p. 105)
Another observation regarding political unity is this by Brigham Young:
Let the Latter-day Saints be agreed upon their temporal and financial interests. I will ask the question: do you think the Father and the Son are agreed in their political views and their financial operations? Why every Christian in the world says yes, and we say yes; and we cannot be one, in the sense Jesus prayed for us to be, without this. (JD 11:278)
It is fervently hoped that what is contained herein will help Church members as well as others come to a unity of understanding regarding the laws and Constitution which the Lord has caused to be established. Our failure to do this soon may bring us down into destruction both temporally and spiritually.
One of the worst evils of which men are capable is to disobey the Lords commandments when acting through the agency of government. The punishments decreed for those who do so are among the most severe known. The reasons are easy to see.
When a government is prostituted from its God-ordained purposes so that instead of prohibiting evil, punishing the wicked, and protecting the work of the Lord, it does just the opposite; when, through its evil example it corrupts the hearts of all the people by teaching that good is evil and evil is good, it becomes the agent of Satan and causes abominations to reign. The Lord will not tolerate such a government. He will destroy it along with those who built it up because, as He has decreed, abominations shall not reign. This choice land has a special blessing for the righteous and a cursing for the wicked which only readers of the Book of Mormon are aware of. (Ether 2)
When the Lord establishes the government of a nation and grants unto its voting citizens the political opportunity to alter the laws He has [p. xviii] commanded them to obey, He thereby gives them the power to preserve liberty on the one hand, or to commit the awful wickedness described above on the other. He makes it possible for them to choose between His plan of freedom and Satans plan of slavery. In essence, those living under such a government are once more faced with the same issue which confronted us in the pre-earth life. However, since in this life we are walking by faith and without a full understanding of the issue, the penalties for choosing wrong will not be nearly as severe as before. Nonetheless, they are so painful that no one will want to suffer them.
The Lord has brought two groups of people to the Americas, established His Church among them and given them a government subject to the voice of the people. The first group to receive these blessings were the Nephites. They came here about six hundred years B.C. and lived under a monarchy for about five hundred years before the Lord gave them the privilege of self-rule. They governed themselves for about one hundred and twenty five years before they so completely corrupted their laws and prostituted the political power they possessed that the Lord found it necessary to destroy those who supported such wickedness.
The second group, who are called Gentiles by the Book of Mormon prophets, began arriving in the Americas about 1500 A.D. They lived under foreign monarchies for about three hundred years before the Lord saw fit to establish a constitutional system of self-government among them. While this system has already lasted about seventy years longer than did the Nephite government called the reign of the judges, there is much evidence that the Gentiles are using their power of self-rule to corrupt Gods laws, as did the Nephites. In this book we shall undertake to point out in what manner we are repeating their mistakes and what we must do to avoid their tragic fate.
The Nephites corrupted their laws twice. The record indicates that the first time the corruption occurred, it was due to the fact that many of the righteous people were seduced and deceived into doing so. It is concluded herein that the abandonment of the Lords laws in the United States is happening for somewhat the same reason.
It is entirely possible that the most pervasive and dangerous deception of this age is the belief that the laws of God do not apply to our political conduct. The only place the great majority of us use force to affect the freedom of others is through the agency of government, and so our political decisions are, in reality, decisions about human freedom. [p. xix]
It is suspected that, generally speaking, people do not realize that these are the issues they are deciding when they exercise their God- given powers of self-government. After life itself, freedom is the greatest gift God has to give. But with full political freedom comes the opportunity to choose Satans plan of slavery.
Herein we shall discuss these three basic truths concerning our political responsibilities: (1) With respect to those members of the Church who live under the Constitution of the United States, the Lord has commanded us to obey His will concerning the laws of the land. (2) This same group has been instructed to distinguish between the Lords laws which are constitutional and those which are not, for, as He has said, and as pertaining to law of man whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil. (3) The penalties we will suffer for failing to obey the Lords political commandments are most severe and include a loss of the power of the priesthood.
In discussing these truths we shall compare the features of the Nephite government called the reign of the judges with those of the Constitution of the United States. We shall develop a standard by which voting citizens may distinguish between those laws which are constitutional and those which are not. We shall contrast the political sins of the Nephites with those of the people living under the United States Constitution and point out that our living prophets are calling upon us to heed the warnings of the Book of Mormon in order to avoid the scourge and judgment which otherwise will come upon us.
There is only one Church on the earth today which was established by the Lord and has His approval. There is only one government and one set of laws which were divinely established in these latter days and had the Lords approval. Those were the laws of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Gentiles belonging to the Lords Church and living under the government He established are as much obligated to obey His commandments respecting the one organization as the other. Our failure to obey Gods will concerning the laws of the land will bring to pass our destruction as it did in the case of the Nephites. Only by coming to a unity of belief regarding our political responsibilities and then fulfilling them can we hope to avoid the fate of the Jaredite and Nephite nations which preceded us on this chosen land. [p. xx]
Those who would live in a Zion Society, must be of one heart and of one mind,
And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tulmults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of-ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings . . . (Moses 7:18, 4 Ne. 1:2, 15-18) [p. 1]