Church and State
. . . As we have progressed the mist has been removed, and in relation to these matters, the Elders of Israel begin to understand that they have something to do with the world politically as well as religiously, that it is as much their duty to study correct political principles as well as religious, and to seek to know and comprehend the social and political interests of man, and to learn and be able to teach that which would be best calculated to promote the interests of the world.(1)
John Taylor, 1862, JD-9:340
God Concerned About Governments. No one can be more opposed to an unhallowed alliance [between Church and State] of this kind than ourselves; but while we would deprecate any alliance having a tendency to deprive the sons of liberty of their rights, we cannot but think that the course taken by many of our politicians is altogether culpablethat the division is extending too far, and that in our jealousy, lest a union of this kind should take place, we have thrust out God from all our political movements, and seem to regard the affairs of the nation as that over which the Great Jehovahs providence has no control, about which his direction or interposition never should be sought, and as a thing conducted and directed by human wisdom alone.
Either God has something to do in our national affairs, or he has not. If he has the oversight and charge of themif he raises up one kingdom and puts down another, according to the counsel of his own willif the powers that be, are ordained of God, then it becomes necessary for us, in all our political movements, to look to God for his benediction and blessing. But if God has nothing to do with them, we will act consistentlywe will cease to pray for the president, our legislators, or any of our rulers, and each one will pursue his own course, and God shall not be in all our thoughts, so far as politics are concerned. [p. 44]
By a careful perusal of the scriptures, however, we find that God in ancient days had as much to do with governments, kings and kingdoms, as he ever had to do with religion . . . .
Certainly, if any person ought to interfere in political matters, it should be those whose minds and judgments are influenced by correct principlesreligious as well as politicalotherwise those persons professing religion would have to be governed by those who make no profession; be subject to their rule, have the law and word of God trampled under foot, and become as wicked as Sodom, and as corrupt as Gomorrah, and be prepared for final destruction. (John Taylor, 1844, MS-5:8-9)
The Church Concerned About Government. If the influence of religion is the only source of hope for a world of peace, and if religion is made effective through the organized body called the Church, then it would seem that there is indicated for the Church a place of transcendent importance in the shaping of the future of the nations. This would seem to demonstrate the folly of saying that the Church has no concern with the civil institutions of the day. If it is not concerned with them, then it cannot carry into them the influence which it is its business to foster.
Furthermore, the Church lives and operates within the domain of civil governments and to a degree under their control. Its members are so controlled. People and institutions, too, are always influenced and modified and more or less molded by the thought and feeling which dominate the society in which they live, particularly the prescriptions of governments. We are caught up and held in the web of their practices and habits. With such powerful agencies in the shaping of our lives and affecting its own destiny, the Church must be concerned. (Albert E. Bowen, CR-4/43:111)
God Must Lead in Politics. In politics as in everything else we want to know the will of God, and then do it . . . . Do we not believe in the voice of the people? Yes; but we believe in the voice of God first, in the middle, and in the end . . . . We do not think we have wisdom to manage our political affairs without the interposition of the Most High . . . . I very much doubt the right of men to do as they please when they profess to be Latter- day Saints; because we have covenanted together to keep the commandments of God and obey the holy priesthood. (John Taylor, 1867, JD-11:355-6)
Spiritual Welfare and Political Matters. We must have in mind a skeleton of the facts that make up our problem even if [p. 45] they shall concern themselves with what we are now terming politics. Because today government has touched our daily fives so intimately in all their relationships, and all these governmental touchings have been so tabbed as political, that we cannot discuss anything relating to our material welfare and existence without laying ourselves liable to the charge that we are talking politics. Yet, where any matter touched by the State has to do with our spiritual welfare, our religion, the Church (meaning all churches) not only may but must be concerned. For as the Church may not interfere with the State, so the State may not interfere with the Church, subject to certain limitations. (J. Reuben Clark, CN-6/16/45)
Mans destiny and the means of achieving itthe gospelmust be taught even though it collides with political programs.
There is perhaps no basic doctrine of the Church that does not come in for objection and criticism somewhere along the line. (Albert E. Bowen, 1946, CWP-79)
Whatever affects the complete well-being of its members comes within the orbit of its solicitude. If in pursuit of its duty to advise and teach for their well-being, flowing from acceptance and living gospel principles, political notions are collided with that is merely an incidental consequence of its discharge of obligation and is entirely without political design. Though political sensitivity seems almost always intent upon looking for a chance to be wounded or a cause of offence, the Church is concerned solely with advocating its own program and principles. It cannot be deterred though these may have the purely collateral consequence of being at variance with some other systems. (Albert E. Bowen, 1946, CWP-77)
Last April, a few days following the annual conference, a lady spoke to me on the street and asked how I dared to mix politics and religion in a conference address. My reply was that I understand our religion is essentially a way of life and therefore covers in a broad way the whole field of moral human relations as indicated by articles eleven, twelve, and thirteen of our faith. As you all know, we do not limit our religion to the teaching of a set of theological doctrines. One of our fundamental teachings is that faith without works is dead. (Joseph F. Merrill, CR-10/50:121)
What I propose to say today may not be popular with everybody . . . . There always comes a time when unpleasant truths must be retold, even though the retelling disturbs the ease and quiet of a luxurious error. Today, seems to be such a time. On [p. 46] such occasions, the criticism, slander, misrepresentation that one gets, are of no consequence. (J. Reuben Clark, 1/24/45)
No Platform but Truth and Virtue. When the peoples affections are interwoven with a Republican government administered in all its purity, if the administrators act not in virtue and truth it is but natural that the people become disaffected with real-administration, and divide and sub-divide into parties, until the body politic is shivered to pieces. There is no other platform that any government can stand upon and endure, but the platform of truth and virtue.(2) (President Brigham Young, 1863, JD-10:108)
Joseph Smith on Politics. There is one thing more I wish to speak about, and that is political economy. It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound. Tis right, politically, for a man who has influence to use it, as well as for a man who has no influence to use his. From henceforth I will maintain all the influence I can get.(3) (Prophet Joseph Smith, 1843, DHC-5:286)
I am not come to tell you to vote this way, that way or the other. In relation to national matters, I want it to go abroad unto the whole world that every man should stand on his own merits. The Lord has not given me a revelation concerning politics. I have not asked Him for one. I am a third party, and stand independent and alone. I desire to see all parties protected in their rights . . . .
Brother Hyrum tells me this morning that he has had a testimony to the effect it would be better for the people to vote for Hoge; and I never knew Hyrum to say he ever had a revelation and it failed. Let God speak and all men hold their peace. (Prophet Joseph Smith, 1843, DHC-5:526) [p. 47]
In the next canvass, we shall be influenced by no party consideration . . . . but we shall go for our friends, our tried friends, and the cause of human liberty, which is the cause of God. We are aware that divide and conquer is the watchword with many, but with us it cannot be donewe love liberty too wellwe have suffered too much to be easily dupedwe have no catspaws amongst us. (Prophet Joseph Smith, 1841, DHC-4:480)
Gain Influence For Good. It is the duty of a Saint of God to gain all the influence he can on this earth, and to use every particle of that influence to do good.4. Every man, however obscure, however removed from the general recognition, is one of a group of men impressible for good, and impressible for evil, and it is in the nature of things that he cannot really improve himself without in some degree improving other men. (Charles Dickens, quoted by Leonard Read, Elements of Libertarian Leadership, p. 85)4 If this is not his duty, I do not understand what the duty of man is. (President Brigham Young, 1869, JD- 12:376)
I wish you ever to remember this when you think of yourselves, your brethren, or of any man that wants influence in the world. Always learn what an individual wants influence for. If he wants it for good, to promote peace and righteousness, never hinder his efforts, but promote them if you can. But when men try to gain influence for evil, to lead their fellow creatures in the way to death, exercise all the power you possess to abridge such influence; destroy it if you can. I calculate to take this course myself. (President Brigham Young, 1867, JD-12:18)
Vote for Those Who Sustain Liberty. Are we a political people? Yes, very political indeed. But what party do you belong to or would you vote for? I will tell you whom we will vote for: we will vote for the man who will sustain the principles of civil and religious liberty, the man who knows the most and who has the best heart and brain for a statesman; and we do not care a farthing whether he is a whig, a democrat, a barn-burner, a republican, a new light or anything else. These are our politics. (President Brigham Young, 1869, JD-13:149)
Elect Good and Honest Men. The welfare of the people they do not consider. What will be the best policy to pursue for the good of the people at large is not in all their thoughts.
Let the people see to it that they get righteous men to be their leaders, who will labour with their hands and administer to their own necessities, sit in judgment, legislate, and govern in righteousness; and officers that are filled with peace; and see to it that every man that goes forth among the people as a travelling officer is full of the fear of the Lord, and would rather do right at a sacrifice than do wrong for a reward. [p. 48]
. . . We want men to rule the nation who care more for and love better the nations welfare than gold and silver, fame, or popularity . . . .
Let the people lay the foundation for carrying out the Republican Government which was instituted by our fathers, instead of maintaining a government of anarchy, confusion, and strife . . . .
If the Government knew what the wants of the people were, they would take away the salaries of political demagogues, and stop their running and their stump preaching, from one end of the land to the other, to make proselytes to their cause. This would have a tendency to put an end to party names, to party jealousies, and to party conflicts forever. And the people should concentrate their feelings, their influence, and their faith, to select the best man they can find to be their President, if he has nothing more to eat than potatoes and salta man who will not aspire to become greater than the people who appoint him, but be contented to live as they live, be clothed as they are clothed, and in every good thing be one with them. (President Brigham Young, 1854, JD-7:12-3)
A Sin to Vote for Wicked Men. We engage in the election the same as in any other principle; you are to vote for good men, and if you do not do this it is a sin; to vote for wicked men, it would be sin. Choose the good and refuse the evil. Men of false principles have preyed upon us like wolves upon helpless lambs. Damn the rod of tyranny; curse it. Let every man use his liberties according to the Constitution. Dont fear man or devil; electioneer with all people, male and female, and exhort them to do the thing that is right. We want a President of the U. S., not a party President, but a President of the whole people; for a party President disfranchises the opposite party. Have a President who will maintain every man in his rights. (Hyrum Smith, 1844, DHC-6:323)
Statesmen and Principles Needed. Let us glance at the political field. Though the need for statesmen was perhaps never greater in the history of the country, the supply, perhaps, was never proportionately less. Certainly the supply of politicians, even demagogues, was never greater. I use the term politician in the sense of a holder or seeker of political office who regards getting and holding the office as the all-important thing and who schemes, bargains, and promises in order that he may get support and votes. His principles are often tenuous and easily changeable to suit the needs of the hour. The demagogue is an unprincipled politician. [p. 49]
The statesman is a man who would rather be right than president.(5) He is an able man of principles and of character who avoids compromising with his principles and disdains buying support by making promises to people who seek wholly selfish ends, for this is akin to the crime of bribery.
But it is probably true that the people themselves are responsible for the paucity of statesmen and the abundance of politicians and demagogues. (Joseph F. Merrill, CR-10/44:30-1)
Party Platforms. No political party is justified to continue in existence unless it clearly states the principles which it advocates, the platform upon which its candidates stand, and then with integrity, when and if elected, carry out those principles and live up to that platform. Except that be the case, we as Latter-day Saints should not align ourselves to any party, because we do not have the basis upon which we can make an intelligent decision. We must know what they stand for before we can favor them with our vote. (Henry D. Moyle, CR-4/52:36)
Is not the struggle for public office and power rapidly growing in our country? A friend of mine remarked that our politics had ceased to be based on a set of definite principles and clearly defined policies but on sails set to catch the popular winds. And is it not true that the responsibility in government of political parties is growing less, perhaps in about the same proportion as the struggle for office is growing greater? Ready-tongued and witty-minded ambitious politicians get nominated for office by stirring up the people with glowing promises of unearned favors and benefits to be secured at the expense of others than themselves. (Joseph F. Merrill, CN-12/26/36)
In the olden days political parties had definite creeds to which they adhered with more or less tenacity. There was a rather definite cleavage between the parties. They prided themselves on their principles. What is the situation today? To one far away it looks as if only party names persistedit is very difficult to discover any resemblance in substance between a party platform of today and then. The idea that it is better [p. 50] to be right than president seems to have gone completely into the discard. Then a politician was an individual who adhered to the principles of his party and sought valiantly to make them prevail; now he appears to be a person willing to advocate any popular doctrine as a means of getting into office and, once there, to take any stand on public questions that he thinks will keep him there.
So it happens that office holders, bearing the same party name, are often as far apart in their views as political poles can possibly be. They stand by the president in the campaign but when in office often throw him over-board and steer an independent course. Where is there adherence to principle, consistency in conduct, and stability in position with the average politician in America today? Recently a young man asked what I thought of politics as a career. My answer was that present trends in America being as they are, if he would rather be right than president, he would likely not get far in politics. (Joseph F. Merrill, 1936, E-39:342)
Political Candidates and the Truth. How I have looked at the meandering paths of politicians! See one man spend a thousand dollars to get a small office. Another ten thousand, another a hundred thousand. Intriguing and planning here and there. What for? To deceive somebody or other! Why not tell the truth right out? Would it not be easier? It would. Politicians would not be under the necessity of using so many arguments to make their hearers and constituents believe that they are the very men wanted, and that their opponents are the very men not wanted. (President Brigham Young, 1870, JD-14:76-7)
Fomenters of Discord and Power Seekers. Unity is power; and when I reflect on the importance of it to the stability of all government, I am astounded at the silly moves of persons and parties to foment discord in order to ride into power on the current of popular excitement; nor am I less surprised at the stretches of power or restrictions of right which too often appear as acts of legislators to pave the way to some favorite po litical scheme as destitute of intrinsic merit as a wolfs heart is of the milk of human kindness. A Frenchman would say, Presque tout aimer richesses et pouvoir. (Almost all men like wealth and power.) (Prophet Joseph Smith, 1844, DHC-6:198)
One hears of legislators in state and nation who talk one way and vote another. Among friends and in confidence they condemn policies and the laws projected to effectuate them, yet officially they vote the passage of those laws merely because they fear the course of right, as they see it, might not be popular [p. 51] and to follow it might terminate their official careers. They would rather violate their consciences than lose the glamor and power of official position. Such men constitute a far greater menace to our countrys safety than do all the propagandists of alien philosophies put together. We need fear no invasion from without so long as we are sound to the core within. (Albert E. Bowen, CR-10/38:68)
Some Good Advice. It is important that our liberties be preserved, and all should be interested, and it seems to me that we can be consistent Church members and take part in politics, while we accord to others the privileges we claim for ourselves. We should be deeply concerned in the welfare of the nation, and sustain good and great men, as the Lord has commanded us, in order that we may continue to enjoy freedom . . . .
Remember that, after the great political nations of this world have crumbled and fallen to decay, the Church of Jesus Christ, with which you are identified, will be in existence, and the Master Himself will continue to be its head. Let us not become so worked up in our feelings that we shut our eyes to the greater blessings, to the most important thing, the salvation of our souls.(6) Let us not ally ourselves with bodies of men who would tear down and break in pieces this government, that was founded under the inspiration of God the Eternal Father. We cannot belong to any political party that is opposed to this free government and be consistent Latter-day Saints. (George Albert Smith, CR-4/14:11)
Allegiance to Constitution Overrides Party Loyalty. Now, I am not caring today, for myself, anything at all about a political Party tag. So far as I am concerned, I want to know what the man stands for. I want to know if he believes in the Constitution; if he believes in its free institutions; if he believes in its liberties, its freedom. I want to know if he believes in the Bill of Rights. I want to know if he believes in the separation of sovereign power into the three great divisions: the Legislative, the Judicial, the Executive. I want to know if he believes in the mutual independence of these, the one from the other. When I find out these things, then I know who it is who should receive my support, and I care not what his party tag is, because, brethren, if we are to live as a Church, and progress, and have the right to worship as we are worshipping here today, we must [p. 52] have the great guarantees that are set up by our Constitution. There is no other way in which we can secure these guarantees. You may look at the systems all over the world where the principles of our Constitution are not controlling and in force, and you will find there dictatorship, tyranny, oppression, and, in the last analysis, slavery . . . . Today, our duty transcends party allegiance; our duty today is allegiance to the Constitution as it was given to us by the Lord. (J. Reuben Clark, CR-10/42:59)
Error Not Condoned. 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 the Twelve, and other officers who constitute the General Authorities of the Church, preside over members of both political parties.
The President is President of the Church, 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 . . . . This does not mean, however, that error will be condoned. Teachings and ideologies subversive to the fundamental principles of this great Republic, which are contrary to the Constitution of the United States, or 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. (President David O. McKay, CR-10/52:129-30)
Gospel Unites People Politically. When we see a religion, and one which is claimed to be the religion of Christ, and it will not govern men in their politics, it is a very poor religion, it is very feeble, very faint in its effects, hardly perceptible in the life of a person. The religion that the Lord has revealed from heaven unites the hearts of the people, and when they gather together, no matter where they are from, they are of one heart and one mind . . . .
The religion of heaven unites the hearts of the people and makes them one. You may gather a people together, and no [p. 53] matter how widely they differ in politics, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will make them one even if among them were found members of all the political parties in the country. I do not know how many different political parties now exist in the country. . . . If members of all these various organizations were to obey the Gospel and gather together, the religion of heaven would clear their hearts of all political rubbish and make them one in voting for principles and measures, instead of men, and I think that any religion that will not do this is very feeble in its effects. (President Brigham Young, 1871, JD-14:159)
There are a great many things associated also with the Kingdom that it is proper should be presented to us from time to time, that we may be enabled to act and to operate together and be one in our feelings religious, one in our feelings social, and one in our feelings political; for all these things are mixed up and intimately connected with the position we occupy as the Saints of the Most High God in the building up of His Zion here upon the earth. There are things spiritual, there are things denominated temporal, there are things also spoken of as being eternal in their nature, and all these subjects, in all their various ramifications, demand more or less of our attention. President John Taylor, 1879, JD-20:350)
Gospel to Revolutionize World. The world will be revolutionized by the preaching of the Gospel and the power of the Priesthood, and this work we are called to do. In its progress every foolish and unprofitable custom, every unholy passion, every foolish notion in politics and religion, every unjust and oppressive law, and whatever else that is oppressive to man, and that would impede his onward progress to the perfection of the Holy Ones in eternity, will be removed until everlasting righteousness prevails over the whole earth. (President Brigham Young, 1862, JD-9:309)
Citizenship Responsibility a Spiritual Obligation. Every Latter-day Saint has spiritual obligations in four basic areas: his home, his church, his job, and his citizenship responsibility. Each of these areas should receive consistent attention although not necessarily equal time. Are we doing our duty in these important fields? What about our citizenship responsibilityour obligation to safeguard our freedom and preserve the Constitution . . . .
The enemy is amongst and upon us. Zion must awake and arouse herself. We, the elders of Israel can be and should be, the leaven in the loaf for freedom . . . . [p. 54]
May we as a free people face courageously the challenging responsibility which faces us. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke) We are not here to sit by complacently while our birthright of freedom is exchanged for a mess of socialist-communist pottage. (Ezra Taft Benson, CR-4/63)
A Criteria for Selecting Candidates. The First Presidency has previously [CN-10/24/64] issued a statement urging you as citizens to participate in the great democratic processes of our national election in accordance with your honest political convictions.
We have urged you, above all, to try to support good and conscientious candidates of either party who are aware of the great dangers inherent in communism and who are truly dedicated to the constitution in the tradition of our fathers. We have suggested also that you should support candidates who pledge their sincere fidelity to our liberty m a liberty which aims at the preservation of both personal and property rights.
We again urge you to study the issues, analyze the candidates on these grounds and then exercise your franchise as free men and women. We urge you not to sell your birthright for a mess of pottage.
In giving this advice, we leave it to you to make your own choice, for the Church as such does not endorse either party. Recent receptions accorded by the First Presidency to leaders of the different parties do not simply any official endorsement by the Church. (First Presidency, DN-11/2/64)
Let us in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as citizens of this beloved land, use our influence to see that men and women of upright character, or unimpeachable honor, are elected to office. (President David O. McKay, CR-4/64:6)
1. In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree . . . . The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe. (Thomas Jefferson, Works 8:390-1)
2. Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined, too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments . . . for liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery. To carry this evenness is partly owing to the constitution, and partly to the magistracy; where either of these fail, government will be subject to convulsions . . . where both meet, the government is like to endure. (William Penn, 1682, quoted by Felix Morley, The Power in the People, p. 60)
3. How often has public calamity been arrested on the very brink of ruin, by the seasonable energy of a single man? Have we no such man amongst us? I am as sure as I am of my being, that one vigorous mind without office, without situation, without public functions of any kind, (at a time when the want of such a thing is felt, as I am sure it is) I say, one such man, confiding in the aid of God, and full of just reliance in his own fortitude, vigor, enterprise, and perseverance, would first draw to him some few like himself, and then that multitudes, hardly thought to be in existence, would appear and troop about him. (Edmund Burke, Works 5:124)
4. Every man, however obscure, however removed from the general recognition, is one of a group of men impressible for good, and impressible for evil, and it is in the nature of things that he cannot really improve himself without in some degree improving other men. (Charles Dickens, quoted by Leonard Read, Elements of Libertarian Leadership, p. 85)
5. Though I prize as I ought the good opinion of my fellow citizens, yet, if I know myself, I would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue. While doing what my conscience informed me was right, as it respected my God, my country, and myself, I could despise all the party clamor and unjust censure, which must be expected from some, whose personal enmity might be occasioned by their hostility to the government . . . . And certain I am, whensoever I shall be convinced the good of my country requires my reputation to be put in risk, regard for my own fame will not come in competition with an object of so much magnitude. (George Washington, Writings 11:326)
6. I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction, is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. (Thomas Jefferson, Works 2:585) [p. 55]