Mormons and Politics

I have seen many questions raised about the prospect of having a “Mormon” as President of The United States. These usually run along the lines of “Can we trust a man who believes that some dude in SLC literally speaks for God?” “Does this call his loyalty to the rule of law into question?” “Are these guys really just trying to set up some kind of theocracy?”

As far as the specific candidates, I see Romney as an 80% guy and Huntsman closer to 40% when it comes to agreeing with my particular political philosophy, but let’s see what the official position of the LDS Church is on such matters, particularly the relationship between church and government, before I give my real take on either of those two:

If you find your way out to lds.org and search for Government, among the many results you will find the following from The Guide to the Scriptures : Government — The Guide to the Scriptures

From that page, I selected this rather lengthy reference from section 134 of the Doctrine & Covenants:

Governments are instituted of God for the benefit of mankind, D&C 134:1–10

1 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.

2 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.

3 We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.

4 We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

5 We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

6 We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

7 We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.

8 We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense; that murder, treason, robbery, theft, and the breach of the general peace, in all respects, should be punished according to their criminality and their tendency to evil among men, by the laws of that government in which the offense is committed; and for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment.

9 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.

10 We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

While the entire bit here is quite remarkable, I find verses 9 & 10 to be of particular importance in answering the question as to whether the Mormons are planning some sort of theocratic take-over of the country. By the way, it also makes it rather clear where we stand with regards to the question of Sharia law.

For those who may not be familiar with the Doctrine & Covenants, it is a book that the LDS faith holds as scripture and is defined as “a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Although most of the sections are directed to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind and contain an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to them for their temporal well-being and their everlasting salvation.”

Further searches in the Doctrine & Covenants on the topic of the Constitution are equally instructive as to LDS thought on the proper role of government and a man’s obligation under the law of the land. Do read on and you will find that among the sects of this day, there is likely no other that holds the Constitution of the United States of America in higher regard.

From the same Guide to the Scriptures referenced above comes this under the heading of Constitution — The Guide to the Scriptures

In the Doctrine and Covenants, “the Constitution” refers to the Constitution of the United States of America, which was divinely inspired in order to prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel.

So let’s look a little deeper into two of the references on that page.

The first that I have chosen comes under the title: Constitutional law should be befriended, D&C 98:5–6. While these two verses are interesting, the neighboring content is perhaps even more so. For that reason , I have included not only verses 5 & 6, but 4 – 10

Doctrine and Covenants 98:4-10

4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.

5 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.

6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.

8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

9 Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.

10 Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

It is in verse 7 where things get interesting. One could interpret this as a declaration that any law not based on a firm Constitutional foundation is most probably contrary to the will of God. Not sure how many of my Mormon family, friends, and neighbors read it that way (Surely not Harry Reed!), but it does make a fairly strong originalist argument.

The second one that I have chosen to highlight is this: The Lord caused the Constitution to be established, D&C 101:77, 80. Again, the reference is only to verses 77 & 80, but I have included the bits in between as well.

Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80

77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;

78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.

80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

So, the Good Lord Himself had a hand in the drafting of the Constitution and slavery is not acceptable in His ideal society. Little wonder, then, that the early Mormons were not welcomed into Missouri nor a few other places along the way to their eventual home in Utah. A clear, scriptural declaration that God, who took a personal interest in the start-up of our little experiment in liberty, is no friend to the institution of slavery would likely disturb some of the political forces of the early 19th century American frontier. This was particularly the case in Missouri and Illinois where so many of the political questions of the day were decided by very slim margins. Introduce a nearly monolithic block of several thousand voters into that mix and whatever opinions they hold will very frequently win the day at the ballot box.

This fear still rules the political landscape in many places – that those #@%! Mormons are going to take over – including Utah and several of the surrounding states where there are large LDS populations.The slavery question was settled favorably a long time ago, but there are still a lot of contentious issues that affect our political and social landscape.  Most of us Mormons tend to be quite conservative both socially and politically; and we vote that way. Even out in the hinterlands of Ohio, in my local congregation, I would guess that we split 75% Republican, 20% independent, 5% Democrat. Among that crowd are a couple of outspoken liberals as well as a handful – maybe more – active TEA Party supporters, but internally, we all get along just fine.

Bottom line to all of this? If you are politically and socially conservative, we Mormons are your greatest allies at the ballot box. If you are not…then not so much. And I will not be voting Democrat, but am not yet enamored with any of the alternatives. I will support whomever runs from the right of the current administration, but I will hold out hope for something better. And as for my personal assessment of the two LDS aspirants? Huntsman should mount a primary challenge to Obama, perhaps as Hillary’s VP. Mitt? I could accept, but I would rather see him as Secretary of the Treasury and/or overseeing the dissolution of the Commerce Department.

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