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Date: 04 Aug 2006
Time: 19:22:04 -0400
Remote Name: Webmaster
Subject to Kings, Presidents, Rulers and Magistrates
A subject of interest for many years, and especially in this day is the emphasis upon the Twelfth Article of Faith as the epitome of how the Lord’s Saints should sustain their government, wherever they should be. It states:
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
This, of course is backed-up with other scriptures such as:
We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside,... (D&C 134:5)
Let no man break the law of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land. (D&C 58:21)
To take the above out of context would be to state unequivocally that we need to follow the laws of whatever land we might live in irrespective of whether they are repugnant to our own beliefs or the law of God. Then first, perhaps we need to look into the proper context of these statements to determine if this is the literal meaning or is there a deeper meaning since the justices in such a belief seem to strike at the very roots of our faith.
First we must look to how the Articles of Faith came to be, and as to whether they are the absolute revelation and law of God. We know from history that the Articles of Faith were penned by Joseph Smith in 1835 in response to queries as to the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was not reported as revelation then, but certainly based upon those things that had been revealed to him up to that time, nor was it put forth as the catechism of the Church, as other churches in Christendom had done. It was instead meant as the epitome of Church beliefs at that time. Even its very context provided for change as the ninth Article itself states that “...He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants was unanimously approved on August 17, 1835 and Section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants was received even earlier, August 1, 1831. So, what might be called a definitive precedent, had been set. Yet this was reported in a confidential letter to Church Secretary, George S. Gibbs, at his request, from body guard and close confidant of the Prophet, Benjamin F. Johnson:
And now as to your question, “How early did the Prophet Joseph Smith practice polygamy?” I hardly know how wisely to reply, for the truth at times may better be withheld; but as what I am writing is to be published under the strict scrutiny of the wisest, I will say, that the revelation of the Marriage Covenant and the Law of Plural Marriage, was not the first revelation of that law received and practiced by the Prophet. In 1835 at Kirtland, I learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, “that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.” This, at the time, did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but everyone, seemed partial, for the amiability of her character, and it was whispered even that Joseph loved her. After this, there was some trouble with Jared Carter, and through Brother Sherman, I learned that “as he had build himself another house, he wanted another wife,” which Joseph would not permit.
And there was some trouble with Oliver Cowdery, and whisper said it was relating to a girl then living in his (the Prophet’s) family; and I was afterwards told by Warren Parish, that he himself and Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph and Fannie Alger were as husband and wife, for they were spied upon and found together. And I can now see that at Nauvoo, so at Kirtland, that the suspicion or knowledge of the Prophet’s disruption at Kirtland, although at the time there was little said publicly on the subject. (Benjamin F. Johnson Letter to Church Secretary, George S. Gibbs, 1903)
Others, including succeeding prophets, also bear record that the initial revelation and living of plural marriage occurred in conjunction with the New Translation of the Bible begun by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in 1830.
So what was all this to prove? Only that plural marriage was known about and lived from the early to middle 1830’s and on, and this contrary to the “laws of the land,” even when the Lord, through this same prophet was by modern interpretation saying that we will obey all laws regardless if they are repugnant to the laws of God. To show this, we have referenced the laws below, in which Joseph Smith and the Saints lived under, that were against bigamy and polygamy and in existence from that time to the time of the Manifesto in 1890:
Vermont State Law; Section 23, passed 1797 (Statutes of Vermont, R1797, p. 165)
Laws of the State of New York; Chapter XXIV, passed 7th February, 1788 - Revised and passed at the 36th session of the Legislature, passed 1813. (pp. 113-114)
Ohio State Law; 1st Session of the 22nd General Assembly of the State of Ohio begun and held in the town of Columbus, December 1, 1823. Volume XXII, entitled: An act for the punishment of crimes, Section 7 - Bigamy, passed February 26, 1824. (p. 159)
Laws of the State of Missouri; Section 76, Revised and Digested by the Authority of the General Assembly, passed 1825 (pp. 305-306)
Illinois State Law; Revised Laws of Illinois, Section 121, passed 1833 (pp. 198-199) which states:
“Bigamy consists in the having of two wives or two husbands at one and the same time, knowing that the former husband or wife is still alive. If any person or persons within this state, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons within this state, being married, or who shall hereafter marry, do at any time marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, the person so offending shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned in the penitentiary not exceeding two years. It shall not be necessary to prove either of the said marriages by the register or certificate thereof, or other record evidence; but the same may be proved by such evidence as is admissible to prove a marriage in other cases, and when such second marriage shall have taken place without this state, cohabitation in this state after such second marriage shall be deemed the commission of the crime of bigamy, and the trial in such case may take place in the county where such cohabitation shall have occurred. Nothing herein contained shall extend to any person or persons whose husband or wife shall have been continually absent from such person or persons for the space of five years together, prior to the said second marriage, and he or she not knowing such husband or wife to be living within that time.”
United States Laws:
Anti-Polygamy Law of July 8, 1862
Poland Bill of June 23, 1874
Edmunds Law of March 22, 1882
Edmunds-Tucker Law of Mar. 3, 1887
We did not take the space to print the text of all these laws, but none differ at all from the concept expressed in the Illinois law, that to have or be married to more than one wife or husband at the same time, without benefit of divorce, or to cohabitate with more than one spouse was a crime punishable by fine and or imprisonment. To be sure, this was a “law of the land” that Joseph Smith and others violated with the full sanction of the very same Prophet that gave the above revelations.
Was Joseph Smith a hypocrite? He most emphatically was not! That he violated this and other “laws of the land” is certain as when he gave many revelations and statements regarding the fact that the Kingdom of God, which had included the Church, would grow and overthrow this and all other governments. For this he was charged with treason, a “law of the land,” many times. He was eventually imprisoned and murdered for violating a “law of the land,” for his part in abridging Freedom of the Press.
Were we to put things into their proper context we would overcome any seeming discrepancy. First off we should examine the Lord’s revelation in full, starting with D&C 134 as quoted above:
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.
Having fully revealed that verse we now revert back to the beginning of that Section to better put things in context:
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 [ed. note: in relation to the benefit of man, not of laws.], both in making laws and administering them, for the good and benefit of society.
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. (D&C 134:1 & 2)
On August 6, 1833, the Lord gave this revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
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.
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.
I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law [ed. note: constitutional law] also maketh you free.
Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.
Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men [ed. note: and laws] ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. (D&C 98:4-10)
It should be noted that nowhere here are we told to sustain evil men or laws. Nor does it tell us to “try to elect” honest and wise men and be contented when within the present corrupt system we cannot, even if it was, at least at one time, the voice of the people that brought the present system to fruition. It says to “seek” and “uphold” honest and wise men. This should be done even if they cannot be elected, but we should find ourselves in their company and supporting them in their opinions that are righteous. That anything more or less than this “Perfect Law of Liberty”, as at least partially embodied in our original inspired Constitution, cometh of evil is certain and cannot be countenanced by any good people, regardless of their lack of numbers, is certain. In fact, the scriptures tell us that it is possible, although not often likely for a majority to choose evil, even in the type of “democracy” as we have today:
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law - to do your business by the voice of the people.
And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgements of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 29:26-27)
It is interesting that just 62 years after King Mosiah said this, that is exactly what happened:
For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than those who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted. (Helaman 5:2)
Does this sound vaguely like this day in which we live? Shall the righteous continue to suffer and be destroyed by the wicked? I should say not, for the Lord has said:
For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. (1 Nephi 22:16)
So the righteous will not be destroyed, but will be protected by their own active resolve:
For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire. (2 Nephi 30:10)
That this division will be caused by the same matter that caused division in the pre-mortal existence is without a doubt, and has been testified of through His inspired servants.
It was the struggle over free agency that divided us before we came here; it may well be the struggle over the same principle that will deceive and divide us again. (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, p. 338)
This shows an active response on the part of the righteous to separate themselves from the wicked and by so doing, be labeled “lawbreakers”. That separation must transpire, for the Lord has told us that this is a:
...land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people. (Ether 2:7)
And thus the Lord did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands; and he commanded that whoso should possess the land should possess it unto the Lord, or they should be destroyed when they were ripened in iniquity; for upon such, saith the Lord: I will pour out the fulness of my wrath. (Ether 9:20)
Nowhere above does it point out that the Lord justifies a government when it is evil. Nor does he indicate that the righteous should “bear with it and work within the system”. On the contrary, He will not countenance it, nor does he indicate a desire for His righteous servants to countenance it, but instead part themselves from it in both word and deed.
This is indeed a choice land preserved by the Lord. We know by revelation that the Lord took an active role in these last days to give us a righteous government:
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. (D&C 101:80)
Later, these same men appeared to Wilford Woodruff in the St. George temple and said:
... We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remain true to it and faithful to God. (St. George Temple Records)
That these men are to be revered as inspired, just and good, is without a doubt. Yet they inspired and took part in the very acts that such a literal interpretation of the Twelfth Article of Faith supposedly condemns. The King, the “legitimate” head of their government, as well as many of their own contemporaries accused them of TREASON, SEDITION and REVOLUTION! Bouviers Law Dictionary defines sedition as:
...a revolt against legitimate authority, the raising of commotions and disturbances in the state or advocacy or suggestion by word, act or writing of public disorder or resistance to the government.
Even John Dickinson, Continental Congress delegate from Pennsylvania, who wrote many “Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer” criticizing the unjust British government, refused to sign the Declaration of Independence finding it unbecoming of a Englishman to rebel from the greatest government in all the world. These great patriots and others like them were charged as criminals by the “legitimate” government after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and some even before. Many were punished by the “legitimate” government in having family members imprisoned, homes and properties destroyed and all being hunted as traitors to that same “legitimate” government. All suffered something, and many much, including death, as they pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to independence (revolution) from that “legitimate” government. Still I have yet to find in the words of prophets the likes of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, and others, anything but praise for great men who failed to sustain and uphold their “legitimate” government. On the contrary, the Lord’s servants have said:
...those men who laid the foundation of this American Government were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth... We, the blessed beneficiaries of the Constitution, face difficult days in America... May God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots who pledged their lives, fortunes, and their sacred honor. May we be equally valiant and as free. (October 1987, General Conference Report)
It would be even more insightful to read other words of these great patriots, even the man that authored the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. He wrote after independence had been won and rebellions were now going on against the new government:
I like a little rebellion now and then. The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on occasion that I wish it to always be kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all... God forbid we should every twenty years be without such a rebellion! What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. (Miracle at Philadelphia, Catherine Drinker Bowen, p. 46)
A strong statement indeed, but one which is essential to liberty, an insight that has been lost in a world of false security and the philosophy that we must just be content and get along quietly. That these inspired men felt no aversion to not sustaining and upholding evil laws and government is without a doubt.
Have other good and righteous individuals been charged and even convicted as criminals by the “laws of the land” obviously not sustaining evil laws? Yes, even the greatest of them all was charged and convicted of treason, with his convicted crime printed on a sign above his head upon his execution, as was the practice in that day. The “crime” read, “The King of the Jews.” Previous to his conviction by the “legitimate” Roman government of treason, He was convicted by the “legitimate” Jewish sub-government, the Sanhedrin, of blasphemy and other seditious crimes. Did He commit treason against God and righteous government? No! Did he commit treason against Rome and evil government? By their laws He most certainly did. Did He blasphemy against God and the “Law of Liberty”? No, absolutely not! Did He blasphemy against the evil doctrines of the Sanhedrin and their unrighteous dominion over the people? He absolutely did! Did He thus submit Himself to the laws of man and accept His “just” punishment for His “crimes”? He did not. Instead He ultimately submitted himself to the law and will of His Father in Heaven and drank the bitter cup to fulfill the atonement and the salvation of all mankind. But even so, John Taylor said:
Notwithstanding all these cruelties are practiced against us, we do not feel that, as Latter-day Saints, we should mourn because of them. We should mourn because of our weaknesses, follies and sins, and repent of them. But to be persecuted, to be discriminated against, to be imprisoned and abused are not causes of sorrow to true Saints; they are causes of rejoicing. If, in the great hereafter, we expect to be admitted to the society of Prophets and Apostles, and holy men and women, ought we not to be willing to endure persecution, whose liberty and life were not in almost constant jeopardy? ... With few exceptions they were all punished, deprived of liberty and of life, in the sacred name of law. Even the holiest Being that ever trod the earth, the great Redeemer of mankind Himself, was crucified between two thieves to satisfy Jewish law.
...The Savior Himself had it in His power to compromise with His enemies and escape the cruel and ignominious death inflicted upon Him. Abraham might have bowed to the gods of his idolatrous father, and needed no angel to rescue him from his impending doom. Daniel and his three brethren, also, might have submitted to the decree and law of the ruling powers under which they lived, and escaped the fiery furnace and the den of lions. Their refusals to obey the decree and law doubtless appeared to those who had not the knowledge of God which they possessed, as acts of wicked obstinacy that should summarily be punished. But had they, to escape the threatened penalty, obeyed these edicts, posterity would have lost the benefit of their example, and the great God would not have been glorified before their contemporaries as He was by their acts. Instead of their names being, as now, radiant with light and resplendent with heroism, they would, had they reached us, been covered with odium, and mentioned in the same category with the Jews, concerning whom the Prophet Jeremiah said: “They bend their tongues like their bow for lies; but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord.” (Pres. John Taylor, Epistle to All Officers and Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 6, 1885)
These are the scriptural examples of righteous men defying the authority of evil government. The first of these are know as the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego - their true names being Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Nebuchadnezzar, the King, and “legitimate” government made an image of gold and send a herald that cried aloud:
...To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye shall fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:4-6)
This was the “law of the land” as given by the “legitimate” government. To this Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused and thus denied to uphold and sustain the king. When the king called them before him and demanded to know if this was true as reported to him. They boldly stated to him:
...we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. ...be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16 & 18)
This was absolute defiance to the king himself and refusing to sustain him in this matter. Not, having once been caught, submitting to the government’s judgment and accepting the consequences of their previous crime. They were adamant, not to submit then or ever, to unrighteous and evil law. Of course we know that God protected them in this matter, they seeing that obedience to God’s law was more important than obedience to the law of man, even at the peril of their own lives. A truth which is lost in the otherwise strict interpretation of the Twelfth Article of Faith.
The next example is that of Daniel himself. The “legitimate” government passed and signed into law:
..that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of [the king],...shall be cast into the den of lions. (Daniel 6:7)
What was his response to this unrighteous law?:
Now when Daniel knew that this writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Daniel 6:10)
He knowingly disobeyed the “law of the land” and cared not to hide it, knowing that his windows were open for anyone to view. Of course he was caught and was convicted of his “crime” against the “law of the land” and thrown into the lion’s den to be killed. Once again, the Lord protected his righteous servant who had failed to sustain “the law of the land”, thus showing His approval of action that is deemed by some as against the Twelfth Article of Faith. In regards to this example and the 58th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants, President Joseph Fielding Smith had this very clearly to say:
We are told here that no man need break the laws of the land who will keep the laws of God. But this is further defined by the passage which 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. 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 he should pursue under the command of God in relation to the observance of the laws of the land...
...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 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? (JD 23:70-71, April 9, 1882)
Another example was Moroni. Indeed, he even threatened the very head of government when he thought Pahoran had become evil. In a letter he said:
And I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.
Yea, behold I do not fear your power nor your authority, but it is my God whom I fear; and it is according to his commandments that I do take my sword to defend the cause of my country, and it is because of your iniquity that we have suffered so much loss.
Behold, it is time, yea, the time is now at hand, that except ye do bestir yourselves in the defence of your country and your little ones, behold, I come unto you and visit you even to your utter destruction.
Behold, I wait for assistance from you, and, except ye do administer unto our relief, behold, I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and smite you with the sword, insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of freedom.
For behold, the Lord will not suffer that ye shall live and wax strong in your iniquities to destroy his righteous people.
Behold, can you suppose that the Lord will spare you and come out in judgment against the Lamanites, when it is the tradition of their fathers that has caused their hatred, yea, and it has been redoubled by those who have dissented from us, while your iniquity is for the cause of your love of glory and the vain things of the world?
Ye know that ye do transgress the laws of God, and ye do know that ye do trample them under your feet. Behold, the Lord said unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.
Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country. And thus I close my epistle. (Alma 60:27-33 & 36)
It hardly sounds as if Moroni is sustaining and upholding the “laws of the land” and their “kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates.” It would seem he is calling for “treason, sedition and revolution,” even if he was mistaken in his accusal of Pahoran with the other wicked leaders. If Pahoran had been evil he might have said, “But you are bound to sustain me as your chief governor and the laws of the land against seditious acts.” Instead he wrote back to Moroni explaining his own situation and his support of the righteous actions Moroni had proposed. Was Moroni the least bit condemned or chastised by the Lord for his seditious words or actions? I’ll let, you the reader, be the judge:
Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. (Alma 48:17)
That reads like an admonition to be like unto Moroni, not the opposite, literal interpretation of the Twelfth Article of Faith. It tells us above that if the government leaders do not repent of their iniquities, we shall go against them in battle, not be complacent and sustaining them in their evil acts, or even wait patiently for the Lord to handle the situation while we do nothing but become all the more slaves.
There are many more examples of the Lord’s servants going against the “legitimate” government in such a way. Abinadi, Alma, Teancum, etc., all with one thing in mind - the supremacy of the laws of God, not men. But how could all this be in light of the Twelfth Article of Faith? What is it that makes our Founding Fathers and others different from, for example, the king-men in Moroni’s day? It is clear:
And it came to pass that those who were desirous that Pahoran should be dethroned from the judgment-seat were called king-men, for they were desirous that the law should be altered in a manner to overthrow the free government and to establish a king over the land. (Alma 51-5)
The necessary difference is the overthrow of free government, for kings come in varying forms, some more subtle than others, but this is a subject for another article. What we must do is recognize danger toward our free agency, “the Perfect Law of Liberty”, in this case even our inspired Constitution. As members of the Lord’s Church:
We have been instructed again and again to reflect more intently on the meaning and importance of the Constitution and to adhere to its principles. What have we done about this instruction? Have we read the Constitution and pondered it? Are we aware of its principles? Could we defend it? Can we recognize when a law is Constitutionally unsound? ...The Church will not tell us how to do this.
...We must, with sadness, say that we have not been wise in keeping the trust of our Founding Fathers. For the past two centuries, those who do not prize freedom have chipped away at every major clause of our great Constitution until today we face a crisis of great dimensions... [An] example of this abandonment of fundamental principles can be found in recent trends in the U.S. Supreme Court.
To all who have discerning eyes, it is apparent that the republican form of government established by our noble forefathers cannot long endure once fundamental principles are abandoned. Momentum is gathering for another conflict - a repetition of the crisis of two hundred years ago. This collision of ideas is worldwide. Another monumental moment is soon to come. (Ezra Taft Benson, The Constitution - A Heavenly Banner, 1986, pgs. 30, 26 & 27)
President Benson gave some sound advice concerning the need for us to uphold and support only Constitutional laws. Here are some other statements by him and others:
The issue is obedience to God or submission to man; choice between a divine decree about which they have no doubt, and a human enactment that they fully believe to be unconstitutional and void, is a matter of conscience. The course of the faithful and brave is so plain that it needs no finger post to point the way, nor urging voice to whisper “walk therein.” (Charles W. Penrose, Deseret News, July 7, 1886)
Men do not enjoy all their rights in any government now existing. They waive the right by appointing men to make laws for the safety and convenience of the whole, allowing the majority to govern. But this is no criterion, or standard to suit the wants and capacities of the people. Every man is above the law, and can act as he pleases if he does not interfere with his neighbor’s right.
This is clearly taught in the great foundation of all law, the ten commandments. Human law, the artificial contrivance of the intellect, is not binding upon any honest man; nor should it be any more than the creeds and dogmas of bigots. Laws are for transgressors. (John Taylor, The Nauvoo Neighbor, 23 Apr. 1845)
I believe that God has endowed men with certain inalienable rights as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and that no majority, however great, may morally limit or destroy these; that the sole function of government is to protect life, liberty, and property, and anything more than this is usurpation and oppression. (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, Pg 299)
This, then, is our position towards the Government of the United States and towards the world, to put down iniquity, and exalt virtue; to declare the word of God he revealed unto us, and build up his Kingdom upon the earth. And, know all men, Government, Nations, Kindreds, Tongues, and People, that this is our calling, intention, and design. We aim to live our religion, and have communion with our God. We aim to clear our skirts of the blood of this generation, by our faithfulness in preaching the truth of heaven in all plainness and simplicity; and I have often said, and repeat it now, that all other considerations of whatever name or nature, sink into insignificance in comparison with this. To serve God and keep his commandments, are first and foremost with me. If this is higher law, so be it. As it is with me, so should it be with every department of the Government; for this doctrine is based upon the principles of virtue and integrity; with it, the Government, her Constitution, and free institutions are safe; without it no power can avert their speedy destruction. It is the life-giving power to the Government; it is the vital element on which she exists and prospers; in absence she sinks to rise no more. (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 360)
We profess to believe that the Kingdom of God will overrule and prevail over every other power and every other form of government, and that it will go on from strength to strength, from power to power, from intelligence to intelligence, from knowledge to knowledge; and that in the due course of events it will rule over the whole earth, until every creature upon the earth and under the earth and on the sea will be subject to the law of God, to the kingdom of God, to the dominion of God, and to the rule of the holy priesthood. This is our profession. We believe it: at any rate we profess to believe it; and if we do not, we are hypocrites. (John Taylor, JD 1:371 & 372, Apr. 19, 1854)
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. (Henry D. Moyle, Conference Report, Apr. 1952, pp. 35-36)
...Preach that the plan involves the belief that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man. Man was not born for the benefit of the state. Preach that no government can exist in peace, and I quote from the Doctrine and Covenants, 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. (David O. McKay, Conference Report, Apr. 1952, pg. 15)
...all laws that are proper and correct, and all obligations entered into which are not violative of the constitution should be kept inviolate. But if they are violative of the constitution, then the compact between the rulers and the ruled is broken and the obligation ceases to be binding. Just as a person agreeing to purchase anything and to pay a certain amount for it, if he receives the article bargained for, and does not pay the price, he violates his contract; but if he does not receive the article he is not required to pay for it. (John Taylor, JD 26:350)
We should fully recognize that government is no plaything. As George Washington warned, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence -- it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master!” It is an instrument of force, and unless our conscience is clear that we would not hesitate to put a man to death, put him in jail, or forcibly deprive him of his property for failing to obey a given law, we should oppose it. (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, p. 288)
There are certain principles that are inherent in man, that belong to man, and that were enunciated in an early day, before the United States government was formed, and they are principles that rightfully belong to men everywhere. They are described in the Declaration of Independence as unalienable rights, one of which is that men have a right to live; another is that they have a right to pursue happiness; and another is that they have a right to be free and no man has authority to deprive them of those God-given rights, and none but tyrants would do so. These principles, I say, are unalienable in man; they belong to him; they existed before any constitutions were framed or any laws made. Men have in various stages striven to strip their fellow men of these rights, and dispossess them of them. And hence the wars, the bloodshed, and carnage that have spread over the earth. We therefore are not indebted to the United States for these rights. We are free as men born into the world, having the right to do as we please, to act as we please, as long as we do not transgress constitutional law nor violate the rights of others. (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, pp. 228-229)
Well now, those statements, which are just a very small sampling, are really ambiguous aren’t they?! Don’t you wish that the servants of God would have clearly stated their minds in regard to which we should obey, man’s law or God’s law in a conflict? If the words of the Lord’s servants are not sufficient, perhaps a few words from the very lawmakers themselves:
All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void. (Marbury v. Madison, 5US [2 Cranch] 137, 174, 176)
An unconstitutional act is not law; it confers no rights,; it imposes no duties; affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it had never been passed. (Norton v. Shelby County, 118 US 425, p. 442)
The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality, no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of it’s enactment, and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it. (16 Am. Jur. 2d, Sec. 177, late 2d, Sec. 256)
Pretty vague, isn’t it? Other than by example, do the scriptures specifically tell us that we are to “take the law into our own hands” when the government has failed?:
We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded. (D&C 134:11)
We would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us to do so.
But behold he doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver us.
Therefore,..., let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, ..., let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our redeemer and our God. (Alma 61, 12-14)
If our enemies are determined to oppress us and deprive us of our rights and privileges as they have done, and if the Authorities that be on the earth will not assist us in our rights and not give us that protection which the Laws and Constitution of the United States and of this state guarantees unto us: then we will claim them from a higher power from heaven and from God Almighty and the Constitution and I SWEAR I will not deal so mildly with them again for the time has come when forbearance is no longer a virtue, and if you are again taken unlawfully, you are at liberty to give loose to Blood and Thunder, but act with Almighty Power. (The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 217)
Does God need to clarify it with a trump from Heaven and His arm made bare? I can see my responsibility, can you? That others have gone before as an example is without doubt. What we are seeing now has happened countless times before, with one difference. This is the end times, the final episode in the war for free agency. The responsibility lies more heavily upon us than upon all preceding generations, and it is our place to hold the line until reinforcements come, to be the valiant few that fought the last battle to usher in the final victory. Are we to be found sitting on our hands saying that we have been commanded to sustain and uphold this tyranny and that we were helpless against this “legitimate” government. Two Hundred and nineteen years ago, fifty-six men signed their own death warrants as they committed TREASON, SEDITION and REVOLUTION not knowing for sure but that they were the only 56 men to fight the most powerful force in the world at that time. Is numbers or popularity the excuse needed for doing what the servants of God, scripture and the very laws of Nature tell us is right? Of course there is always the concern of being branded as “criminals” for so doing. Is the “law of the land” always the true course to follow in righteousness? Need we a thorn in our side as Paul, to remind us that following the law can bring great pain. Benjamin F. Johnson, former body guard and confidant of the Prophet Joseph Smith and member of the Council of Fifty in writing to Brigham Young said this:
But talking of law, Governor, does it not appear strange that all the greatest crimes committed on earth, have been under the sanction of law? Law kept three millions of people, four hundred years in Egyptian bondage, cast Daniel to the lions, the Hebrews into the furnace, persecuted and killed all the prophets, down to Christ and by “law” He also was killed upon the cross and all His apostles after Him were killed by “law.” And then by law the Romans burned the Christians elevated upon spires, wrapt in canvas saturated with oil and pitch, and candles to illuminate their Amphitheater, while thousands were given to beasts and many thousands murdered by barbarous methods. And then to think of the rack, the pinches, grid iron and finally the stake, for the tens of thousands of martyrs by Catholicism or Papal Rome, all by “law.” While the Protestant Church, as her faithful daughter tortured, burned and exiled her thousands, of whom our Pilgrim fathers were a portion; while they in turn, true to the mother spirit, burnt innocent people for witches, all by “law” and drove the Quakers and persecuted all with whom they did not agree. All good Christians and all by good Christian “law.” Yes, Governor, truly did the Christ say, “I came not to bring peace but a sword,” for it has shed the blood of millions since that day, all in the name of Christianity and law. (My Life’s Review, pp. 341-343)
It is clear! We are bound only to sustain a government that does not infringe upon rights which are ours by Nature, but when a government breaks the compact between itself and the people in seeking to deny these rights or go beyond the limits previously proscribed by the people, then it has become a tyranny and has broken the chains of loyalty that the people had previously committed themselves to. When such a tyranny arrogates to itself unjust powers, we have the right, even the responsibility or duty to supplant it with righteous government.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, 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 Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. (Declaration of Independence, 1776)
IS IT TIME FOR REVOLUTION? I will let the reader decide for himself what his/her rights and duties are, but as for me and my house - we will follow the Lord.