Friday, October 14, 2011

The perils of scripture and politics

Read this and tell me what you think it means:

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.

[D&C 98:4-7]

Do you think that

a.) This means the Lord supports the U.S. Constitution as the only law of the land, and that anything more or less than the Constitution "cometh of evil", or

b.) This means the Lord supports his followers in upholding the law, and that he generally approves of the Constitution (but doesn't explicitly rule out other forms of government) because it allows his followers the freedom to follow Him, or

c.) None of the above?

Operators are standing by...


Architect said...

Definitely "C". The US Constitution is the one law that the brethren should befriend.

Remember what the constitution does? It establishes a federation of independent states. The states delegate a limited set of powers to the federal government. The powers come from the people through their consent. At the time, states had more say in the federal affairs. States had delegates (senators) that controlled one body in the federal government. The constitution was corrupted and states became subservient to the federal government when the selection of senators left the state houses and went to the people (which already had its own elected body - the House of Representatives).

So what does it mean for us today? We should as disciples of Christ, advocate the repeal of the 17th amendment and a return of power (responsibility) to the states and people. Our larger federal government takes away resources meant for individuals to take care of themselves and their fellow citizens and creates the irresistible temptation to control one's fellow citizens. We have Washington DC issuing orders and sending forth "swarms of officers" to enforce their edicts "for our own good."

Joseph said...


Ummm...look at Joseph Smith's Presidential campaign. He was opposed to the "state's rights" doctrine. Joseph Smith disliked Calhoun because of the "state's rights" doctrine.

So was Joseph Smith an inadequate "disciple of Christ"?

The reason President Martin Van Buren claimed he couldn't help the Saints was because he adhered to the "state's rights" doctrine. The "Extermination Order" itself was possible only because of the of "state's rights." The 14th amendment would have at least made the action illegal and given the early Saints legal recourse, even if it wouldn't have outright prevent such a thing.

So we should go BACK to circumstances that left the early Saints helpless after being raped and murdered and had their property stolen, all for their religious beliefs?

Also, I don't understand why we should repeal the 17th amendment. I'm sure the reason I should give up my right to vote for the senators that represent my state has something to do with the "the U.S. was meant to be a representative republic not a democracy" garbage I've seen far righters post on other blogs I've seen.

Look, I, unlike many on the left, am willing to see the founding fathers as inspired men who had good intentions and accomplished a lot of good. They were not, however, perfect men whose every thought was dictated by God. Their elitism and racism were not characteristics that I see as worthy of emulation.

In terms of how I view the above scripture, I think "B" best describes my views. I believe that there have been many societies far more righteous than the U.S. has ever been who did not have the U.S. Constitution. This scripture should be put in context of all the other scriptures, and not be viewed as containing the entirety of the Gospel in it.

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

Here's my detailed reading of these verses:

4 -- This verse is interesting, the Lord seems to switch subjects in the middle. First he says that it's about the "laws of the land", then he says "my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them". I think people might gloss over that, letting the apparent jaggedness of that sentence go unnoticed. I read it as saying that the Lord is only concerned about the law of the of the land inasmuch as it may restrict one's ability to keep the commandments.

5 -- I read this as a general nod towards constitution-based law, not necessarily a specific endorsement of our Constitution. One key to this verse is the word "justifiable". The Lord generally uses that word when something is acceptable, but not necessarily perfect. In other words, it's good enough for now but doesn't preclude something better coming down the pike at a later date. Nor does he seem to care too much about specifics (aside from his express desire for people to have the freedom to obey his commandments).

6 -- Taking that meaning of "justification" into account, the Lord approves the brethren's efforts in "befriending" the law of the land. To further clarify what he means, he describes that law as "constitutional". Again, I think that He approves generally of the idea of constitutionally-based law and isn't necessarily singling out our Constitution above all others.

7 -- I read this as a warning to the brethren, not to lawmakers. In other words, the brethren need to be careful, specifically as official representatives of the Church, to be circumspect in how they approach the issue of the law of man. They can "befriend" the constitutional law of the land, and should support it, but need to be wary of going too far in either direction -- reading too much into the Lord's support of the law, or being too lax in their civic duties.

So, taken in whole I think the Lord finds the process of constitution writing and legislating acceptable. I think we set a trap for ourselves when we read this as applying only to our specific Constitution. People all over the world are members of the Church, so how would this apply to them if it were specifically about our Constitution? Would this mean they're under condemnation if they didn't support the U.S. Constitution as the basis for their own government? I think we have a good set of rights and privileges enshrined in our Constitution and that the processes of writing and amending and litigating based on our Constitution are worth supporting. I think everyone else has a basic right to live their moral lives as they see fit, and that all the things we do as members of the Church should be legal everywhere. However, that's a small subset of law and can be (and is, in practice) accomplished in many different ways. Constitutional law is one of those ways, but it's not the only way and the Lord says nothing here about other forms of government that he might find justifiable. He does warn us about our involvement with the government when acting as official representatives of the Church, but otherwise we're free to decide how to govern ourselves.

Architect said...


The saints lost everything they had with governments turning the other way. Can that happen again? Yes, even today. Governments can only control mobs if they have the will to do so. The police, militia, or military must be willing to fire on their fellow citizens to stop mobs. Clearly in Missouri they did not due so.

Governments are useful for protecting us, but they are not reliable. I believe this is why the founders decided to allow citizens self defense.

The law must be written in the hearts of the people. Our Constitutional is understandable and could become known and followed by members of the Church. At the time of the revelation, it was the most just form of government in the world and had the most potential to stay that way. Changing the law to get more "majority rule", it seems to me a concentration of power rather than a division of power.