On one occasion during the last election cycle I listened to a relative of a candidate for public office. This person exclaimed, “If it’s God will, then [this candidate] will win the election! So let’s keep working!”
I have no qualms with the “Let’s keep working” part of this person’s expression, but should our representatives be decided by God? Does God’s knowledge take precedence over our own individual and collective decisions?
During the War in Heaven, it was God who presented the dilemma and Christ who proposed a plan, along with Satan. Did God tell us what we should do, and how we should vote, or did we decide that?
Who we choose to represent us as U.S. citizens is not a function of God’s will, it is a function of our own will, or the will of “We the People,” after collecting knowledge and then forming opinions based on this knowledge.
God will not force His children to make the right choice. That was Satan’s plan, remember?
Thus, two sovereigns exist in the universe: God, and “The People.” Joseph Smith alluded to this in making the following statement during his campaign for President of the United States:
“In the United States the people are the government; and their united voice is the only sovereign that should rule; the only power that should be obeyed; and the only gentlemen that should be honored; at home and abroad; on the land and the sea. Wherefore, were I president of the United States, by the voice of a virtuous people, I would honor the old paths of the venerated fathers of freedom; I would walk in the tracks of the illustrious patriots who carried the ark of the government upon their shoulders with an eye single to the glory of the people…” (Feb 7, 1944, Views on Government and Policy in the U.S.)
Why didn’t this quote end with, “…with an eye single to the glory of God?” Because another sovereign exist in the universe: The People. Revelation for the Church comes from the Lord down to the people of His church, but revelation for a Republic that will govern its citizens comes from The People up. In one, God tells us what He wants. In another WE tell God what we want.
As an example, have you ever asked God if you should be involved in the political process? If you have, and been diligent in your prayers, you will recognize that His first and immediate answer back to you is, “What do you think you should do?”
Years ago, when mailing the LDS First Presidency didn’t go through the chain-of-command in church leadership, a friend mailed a letter asking our highest church leaders why they were not doing more in leading the Saints into correct political principles, and warning them of the impending crises and perils that await should America continue along its present course. The reply he got back from the Church’s highest office was a scripture:
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;” (D&C 58:26–17)
The insight is, ‘This is as far as the Lord takes it.’ As powerful as God is, he cannot vote in ANY election on planet Earth. God’s influence can count if we seek His wisdom and advice, but His vote does not count. God’s influence will mostly come by way of true PRINCIPLE, but leaves His children to grow and mature in HOW to apply these truths.
In the Church we trust our leaders and their inspiration, and it’s a sin to speak evil against the Lord’s anointed. This process relies on the sovereignty of God. In civil government we are NOT told by God through His Church who we should follow, vote for, and in what way we will further the cause of a civil society (which incorporates people of all religious persuasions).
As passionate and “opinionated” as previous church leaders like Ezra Taft Benson and David O. McKay were, they stopped at telling people how to vote, and supporting, or not supporting, certain government programs. This is because they did not want to abuse their power by implementing and substituting one sovereignty for the other since their voice within one sovereignty is the mind and will of the Lord that all must abide, but their voice within the other is merely one of many—a drop of water within a river. Yes, they wanted to have influence, but the Church, which claims a distinct and separate sovereignty, wasn’t the proper platform for the strength of this influence to be set in motion.
In fact David O. Mckay in a conference report in 1966 mentioned:
“The Church, out of respect for the rights of all its members to have their political views and loyalties, must maintain the strictest possible neutrality. We have no intention of trying to interfere with the fullest and freest exercise of the political franchise of our members under and within our Constitution, which the Lord declared he established “by the hands of wise men whom [he] raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80) and which, as to the principles thereof, the Prophet Joseph Smith, dedicating the Kirtland Temple, prayed should be “established forever” (D&C 109:54). The Church does not yield any of its devotion to or convictions about safeguarding the American principles and the establishments of government under federal and state constitutions and the civil rights of men safeguarded by these.”
The beauty in this apparent paradox is the existence of the Book of Mormon, which gives great insight for both sovereigns—the Church, and The People.
An example of insight from the Book of Mormon on a correct principle in government was summed up by Joseph Smith in his teachings. Said he:
“I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on earth… [yet] it has but this one fault… The Constitution should contain a provision that every officer of the Government who should neglect or refuse to extend the protection guaranteed in the Constitution should be subject to capital punishment…” ( Source: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 326-27)
Does the Book of Mormon teach this? Yes, in Helaman 1:3–8:
“Now these are their names who did contend for the judgment-seat, who did also cause the people to contend: Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni. Now these are not all the sons of Pahoran (for he had many), but these are they who did contend for the judgment-seat; therefore, they did cause three divisions among the people. Nevertheless, it came to pass that Pahoran was appointed by the voice of the people to be chief judge and a governor over the people of Nephi.
“And it came to pass that Pacumeni, when he saw that he could not obtain the judgment-seat, he did unite with the voice of the people. But behold, Paanchi, and that part of the people that were desirous that he should be their governor, was exceedingly wroth; therefore, he was about to flatter away those people to rise up in rebellion against their brethren.
“And it came to pass as he was about to do this, behold, he was taken, and was tried according to the voice of the people, and condemned unto death; for he had raised up in rebellion and sought to destroy the liberty of the people.”
Another example is in Alma 60, which is Moroni’s epistle to Pahoran, the Chief Judge and Governor of the land. In this epistle, Moroni suspects Pahoran of not only purposefully neglecting the sending of provisions to his armies, but of seeking for power and authority over the people, much like the Lamanite army he was already fighting. He writes to Pahoran saying, “We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country.” (Alma 60:18)
As it turns out, Pahoran was holding true to the title of liberty, though dealing with the insurrections of a people that ought to have supported him and the cause.
One may wonder why Mormon, the primary abridger of the Book of Mormon, would choose to include a long and presumptuous, yet false, accusation, as scripture. The answer is because this entire chapter gives wonderful insight into the truth that cleansing the inward vessel must be done first, “even the great head of our government.” This means that insurrections of those who support liberty are just, when directed towards a government which has become tyrannical, or anarchical.
Today, as peaceful U.S. citizens fighting a very real war for the minds and hearts of men and women, I would suggest anxiously engaging oneself in their civic duty using a pen instead of the sword.
Said Captain Moroni:
“And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom… 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 [pen] to defend the cause of my country, and it is because of your iniquity [unjust laws] 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, the sword of justice doth hang over you; yea, and it shall fall upon 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 [pen], insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of our freedom.” (Alma 60:25–30)
Many other principles in the Book of Mormon correctly teach duty to country. One could accurately say that the Book of Mormon contains a fullness of the Gospel, yet much of this “fullness” will not be taught at our pulpits, because of the Lord’s mandate that the Church NOT interfere with the sovereignty of The People, just as correct sovereignty of The People ought not interfere with God’s sovereign authority.
During his retirement years, John Adams was fond of saying, “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.” The war, he said, was only a consequence. The real revolution began 15 years before a shot was ever fired as an intellectual and moral (but still very real) revolution.
This is the very “revolution” we are in today, and the words of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are invaluable as tools to persuade us in making correct political choices, including who we should vote for.
Joseph Smith choose to run for office as an Independent, and believed in the correct principle of doing what is right, and letting the consequence follow. Said he:
“…if we can accomplish our object [meaning win election], (then) well, if not we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have acted conscientiously, and have used our best judgment. And if we have to throw away our votes, we had better do so upon a worthy rather than an unworthy individual who might make use of the weapon we put in his hand to destroy us.” (Joseph Smith, Jr., Times and Seasons, IV:441)
The Lord will not force us to make correct decisions. That was Satan’s plan. God will NOT take away our agency expressed by our vote. Thus IF we are to let God’s wisdom intervene in the foundation upon which even our religious freedom rests, our demeanor must be by humble petition and submission to His will. We must be concerned much much more than going into the voting booth and being, what Neil A. Maxwell called, “sixty second citizens,” stating:
“Lazy citizens who then complain about the choices confronting them are like those who ask not to be disturbed until time for dinner and then sit down to a spare meal and complain about the menu—when they have consistently refused to plant, cultivate, and harvest the garden from which the meal comes.” (Insights from My Life)
The Book of Mormon and a correct study of the era in which America’s Founding Fathers lived (of which I include Joseph Smith) will give the sovereign People the tools needed to make correct choices vital to the futurity of our beloved country, since whether or not our destiny is divinely decreed will depend not on God, but on us.
The People’s Ambition Resolution, for Fairness in State Elections
Whereas George Washington warned in his 1796 Farewell Address against political parties, saying “Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you, in the most solemn manner, against the baneful [poisonous] effects of the spirit of party, … it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their [the people’s] worst enemy…”; and
Whereas George Washington went on to predict in the same address that the eventual practice of political parties “leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism…”; and
Whereas George Washington is the Father of our Country, and U.S. history’s most illustrious leader; and
Whereas political parties are the creation of the passion of man, and in the beginning were confined to their proper role as being single and separated from all government statutes, laws, codes and legislation; and
Whereas election laws currently exist in this state that favor ballot access of candidates from recognized political parties over ballot access of independent candidates, or candidates wanting to take George Washington’s advice by NOT wanting to run or be affiliated with political parties; and
Whereas a system that favors political parties is one in which the few select from the many, then the many select from the few; and is NOT one in which the many select from the many, which more closely resembles fairness in the election process; and
Whereas George Washington himself was not elected through the scheming or strategizing of political parties; and
Whereas John Adams, our 1st “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
Therefore be it resolved that any law, statue, code, resolution or legislation that prescribes a bias towards candidates that are part of a political party shall be stricken, and upon adoption of this resolution ANY registered voter who obtains the amount of prescribed signatures equal to one half of 1% times the number of total voting persons in the previous election within the geographical boundaries of the political division for which that person is running, or 2,000 prescribed signatures, whichever is less, shall be on this state’s ballot.