LDS Articles of Faith, Article 12
Submission to Secular Authority, Part 3
The twelfth LDS Article of Faith says, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” On August 1, 1831, Joseph Smith claimed he received a revelation from the Lord in Jackson County Missouri which in now LDS scripture in Doctrine and Covenants (D. & C.) 58. Verse 21 says, “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.” And at a meeting of LDS leaders in Kirtland, OH on August 17, 1835, they were considering what content should be in the first edition of the D. & C., and they declared the following preamble: “That our belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general may not be misinterpreted or misunderstood, we have thought it proper to present at the close of this volume (the D. & C.) our opinion concerning the same.” That preamble is now part of the heading over D. & C. 134 which is LDS scripture. Verse 1 says, “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.” And verse 5 says, “We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside.” There are other LDS messages and writings that command LDS to obey the law of the land and many LDS try to do that, but even some LDS leaders, including Joseph Smith himself, haven’t always obeyed those commands.
While living in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith and LDS leaders met on November 2, 1836, to drew up articles of agreement for a bank to be called “the Kirtland Safety Society.” Oliver Cowdery was sent to Philadelphia to secure plates to print their money and Orson Hyde was sent to Columbus, OH to petition the legislature of Ohio for an act of incorporation. Cowdery got the plates, but Hyde did not get permission to establish a bank. Smith accused the legislature of bias against the Mormons, but records show that the Ohio legislature didn’t allow any new banks in 1836 and 1837 and they turned down sixteen applications from other organizations for banks because of the volatile financial situation in the country. So, it was not just bias against Mormons as Smith claimed. Smith and other LDS leaders then met on January 2, 1837, to annul the constitution of the Kirtland Safety Society Bank and draw up Articles for the “Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company.” That way they could use the plates they already had by adding “Anti” before the word bank and putting “ing” on the end of the word bank. But they had no authority to establish a bank, regardless of what they called it, so they broke the law and what they did was illegal! So, they disobeyed their own commandments in the 12th Article of Faith, D. & C. 58:21 and D. & C. 134:1-5. Other banks refused to accept the bank notes from the Kirtland Safety Society and within a short time the “Anti-Banking Company” was bankrupt. Some LDS leaders tried to blame “the cursed (LDS) apostates” for the bank failure. But Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon borrowed three thousand dollars from the Bank of Geauga to start their “anti-banking bank” which was to be paid back in 45 days. When the loan came due, they had no funds with which to repay the loan. Thirteen lawsuits were brought against Smith from June 1837 to April 1839 over around $150,000 Smith owed non-LDS and he filed bankruptcy on May 7, 1842. But before he filed bankruptcy he transferred his most valuable property to his wife and children to preserve as much wealth as possible.
Lots of new converts to Mormonism moved to Kirtland at that time and Joseph Smith and many other LDS sold land to them at six or seven times its actual value, which created a false sense of prosperity. Their land speculation and the Anti-Banking Company ultimately cost lots of LDS everything they had which resulted in a great LDS apostasy and mob reaction! John F. Boynton, one of the Twelve Apostles, said he understood that the Kirtland Safety Bank was instituted by the will of God, and that it would never fail. So, when he had financial problems, he blamed Joseph Smith. Smith defended himself by saying that sometime prior to July 7, 1837, he resigned from the Kirtland Safety Society and disposed of his interest in it because no institution established on just and righteous principles for blessing the (LDS) Church and the whole nation would be allowed to continue in such an age of darkness, speculation, and wickedness. But it was his own disregard for the law and his land speculation that cost some LDS to lose everything they had in Kirtland! When money was printed for Smith’s Anti-Banking bank the signatures on the bank notes were “Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon” who were the two top leaders of the LDS Church at the time! Most of this information is in the History of the Church, vol.2, pp. 463-510. On p. 529 of the same volume, it says Brigham Young left Kirtland in consequence of the mob spirit that prevailed among the apostates. At about 10:00pm on January 12, 1838, Joseph Smith said he and Sidney Rigdon fled from Kirtland to escape the (LDS) apostate mob. They went to Far West MO to meet with LDS there. (History of the Church, vol. III, pages 1 & 2).
Joseph Smith and many LDS also broke the law regarding Polygamy. The Gospel Topics website of the LDS Church says that early LDS believe that Smith received D. & C. 132 in 1831, even though the heading over it says it was recorded on July 12, 1843. But that heading also says Smith had known the principles and doctrines in it since 1831, and several histories of that era say that evidence shows Smith began to take plural wives at that time. By 1844 when he died, he had married around 40 plural wives and many of them were already married to other LDS men! Smith married his wives secretly because he knew the law didn’t allow him to have many wives. There was no reason for him to marry them secretly if it was legal! In 1838, when he already had several wives, he answered questions for the Elders Journal. Question 7 was: “Do the Mormons believe in having more wives than one?” Smith answered, “No, not at the same time” (History of the Church, vol. 3, page 28). Smith was accused of having more than one wife on May 26, 1844, and he said, “What a thing it is to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives when I can only find one” (History of the Church, vol. 6, page 411). At that time, he had even more wives, So Smith also lied about having many wives. That was just a month before he was killed in Carthage (IL) jail, when he had around 40 wives! We discussed Smith’s polygamy in more detail in previous articles.
The U. S. Government has records of the indictment of Mormon leaders for counterfeiting. The indictments are dated December 17 & 18, 1845 and name Brigham Young and 11 other (LDS) men. The suits were still pending at the June 1846 Term which showed those men had still not been arrested because they hid from the U. S. Marshal. Some believe that is why LDS left Nauvoo in February 1846, instead of waiting for warmer weather. These are just a few of the areas where LDS leaders did not obey the law or those in authority.
Next time we will consider the 13th LDS Article of Faith.