LDS Articles of Faith, Part LXII
Article Twelve, Submission to Secular Authority, Part I
The 12th LDS Article of Faith says, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” The 12th LDS Article of Faith is only a partial guide for LDS relationship to government. LDS leaders in Kirtland, OH met in August 1835 and voted unanimously to accept Doctrine and Covenants (D. & C.) Sec. 134 as scripture. It’s 12 verses are too long to quote all of them here, but 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, both In making laws and administering, for the good and safety of society.” Verse 3 says civil officers and magistrates are required to enforce the laws in equity and justice. Verse 4 says religion is instituted of God and men are amenable only to Him unless it infringes on the rights and liberties of others. Human law has no right to interfere or dictate rules for worship or anything related to religion. Verse 6 says civil leaders should be honored in their positions, and they should provide protection for all citizens including religious people. Verse 8 says all crime should be punished according to the nature of the offence. D. & C. 134:9-10 say, “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…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 inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society.” Verse 11 says, “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 property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same.” Emergencies are an exception when there isn’t time to appeal to the law. In such cases, they have a right to defend themselves or whoever is being wronged. Verse 12 says, “We do not believe it right to interfere with bondservants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.”
Most of what is in D. & C. 134:1-11 is believed by many Americans, but LDS have not always followed what is in D. & C. 134:8-9. Joseph Smith was the founder of the LDS religion, and as it grew larger, he became more powerful. In D. & C. 5:10 Smith said the Lord said to him, “This generation shall have my word through you.” And D. & C. 21:5 says of Smith, “His word ye shall receive as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” D. & C. 28:2 also says, “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this (LDS) Church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun. for he receiveth them even as Moses.” And D. & C. 35:17 says, “And I have sent forth the fulness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph; and in weakness I have blessed him.” Smith said he received that revelation in December 1830, but the “fulness of my gospel” wasn’t quite full since Smith had many revelations and made many changes to his gospel after 1830! Smith claimed he was the mediator between men and God in other places too, but these texts establish his claim. Joseph Smith also led the LDS Church as a civil leader in Kirtland, OH, in Missouri, and in Nauvoo, Illinois. In Nauvoo he was not only the mayor of the largest city in Illinois, but he made himself Lieutenant-general of the largest militia in Illinois. So, he combined his position as prophet or God’s mouthpiece with his civil duties as mayor and head of the Nauvoo Legion which violated what D. & C. 134:9 says: “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government.” But D. & C. 134 was written in 1835 and Smith’s Nauvoo period was between 1840 and 1844, so he had gained more power and changed his mind about combining civil and religious influence! His successor, Brigham young, followed Joseph Smith’s example and when Mormons settled in Utah, Young became territorial governor as well as head of the LDS Church. So, he didn’t abide by D. & C. 134 either.
Most Mormons today are patriotic and some seem to be almost ultra-patriotic. But in the early days of Mormonism, LDS almost had a love-hate relationship with the US Government at times. When the government didn’t do what they wanted they sometimes prophesied doom upon it. For example, on May 18, 1843, Smith said, “I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the (LDS) Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potshard left” (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 394). The United States did not redress those wrongs nor was anyone punished for them, but the United States is still here 180 years later. So, this was a false prophecy by Smith. On December 18, 1843 Smith said, “While discussing the petition to Congress, I prophesied, by virtue of the holy Priesthood vested in me, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection, they will be broken up as a government, and God shall damn them, and there shall nothing be left of them—not even a grease spot (History of the Church vol. 6, p. 116 ends with the word government, but the original prophecy was in the LDS Millennial Star, vol. 22, p. 455 and included the bold italics at the end of that quote.) The U. S. government saw the LDS petition but did not grant LDS special protection. So, this prophecy by Smith was also a false prophecy.
Those who have lived around Mormons have heard a lot about how they were persecuted, and that Governor Boggs of MO issued an extermination order against them on Oct. 27, 1838. That “order” is even in the History of the Church vol. 3, p. 175 and is best understood in the context Gov. Boggs said it. It says it was in response to “the Mormons in an attitude of open and avowed defiance of the laws and having made open war upon the people of the state.” He said, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good. Their outrages are beyond all description.” LDS leaders demanded that MO apologize for Governor Boggs statement and the Governor of MO finally did apologize early in the 21st century. I’ve lived around LDS all my life, but never heard any LDS leader mention that three months before Gov. Boggs “extermination order” on July 4, 1838, Sidney Rigdon threatened an LDS “a war of extermination” against the people of MO. But no official LDS apology has ever been given for Rigdon’s statement! There were “wrongs” done by both LDS and MO people and LDS weren’t just innocent saints, persecuted for their faith!
We will continue our discussion of the 12th LDS Article of Faith next time.