Church Leaders’ Political Opinions Aren’t Official Doctrine

In past decades, there have been a few General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have been outspoken on American politics. Some Church members frequently quote from these politically outspoken former General Authorities in order to justify certain right-wing political views, often implying a doctrinal quality to such views, and, on occasion, attempt to question the faithfulness of members who disagree.

President Ezra Taft Benson’s political statements are perhaps the best example of this. I know many conservative or libertarian Church members who often refer to President Benson to justify their political views. Many may not be aware that while serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Benson was appointed as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by President Dwight Eisenhower. Elder Benson was very active in conservative American politics and frequently made political speeches. As a vehement supporter of the ultra-conservative, anti-communist John Birch Society, Elder Benson held passionate but extreme views on communism, and was among those who accused the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders as being part of a communist conspiracy to overthrow American democracy. He also supported the presidential candidacy of southern racist George Wallace, who ran on a platform espousing segregation. It is widely known that some members of the Twelve vehemently disagreed Elder Benson’s political views and were eager for him to curtail his involvement in politics. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who at the time was president of the Quorum of the Twelve, made the following observation about Elder Benson in a letter to Idaho Congressman Ralph Harding:

I think it is time that Brother Benson forgot all about politics and settled down to his duties as a member of the Council of the Twelve. He is going to take a mission to Europe in the near future and by the time he returns I hope he will get all of the political notions out of his system.

I write this not to criticize Elder Benson’s political views, although I disagree with many of them. He was a great prophet who made incredible contributions to the Church. His General Conference addresses on pride and the Book of Mormon are some of my all-time favorite sermons. Nonetheless, those who attempt to use obscure passages from old talks by Church leaders as reason to judge others for their alternative political views must recognize their weak position. When members use Elder Benson’s remarks, such as those about the size and role of government or his denunciations of certain government social programs, they must realize that they are cherry-picking. Do these members also agree with Elder Benson’s other views on segregation and the Civil Rights Movement? Hopefully not. It is one thing to refer to a General Authority’s statement about a political issue simply as a reflection of one’s own viewpoint. There is no harm in that. However, it is an entirely different (and inappropriate) matter to use such a statement to imply that one’s political views have doctrinal superiority over another’s views.

As Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve stated in a recent General Conference, “it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.”

The rare foray into politics by particular General Authorities should not be interpreted as Church doctrine. Elder Neal L. Anderson of the Twelve provided instruction last October on how doctrine is established: “There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.”

Prophets and apostles are entitled to their personal opinions on political issues of their day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no papal infallibility dogma. Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.” Church members and even the Church’s highest leaders come from a variety of political backgrounds. While it is true that in recent decades, most members of the Twelve have been registered Republicans, there have been a few notable Democrats, including Presidents James E. Faust and Hugh B. Brown.

Speaking at a BYU commencement in 1968, President Brown counseled graduating students to “Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.” He also warned, “beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions.”

President George Albert Smith made similar remarks when he stated, “Whenever your politics cause you to speak unkindly of your brethren, know this, that you are upon dangerous ground.”

Politics are worldly. Attempts to infuse one’s politics with Church doctrine in order to claim some mantle of divine approval make a mockery of the Gospel. The Church’s statement on political neutrality establishes a clear standard of institutional impartiality in partisan politics. As members of the Church, we must strive to be of “one faith” in things spiritual, while respecting the cultural and political diversity that exists among us.

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Aaron

Author / Editor at MormonDems
I have been an active Latter-Day Saint all of my life and have also been an enthusiastic Democrat and progressive since my days as an economics undergraduate student at Brigham Young University. The hostile climate towards progressives at BYU inspired me to get involved with the BYU College Democrats, where I served as president during my senior year. I have since obtained a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Oklahoma. I served a full-time mission to the Philippines. I’m active in my local ward, happily married and have two rambunctious little boys and an infant daughter.

33 Responses to Church Leaders’ Political Opinions Aren’t Official Doctrine

  1. Alan says:

    Great post! I want to subscribe.

  2. Great post Aaron — one of my favorites!

  3. Marcy Swan says:

    It has been pointed out that the BYU commencement address was actually given in 1968, not 1972. It makes a huge difference in perspective due to the Vietnam war in its intensity and the college riots at that time.

    • Aaron says:

      Thanks for pointing out that discrepancy in the year. I updated the post. President Brown’s quote wasn’t specific to the Vietnam conflict; he was giving universal guidance on how Church members should approach politics. I have no doubt that he intended remarks such as the following to apply continuously, not just to that election year: “Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.”

  4. Kay Baldwin says:

    Very well said and very true. Thank you for posting this, Aaron.

  5. Pamela says:

    I just came back from working at our Bishop’s Storehouse and am very upset. One man said very loudly that there’s only one thing wrong with Pres. Obama– he doesn’t have a bullet hole between his eyes. People said I should just let it go, but this is just evil. What if there had been a non-member there? I did speak out and will contine to speak out against such un-Christian ideas. I don’t know how much longer I can belong to a church dominated by such right-wing extremists. I’m getting very unpopular.

    • Aaron says:

      Pamela- thanks for commenting on this blog and speaking up against the occasionally un-Christian rhetoric we hear from certain Church members. It’s really unfortunate that some so-called Latter-day Saints elect to act in such an un-Christian manner when it comes to politics. I wrote an article back in 2011 that deals with this very issue, entitled “No politics in church” (http://www.mormondems.com/archives/144). At the end of the article, there are quite a few individuals who left comments similar to yours and others who provided insight in how to appropriately deal with such situations. As I noted in the ref’d article, I’d recommend speaking with your bishop about such incidents, especially when the offenders are not responding apologetically when called out in their un-Christian actions. I’ve also had similar experiences. It can be frustrating, but I’ve also found that there are some fellow ward members who think as I do.

  6. Ralph Hughes says:

    Although Ezra Taft Benson privately endorsed the John Birch Society on a few occasions, he was never a member of the JBS. His wife was and remained a member until she died.

    If one reviews carefully the statements made by Church presidents when speaking as prophets about the US Constitution and the responsibility of Latter-day Saints to study it, uphold it, and abide by it, there should be little doubt about what the Lord expects of us in the way of political persuasions.

    • Aaron says:

      Ralph, I’m disappointed by your 2nd statement here. What you’re clearly claiming is that the truly faithful Latter-day Saints, those who fully understand the Gospel and the U.S. Constitution, will always be Republicans (or at least right-wing conservatives). Nothing could be further from the truth. Firstly, note that quite a few notable GAs have been Democrats, including Presidents James E. Faust and Hugh B. Brown. Let me rebut your baseless assertion with quotes from Apostles and other GAs:

      President Uchtdorf in the latest General Conference:
      “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.”

      Elder Marlin K. Jensen (another Democrat): “There is sort of a division along Mormon/non-Mormon, Republican/Democratic lines. We regret that more than anything — that there would become a church party and a non-church party. That would be the last thing that we would want to have happen… it would be a very healthy thing for the Church if that notion could be obliterated.”

      Q. Given the platform and positions taken by the Democratic Party, can you be a good church member and a Democrat?
      A. “Yes…I don’t know why you couldn’t…We’ve got lots of Democrats in the church, lots of them, and they are good people.” — President Gordon B. Hinckley, National Press Club on March 8, 2000

      President Hugh B. Brown: “Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. Know that men of both major political parties who bear the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all. Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.”

      You’ve shown you have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has been silent– the issue of Church members’ personal political affiliation.

      You also imply that there is only one way to interpret the U.S. Constitution. Contemporary legal scholars, let alone the Founding Fathers, do/did not agree on the Constitution’s meaning. That’s precisely why we ended up with Hamilton and the Federalists versus Jefferson and the Republicans. Please don’t white-wash our country’s history and at the same time try to demean church members who don’t hold the same political viewpoints you do. Partisan politics need to be checked at the church door. As President Uchtdorf said, we should be disciples- united in testimony and commitment to the Gospel, while recognizing we are diverse culturally, socially, and politically.

    • Aaron says:

      You are correct to point out that Elder Benson was never a member of JBS. I was mistaken above and will make a correction. However, the notion that he only quietly and privately supported JBS is blatantly false. Your comment prompted me to research the extent of Elder Benson’s involvement in JBS. A great account of Elder Benson’s political activities, including his support of JBS, can be found in: “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism,” authored by two scholars, including a former mission president and former chairman of the Utah State Republican Party. In any case, the primary reason why Elder Benson did not join JBS is that President McKay would not allow him to do it. Elder Benson asked Pres. McKay on multiple occasions for permission to join the JBS. Elder Benson developed a close relationship with JBS’ founder and helped his own son, Reed Benson, receive the position of Utah State coordinator for JBS. Elder Benson sought President McKay’s endorsement of JBS, but his request was met with a strong rebuff, particularly after Elder Benson noted publicly that he was convinced that JBS was “the most effective non-Church organization in our fight against creeping socialism and godless communism.” Because Elder Benson was a public figure, having served in President Eisenhower’s cabinet, and an apostle, the First Presidency issued a statement to distance the Church from Elder Benson’s vehement support of JBS:

      “The following statement is made to correct false statements and unwarranted assumptions regarding the position allegedly taken by the leaders of the Church on political questions in general and the John Birch Society in particular… We deplore the presumption of some politicians, especially officers, co-ordinator and members of the JBS, who undertake to align the Church or its leaders with their partisan views. We encourage our members to exercise the right of citizenship, to vote according to their own convictions, but no one should seek or pretend to have our approval of their adherence to extremist ideologies. We denounce communism as being anti-Christian and anti-American, and the enemy of freedom, but we think they who pretent to fight it by casting aspersions on our elected officers or other fellow citizens do the anti-Communist cause a great disservice.” (First President Statement- January 3, 1963)

      As I noted in the article, Elder Benson’s political views were taken as extreme by some Members of the Twelve during that period. Elder Harold B. Lee once observed that “anyone who didn’t agree with Brother Benson’s mind was, indeed, a communist.” Elder Lee later stated that “the brethren would never permit another member of the Twelve to serve in the Cabinet or in a high political position because Elder Benson had lost his spiritual tone and would no longer accept counsel.”

      Perhaps the most striking event demonstrating Elder Benson’s zealous support of the JBS and it’s extremist methods was a speech Elder Benson gave at an event in Los Angeles honoring the JBS founder, Robert Welch, in which Elder Benson essentially supported a recent accusation levied by Welch against President Eisenhower, accusing him of being a communist stooge.

      Elder Benson may not have been a member of JBS, but his support of the radical organization was anything but private. And Elder Benson’s political viewpoints were not supported by many of his peers within the Twelve. Your assertion that “there should be little doubt about that the Lord expects of us in way of political persuasions,” is deeply mistaken- and actually a form of blasphemy as you are attempting to speak on behalf of the Lord for the whole Church when the general leaders have clearly spoken to the contrary.

  7. Rick says:

    Aaron, I’m curious if you would consider remarks made over the pulpit in General conference by Members of the First Presidency and council of the Twelve as “doctrinal”.

    • Aaron says:

      Rick- good question. I think the answer is ‘not necessarily.’ Your question is best answered by the statements I quoted above from Elders Christofferson and Anderson:

      Elder D. Todd Christofferson: “It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.”

      Elder Neal L. Anderson: “There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.”

      • Ryan says:

        Of course, then those comments by Elders Christofferson and Andersen can’t be considered “doctrine” either…

        • Rick says:

          Aaron, I must take issue (respectfully) with your answer to my question, “are words spoken over the pulpit at General conference doctrinal?” Your reference to quotes by Elders Christofferson and Anderson doesn’t really deal with the narrow question I answered. Their claims can still be true, and so can a “yes” answer to my question. Furthermore, if you take the literally hundreds of statements over that hallowed pulpit in Conference, about studying, upholding, defending the Constitution,then stack up next to it the statements from that pulpit that say we do not need to study, revere, protect or follow the Constitution, you have a shutout. If I am mistaken, I would love to be informed. Then, there is your defense of the Democratic Party, as if anyone who disagrees with you must be a “right-wing” Republican. That is wasted energy, because, as it happens, both parties have sold out to Satan’s counterfeit plan of helping people. Washington and the other Founders decried the “spirit of party” and warned us over and over again to avoid it’s destructive lure. (See Washintgn’s Farewell). We need to rally around the Constitution, in it’s original intent. It is here, that the much touted “diversity” mantra is dangerous. President McKay said: “Next to being one in worshipping God there is nothing in this world upon which the Church should be more united that in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States”. And finally, can you direct me to any statement of a GA in General Conference that defends the welfare state, or the taking of property by force through taxes, and giving it to someone to whom it does not belong? Thanks for your consideration of these ideas.

  8. Blake Swain says:

    Thanks for your very helpful, well reasoned article, Aaron. Much needed.

  9. Rick says:

    Aaron, there have been many talks by the General Authorities on accepting the the Constitution. Maybe the most important statement made is when the Lord Jesus Christ himself says in D&C 101:80 “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.” Maybe you feel as if you shouldn’t belief that either I don’t know.

    By the way I do not see where Ralph made the statement that we as LDS should be Republican. I’m not, and I do not trust the Republican party, however I trust the Democrat party even less. Neither of the parties follow the constitution.

    Also you quote Joseph Fielding Smith and he had definite idea’s on what Ezra Taft Benson should be doing, again however you only tell part of the story. Pres. McKay gave Pres. Benson permission to serve in Washington for the eight years. So Pres. Benson was doing what his Priesthood leader wanted him to do.

    Yes you are correct that there were many Democrats in the church and its leadership in the first part of the 20th century but as the party became more socialistic that began to change. Again I am not pushing the Republican party. I believe in the liberties Christ gave us in the Constitution through the wise men He raised up and that any time any party forces me as a US citizen to take away my God given rights they are following satan. No government has the right to do that and that is what Ezra Taft Benson said.

    • Ralph Hughes says:

      Thank you, Rick, for saying what I could not say as graciously. And no way do I think that we as LDS should be Republican. I am Treasurer of the Maricopa County, AZ Constitution Party, if that says anything about my political persuasions. And I could never bring myself to vote even for Mitt Romney because he seemed intent on undermining the US Constitution.

      In the first talk of priesthood session of the April General Conference Elder Robert Hales said that we are in the last days, and that “we are defenders of God-given and unalienable rights”.

      In that connection 2 statements continue to ring like a clarion call in my head. The first statement is one the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith and is recorded in the 101st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants as “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose,”. Along that line, Elder Quentin Cook, in a commencement address delivered at Brigham Young University–Idaho on December 16, 2011, said: “Do Latter-day Saints believe the U.S. Constitution is a divinely inspired document? The Lord Himself answered that question when He declared, “I established the Constitution … by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80). Elder Cook further elaborated: “Since the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who called the U.S. Constitution “a heavenly banner” (in History of the Church, 3:304), latter-day prophets have said the Constitution is divinely inspired, declaring that America by divine design was prepared as the place for the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.

      The second statement I consider extremely important was made by President Benson speaking as the Prophet during the October 1987 General Conference. “…we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.” And on another occasion he expressed it as “We should understand the Constitution as the founders meant that it should be understood.” And while Prophet and President of the Church, David O. McKay told us in the October 1962 General Conference: “Above all else, strive to support good and conscientious candidates of either party who are aware of the great dangers inherent in communism, and who are truly dedicted to the Constitution in the tradition of our founding fathers.”

      I want to take this opportunity to testify in words spoken in 2009 by the President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Boyd Packer, that “to honour the Constitution and to honour freedom is a sacred duty for all of us.”

      • Eddy says:

        The only thing I can say to this is to respectfully ask which Founders, whose intent?

        There is this myth that the “Founding Fathers” are a monolithic group that had one vision in mind for the new country. What a load of crap. Every man who attended the Constitutional Convention came in with their own agenda and their own ideas. This is clear in looking at any primary historical document from the time. An objective reading of The Federalist Papers make this clear. The near immediate formation of the Jeffersonian-Republicans and the Federalist parties makes this clear.

        To adhere to the strict language interpretation of the document the founders gave us would still allow slavery to be legal and legitimate, would allow only white males the vote, and would allow each and every state and local government to run roughshod over your rights.

        There is this movement to romanticize and even “fetish-ize” the founders; to class them as one monolithic body. This needs to stop! We as a people need to realize that they created an amazing document by compromise. Within that document they established general principles; and then allowed each generation the right and the ability to interpret and apply to the various needs of the country at that specific time. Further, they realized that they were not infallible, and they provided a means to amend the document they gave us…

        The appeal to “founders intent” is just rhetorical nonsense. Collectively, they had just one intent. To create a document outlining principles of government that was superior to the Articles of Confederation. They had no collective concept that the Constitution would stand for the ages, they had no collective agreements on what should go into a Bill of Rights.

      • Aaron says:

        Ralph- the personal example you use shows how important it is for Church members not to judge each others’ faithfulness by their political views. You said you didn’t vote for Mitt Romney because he seemed intent on undermining the Constitution. However, the vast majority of American Church members did vote for Romney. Most of the current members of the Quorum of the 12 and First Presidency are registered Republicans (only 4 out of 15 are registered Independents, according to the Salt Lake Tribune). President Monson is a registered Republican. Yet you’ve registered in the Constitution Party. Aren’t you glad that there aren’t church members calling into question your faithfulness because you are a member of a different party and you likely voted differently in 2012 than most of the 15 Brethren? You should re-read the Apostle and GA statements I quoted above about political neutrality. Even in this latest conference, a member of the First Presidency acknowledged the political diversity that exists within the church! Did you see that part?

        Nowhere have I disputed the important of the U.S. Constitution and it’s relevance to the Restoration of the Gospel. But as Eddy aptly pointed out below, even at our country’s Founding, there were deep divisions among the Founders themselves on its meaning. Have you ever read the opposing opinions of the Supreme Court in any of its cases? If not, I strongly challenge you to do so. Start with the recent D.C. vs. Heller decision where the Court overturned the D.C. handgun ban law. In these opposing views, you’ll see the current Justices cite divergent views of our Founders and different precedents to support their views. There is no monolithic Founding Fathers group, nor was there ever a consensus on the meaning of the Constitution related to the role of government. If you truly want to honor the Constitution, as our General Authorities have encouraged us to, I highly suggest studying more about our nation’s founding, reading biographies of the different founders from reputable historians, reading major Supreme Court cases, and educating yourself about the Constitution and the debate the document has inspired within our society ever since it was written.

    • Aaron says:

      Rick- As Eddy aptly pointed out below, you’ve fallen for the myth that the Founders were a monolithic group who had a single vision in mind for our country. I encourage you to truly study the founders, and not just regurgitate conservative talking points. Read biographies about the Founders and learn about the sharp disagreements that existed between many of them. The Founders did not hold a single view on the role of government. As I noted above, Hamilton and the Federalists had a very different vision of government than Jefferson and his Republicans.

      As members of the Church, of course we revere the establishment of the U.S. and its Constitution and recognize the importance of the freedom in a republican democracy. This was a key historical prerequisite for the Restoration. You’re use of the D&C section 101 quote to try to implicate me as an apostate (“Maybe you feel as if you shouldn’t belief that either”) is pretty sad. You are willfully ignoring all of the GA statements I’ve quoted above about political neutrality and avoiding judging others.

      Again, you twist history and state blatant falsehoods with your allegation that all of the Democrats in Church leadership were from the “first part of the 20th Century.” All of the ones I mentioned presided in their GA roles during the second half of the 20th Century, some even living into the current century. There are current GAs who are Democrats and in fact, one member of the Seventy previously served in a senior position within the Obama Administration. I begin to doubt that you actually know what socialism means when you claim that today’s Democratic Party is more “socialistic” than the party of previous decades. FDR and LBJ were far more aggressive (and successful) in expanding government entitlements. Have you looked into the establishment of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid? Do you know under which president was the EPA created? How about the establishment of the modern regulatory state, with the creation of the FDA, OSHA, FHA, FLSA, FDIC, SEC, FCC (and more)? Did Obama create these? No, FDR did.

      Nowhere in any of this discussion have I questioned your faithfulness and devotion as a member of the Church because of your political leanings. You should stop judging other members’ faithfulness by their political views, whether on blogs or in your own ward and recognize that faithful members can come to very different conclusions on the proper role of government.

      • Rick says:

        Aaron, I just now realized that you had replied to me back in May, and I want to continue the conversation. I would respectfully like you to give some evidence for your claims, by cutting my words from my last post and pasting them after your claims as proof. For example, where did I say “that all of the Democrats in Church leadership were from the “first part of the 20th Century.”? Talk about twisting words. You added the word “all”, my friend, and that twists the meaning of what I said. Further, where did I say you were an apostate? And finally, with regard to the scriptures (D&C 101), I simply wondered of you believe or don’t believe that one. You could clarify it by simply stating whether you do or don’t. I sincerely apologize and ask your forgiveness if you think that is what I was implying.
        I must agree with you that ” faithful members can come to very different conclusions on the proper role of government.” However, that doesn’t mean that both, or either of those conclusions dovetails with the Lord’s principle of free agency. Compulsion is Satan’s plan (war in heaven, welfare) , and whether it’s an individual or government, in my opinion is’t unjustifiable. As for comparison of LBJ, FDR and today’s administration, Let me just share some other acronyms and programs from present policy and current news stories, NSA, PATRIOT Act, FISA, Obamacare, QE3, nationalizing GM, IRS, etc. Thanks for questioning my understanding of socialism. I have taught economics and American History for the past 15 years, and teach Constitutional Seminars natioinwide. I hope I understand something about socialism. But I don’t claim to know everything. In fact, I invite you to explain exactly what socialism is so I may be enlightened. Last, but not least, I would like to focus our discussion on ideas, not people.

  10. Grant says:

    My personal view is that the Divine Miracle of the Constitution is that we have one at all. It came about by the principle of Compromise, which I consider the essential and sacred principle of our Constitution. The concept of checks and balances allow us to use the divine principle of compromise to work out our differences the best way possible as we go forward. Public involvement as a civic duty and electing good men and women to administer it is the responsibility of all citizens of various political and religious persuasions. We will not all agree. We have a sold system that allows for that and provides a way forward to the “More Perfect Union.”

    • “…it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.”

      This reminds me of the disclaimers at the end of a drug advertisement. It will cure you of X but you could get A through W. I view this as a “get out of jail free card” they can pull out whenever it is convenient to avoid consequences and responsibility for a particular policy/doctrine. The other problem with this view is with this kind of caveat, how could anyone know whether or not something is gospel or opinion? This same stance has been given to justify the horrid reasons given by every Church President from Brigham to Kimball as to why blacks could not get the priesthood. The Church is now attempting to claim that the reasons given-blacks are cursed, seed of Cain, pre-existence payback…are now being labeled “opinion” and not doctrine even though every President took this position and did so from the pulpit.

      I just wrote about this very issue today.

  11. Mike says:

    All of the above comments are a little misguided on both sides of the political spectrum. All this discourse on the constitution has very little to do with the church of Christ. The American constitution is a noble document, but really only applicable to the members of the church in the United States. Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, the church has become an increasingly international organization. Attempts to tie the doctrine of Christ to any one nations political history is misguided at best. The true gospel of Christ transcends race, culture, and nationality. Liberal/conservative, socialist/capitalist, who cares!! The church of Jesus Christ is big enough for all of us. Be careful not to Americanize the church in your religious views, when you do it leaves no room for a significant portion of the churches membership, including Jesus Christ, after all, he never lived in the United States, and spoke words of truth that make any political paper including the constitution of the USA seem weak in comparison.

    • Rick says:

      Mike, the Constitution is the Lord’s system of government, which contains the Lord’s principles of free agency and government. Those principles are eternal and of universal application, not just to America. The law He revealed to Moses wasn’t just for the Israelites. It was for all mankind. Our own Constitution is based on it. America was the only place where proper government (which the Founders called “the divine science” could be restored for the world, and the only place where the Church could be restored, also for the benefit of the whole world. Here’s how the Lord said it Himself, from an Ensign article by Elder G. Homer Durham in the June 1776 Ensign, commemorating the bicentennial of the Constitution:

      “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard: it is founded in the wisdom of God” (History of the Church, 3:304).

      This expression from Joseph Smith in 1839 provides deep insight into the religious basis of this remarkable instrument of government. As set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants: “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” (D&C 98:5; italics added).

      Again, the “constitution … which I have suffered to be established, … should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles” (D&C 101:77; italics added).”

      The terms “All Flesh”, and “all mankind” (the words of the Lord) pretty much refutes your claim that the Constitution only applies to America. Further, the fact that many, if not most of the constitutions of the world have been patterned after ours is evidence that God’s intent has been, in some small part, carried forth. The Founders believed, in fact, that America’s greatest export would be Freedom.

  12. Mike says:

    Funny, I don’t remember having to pledge my universal and unquestioned locality to the glorious United States of America prior to my baptism. Lol. The real question here lies in the idea of whether or not the church is big enough for all of gods children. I love patriotic feelings and believe that the hand of God has influenced great men and women through out history and in every nation that has ever existed. It is hard for anyone to recognize that their cultural/political indoctrinations are not an absolute. Everyone on the face of this earth should recognize that the hand of god has so often been instrumental in moving politics in a direction that promotes the work of The Lord. Our early church leaders were fiercely patriotic, and willing to see the hand of The Lord in their nations establishment. As they should have been. We believe in supporting our governments and recognizing the hand of god in the development of our nations every where on the face of this earth. I would argue that it is essential to believe your country is number 1 and that god has played a special role in the development of every country, regardless of what country that might be. A fixation on the notion that my country is better or more chosen by god than yours does nothing to promote the expansion of the lords church. The United States of America is a chosen land of promise, for Americans. Not really for anyone else. There is nothing wrong with this. For the growth of the church it is far better to recognize the basic principals of the gospel and abandon notions of we r the best. Converting people to the gospel is hard enough without telling them they are also obligated to adopt American interpretations of history.

    If a person cannot separate the gospel from their personal feelings and ideas of patriotism, we are in a very bad place. Love your country to death. By all means Believe it is gods favorite. But please broaden your minds and recognize that the pro United States rhetoric only really matters to citizens of the USA, not the church membership universally. We don’t need to seek out more ways to offend church members. Are we an American church, or a global one? I would argue global, it is time we all start thinking this way. Even though I know it’s going to be really, really tough for a lot of my American brothers and sisters.

  13. Ralph Hughes says:

    This talk about a global church being reason to compromise on principles of government prompts me to state that in eleven years living and working and being active in church in Germany, England, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland, I had occasions to discuss what the scriptures and prophets and apostles have told us about the US Constitution and our responsibility to it. As is the case among American Latter-day Saints, most were nearly or totally oblivious of it. But there were a few, I’d guess about the same % as in America, who understood the significance and importance of the principles of the Constitution. They recognized they were limited in what they could do in their countries, as is becoming the case in America now, but they also recognized that the principles of the US Constitution were inspired by the Lord. Some even recognized that Americans have apostatized from the intent of the original Constitution, and told me so. The few European members I am giving as examples explained to me that they were limited in their choices of candidates. But two friends in Denmark were active in the political arena promoting conservative or what I consider constitutional principles.

  14. Cathy says:

    This excellent article was just republished Feb 2015. I too, have heard snarky innuendo from conference and wrote the authority in question. I was snidely told in reply that his vast life experience qualifies him to speak on constitutional and political matters couched by innuendo to avoid tax issues. I am not young, and am a member of the bar and Supreme Court bar at that. I don’t need such education, right? Now, there seems to be an official effort to quell the hate and political rancor that has permeated the membership unabated since 2008. That horse, my friends is out of the barn! Some of them need to review the B
    ook of Matthew

  15. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this article, Aaron! In connection with the current presidential election, I feel like I’ve recently “come out of the closet” politically to my very conservative LDS circle. It’s been intense, to say the least. So grateful a friend of mine shared a link to this during a discussion we were having recently. THANK YOU!

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