The Book of Mormon
and the Constitution

Chapter 1: If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine

Free Agency Is the Standard by Which Actions May Be Judged

      The late President David O. McKay once stated:

A fundamental principle of the Gospel is free agency, and references in the scriptures show that this principle is (1) essential to man’s salvation; and, (2) may become a measuring rod by which the actions of men, of organizations, of nations may be judged. (CR Oct. 1, 1965)

      The scriptures verify that we were judged by our attitude toward free agency in the pre-earth life. Those who opposed it are even now suffering the worst punishment known. If it be true as President McKay has indicated, that free agency may become the measuring rod by which we will be judged here in mortality, it is of transcendent importance that we know and do those things which provide freedom and that we identify and avoid those which injure or destroy it. The attempt to destroy freedom in the pre-earth life was probably undertaken mainly by teaching false doctrines concerning it. This appears to be one of the main ways of destroying it here on earth also. But in addition to this, we can use our mortal bodies to injure and destroy the freedom of others by forcibly depriving them of one of those physical possessions they must have to exercise it—life, liberty and property. The great majority of us do not use our own physical powers to directly destroy one another’s freedom. Since we all love freedom and consider it evil when others take from us any of those possessions necessary for its exercise, we know it is wrong to do such things to others. All moral people know it is evil to steal, enslave, commit murder and teach falsehood. Furthermore even if we are tempted to commit crimes, our fear of being punished and excluded from polite society deters us from doing so. But these truths which are so clear [p. 2] when we act alone, ofttimes become obscure when we act through the agency of government. Also when we use government to destroy freedom on our behalf, we do not run the risk of being punished. Under these conditions government becomes the perpetrator rather than the punisher of evil. And finally when we use government to destroy free agency, we can keep our sins hidden by voting in secret.

Freedom Is Destroyed Most Often by the Agency of Government

      The Lord establishes governments to protect freedom. They accomplish this purpose by punishing those who undertake to destroy it. If a criminal wrongfully takes from another one of the freedom elements, it is the function of government to take from him one of the elements of his own freedom—either his life, his liberty, or his property. By so doing it enforces the principles of the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. Both of these codes require that government do to the wrongdoer that which he did unto another. Only by adequately punishing those who intentionally undertake to destroy freedom, can government protect it.

      But voters and officers of government ofttimes use its powers to destroy freedom rather than protect it. Sometimes they do so knowingly, but it is suspected that it is more common for them to do so because they have been deceived. The most common method used by governments to destroy freedom is to take life, liberty and property from those who have neither intended evil nor caused harm. This, of course is contrary to the moral principles of the Golden Rule and invariably has the effect of destroying freedom.

      All conduct may be divided into two categories: (1) That which is motivated by an intent to destroy freedom, and (2) That which is not. All man-made laws which provide for a penalty may be divided into two categories: (1) Those which punish conduct of the first type, and (2) Those which punish that of the second. Laws of the first type are good and have the effect of preserving freedom if the penalty is just. Laws of the second type are evil and have the opposite effect. In spite of this, there are many times more laws of the second type being enforced today than there are of the first. Generally people support these freedom-destroying [p. 3] laws because they are deceived regarding their nature and purpose.

      This deception and its awful consequences could be avoided merely by heeding the Lord’s commandments regarding government. The extent to which men are deceived regarding the precise line between good and evil laws today, is evident from the fact that freedom is being destroyed by governments all over the earth. Further evidence of deception is found in the fact that there is massive disagreement regarding which laws preserve, and which destroy freedom. This confusion and disagreement need not exist because the Lord has revealed His will concerning man-made laws.

      In forming their beliefs about governments, the Christian world seems to have forgotten that the Lord has prescribed His laws of freedom in the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. And how many members of the Lord’s Restored Church go to their scriptures for help in distinguishing between those laws which preserve and those which destroy free agency?

Every Law Has the Effect of Either Destroying Freedom or Preserving It. Everyone Can Be Judged According to Their Attitude Toward Free Agency

      The Lord allows wicked governments to exist so that we can see evil and the destruction of free agency and choose to accept or reject it. We came to distinguish between good and evil.

      In these latter days relatively few people know about the restored Gospel and it would seem unjust to punish them for not accepting it. Perhaps they will be given a chance to hear the message hereafter. However everyone knows that part of the Lord’s Gospel known as the Golden Rule. We will be judged according to how closely we follow it. Especially is this true with respect to the use of force. We are all acutely aware that we do not want others taking or injuring our life, our liberty or our property. We know that when we unjustly destroy these possessions in others, we are violating the Golden Rule. Thus when it comes to the use of force, if we follow the Golden Rule, we will all have the same code of behavior. With respect to the use of force and the destruction of the freedom elements, we all should have the same measuring rod as [p. 4] President McKay has indicated. Since all of us live under a government of some type and since force is the means used by governments to carry out their purposes, everyone is in a position to see force used and to judge between that which is just and that which is unjust. Everyone can apply the principles of the Golden Rule to judge the actions of government. By so doing, we make decisions regarding the all- important principle of free agency. Furthermore we can do so without inconvenience and without cost. We are judged by the desires of our hearts. The Lord permits wicked governments to exist on earth so that we may see them in operation and make decisions between what they do and what the Golden Rule would dictate. The amount of freedom we shall have in the next life will depend upon the political choices we make here in mortality just as the amount of freedom we have in mortality was determined by the decisions we made about free agency in the pre-earth life. Since men have joy or misery depending upon the amount of freedom they have, the political decisions we make are probably the most important ones of all.

The Book of Mormon and the Constitution Make Political Unity Possible

      Inasmuch as the Lord has established the laws and Constitution, That every man may act “. . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him . . . .” those who oppose the laws He has established for this purpose, may be justly accused of taking the wrong side in the battle over free agency. The consequences of doing so may be far more severe than most imagine.

      While the Constitution of the United States is generally not regarded as scripture, the commandments the Lord has given regarding it place Church members under the obligation to treat it as if it were. (D&C 98:4-11; 101:77-80) Furthermore those who want to obey the Lord in this matter are given no latitude for error in deciding which laws they should befriend and oppose. Anything which is either more or less than those He approves, cometh of evil. (D&C 98:7)

      This book is written in the hopes that it will aid Church members to distinguish those laws which are constitutional from those which are not. By so doing we can come to a unity in our political beliefs and practices. [p. 5] It will be impossible to follow President McKay’s admonition to unitedly uphold and support the Constitution unless we do this. In undertaking to achieve this goal, we shall go not only to the Constitution itself, but also to the political laws given by the Lord in prior dispensations. We will find that His laws regarding freedom are always in harmony regardless of when given.

      That scripture however which we will rely on most heavily in making the distinction between those laws which preserve and those which destroy freedom, is the Book of Mormon. That book is filled with accounts of wars, contention and strife in which the issue of freedom was at stake. The lessons taught by those accounts provide a complete understanding of the freedom issue and it is believed that one of the main reasons they were written was to give us guidance in our struggle for freedom today.

      Since harmony brings joy while contention brings misery, self- interest demands that we come to a unity, and by so doing escape the misery of the contentious. The Lord who desires that we become as He and His Father, has commanded us to be one, and has decreed that if we are not, we are not His. (John 17:11, 21, 22; D&C 38:27) He has also commanded that there be no contention among us. (3 Ne. 19:28-30) Those who would live in a Zion Society, must be of one heart and one mind. (Moses 7:18; 4 Ne. 1:2, 13, 15-18)

      The enormous amount of contention, strife and disagreement in the field of politics indicates that very few understand the Lord’s commandments on government sufficiently to become united on them. However President McKay has indicated in the following quote that there is a greater need to come to a unity on this issue than on any other except that of worshipping God:

Next to being one in worshipping God, there is nothing in this world upon which this Church should be more united than in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States. (CR Oct. 8, 1939)

In Case of Dispute We Can Achieve Unity by Following the Prophet

      But suppose that after studying both those laws which are constitutional and those which the scriptures indicate are opposed thereto, we [p. 6] still have differences in our political views. What course should then be followed? President McKay has given some explicit advice on this point. Let us consider it.

      Following his statement on the position of the Church on Communism given in April, 1966, (See Appendix I) there was considerable discussion and debate in the press and among the people over this issue. Apparently in the hopes of helping to resolve this conflict, President McKay delivered a discourse entitled A PLEA FOR UNITY, in the semi-annual general conference in 1967. In this talk, he urged Church members to become united in rejecting communism with its divisiveness.

      This discourse is of the greatest importance to Church members because it presents with unmistakable clarity how unity should be achieved when contentions arise. Among other things President McKay said:

The greatest safeguard we have for unity and strength in the Church is found in the priesthood, by honoring and respecting it. Oh, my brethren—presidents of stakes, bishops of wards, and all who hold the priesthood—God bless you in your leadership, in your responsibility to guide, to bless, to comfort the people over whom you have been appointed to preside and to visit. Guide them to go to the Lord and seek inspiration so to live that they may rise above the low and the mean, and live in the spiritual realm. Recognize those who preside over you and, when necessary, seek their advice.

      After illustrating the foregoing principle with a story from the Bible, President McKay continued thus:

Here is a lesson for all of us in this Church. Let us, too, recognize the local authority. The bishop may be a humble man. Some of you may think you are superior to him, and you may be, but he is given authority direct from our Father in heaven. You recognize it. Seek his advice and the advice of your stake president. If they cannot answer your difficulties or your problems, they will write to the General Authorities and get the advice needed. Recognition of authority is an important principle. (CR Sept. 29, 1967)

      Priesthood members who believe that the Lord directs His Church, will not question the method outlined by President McKay for settling differences which arise over free agency or other matters. It is not an imperfect man which governs the Church, but the Lord Himself and He [p. 7] will never allow a prophet to lead Church members astray.

      According to a revelation received in the early days of the Church, the living prophet is the only one entitled to receive commandments and revelations in this Church. (D&C 28:2, 6, 7) If we really believe this, we will sustain him in his decisions as long as the Lord sees fit to keep him in that position.

      At various times the Lord has seen fit to test the faith of Church members by permitting prophets to remain in office through an advanced age, and even when their mental faculties were not always at their highest level. No one needs concern himself about such a situation because the Lord always makes them equal to the tasks He places upon them regardless of their age or condition. On any issue, we can feel perfectly secure in following the prophet. It is impossible to achieve unity and the joy which comes therefrom otherwise. Only contention and misery can be expected if we deviate from this divine mandate. [p. 8]

      First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything . . . .

      Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

      President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

. . . Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him and said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’ [In Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 18-19]

      Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

      The living prophet has the power of TNT. By that I mean “Today’s News Today.” God’s revelations to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore, the most important prophet, so far as you and I are concerned, is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore, the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each week in the Church Section of the Deseret News and any words of the prophet contained each month in our Church magazines. Our marching orders for each six months are found in the general conference addresses, which are printed in the Ensign magazine. (Ezra Taft Benson, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, BYU Devotional, 26 Feb. 1980) [p. 9]

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