We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
Every believer in God acknowledges a power greater than the government. Who then takes priority? God or the king? If the laws of God conflict with the laws of the land, what should be done? It is a very dangerous thing for civilized society to have citizens claiming exemption to civil law based on divine mandate. Anyone could claim anything. So we are instructed to obey the law.
If you can't be subject to the laws of men, how can you be subject to the laws of God? If you can't obey a lower law, how can you obey a higher one? "For he who is not able to abide the law of [an earthly] kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory" (D&C 88:22) It's a test to see if we can learn to subject ourselves to a higher power. It's a class in Obedience 101. If we master that skill, we can move on to a higher law; we will never complain that God is unfair.
Articles of Faith for the 12th Article of Faith
The 12th Article of Faith is the only article of faith that has its own articles of faith. They are found in the 134th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and include 12 "we believe" statements and three "we do not believe" statements.
- 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...
- We believe [the government should preserve] the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
- We believe that [just officers should be sought for and] upheld by the voice of the people...
- We believe that religion is instituted of God... but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
- We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments... and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming...
- We believe that every man should be honored in his station... and that to the laws all men show respect and deference...
- We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions...
- We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense; that... all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment.
- We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government...
- We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies...
- We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances... but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves... where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.
- We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world... (D&C 134:1-12)
The 134th section of the Doctrine and Covenants were written in 1835 amidst suspicion of Mormon political motives. This ignorance and suspicion has survived even to our day. Actually, Latter-day Saints make great citizens. We obey the laws of the land. We are patriotic. We pay taxes. We vote. We run for office. We get involved in the political process.
Russell M. Nelson
A saint is an honorable citizen, knowing that the very country which provides opportunity and protection deserves support, including prompt payment of taxes and personal participation in its legal political process. (See D&C 134:5.) ("'Thus Shall My Church Be Called'," Ensign, May 1990, 16)
Dallin H. Oaks
It is part of our civic duty to be moral in our conduct toward all people. There is no place in responsible citizenship for dishonesty or deceit or for willful law breaking of any kind. We believe with the author of Proverbs that "righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." (Prov. 14:34.) The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.
Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward government. They should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. This includes compulsory duties like military service and the numerous voluntary actions they must take if they are to preserve the principle of limited government through citizen self-reliance. For example, since U.S. citizens value the right of trial by jury, they must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them.
The single word that best describes a fulfillment of the duties of civic virtue is patriotism. Citizens should be patriotic. My favorite prescription for patriotism is that of Adlai Stevenson:
"What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? ... A patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."
I close with a poetic prayer. It is familiar to everyone in the United States, because U.S. citizens sing it in one of their loveliest hymns. It expresses gratitude to God for liberty, and it voices a prayer that he will continue to bless them with the holy light of freedom:
Great God, our King!
("The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign, Feb. 1992, 74)
Role of LDS Church in Political Process
A good summary of our role in politics is found at mormontopics.org:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints encourages its members to participate in the political process wherever they live. The Church wants its members to be well informed, to vote and otherwise contribute to principles of good citizenship. In all of the nations in which the Church is established, it is neutral in matters of party politics.
In Politics, the Mormon Church Does Not:
• Endorse, promote, or oppose political parties, candidates, or platforms.
• Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.
• Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
• Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader.
In Politics, the Mormon Church Does:
• Encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.
• Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.
• Request candidates for office not to imply that their candidacy or platforms are endorsed by the Church.
• Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.
The Church has made the following public statement on multiple occasions prior to major elections: "Principles compatible with the gospel are found in the platforms of all major political parties. While the Church does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties, members are urged to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs." (http://www.mormontopics.org/eng/politics)
See also http://famousmormons.net/pol.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latter_Day_Saints under the Politics Section