Mormonism and Government

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Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught that “America is a land of promise with a divine role to protect freedom” [1], and thus it “will continue to play a pivotal role in important events of the Restoration and the last days,” for it “was divinely prepared as a suitable place for the prophesied restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ” [2]. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ also believe in being good citizens no matter where they live.

Mormon and Government Leaders
Senator Harry Reid, Church president Thomas S. Monson, and Elder Dallin H. Oaks present United States president Barak Obama with his genealogy. Also pictured Joshua DuBois (2009).

Restoration of the Gospel and the United States of America

Latter-day Saints view the United States of America as a “land which is choice above all other lands” (see 1 Nephi:13:30). It is “guaranteed protection against all other nations only on the condition of righteousness. It is a blessed land for all the inhabitants of the earth who will act righteously, but it is, and will be, cursed to those who will not act righteously” (see 2 Nephi 1:7, Ether 2:9-12) [3].

Scriptures recorded in the Book of Mormon reveal three important facts concerning the coming forth of America. First, God kept America hidden from the rest of the world until such a time that He could accomplish His purpose and prepare the way for the American Republic:

And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance. Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever (2 Nephi 1:8–9).

Second, Columbus’ establishing an outpost on Hispaniola enabled further fruitful exploration:

And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land (1 Nephi 13:12).

And third, the Lord Himself governed and controlled the settling of America:

And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten. And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them. And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them. And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle. And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations (1 Nephi 13:13–19).

Religious Influence and Civil Government

Modern-day scripture as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 134:9 teaches:

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.[4]

In a letter dated 11 September 2008 to the general body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the First Presidency stated:

As citizens we have the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy. Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future.
Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest. Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties.
Therefore, in this election year, we urge you to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.
The Church affirms its neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates. The Church also affirms its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues.[5]

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ also believe that the United States Constitution was inspired and that God instituted governments to benefit mankind. Therefore, the Church encourages its members to seek public office and to be of service to others.

Modern-day scripture as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 134:11–12 teaches:

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; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, 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; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, 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.

United States of America—A Promised Land with Great Responsibilities

Latter-day Saints believe that the United States was designated to be a land of liberty for the Gentiles, and that it has been a land of liberty for the righteous. They also believe that the New Jerusalem will be established in this land as a second capital in addition to Jerusalem of old (see 3 Nephi 20:22). Further, they believe, “It [the United States] is also a land whose security, prosperity, potential, and stature are conditioned by the actions of its inhabitants.” [6]

Latter-day Saints respect and revere the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States as documents framed by the hands of wise men who were raised up and inspired by God (see Doctrine and Covenants 101:80). They recognize that the Constitution and the law of the land are the foundation of the people's freedom (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:8) and that its principle of freedom, which maintains "rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before" God (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:5). As a matter of loyalty to the message of God and in the service of their fellow citizens, Latter-day Saints are taught to uphold, defend, and cherish the Constitution.

The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, Government, and Missionary Work

The Lord’s Church has always been a missionary church. The Savior’s life was the perfect example of missionary work in action. Day after day He ministered to the needs of the people, and taught them His gospel. He did this at all times, in all places, and among many diverse groups of people. Although His main mission was to the Jews, He commissioned His disciples to, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Modern day scripture as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 112:28 gives further instruction for preparing to do missionary work, “But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it.”[7] And in Doctrine and Covenants 84:62 the Savior admonishes, “Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.”[8]

In keeping with the teachings of the Savior, the Church of Jesus Christ sends missionaries to the four corners of the world to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are missionaries who are called to serve missions in the United States, but many more are called to serve in foreign lands where the customs, culture, and particularly government rules and regulations regarding religious activities are different from what they are accustomed to. For example, in the United States, most Christians consider Sunday to be the day of worship, however, a country may observe Friday as the day of worship. Those serving in foreign countries will need to adapt to these types of changes.

67,000 full-time missionaries are currently serving around the world (as of the end of 2019). They proselytize in every country where the government and political climate allow it. Many missionaries grow to love the areas in which they serve so much that they find it harder to come home after their missions are over than it was for them to leave in the first place. They return home as informed ambassadors of the nations and cultures where they served. [9]

The standard by which missionaries govern themselves while serving in foreign nations is summarized in the 12th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ which states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” Latter-day Saints are taught to obey the laws of the land in which they reside, and so, whether at home in the USA or abroad, they are subject to obey the rules and regulations set forth by the government of the perspective nation.

The government of a country could decide that it will no longer allow missionaries into its country. In such instances, the Church of Jesus Christ will maintain open communication with the government leaders to do all that they can to keep the doors open for missionaries to continue to spread the gospel, but there are times when it may also become necessary to reassign missionaries serving in that particular country to a different area. Likewise, in cases of political unrest in a nation, the Church of Jesus Christ may decide it best to remove missionaries from any potential hostile situations.

The Church of Jesus Christ not only sends missionaries to preach to the gospel to every nation, but Church leaders are frequently sent on assignment to foreign nations to meet with government leaders to ensure that the lines of communication between the government and the Church remain open at all times, especially to keep lines open for humanitarian aid, should it be needed.

The following statements regard relations with governments of other countries:

The Church has public affairs directors in every corner of the globe. These seasoned men and women help priesthood leaders build the relationships with community, government, and faith leaders that allow us to pursue the mission of the Church.
Working with government leaders, to fostering respectful interfaith dialog and answering questions from the media, public affairs forms a vital bridge between our congregations and the communities.[10]