Mormons and American Government
This article was written in late 2011, when there were two members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints running for the office of president of the United States. Much controversy has been generated during the presidential campaign due to these candidates' Latter-day Saint beliefs. As much as 40 percent of the American citizenry claims it would not vote for a Latter-day Saint, or sometimes called Mormon, president. The Constitution of the United States says there may be no religious test for the office, but people are influenced by their own religious beliefs when they vote, especially where social issues are concerned.
There are two kinds of people most opposed to a Latter-day Saint candidate for the American presidency. One comes from the left side of the political spectrum and is opposed to the conservatism of the Church of Jesus Christ and many of its members regarding the gay marriage issue. Latter-day Saints are also generally against abortion. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ worry about the compromising of religious rights as America becomes more liberal and secular on social issues.
The other challenge to a Latter-day Saint president comes from the "religious right" in America, made up mostly of Evangelical Christians who consider non-Christian religions, Catholics, Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other non-traditional Christian sects to be cults, and which condemns adherents of these sects to damnation. One claim made by the religious right is that members of the Church of Jesus Christ want to take over America and remake it into a theocracy. This is false. The following is an explanation of Latter-day Saint doctrinal views of America and why American Latter-day Saints are good citizens of the United States.
Latter-day Saints and Religious Freedom
In the Book of Mormon prophets explain the cause of evil — God allows opposition in order to give us "agency," the opportunity to choose right or wrong. The Lord goes to great lengths to guarantee our agency in all things, and that is why He doesn't interfere when nations, governments, and groups of people make "evil" choices. He does, however, grant personal miracles to those who call on Him, and if it doesn't seem like He protects them during mortality, He assures us that all will be made right in heaven.
The agency of man is central to the economy of God and the Plan of Salvation for His children. Though detractors may state otherwise, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is not a coercive religion. With an active missionary force of over 60,000 members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is obviously a proselyting church, and members are ebullient about their faith and overjoyed when anyone expresses an interest in the Church. But conversion comes from the Lord, through a spiritual witness from Him that this is His true and living church. Without that personal revelation, no one should commit to become a member. The eleventh Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ says the following:
- "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may,"
One of the reasons that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members are active in the public square when social issues are at stake is to protect religious freedom against creeping secularism that would banish religion to the chapels of America, never to see the light of day.
What the Book of Mormon Says about America
The Book of Mormon is exactly like the Bible in that it is the compiled accounts of prophets among Israelites, but unlike the Bible in that it was only translated once to English. This is one reason why Joseph Smith called it a perfect book. The record begins in 600 BC in Jerusalem, just prior to the Babylonian Captivity. Many prophets were preaching in Jerusalem, and the Lord warned one of them, Lehi, that his life was in danger and to take his family into the wilderness. Eventually, the Lord led them to a promised land, somewhere in the Americas. The family members were descendants of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, and as such, they became a separated branch of Israel, independently nurtured by the Lord. In the Book of Mormon, prophets recorded what they saw of the future, that only those inspired by God and approved by Him would be led to America, and that they would be required to remember Him and keep His commandments, or they would be swept off.
Some of the descendants of these Israelites became Native Americans, and the Book of Mormon predicts their decimation by the peoples of Europe who would migrate to America. The Book of Mormon predicts the coming forth of the American constitution and the establishment of a free country into which the Book of Mormon would come forth. Note the following quotes:
- ". . . we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed . . . and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.
- "Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve Him according to the commandments which He has given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever" (2 Nephi 1:5–7).
The Founding Fathers and the Constitution
Latter-day Saints believe that God raised up the founding fathers of the United States, a group of men displaying such genius as to be unequaled in history, for the purpose of founding this great nation under an inspired constitution. The Lord revealed the following to Joseph Smith, first prophet of the last dispensation of time, the following:
- "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" (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80; 109:54).
Joseph Smith said,
- "The constitution of the United States is a glorious standard. It is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner; it is to all those who are privileged with the sweets of liberty, like the cooling shades and refreshing waters of a great rock in a thirsty and weary land. It is like a great tree under whose branches men from every clime can be shielded from the burning rays of the sun. We say that God is true; that the constitution of the United States is true; that the Bible is true; that the Book of Mormon is true; that the Book of Covenants is true; that Christ is true; that the ministering angels sent forth from God are true, and that we know that we have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God."
The Constitution Will Hang by a Thread
One supposed prophesy of Joseph Smith, the "White Horse Prophecy" was recorded tens of years after his death. There are anachronisms in the recorded text that prove that it was embellished by the person recording it, and the Church of Jesus Christ does not count it as a reliable document nor embrace it as Church doctrine. If it came from Joseph Smith at all, it is impossible to pick out which sections were really from him and which were added. One part of the prophecy says that the American Constitution would hang by a thread and that elders of the Church would rise up to defend it. This is not the same as creating a Latter-day Saint theocracy in the United States. The following quote is from Charles W. Nibley, presiding bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ in 1922:
- ". . . the day would come when there would be so much of disorder, of secret combinations taking the law into their own hands, tramping [sic] upon Constitutional rights and the liberties of the people, that the Constitution would hang as by a thread. Yes, but it will still hang, and there will be enough of good people, many who may not belong to our Church at all, people who have respect for law and for order, and for Constitutional rights, who will rally around with us and save the Constitution."
Saving the constitution means supporting good leadership and interpreting and upholding the principles designed by the founding fathers. It doesn't matter what religion people belong to, in order for them to believe that the Constitution is immutable in its basic design and not a document to be reworked at will. There are many of all faiths who desire to uphold the Constitution.
The Establishment of Zion
Revelation to modern prophets has revealed that Micah 4:2 (Isaiah 2:3) refers to two separate cities that will be world centers during the millennial rule of Jesus Christ:
- "And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
Jerusalem of old will be a holy city from which the word of the Lord shall go. Zion, or the "New Jerusalem" will be established upon the American continent and from there, the law will go. This law will be constitutional law. It says in the Bible that there will be no nations during the Millennium, so this situation does not pertain to America today.
When the Millennium arrives, Christ will rule, and that would be a worldwide theocracy. All will bend the knee to Him who reigneth:
- "And this shall be the sound of his trump, saying to all people, both in heaven and in earth, and that are under the earth—for every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess, while they hear the sound of the trump, saying: Fear God, and give glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, forever and ever; for the hour of his judgment is come" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:104; see also Philippians 2:11; Romans 14:11; Mosiah 16:1).