With the upcoming Independence Day Holiday – in two days despite today being the actual date the Declaration was signed – it’s good to review what it is that LDS doctrine truly teaches about the purpose of government. The following is from “a declaration of belief regarding governments and laws in general, adopted by unanimous vote at a general assembly of the Church held at Kirtland, Ohio, August 17, 1835.“1. Governments should preserve freedom of conscience and worship:
“… governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society . . . government can [only] exist in peace [when] laws . . . secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life. . . all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws [those who] will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.”
“. . . religion is instituted of God . . . men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others . . . human law [cannot] interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion . . . [government] should restrain crime, but never control conscience . . . punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
“. . . all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected . . . all governments have a right to enact [laws] to secure the public interest [while] holding sacred the freedom of conscience . . . every man should be honored in his station . . . to the laws all men show respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker . . . the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense . . . for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment.”
“[It is not] just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges . . . all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct . . . provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life . . . they can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.”
“. . . 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 . . . all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments . . . where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded. . . it [is] just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world . . .”
4a. Slavery is unjust:
“. . . we believe [it] to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.