04) CHURCH/STATE: Should religious influence be excluded from politics? Can Prophets understand and receive revelation on political issues and government principles?

Prophetic Statements

First Presidency

We encourage all members, as citizens of the nation, to be actively involved in the political process, and support those measures which will strengthen the community, state, and nation–morally, economically, and culturally. 1

Brigham Young

The Constitution and laws of the United States resemble a theocracy more closely than any government now on the earth, or that ever has been, so far as we know, except the government of the children of Israel to the time when they elected a king. 2

Ye elders of Israel, will some of you draw the line of demarcation, between the spiritual and temporal in the Kingdom of God, so that I may understand it? Not one of you can do it. I defy any man on earth to point out the path a Prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be. 3

[T]he form of the government of the United States differs but little from that of the kingdom of God. 4

To accuse us of being unfriendly to the Government, is to accuse us of hostility to our religion, for no item of inspiration is held more sacred with us than the Constitution under which she acts. 5

I want to say to every man, the Constitution of the United States, as formed by our fathers, was dictated, was revealed, was put into their hearts by the Almighty, who sits enthroned in the midst of the heavens; although unknown to them, it was dictated by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and I tell you in the name of Jesus Christ, it is as good as I could as for. 6

It is written, “For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” There is a just reason for this saying. But the Latter-day Saints who hearken to the words of the Lord, given to them touching their political, social and financial concerns, I say, and say it boldly, that they will have wisdom which is altogether superior to the wise of the children of darkness, or the children of this world. I know this by the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the results of my own actions. They who have hearkened to the counsels given to them in temporal matters, have invariably bettered their condition temporally and spiritually. 7

John Taylor

By a careful perusal of the scriptures, we find that God in ancient days had as much to do with governments, kings and kingdoms, as he ever had to do with religion. 8

David O. McKay

The scriptures make clear that there was a great war in heaven, a struggle over the principle of freedom, the right choice. Prophets of God, as watchmen on towers, have proclaimed liberty. Holy me of God have led the fight against anarchy and tyranny. Why have prophets of God been commanded to proclaim liberty and lead the battle to preserve freedom? Because freedom is basic to the great plan of the Lord. I do not know that there was ever a time in the history of mankind when the Evil One seemed so determined to take from man his freedom. Pernicious efforts and sinister schemes are cunningly and stealthily being fostered to deprive man of his individual freedom and have him revert to the life of the jungle. 9

Harold B. Lee

We have heard much said about keeping out of debt and avoiding speculation. From the inspired lips of the late President Anthony W.Ivins [of the First Presidency] came these words (and they should be something of a condemnation to those who disregarded his words and should be something of a blessing to those who listened to and kept that counsel), referring to and warning against borrowing and goinginto debt: I fear this, that under existing conditions we are gradually drifting toward a paternal government, a government which will so intrench itself that the people will become powerless to disrupt it, in which the lives and liberties of the people at large may be jeopardized. They are pouring millions of dollars in this time of need into sources for the benefit of the people…but it is going to result in this—I am going to make this statement—that if the present policy is continued it will not be long until the government will be in the banking business, it will be in the farming business, it will be in the cattle and sheep business, for many of these debts will never be paid. That will mean the appointment of innumerable agencies. The government now is overloaded with commissions and agencies, some of them administering the very laws that Congress itself has enacted. Someone else should be administering those laws. If you want to save yourself from the bondage of debt and political influences which are not of your own choosing, I ask you to think of what I have said. 10

Now, my brethren and sisters, we have men today who have told us repeatedly and also warned against the evil and vice…in our midst. We have been told that we must patronize and foster home industry, avoid speculation, and make savings in food and clothing for at least a year. We have had our leaders plead with us to pursue a course that would tend to keep us out of war. I admonish you in all sobriety and seriousness to listen and heed before it is too late. Oh, may we not be those of whom the Lord complained: “In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” (D&C 101:8.) Remember that the Lord said: “For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.” (D&C 78:7) 11

Ezra Taft Benson

I support the doctrine of separation of church and state as traditionally interpreted to prohibit the establishment of an official national religion. But I am opposed to the doctrine of separation of church and state as currently interpreted to divorce government from any formal recognition of God. The current trend strikes a potentially fatal blow at the concept of the divine origin of our rights, and unlocks the door for an easy entry of future tyranny. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations – a throwback to the Feudal System of the Dark Ages. We must ever keep in mind the inspired words of Thomas Jefferson, as found in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship. 12

If we are to protect this American base, we must realize that all things, including information disseminated by our schools, churches, and governments, should be judged according to the words of the prophets, especially the living prophet. This procedure, coupled with the understanding which will come through the Spirit of the Lord, if we are living in compliance with the scriptures, is the only sure foundation and basis of judgment. Any other course of action leaves us muddled, despondent, wandering in shades of gray, easy targets for Satan. If we fail in these pressing and important matters, we may well fall far short of the great mission the Lord has proffered and outlined for America and for His divinely restored Church. 13

Suppose a leader of the Church were to tell you that you were supporting the wrong side of a particular issue. Some might immediately resist this leader and his counsel or ignore it, but I would suggest that you first apply the fourth great civic standard for the faithful Saints. That standard is to live for, to get, and then to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. . . . A number of years ago, because of a statement that appeared to represent the policy of the Church, a faithful member feared he was supporting the wrong candidate for public office. Humbly he took the matter up with the Lord. Through the Spirit of the Lord he gained the conviction of the course he should follow, and he dropped his support of this particular candidate. This good brother, by fervent prayer, got the answer that in time proved to be the right course. 14

In this great struggle for free agency, think what a power for good we could be in this world if we were united. God will hold us responsible. Let us not be deceived in the sifting days ahead. Let us rally together on freedom and against socialism and communism. We should continue to come to the aid of patriots, programs, and organizations that are trying to save our Constitution through every legal and moral means possible. God has not left us in darkness regarding these matters. We have the scriptures ancient and modern. We have a living prophet, and we may obtain the Spirit. The time is fast approaching when it will require great courage for Latter-Day Saints to stand up for their peculiar standards and doctrine, all their doctrine, including the more weighty principles such as the principle of freedom. Opposition to this weighty principle of freedom caused many of our brothers and sisters in the pre-existence to lose their first estate in the War in Heaven. 15

In general conference, President McKay said, “Efforts are being made to deprive man of his free agency–to steal from the individual his liberty . . . there has been an alarming increase in the abandoning of the ideals that constitute the foundation of the Constitution. There should be no question in the mind of any true Latter-day Saint as to what we shall preach.” Then President McKay lists the areas our preaching should cover and admonishes us to include in our preaching what governments should or should not do in the interest of the preservation of freedom. Do we preach what governments should or should not do as a part of the gospel plan, or do we refuse to follow the prophet by preaching a limited gospel plan of salvation? The fight for freedom cannot be divorced from the gospel–the plan of salvation. Can we name any other gospel theme that has received as much emphasis from the man who holds the keys, as has the theme of freedom? We do not need a prophet–we have one. What we need is a listening ear, a humble heart, and a soul that is pure enough to follow his inspired guidance. 16

Let the Constitution be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books, and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation. 17

A critic claimed that a person who serves in a church capacity should not comment on civic matters. He charged that the separation of church and state requires that church officials restrict their attention to the affairs of the church.

I also believe that the institutions of church and state should be separated, but i do not agree that spiritual leaders cannot comment on basic issues which involve the very foundation of American liberty.

In fact, if this were true, we would have to throw away a substantial part of the Bible. Speaking out against immoral or unjust actions of political leaders has been the burden of prophets and disciples of God from time immemorial. It was for this very reason that many of them were persecuted. Some of them were stoned; some of them were burned; many were imprisoned. Nevertheless, it was their God-given task to speak up. It is certainly no different today.

To Moses, God said, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). To modern men God has said that the Constitution “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (D&C 101:77). 18

I support the doctrine of separation of church and state as traditionally interpreted to prohibit the establishment of an official national religion. But this does not mean that we should divorce government from any formal recognition of God. To do so strikes a potentially fatal blow at the concept of the divine origin of our rights, and unlocks the door for an easy entry of future tyranny. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men instituted by politicians and bureaucrats, they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations–a throwback to the feudal system of the Dark Ages. 19

We should measure all proposals having to do with our national or local welfare by four standards: First, is the proposal, the policy, or the idea being promoted, right as measured by the gospel of Jesus Christ? I assure you it is much easier for one to measure a proposed policy by the gospel of Jesus Christ if he has accepted the gospel and is living it.

Second, is it right as measured by the Lord’s standard of constitutional government? (See D&C 98:5.) Whether we live under a divinely inspired Constitution, as in the United States, or under some other form of government, the Lord’s standard is a safe guide.

Third, we might well ask, Is it right as measured by the counsel of the living oracles of God? It is my conviction that these living oracles are not only authorized, but are also obligated to give counsel to this people on any subject that is vital to the welfare of this people and to the up-building of the kingdom of God.

Fourth, what will be the effect upon the morale and the character of the people if this or that policy is adopted? After all, as a Church, we are interested in building men and women and in building character. 20

Gordon B. Hinckley

We believe very strongly in the separation between church and state. We become involved in politics only when there is a moral issue at stake. If it is alcohol, if it is gambling, if it is a thing of that kind, we speak out, we exercise our influence. If it is a tax increase, if it is a highway here or there that is before the legislature, we don’t bother about it institutionally. Individuals? Yes. We urge all of our people to exercise their constitutional right to be good citizens, to be involved in politics. But, institutionally, the Church moves only when it is a moral issue. 21


Psalm 33:12
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.

D&C 134:1
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, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

Mosiah 29:14
And even I myself have labored with all the power and faculties which I have possessed, to teach you the commandments of God, and to establish peace throughout the land, that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity;

Mosiah 29:42
And it came to pass that Alma was appointed to be the first chief judge, he being also the high priest, his father having conferred the office upon him, and having given him the charge concerning all the affairs of the church.

Mosiah 29:29, 43
If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the voice of the people.

And now it came to pass that Alma did walk in the ways of the Lord, and he did keep his commandments, and he did judge righteous judgments; and there was continual peace through the land.

Words of Mormon 1:17
For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—

Mosiah 24:4-7
And he appointed teachers of the brethren of Amulon in every land which was possessed by his people; and thus the language of Nephi began to be taught among all the people of the Lamanites.

And they were a people friendly one with another; nevertheless they knew not God; neither did the brethren of Amulon teach them anything concerning the Lord their God, neither the law of Moses; nor did they teach them the words of Abinadi;

But they taught them that they should keep their record, and that they might write one to another.

And thus the Lamanites began to increase in riches, and began to trade one with another and wax great, and began to be a cunning and a wise people, as to the wisdom of the world, yea, a very cunning people, delighting in all manner of wickedness and plunder, except it were among their own brethren.

Founders Statements

John Adams

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. 22

John Quincy Adams

Is it not that in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? – that it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? – That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity? 23

Benjamin Franklin

I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. 24

John Jay

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way
to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to
regulate your life by its precepts.

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as
well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer
Christians for their rulers. 25

U.S. Supreme Court

There is no dissonance in these [legal] declarations…These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons: they are organic [legal, governmental] utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people…These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. 26

Supporting Statements

Patrick Henry

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” 27

Richard L. Evans

We find ourselves often quoting the words of prophets, and, lest there be some doubt as to waht a prophet is, we submit that it is one who, under the appointment and inspiration of the Lord God, speaks truth as the spirit moves him, regardless of what the world is thinking and regardless of what men would like to hear.

And, therefore, a prophet is seldom popular, and the cost of being a prophet is always great, for he may be called up to say things which are not pleasing, even unto himself, and he may find himself fighting against a tide of mass-misconception, and, as history records, be stoned, crucified, banished, ridiculed, shunned or rejected. For the truth is not pleasing unto all men, and time has proved that majorities are not always right . . .

It is not important that a prophet should say those things with which you and I are in full accord. But it is important that you and I should bring ourselves into full accord with those things which a prophet speaks by virtue of his office and calling. 28

Alexis de Tocqueville

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country. 29

  1. Spencer W. Kimball, A Letter from the First Presidency, June 29, 1979.
  2. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 6:342.
  3. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 10:363.
  4. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 6:345.
  5. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:175.
  6. Brigham Young, as quoted in “The Prophets on the Christ,” December 26, 1908, Liahona: The Elders’ Journal, 678.
  7. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 12: 118.
  8. John Taylor, Millennial Star 5:8-9.
  9. David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1965.
  10. Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1932, pp. 111-12.
  11. Harold B. Lee, of the Council of the Twelve, “The Lord’s Plan for Difficult Times,” Conference Address at 112th Semi-Annual Conference, October, 1941
  12. Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government.
  13. Ezra Taft Benson, Title of Liberty, pp. 88-91; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 571.
  14. Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, April 1972.
  15. Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, October 1963.
  16. Ezra Taft Benson, BYU, October 1966.
  17. Ezra Taft Benson quoting Lincoln, “Constitution, A Heavenly Banner.”
  18. Title of Liberty, p. 28.
  19. “Freedom Is Our Heritage,” LDS Business and Professional Men’s Association, Glendale, California, 10 November 1970.
  20. God, Family, Country, pages 278-79.
  21. BBC Interview, February 21, 1997.
  22. John Adams, Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6; The Works of John Adams (Boston, 1854), vol. 9, pp. 228-9.
  23. John Quincy Adams, Independence Day speech, Newburyport, MA, July 04, 1837
  24. Benjamin Franklin, Speech to the Constitutional Convention (28 June 1787); Manuscript notes by Franklin preserved in the Library of Congress
  25. John Jay, [i]John Jay: The Winning of the Peace[/i]. Unpublished Papers 1780-1784, Richard B. Morris, editor (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980), Vol. II, p. 709, to Peter Augustus Jay on April 8, 1784.
  26. Church of the Holy Trinity, v. U.S., 1892
  27. May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses
  28. Richard L. Evans, The Improvement Era, 1939, 42:672.
  29. Alexis de Tocqueville
    French observer of America in 1831, author of Democracy in America
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