07) LEGISLATE MORALITY: Should the laws of the land reflect the commandments of God as found in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Questions Answered: Should the laws of the land legislate morality? Should the law of the land make wicked acts illegal and righteous acts legal? Should the law of land be based on the laws of God? What of those who say, “I don’t believe its right, but I believe others should be able to choose or it will inhibit their agency.” Should the laws of the land be strict against wickedness?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young


The wickedness of the children of men is what influences them to fear. They are not afraid of their own laws, because they originated from themselves; they can manage them and blot them out of existence whenever they wish. But when that which is said to be the Kingdom of God, or the theocracy of heaven, is upon the earth, many of the inhabitants thereof tremble, and fear that it is not correct. 1


When the Gospel of the Son of God is introduced among the children of men, it comes with light and intelligence, with pure and holy principles.  It embraces all morality, all virtue, all light, all intelligence, all greatness and all goodness.  It introduces a system of laws and ordinances and a code of moral rectitude which, if obeyed by the human family, will lead them back to the presence of God.  2


Five years ago the census of New York gave 15,000 prostitutes in that city. Is that law? Is that good order? Look at your Constitution, look at the Federal law, look at every wholesome principle, and they tell you that death is at your doors, corruption in your streets, and hell is all open, and gaping wide to inclose you in its fiery vortex. To talk about law and good order while such things exist, makes me righteously angry.  Talk not to me about law.  3


Erroneous traditions and the powers of darkness have such sway over mankind, that, when we speak of a theocracy on the earth, the people are frightened. The government of the “Holy Catholic Church,” from which all the Protestant churches are offshoots, is professedly theocratic, though it is directly opposed to the theocracy described in the Bible.

But few, if any, understand what a theocratic government is. In every sense of the word, it is a republican government, and differs but little in form from our National, State, and Territorial Governments; but its subjects will recognize the will and dictation of the Almighty. The kingdom of God circumscribes and comprehends the municipal laws for the people in their outward government, to which pertain the Gospel covenants, by which the people can be saved; and those covenants pertain to fellowship and faithfulness.

The Gospel covenants are for those who believe and obey; municipal laws are for both Saint and sinner.  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….

Whoever lives to see the kingdom of God fully established upon the earth will see a government that will protect every person in his rights. If that government was now reigning upon this land of Joseph, you would see the Roman Catholic, the Greek Catholic, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Quaker, the Shaker, the Hindoo, the Mahometan, and every class of worshippers most strictly protected in all their municipal rights and in the privilege of worshipping who, what, and when they pleased, not infringing upon the rights of others. Does any candid person in his sound judgment desire any greater liberty?

The Lord has thus far protected and preserved the human family under their various forms and administrations of government, notwithstanding their wickedness, and is still preserving them; but if the kingdom of God, or a theocratic government, was established on the earth, many practices now prevalent would be abolished.

One community would not be permitted to array itself in opposition to another to coerce them to their standard; one denomination would not be suffered to persecute another because they differed in religious belief and mode of worship. Everyone would be fully protected in the enjoyment of all religious and social rights, and no state, no government, no community, no person would have the privilege of infringing on the rights of another: one Christian community would not rise up and persecute another.

I will here remark that we are generally looked upon as a dangerous people, and for the reason that there are thousands and millions of people who are afraid that justice will be meted out to them; and they say, to use Scripture language, that “if the Saints are let alone, they will take away our place and nation, and will measure to us what we have measured to them.” They conclude thus because they estimate others by themselves, realizing that if they had the power to deprive us of our rights, they would exercise it. “We will judge you Latter-day Saints by ourselves. If we had the power to destroy you,
we would do it; and we are afraid that if you are let alone, you will have the power to destroy us and will do as we would under like circumstances.” If this people had that power today, they would not infringe in the least upon the rights of any person; neither could they, without ceasing to be Saints.
“When the kingdom of God is established upon the earth, people will find it to be very different from what they now imagine. Will it be in the least degree tyrannical and oppressive towards any human being? No, it will not; for such is not the kingdom of God.

I believe in a true republican theocracy, and also in a true democratic theocracy, as the term democratic is now used; for they are to me, in their present use, convertible terms.

What do I understand by a theocratic government? One in which all laws are enacted and executed in righteousness, and whose officers possess that power which proceedeth from the Almighty. That is the kind of government I allude to when I speak of a theocratic government, or the kingdom of God upon the earth. It is, in short, the eternal powers of the Gods.

What do the world understand theocracy to be? A poor, rotten government of man, that would say, without the shadow of provocation or just cause, “Cut that man’s head off; put that one on the rack; arrest another, and retain him in unlawful and unjust duress while you plunder his property and pollute his wife and daughters; massacre here and there.” The Lord Almighty does nothing of that kind, neither does any man who is controlled by his Spirit.

Again, the theocracy I speak of is the power of the Holy Ghost within you—that living and eternal principle that we do not possess in the fulness that we are seeking. When we talk about heavenly things, and see the world groveling in their sin and misery, and loving iniquity and corruption, the heavens weep over the people, and still they will not infringe upon their rights. God has created them so far perfectly independent as to be able to choose death or life; and he will not infringe upon this right.

And then to see people running after this and that which is calculated to destroy them spiritually and temporally—to bring upon them the first death, and then the second, so that they will be as though they had not been—is enough to make the heavens weep.”   4

Ezra Taft Benson

No people can maintain freedom, unless their political institutions are founded on faith in God and belief in the existence of moral laws. God has endowed all people with inalienable rights, and no government may morally limit or destroy these rights. 5

It was a divine way in which this nation began. The rules of conduct were taken from the Decalogue, from the Bible, from the Gospels and other scriptures. They kept a sacred Sabbath. They maintained other high standards. They frowned upon profanity and other vices. They prohibited gambling. They encouraged people not to keep bad company, to repeat no grievances. They emphasized the spiritual values.

Many years later when the nation was founded, Washington, echoing the feeling of the early Pilgrim fathers and others who had come from abroad, acknowledged God’s direction and the importance of spirituality in the lives of our people and in this great country. 6

Gordon B. Hinckley

We are forgetting God, whose commandments we have forgotten and obey not. In all too many ways we have substituted human sophistry for the wisdom of the Almighty.  We who believe in the Book of Mormon accept these great words: “Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ.” (Ether 2:12.)  Declared the Psalmist: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12.)

An acknowledgment of the Almighty and a return to the teachings of God will do more than all else to keep our ship of state on a steady course as she sails into the third century of nationhood. Here is the answer to the conflicts that best us. Here is the answer to the evils of pornography, abortion, drugs, and the squandering of our resources on evil pursuits. Here is the answer to the great epidemic of litigation which consumes time, saps our financial strength, and shackles our entrepreneurial spirit. Here is the answer to tawdry politics which place selfish interest above the common good. 7



Mosiah 29:11-12, 25
Therefore I will be your king the remainder of my days; nevertheless, let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our law; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people, for we will appoint wise men to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God.

Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just.

Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the claws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.

D&C 134:8
We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense; that murder, treason, robbery, theft, and the breach of the general peace, in all respects, should be punished according to their criminality and their tendency to evil among men, by the laws of that government in which the offense is committed; and for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment.

Mosiah 2:13
Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—

Jarom 1:5
And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to akeep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict.

Mosiah 13:29
And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;

Alma 1:13-20, 31-32
And thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, yea, a man who has done much good among this people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance.

Therefore thou art condemned to die, according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide by the law.

And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor; and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death.

Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.

Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.

And they durst not steal, for fear of the law, for such were punished; neither durst they rob, nor murder, for he that murdered was punished unto death.

But it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church of God began to persecute those that did belong to the church of God, and had taken upon them the name of Christ.

Yea, they did persecute them, and afflict them with all manner of words, and this because of their humility; because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price.

And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church.

For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible.

  1. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 77.
  2. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:235
  3. Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 1: 362.
  4. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 6:342-349; July 31, 1859
  5. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, p 68-69.
  6. Ezra Taft Benson, “Responsibilities of Citizenship,” BYU, Provo, Utah, 22 October 1954.
  7. Gordon B. Hinckley, Freedom Festival Address, Provo, Utah, June 26, 1988
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