27) NATURAL RIGHTS: What is the source of freedom and all rights? Is it possible to retain Natural Rights without God and the principles of the Gospel?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

. . . our national organization originated in the heavens. [1]

John Taylor

We believe that the Constitution of the United States was given by inspiration of God. And why? Because it is one of those instruments which proclaims liberty throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof [2]. And it was because of those noble sentiments, and the promulgation of those principles which were given by God to man, we believe that it was given by the inspiration of the Almighty. We have always esteemed it in this light, and it was so declared by Joseph Smith. [3]

There are certain principles that are inherent in man, that belong to man, and that were enunciated in an early day, before the United States government was formed, and they are principles that rightfully belong to all men everywhere. They are described in the Declaration of Independence as unalienable rights, one of which is that men have a right to live; another is that they have a right to pursue happiness; and another is that they have a right to be free and no man has authority to deprive them of those God-given rights, and none but tyrants would do it. fn These principles, I say, are unalienable in man; they belong to him; they existed before any constitutions were framed or any laws made. Men have in various ages striven to strip their fellow men of these rights, and dispossess them of them. And hence the wars, the bloodshed, and carnage that have spread over the earth. We therefore are not indebted to the United States for these rights. We were free as men born into the world, having the right to do as we please, to act as we please, as long as we do not transgress constitutional law nor violate the rights of others. [4]

I now stand among men whose fathers fought for and obtained one of the greatest blessings ever conferred upon the human family—the right to think, to speak, to write; the right to say who shall govern them, and the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences—all of them sacred, human rights, and now guaranteed by the American Constitution. I see around me the sons of those noble sires, who, rather than bow to the behests of a tyrant, pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honors to burst those fetters, enjoy freedom themselves, bequeath it to their posterity, or die in the attempt. [5]

Wilford Woodruff

But O!! America America!! Whose land is choice above that of all the footstool of God, whose Constitution was framed by the Spirit of inspiration & whose Government was established by the hand of Omnipotent power. [6]

We consider our form of government superior to any other on earth. It guarantees to us “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And while the inhabitants of many other governments have been tyrannically bound up, and their minds controlled in certain channels, and they have been deprived of the right of liberty of speech and of many other rights valued by freemen, ours has guaranteed unto us all the liberty that can b enjoyed by man. [7]

We live in a government raised up by the God of heaven. We have a constitution that was given by inspiration from God to man. I believe it is the best human form of government that was ever given to the human family. [8]

Heber J. Grant

Every faithful Latter-day Saint believes, beyond a shadow of doubt, that to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life are inherent rights of which he should never be deprived. [9]

Ezra Taft Benson

Freedom is an eternal, God-given principle. There is no genuine happiness without freedom, nor is there any security or peace without freedom. After traveling in practically all of the free countries of the world and several times behind the Iron Curtain, I say that Marxism is the greatest evil in this world and the greatest threat to all we hold dear.

Of all sad things in the world, the saddest is to see a people who have once known liberty and freedom and then lost it. I have seen the unquenchable yearning of the human heart for liberty on two unforgettable occasions. These experiences are indelibly etched on the memory of my soul. 1

If we do not accept the existence of a Supreme Being; that God is the source of moral law, what more do we have to offer than Marx? 2

In recognizing God as the source of their rights, the Founding Fathers declared Him to be the ultimate authority for their basis of law. This led them to the conviction that people do not make law but merely acknowledge preexisting law, giving it specific application. The Constitution was conceived to be such an expression of higher law. And when their work was done, James Madison wrote: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution” (The Federalist, no. 37). 3

Our Creator endowed each one of us with certain rights at birth, among which are the rights to life, liberty, speech, and conscience, to name a few. These are not just human rights; they are divine rights. When these rights are not permitted expression by a nation, that nation becomes inhibited in its progress and development, and its leaders are responsible before God for suffocating sacred rights.

This native endowment is what separates man from the animals. It causes men to want to be good and to seek higher aspirations. It creates in man a desire to better his life and his station in life. 4

God has endowed men with certain inalienable rights and no legislature and no majority, however great, may morally limit or destroy these. The function of government is to protect life, liberty and property and anything more or less than this is usurpation and oppression. [10]

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. [11]

It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But what are those rights? And what is their source? Until these questions are answered there is little likelihood that we can correctly determine how government can best secure them.

Starting at the foundation of the pyramid, let us first consider the origin of those freedoms we have come to know are human rights. There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. I, for one, shall never accept that premise. As the French political economist, Frederick Bastiat, phrased it so succinctly, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” [12] [13]

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. [14]

If we will not be governed by God, we will be governed by tyrants. [15]

Socialist and Communist Statements


Founders Statements

Thomas Paine

Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another . . . It is impossible t discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man. [16]

Thomas Jefferson

Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? [17]

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? 5

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. 6

Supporting Statements

  1. Brigham Young, Messages of the First Presidency, 2:98
  2. Leviticus 25:10
  3. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 23:53
  4. John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p. 306
  5. John Taylor, as quoted in Life of John Taylor, p. 53-54
  6. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:42
  7. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 12:275
  8. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 22:346
  9. Heber J. Grant, Era, 39:523; Gospel Standards, p. 133
  10. Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1968
  11. Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, p 68-69
  12. Frederic Bastiat, The Law, p. 6
  13. Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government
  14. Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government
  15. Ezra Taft Benson, quoting William Penn, An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 118
  16. Thomas Paine, as quoted in Prophets, Principles and National Survival, p. 134
  17. Thomas Jefferson, Works 8:404; quoted in Prophets, Principles and National Survival, p. 141
  1. Ezra Taft Benson, Delivered to the International Freedoms Conference. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. October 26, 1979
  2. Ezra Taft Benson, Delivered to the International Freedoms Conference. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. October 26, 1979
  3. Ezra Taft Benson, CHB 23; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson 597
  4. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson 593; from an address given at Brigham Young University-Hawaii, 11 Feb 1983
  5. John Quincy Adams, Independence Day speech, Newburyport, MA, July 04, 1837
  6. Benjamin Franklin, Speech to the Constitutional Convention (28 June 1787); Manuscript notes by Franklin preserved in the Library of Congress
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