Friday, January 13, 2012

The Magnificent Libertarianism of LDS Church General Authority, Charles W. Penrose

The magnificent Libertarianism of Charles W. Penrose, LDS Church Historian, member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and counselor in the First Presidency, delivered in a Sunday afternoon talk given at the Tabernacle in SLC, UT, July 26, 1884.

The talk is titled, "Religious Liberty Guaranteed By the Constitution—Not Mere Freedom of Belief—Where the Line Should Be Drawn—Natural Rights Must Be Protected—Danger of Special Legislation—Object of the Gathering of the Saints—Establishment of God's Kingdom—Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy—Restoration of the Christian Church—Authority of the Priesthood—Lack of Divine Authority—Proofs of the Divine Mission of the Latter-Day Saints—Plural Marriage a Religious Institution—A Bible Doctrine—Constitutional Right to Practice It"

Some memorable quotes:

"You believe it is right under some circumstances for a man to have more wives than one, and that those who thus believe are protected by the Constitution in the practice of their religion. Why should not those who believe it right to strangle, or to burn widows, have the right to practice their religion under the Constitution of the United States?” The dividing line is very simple, as truth generally is. It is very easy to be drawn. It is to be drawn in consonance with the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and with the principles that underlie our government. In the Declaration of Independence it is laid down that there are certain rights that cannot be alienated, that are natural, that are inherent, that are not imparted by governments: they do not belong to politics, but they are inherent in the individual—the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to property, and the right to the pursuit of happiness. These rights are inalienable. They belong to every individual. They are not conferred by law. They belong to us. They are born in us. They belong to every person who breathes the breath of life. Then, an act of any individual or any government which infringes upon these natural rights is wrong in and of itself. If any individual interferes with the rights of his fellow men he may be restrained by the secular law. The right to life, and to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness, and to property belong to all individuals alike. One body of people professing one faith must not interfere with the rights of any other body of people professing another faith. The Latter-day Saints, as well as the Latter-day sinners, the Methodist as well as the Catholic, the Jew as well
as the Gentile—all people alike in this great country must be protected equally in these natural rights which belong to them.

Here, then, is where the line must be drawn. Anything that persons profess to do under the name of religion, which interferes with the rights of others is wrong, and the secular law may step in and protect the citizens and restrain or punish those people who attempt to do this under the plea of religion. If I do anything which interferes with the life, the liberty, the happiness, or the property of my neighbor, the law has a right to step in and protect my neighbor and restrain me. But if my religion—that which I believe to be true, and which I try to carry out as a part of my faith—does not interfere with human rights, does not infringe in any degree upon the rights of my fellow man, neither Congress, nor any other lawmaking power on the face of the earth, has the right to interfere with me under the Constitution of the country. I have a right to the exercise of my religion so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of other people. There is where we draw the line, and we think it is the right place. And we are standing up, not only for our own rights in this respect, but for the rights of all people upon the face of this land."

"It may be found convenient today to single out the “Mormons,” because they are unpopular, for special legislation; but in a little time some other religious body in this country may have the same inimical legislation applied to them, to bear down upon them with greater weight than it does upon us. You cannot violate a principle of truth without receiving very bad consequences. Those who attempt to do that will be sure to reap the fruit of their labors at some time or other. And when the Congress of the United States commences to move away the foundation stones of the system that the fathers of this nation built up, they are working on very dangerous ground, and the consequences thereof will not be confined to the few people against whom these measures are made. It is the duty of every patriot, of every man who loves his country, and of every woman who loves her country, to do their part in preventing the passage of such enactments as these, and in vindicating the principles and doctrines which enter into the Constitution of our beloved country. So we are standing up not only for our own rights, but for the rights of others, and this is one of the duties enjoined upon us by our Heavenly Father."

The entire talk may be found on the following link:

Now compare this last quote from Elder Penrose with that of Thomas Paine, taken from a speech given to the French National Convention in 1792:

"[h]e that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

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