A Sacrament talk I gave last Sunday, 7/14/13, on the topic of liberty and the voice of the people. People's reactions were that it was well done. I had two people ask me to email them a copy, and everyone in the Stake Presidency, High Counsel, and Bishopric who were there and heard it said it was a great talk, especially because I had remained within doctrine on the topic and didn't get "political." They said it was a very touchy subject that I handled very well without deviating from scriptural doctrine and going off on my own political tangents.
Liberty and the Voice of the People:
The Scriptures are plain and clear on the divine inspiration of popular sovereignty, or the rule of the voice of the people, especially in this promised land, and the warnings against monarchism, or kings, and its often accompanying absolutism, in which one man has virtually absolute power:
Chronologically, we find such warnings in:
-These verses tell of the Council in Heaven during the Preexistence when we were choosing a plan of salvation, the first true battle over agency and the voice of the people that we know of as of now according to revelation. It was during this council that we were called upon to choose between 2 plans. We know the story; Lucifer, soon to be known as Satan, stepped forward and said “send me. I will save everyone, through coercion, forcing them to be saved, thus taking away their agency.” He was so confident in his plan of benevolent tyranny that he demanded all the glory of the Father. Of course we know Christ stepped forward and said “send me, thy will be done, and the glory be thine, Father.” Christ’s plan, ultimately Heavenly Father’s, sought to preserve our individual agency, while Satan sought to take it away. The Father and all but 1/3 of His children choose Christ’s plan, and Satan rebelled and became the Devil.
In Ether 6:22-23; the Jaredites travel to the Promised Land, where the people demand a king. The Brother of Jared warned against kings, warning that it would be grievous to them and would surely lead them into captivity. Unfortunately for them, they choose to have a king, which choice did indeed lead them into captivity, as well as to fighting and bloodshed among the people over who should be king, the king’s leading them into iniquity, and ultimately their destruction as a civilization.
In 1 Samuel 8, the Prophet Samuel similarly warns against kings and the absolute power, oppression and the resulting suffering of the people. He warned that in rejecting Jehova as their King, and seeking a king like all other nations of the world, the king would ultimately lead them into captivity and take all that they have. Of course we see these prophetic warnings of Samuel come true as we read through the Old and New Testament.
In 2 Nephi 5:18, the people of Nephi were desirous to have a king; but Nephi was desirous that they have no king.
In Mosiah 23:6-13, Alma the Elder leads his people of God into the wilderness, and they want him to be their king. But Alma refused, and warned them of kings and the resulting oppression and wickedness that often comes because it is rare that men will be righteous and just kings. Alma told them that it was the Lord’s will that they not esteem one flesh above another, nor one man think himself above another. It was God’s will that they “stand fast in the liberty in which he has made them free.”
Mosiah chapter 29 is the most descriptive warning against kings and the often accompanying iniquity and oppression and suffering of the people. King Mosiah was old, and asked his sons to take the kingdom. His sons refused, and King Mosiah, inspired by God, devised the judges system, in which judges would be chosen by the voice of the people. He warned, like Alma, against the dangers of having a king and how it was rare that the people had just and righteous kings. Instead, it was not common that the voice of the people, or the majority should choose wickedness, but that it was common that the lesser part, or the minority would choose wickedness. Thus, it was far better to have a system of government in which it was rare for wickedness to be chosen and suffering and oppression to result. In addition, under a system of government that was chosen by the voice of the people, every man would be an agent unto themselves and would thus have the ability to hold responsibility of his/her own choices, thus furthering God’s plan of agency. Further, if the voice of the people, or its majority did choose wickedness, not only would their own sins be answered upon their own heads, but in that time the judgments of God will come upon them; then is the time he will visit them with great destruction as he did before with those civilizations on in this promised land.
The purpose of democracy, or the voice of the people, is to secure agency to each man and woman, and liberty thrives only where agency is secured. Democracy is not the end; rather, democracy is a means to an end, to preserve the agency of man, and thus secure to the people their rights and liberties. Thus, the doctrine of agency flourishes more so under a government founded on the voice of the people than under any other government man has devised.
In a 1992 Ensign article entitled “The Divinely Inspired Constitution,” Dallin H. Oaks listed several reasons why he felt the Constitution and thus government of the United States is divinely inspired. One of those reasons is popular sovereignty, or political power resting with the people. He says,
Perhaps the most important of the great fundamentals of the inspired Constitution is the principle of popular sovereignty: The people are the source of government power. Along with many religious people, Latter-day Saints affirm that God gave the power to the people, and the people consented to a constitution that delegated certain powers to the government. Sovereignty is not inherent in a state or nation just because it has the power that comes from force of arms. Sovereignty does not come from the divine right of a king, who grants his subjects such power as he pleases or is forced to concede, as in Magna Charta. The sovereign power is in the people. I believe this is one of the great meanings in the revelation which tells us that God established the Constitution of the United States,
‘That every man may act … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
“Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
“And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land.” (D&C 101:78–80.)’”
But, we must remember that freedom’s perpetual companion is responsibility, and thus, having the freedom to individually choose, even our leaders, we must also inevitably assume the individual responsibility for our choices. And when we choose wicked men, or men not as good as others for our governmental leaders, we must bear the consequences of such choices and the invasion of rights and destruction of freedom that typically accompanies not so good men or women elected into office. For a government founded on the voice of the people requires much of us individually, which responsibility helps us grow and ultimately become more like God. It requires we take an active role in our government, which means more than just going to the polls and voting on Election Day. It means studying current events and issues, comparing them with scriptural doctrines and revelations, studying politicians and their stances on these issues. Or in the words of Thomas Jefferson, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. For the author of tyranny and oppression, which results from the invasion of rights, is that same author of sin and lies, the Devil. He seeks still to this day as he did in the Preexistence to do away with man’s agency. Only over time he has grown more clever and has learned to disguise plans, cloaking them in “agency,” effectively tricking people to use their God given agency, even through democratic means, to give up their agency and thus their freedom, enslaving themselves voluntarily. Satan first gets mankind to first bind themselves with a flaxen chord, which is virtually unfelt, extremely light, and unnoticed, until the chord becomes chains, which very difficult to escape from, as it says in 2 Nephi 26. As freedom, democracy, and in effect agency has spread over the world and become dominant on every continent, Satan has learned that no longer can he effectively conquer mankind and destroy agency through force, enslaving mankind through tyrants and their usurpations and bloodshed. Rather, he has learned that with the spread of the doctrine of agency and its implementation throughout our modern world, that the only effective way to conquer agency is to have us use our agency to give it up, by tricking us into believing that, as President Monson said recently, like the Greeks and the Romans, safety and security is freedom, that freedom is not really freedom. He tricks us into worshipping him and his church, absolute government and tyranny, that provides all security, but without agency and freedom. Satan tricks us into giving up our rights voluntarily using our agency for a false sense of security. And then he has us in his trap; he gets us to enslave ourselves using our own agency. How cunning indeed!
As mentioned already, having the blessing of choosing our own government and government officials, we have much responsibility placed on our shoulders. Not only must we use our agency in our individual lives to choose God and His laws and His ways, by refusing Satan’s temptations, we must apply this to our government as well and who we choose for our leaders. Indeed, Michael A. Nieder, in his 2012 Ensign Article called “The Voice of the People,” says the following:
“Because we are subject to rulers, we must do all we can in diplomatic, legal, and supportive ways to select and help elect officials who are honest, wise, and good (see D&C 98:10). We should also consider running for office ourselves and support laws that observe the “principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, [which belong] to all mankind, and [are] justifiable before me” (D&C 98:5).”
As D&C 98:9-10 says, when the wicked rule the people mourn; therefore, honest and wise men should be sought for diligently and upheld in office. The way we can know which politicians are the best to uphold, is to study each candidate, know what they support and plan to do once in office, where they stand on current issues, and compare their stances and the issues to the doctrines and principles of the Gospel in the scriptures. Apply the scriptures to all things in life, even politics. And whoever is in standing with scriptural and gospel principles the most in their stances on current issues, and seek to preserve the freedom and rights of the people, is the person who we should uphold and vote for. For when the wicked rule, oppression does too, and when the people are oppressed, they mourn. Do not be lulled by Satan into the false belief that security is much better than freedom. Freedom brings with it much unknown and uncertainty, to be sure, but such conditions allows us to be humble or be humbled, and place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father, through whom we may all be made secure in all things. Thus agency is preferred in all ways by our Heavenly Father, and thus should be preferred by us as well, and put our trust in the Lord instead of the arm of flesh and its many apparatuses used to enslave man, even government. Let us make Christ our ruler and leader, individually and as a nation, by choosing to live by his commandments and ways, and by choosing those who would uphold such in government. Learn of Christ and his ways, and then you will know who to vote for and uphold in government.
I bear you my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and the restored truths it brings to us, for our salvation and growth, and that daily scripture study, pondering and application to everything in our lives will only lead to our progression, happiness, and salvation. This doesn’t mean hard times won’t exist. But when they do, we can bear the burdens they bring in relying upon the Lord and his words and get through those hard times. While there’s much I may lament about the state of our country, realizing no one nor one nation is perfect, I am eternally grateful to Heavenly Father for allowing me to be born and raised in the United States, with the many freedoms and opportunities we do have, especially the freedom to worship God as we please, and for the restoration of Christ’s Church.