Doctrine and Covenants 134

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 229–30


Introduction

Section 134 contains a declaration of belief regarding governments and laws. This section was approved by the membership of the Church for inclusion in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The eleventh and twelfth articles of faith teach that laws should allow all people the privilege of worshipping God “according to the dictates of [their] own conscience” and that people should be subject to government leaders in “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” President N. Eldon Tanner taught:

“It is most important that all citizens be informed in matters of government; that they know and understand the laws of the land; and that they take an active part wherever possible in choosing and electing honest and wise men to administer the affairs of government. …

“Abraham Lincoln once observed: ‘Bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible; still, while they continue in force, they should be religiously observed.’

“This is the attitude of the Church in regard to law observance. We agree with the author of the following statement:

“‘In reality the man who defies or flouts the law is like the proverbial fool who saws away the plank on which he sits, and a disrespect or disregard for law is always the first sign of a disintegrating society. Respect for law is the most fundamental of all social virtues, for the alternative to the rule of law is that of violence and anarchy.’ (Case and Comment, March/April issue, 1965, p. 20.)

“… Christ gave us the great example of a law-abiding citizen when the Pharisees, trying to entangle him, as the scriptures say, asked him if it were lawful to give tribute money unto Caesar. After asking whose inscription was on the tribute money, and their acknowledgment that it was Caesar’s, he said:

“‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.’ (Matt. 22:21.)

“It is the duty of citizens of any country to remember that they have individual responsibilities, and that they must operate within the law of the country in which they have chosen to live” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 126; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 83).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • We believe that governments have the right to pass laws for the peace and safety of their citizens but not to interfere with righteous worship (see D&C 134:1–4, 7, 9, 11–12; see also D&C 42:79, 84–86; 101:76–80).

  • Governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man. It is the duty of all people to obey the laws of the nation in which they live (see D&C 134:1, 5–8; see also D&C 58:21; Official Declaration 1).

  • Religious organizations do not have the right to take away a person’s life or property. They can only deny a person membership or fellowship in their organization (see D&C 134:4, 10; see also D&C 20:80; 102:1–2, 18–24).

Additional Resources

  • Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 344–47.

Suggestions for Teaching

Doctrine and Covenants 134. We believe that governments have the right to pass laws for the peace and safety of their citizens but not to interfere with righteous worship. It is the duty of all people to obey the laws of the nation in which they live.

(30–35 minutes)

Invite students to imagine they have been selected to serve on a committee to form a government in a newly settled area. Have them work in small groups for 10 minutes to discuss and write answers to the following questions:

  • How would you define the purpose of government?

  • What responsibilities will your government have?

  • What responsibilities will the citizens have?

Have each group share what they wrote. Read Doctrine and Covenants 134:1–9, 11 as a class. Have students look for how this section answers the questions, and compare it with each group’s responses.

Read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 134 and ask:

  • How does this section differ from other sections in the Doctrine and Covenants? (It is a declaration of belief, not a revelation.)

  • Why do you think this declaration is valuable for us to have?

Share information from the historical background for section 134 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (p. 344). Discuss the following questions:

  • What events led to the writing of this declaration?

  • Why would it be important for other people to understand the Church’s views on government?

  • How do the eleventh and twelfth articles of faith support these teachings on government?

  • In what ways can a government follow the teachings of Doctrine and Covenants 134?

  • What can we do to show support for our government and its leaders?

Doctrine and Covenants 134:4, 10. Religious organizations do not have the right to take away a person’s life or property. They can only deny a person membership or fellowship in their organization.

(10–15 minutes)

Write or post the following hypothetical rules on the board:

  • Every day you are late to seminary, you will be fined $5.

  • If you do not get a passing grade in seminary, you will not be allowed to participate in any extracurricular school activities.

  • Every day you fail to read your scriptures, you must forfeit to the teacher one of your personal possessions (up to $10 in value).

Discuss with students how they would feel if these rules were enforced. Ask:

  • Do you think these rules are fair? Why or why not?

  • Why would it be wrong for the seminary or the Church to force people to act a certain way?

  • What punishments should a church be able to inflict when members break its rules?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 134:4, 10 to find the Church’s position on these questions. Ask: Why is this better than giving religious organizations power over life or property?

Write on the board stealing, lying, murder, adultery, cheating. Ask:

  • What do you think is an appropriate punishment from the government for each of these actions?

  • What do you think might be an appropriate punishment from the Church?