Chapter 36: Earthly Governments and the Kingdom of God

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 267–71


President Brigham Young—colonizer, statesman, and first governor of Utah—honored and served his government. In July 1846, while the Saints were preparing for the journey from Iowa to the Salt Lake Valley, they received a request from the United States government for assistance in the war with Mexico. Although the government had been unsupportive of the Saints during their trials in Missouri and Illinois, President Young directed the recruitment of the Mormon Battalion to aid in the war and promised the men that they would not have to fight if they conducted themselves properly. This promise was fulfilled. The enlisting of the Mormon Battalion also provided money to help the Saints move west. Five hundred men left the Camps of Israel for a grueling 2,000-mile march to California and the Pacific Ocean. Said President Young of the volunteers, “I never think of that little company of men without the next thoughts being, ‘God bless them for ever and ever.’ All this we did to prove to the Government that we were loyal” (DBY, 476). President Young consistently encouraged the Saints to be loyal to their government, to obey its laws, and to elect people of virtue and integrity to public office.

Teachings of Brigham Young

Earthly governments must be based on God’s laws to endure.

If a nation transgresses wholesome laws and oppresses any of its citizens or another nation, until the cup of iniquity is full, through acts that are perfectly under its own control, God will hurl those who are in authority from their power, and they will be forgotten; and he will take another people, though poor and despised, a hiss and a by-word among the popular nations, and instill into them power and wisdom; and they will increase and prosper, until they in turn become a great nation on the earth (DBY, 357).

Great and mighty empires are raised to the summit of human greatness by him, to bring to pass his inscrutable purposes, and at his pleasure they are swept from existence and lost in the oblivion of antiquity. All these mighty changes are pointing to and preparing the way for the introduction of his Kingdom in the latter times, that will stand forever and grow in greatness and power until a holy, lasting, religious and political peace shall make the hearts of the poor among men exult with joy in the Holy One of Israel, and that his Kingdom is everywhere triumphant (DBY, 357).

A theocratic government [is] one in which all laws are enacted and executed in righteousness, and whose officers possess that power which proceedeth from the Almighty (DBY, 354).

If the Kingdom of God, or a theocratic government, was established on the earth, many practices now prevalent would be abolished (DBY, 354).

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. Every one 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 (DBY, 354).

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 … you would see the Roman Catholic, the Greek Catholic, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Quaker, the Shaker, the [Hindi], the [Muslim], and every class of worshipers most strictly protected in all their municipal rights and in the privileges of worshiping 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? (DBY, 355).

How can a republican [freely elected] government stand? There is only one way for it to stand. It can endure; but how? It can endure, as the government of heaven endures, upon the eternal rock of truth and virtue; and that is the only basis upon which any government can endure (DBY, 355).

Those who govern should possess wisdom and integrity.

I like a good government, and then I like to have it wisely and justly administered. The government of heaven, if wickedly administered, would become one of the worst governments upon the face of the earth. No matter how good a government is, unless it is administered by righteous men, an evil government will be made of it (DNW, 3 June 1863, 2).

No being is fit to rule, govern, and dictate, until he has … yielded obedience to law, and proved himself worthy, by magnifying the law that was over him, to be master of that law (DBY, 357).

[A good government requires a leader who is] capable of communicating to the understanding of the people, according to their capacity, information upon all points pertaining to the just administration of the Government. He should understand what administrative policy would be most beneficial to the nation. He should also have the knowledge and disposition to wisely exercise the appointing power, so far as it is constitutionally within his control and select only good and capable men for the office. He should not only carry out the legal and just wishes of his constituents, but should be able to enlighten their understanding and correct their judgment. And all good officers in a truly republican administration will constantly labor for the security of the rights of all, irrespective of sect or party (DBY, 363).

The people should concentrate their feelings, their influence, and their faith to select the best man they can find to be their President, if he has nothing more to eat than potatoes and salt—a man who will not aspire to become greater than the people who appoint him, but be contented to live as they live, be clothed as they are clothed, and in every good thing be one with them (DBY, 363).

We want men to rule the nation who care more for and love better the nation’s welfare than gold and silver, fame, or popularity (DBY, 364).

Members of the Church have a duty to be responsible citizens.

Individual self-government lies at the root of all true and effective government, whether in heaven or on earth. … Government in the hands of a wicked people must terminate in woe to that people, but in the hands of the righteous it is everlasting, while its power reaches to heaven (DBY, 355).

If we live our religion, honor our God and his Priesthood, then we shall honor every wholesome government and law there is upon the earth. … In the various nations, kingdoms and governments of the world are to be found laws, ordinances and statutes as good as can be made for mortal man (DBY, 358).

Are we a political people? Yes, very political indeed. But what party do you belong to or would you vote for? I will tell you whom we will vote for: we will vote for the man who will sustain the principles of civil and religious liberty, the man who knows the most and who has the best heart and brain for a statesman; and we do not care a farthing whether he is a whig, a democrat, … a republican, … or anything else. These are our politics (DBY, 358).

We, like all other good citizens, should seek to place those men in power, who will feel the obligations and responsibilities they are under to a mighty people; who would feel and realize the important trusts reposed in them by the voice of the people who call them to administer law (DBY, 362).

Whom do we want to fill our public offices? We want the best men that we can find for governor, president and statesmen, and for every other office of trust and responsibility; and when we have obtained them, we will pray for them and give them our faith [trust] and influence to do the will of God and to preserve themselves and the people in truth and righteousness (DBY, 358).

Suggestions for Study

Earthly governments must be based on God’s laws to endure.

  • According to President Young, from what laws have all earthly governments arisen? Why are these governments different in philosophy and practice? Why must governments be based on God’s laws to succeed? What will eventually happen to any government not based on righteous principles? (For examples of this result, consider the rise and fall of the Nephite and Lamanite kingdoms at various times throughout the Book of Mormon.)

  • According to President Young, what is the purpose of earthly governments? (See also D&C 134:1.)

  • How would society be different if a theocratic (God-directed) government were established on the earth? What did President Young consider to be the greatest liberty a theocratic government would provide? (See also D&C 134:4, 7, 9.)

Those who govern should possess wisdom and integrity.

  • What qualities should a government leader possess? If government leaders are intelligent, knowledgeable, and hardworking, why is it important that they also have such qualities as honesty and virtue?

  • Why must a potential leader have experience being governed before he or she is fit to govern? Why is it important for leaders to show that they have been obedient to the law?

Members of the Church have a duty to be responsible citizens.

  • Why is “individual self-government” so important to the success of an earthly government? How does the righteousness of the people being governed affect the success of the government?

  • Why is it important to vote when you are given the privilege? How should you decide whom to vote for?

  • How can you fulfill your duty to be a responsible citizen? (See also D&C 134:5–6.)