Chapter 14: Being Loyal Citizens

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, (2011), 122–27


We should obey the laws of God and men, honoring our membership in the Church and our citizenship in the nation in which we live.

From the Life of Joseph F. Smith

President Joseph F. Smith’s personal life was an example of good citizenship and service to his community. He served as a legislator in the Territorial Legislature of Utah for several different periods from 1865 to 1882; he served on a city council in 1867; and he was a member of the 1895 convention that drafted the constitution of the state of Utah.

President Smith, who had witnessed the mob violence of Nauvoo, often spoke of the importance of the rule of law in a civilized society. He and his Counselors in the First Presidency urged the Saints to be law-abiding and loyal citizens wherever they lived and to be faithful in their allegiance to their governments.1 On one occasion when a government official expressed contempt for the United States Constitution, President Smith countered: “Latter-day Saints cannot tolerate such a spirit as this. It is anarchy. It means destruction. It is the spirit of mobocracy, and the Lord knows we have suffered enough from mobocracy, and we do not want any more of it. … We cannot afford to yield to that spirit or contribute to it in the least degree. We should stand with a front like flint against every spirit or species of contempt or disrespect for the constitution of our country and the constitutional laws of our land.”2

Teachings of Joseph F. Smith

Latter-day Saints are loyal to their country.

Let us do right, keep the laws of God, and the laws of man, honor our membership in the kingdom of God, our citizenship … in the nation of which we are a part, and then God will sustain and preserve us, and we will continue to grow as we have done from the beginning, only our future growth will be accelerated and be far greater than it has been in the past.3

Teach your children to honor the law of God and the law of the state, and the law of our country. Teach them to respect and hold in honor those who are chosen by the people to stand at their head and execute justice and administer the law. Teach them to be loyal to their country, loyal to righteousness and uprightness and honor, and thereby they will grow up to be men and women choice above all the men and women of the world.4

To be a Latter-day Saint in very deed is to be one of the best of God’s people or children in the world. … A good Latter-day Saint will be a good citizen, no matter whether he be a subject of Great Britain, the United States, Holland, Germany or any other country in the world. If he be a good Latter-day Saint he is bound to be a good citizen of the land which gave him birth or which he has adopted as his home. … A citizen of God’s kingdom should stand foremost among the best of God’s people throughout all the world.5

I pray not only for the prosperity of Zion, but for the prosperity of our nation. We must always bear in mind that we are not only citizens of the Kingdom of God, but we are citizens of the … states in which we dwell. We have ever been loyal both to our State and Nation, as well as to the Church of God. … We have been willing to fight our country’s battles, to defend her honor, to uphold and sustain her good name, and we propose to continue in this loyalty to our nation and to our people unto the end.6

If patriotism and loyalty are qualities manifested in times of peace, by just, temperate, benevolent, industrious and virtuous living; in times of trial, by patience, resistance only by lawful means to real or fancied wrongs, and by final submission to the laws of the land, though involving distress and sorrow; and in time of war, by willingness to fight the battle of the nation,—then, unquestionably, are the “Mormon” people patriotic and loyal.7

The Lord God Almighty bless you. My heart is full of blessing for the Latter-day Saints. I love the man, with all my heart, who I know to be an honest, upright, true, faithful Latter-day Saint. A man of this description is one of the best citizens of any country; he is a good citizen of any city, of any county, of any state, or of any nation wherever he may be; and he is one of the very best. A real Latter-day Saint, is a good husband, he is a good father, he is a good neighbor, he is a good citizen, and a good man all round.8

Righteousness exalts a nation.

The typical “Mormon” home is the temple of the family. … Here are taught and gently enforced, the moral precepts and religious truths which, taken together, make up that righteousness which exalteth a nation, and ward off that sin which is a reproach to any people. … Here are our sons and daughters, submit them to any test of comparison you will; regard for truth, veneration for age, reverence for God, love of man, loyalty to country, respect for law, refinement of manners, and lastly, … purity of mind and chastity of conduct. It is not inordinate self praise to say of the generations of our people, born and reared in “Mormon” homes, that they will compare favorably, in the Christian virtues, and in all that makes for good citizenship, with any community in this or any other country.9

“Mormonism” is in the world for the world’s good. Teaching truth, inculcating morality, guarding the purity of the home, honoring authority and government, fostering education, and exalting man and woman, our religion denounces crime, and is a foe to tyranny in every form. “Mormonism” seeks to uplift, not to destroy society.10

A good Latter-day Saint is a good citizen in every way. I desire to say to the young men of our community: be exemplary Latter-day Saints, and let nothing deter you from aspiring to the greatest positions which our nation has to offer. Having secured a place, let your virtue, your integrity, your honesty, your ability, your religious teachings, implanted in your hearts at the knees of your devoted “Mormon” mothers, “so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:16.]11

May the Lord bless our government and lead those that hold the power in their hands to do that which is righteous, pleasing and acceptable unto God.12

We hold to the doctrine of separation of Church and state.

Church members are commanded by Divine revelation … : “Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that obeys the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.” [D&C 58:21.]13

With reference to the laws of the Church, it is expressly said: …

“Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the Church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth.” [D&C 58:23.]

That is to say, no law or rule enacted, or revelation received by the Church, has been promulgated for the State. Such laws and revelations as have been given are solely for the government of the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the doctrine of the separation of church and state; the non-interference of church authority in political matters; and the absolute freedom and independence of the individual in the performance of his political duties. If at any time there has been conduct at variance with this doctrine, it has been in violation of the well-settled principles and policy of the Church.

We declare that from principle and policy, we favor: The absolute separation of church and state; No domination of the state by the church; No church interference with the functions of the state; No state interference with the functions of the church, or with the free exercise of religion; The absolute freedom of the individual from the domination of ecclesiastical authority in political affairs; The equality of all churches before the law.14

The Church does not engage in politics; its members belong to the political parties at their own pleasure. … They are not asked, much less required, to vote this way or that. … But they cannot justly be denied their rights as citizens, and there is no reason why they should be, for, on the average, they are as loyal, as sober, as well educated, as honest, as industrious, as virtuous, as moral, as thrifty, and as worthy in every other respect as any people in the nation, or on the earth.15

We are subject to the powers that be until the advent of the kingdom of God.

The Bible, which is one of the written standards of the “Mormon” Church, teems with predictions and promises of the establishment of Divine rule on the earth; of the advent of a reign of righteousness extending over all the face of the globe. Christ is to be King and all nations and peoples are to serve and obey Him. That is to be the Kingdom of God in very deed. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is set up preparatory to that Kingdom. Its gospel is “the gospel of the kingdom.” Its principles, ordinances, authority and gifts are of heavenly origin. It is therefore the spiritual “kingdom of heaven,” bearing within it the influence and power that are to open the way for the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the universal dominion of the Son of God.16

It is sometimes pointed out, that the members of the Church are looking for the actual coming of a Kingdom of God on earth, that shall gather all the kingdoms of the world into one visible, divine empire, over which the risen Messiah shall reign.

All this, it is held, renders it impossible for a “Mormon” to give true allegiance to his country, or to any earthly government.

… We deny that our belief in divine revelation, or our anticipation of the coming kingdom of God weakens in any degree the genuineness of our allegiance to our country. When the divine empire will be established, we may not know any more than other Christians who pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven;” [Matthew 6:10] but we do know that our allegiance and loyalty to our country are strengthened by the fact that while awaiting the advent of the Messiah’s kingdom, we are under a commandment from God to be subject to the powers that be, until He comes “whose right it is to reign.” [D&C 58:22.]17

Suggestions for Study

  • Why should Latter-day Saints be loyal to the country in which they live? (See also D&C 134:5.) How can we demonstrate loyalty and honor to our country even though we may disagree with some of its policies?

  • How can we teach our children to be good citizens?

  • What are our responsibilities as citizens? Why should a faithful Latter-day Saint be “one of the best citizens of any country”?

  • How does personal righteousness exalt a nation? Why is personal righteousness an important element of good citizenship? What part should personal righteousness play in the lives of those seeking or holding public office?

  • How does the separation of church and state help people exercise their religious beliefs? (See also D&C 134:7, 9.) Why is it important to have individual freedom from ecclesiastical authority in political matters?

  • What is the kingdom of God yet to come, and who will be subject to this kingdom?

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    See James R. Clark, comp, Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 4:165.

  2.   2.

    Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 404.

  3.   3.

    Gospel Doctrine, 409–10.

  4.   4.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 5:55.

  5.   5.

    “Discourse by President Joseph F. Smith,” Millennial Star, 27 Sept. 1906, 610.

  6.   6.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1905, 46.

  7.   7.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 4:150.

  8.   8.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1910, 8.

  9.   9.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 4:147.

  10.   10.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 4:154.

  11.   11.

    “Editor’s Table: Congress and the ‘Mormons,’” Improvement Era, Apr. 1903, 473.

  12.   12.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1908, 127.

  13.   13.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 4:81.

  14.   14.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 4:153; paragraphing altered.

  15.   15.

    “Editor’s Table: The Probable Cause,” Improvement Era, June 1903, 626.

  16.   16.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 4:81.

  17.   17.

    Messages of the First Presidency, 4:154.