Monday, June 14, 2010

Civic Virtue: A Unique Knowledge and Sacred Duty

Text of my talk given in Sacrament meeting on 13 June 2010. Source material is listed below.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have a unique knowledge of the divine nature of both the United States and of the Constitution.

We know from scriptures found in the Book of Mormon that America is a land that was held in reserve for the last days in which a system of government could be established that would allow for the restoration of the gospel and for it to be spread throughout the world.

Ezra Taft Benson, 13th President of the Church and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture taught: “For centuries the Lord kept America hidden in the hollow of His hand until the time was right to unveil her for her destiny in the last days.”

In 2 Nephi 1:8, Nephi reveals the Lords plan: “It is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.”

In the Lord’s due time His Spirit “wrought upon” Columbus, the pilgrims, the Puritans, and others to come to America. They testified of God’s intervention in their behalf. The Book of Mormon records in 1 Nephi 13:16 that they humbled “themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.”

Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers and their form of government as the necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel. The Lord spoke of this in D&C 101:80: “I established the Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.”

Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: “For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth” (3 Ne. 21:4).

America, the land of liberty, was to be the Lord’s latter-day base of operations for His restored church.

With this unique knowledge come and equally unique and sacred responsibility.

As members of The Church and as citizens of the United States what should be our role be? Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve has posed that question: Should not just believing, but knowing that we have an inspired Constitution affect our behavior toward law and government? It should and it does.

Elder Oaks stressed that as U.S. citizens and faithful members of the church we should follow the First Presidency’s counsel to study the Constitution. We should be familiar with its great fundamentals: the separation of powers, the individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, the structure of federalism, the sovereignty of the people, and the principles of the rule of the law. And we should oppose any infringement of these inspired fundamentals.

We should be law-abiding citizens, supportive of national, state, and local governments.
The twelfth Article of Faith declares: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

The Church’s official declaration of belief on this topic can be found in D&C 134 verse 1 and states: “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”

The dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, as dictated by the Lord and found in the Doctrine and Covenants, contains these words: “May those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.” (D&C 109:54).

For those who would argue that the Founding Fathers didn’t have God as their inspiration or that the United States isn’t a Christian Nation, need only to read the words of our Founding Fathers.

John Adams, the second president of the United States: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Alexander Hamilton, famous as the originator of The Federalist papers and author of fifty-one of the essays, said: “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system, which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interest”

Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under a divinely inspired constitution should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.”

Elder Oaks noted that it is part of our civic duty to be moral in our conduct toward all people. There is no place in responsible citizenship for dishonesty or deceit or for willful law breaking of any kind. We believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34.) The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.

As Citizens we should also be practitioners of “civic virtue” in their conduct toward government. We should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. For example, we value the right of trial by jury, we must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Elder Oaks added that: “Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them.”

The Savior said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar.”

A single word that best describes the fulfillment of the duties of “civic virtue” is patriotism. Citizens should be patriotic. As members of the Church we should be patriots.

When the First Presidency asked members of the church in California to help support and actively participate with work on Prop. 8, locally, it served to open the eyes, as a sort of wake up call for many of us in what we could do if they got involved, and worse what could happen if we didn’t get involved. Prop 8 was successful, but I think even more meaningful is that many members have stayed involved.

As part of my job as a field representative for our State Assemblyman one of the things I’ve had the privilege of doing is to travel throughout the North State visiting the many local patriot groups that have sprung up. I am please to report that many of these groups, especially the one here in this ward have many members of the church among their ranks both in members but especially leadership.

In a letter to members read in Sacrament meeting in 1998 The First Presidency reiterated the divine counsel that members “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things to bring to pass righteousness” while using gospel principles as a guide and while cooperating with other like-minded individuals.

“We urge members of the Church to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs. Members of the Church are under special obligations to seek out and then uphold those leaders who are wise, good, and honest. D&C 98:10.

“Thus, we strongly urge men and women to be willing to serve on school boards, city and county councils and commissions, state legislatures, and other high offices of either election or appointment, including involvement in the political party of their choice.

“Members are counseled to study the candidates carefully and vote for those individuals they believe will act with integrity and in ways conducive to good communities and good government.”

It is reassuring when you see members of the church heeding this call. We must remember that in a democracy, we all have the same. If we don’t stand up for what we believe we will have to accept what we are given, and we will receive exactly the sort of government we deserve.

The Book of Mormon tells of many great and powerful nations that became that way because they were faithful to the Lord. We also read about the destruction of these people because of their own fall into disbelief.

Two great American Christian civilizations—the Jaredites and the Nephites—were swept off this land because they did not “serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12).
What will become of our civilization?

The Book of Mormon warns us relative to our living in this free land: “Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Ne. 1:7).

I would be willing to bet that the first step in the fall of most of these people wasn’t a huge leap into immorality, but a slow loss of faith because of complicity. Faith without works is dead. Knowledge without action is wasted.

The Proclamation to the World makes mention of this when its calls upon world leaders to take a stand on preserving the sanity of families. I think this warning can be applied to a lack of participation in the process as well.

“We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

“We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

We all have our agency, and even those who are members of the church who are active may not always agree with each other. The First Presidency states this in its statement on its role in Government:

“Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.”

President Benson further warned us in 1997 that as a nation have apostatized in various degrees from different Constitutional principles as proclaimed by the inspired founders. We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: “Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.”

President Benson continued that “For centuries our forefathers suffered and sacrificed that we might be the recipients of the blessings of freedom. If they were willing to sacrifice so much to establish us as a free people, should we not be willing to do the same to maintain that freedom for ourselves and for future generations?”

Only in this foreordained land, under its God-inspired Constitution and the resulting environment of freedom, was it possible to have established the restored church. It is our responsibility to see that this freedom is perpetuated so that the Church may more easily flourish in the future.

The Lord said, “Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (D&C 98:6).

How then can we best befriend the Constitution in this critical hour and secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father in Heaven? President Benson gave four suggestions.

First and foremost, we must be righteous.

Second, we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.

Third, we must become involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented.

Fourth, we must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice
We, the blessed beneficiaries of the Constitution, face difficult days in America, as stated in Ether 2:10: “a land which is choice above all other lands.”

A Christian nation, that will only stay that way if we choose to step forward and keep preserve it.
May God give us the faith and the courage exhibited by those patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

May we be equally as valiant and as free, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The Holy Bible: The New Testament

The Doctrine and Covenants

The Pearl of Great Price: The 12th Article of Faith

"Our Divine Constitution" by Ezra Taft Benson

"The Divinely Inspired Constitution" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Political Neutrality - LDS Newsroom

A Proclamation to the World

1 comment:

Bran said...

Very Good Talk! Love you buddy!