Politics distress me. They always have. It is an act of sacrifice for me to keep myself politically informed, because the nature and the environment of politics can be so un-Christian. There is so much fighting, anger, revenge, debate, vilifying, and hate in the political environment. And, whenever I see good people partake of that environment, if only for the evening news or a few scrolls on Facebook or a few tweets on Twitter, they turn from kind, caring, demonstrative people into single-minded demons. Harsh label? Yes. Because what is abhorrent in a person of another political party suddenly becomes justifiable in themselves while they bask in their own “political fervor”.
In fact, it is the contrast, indeed the contradiction, in a person’s behavior when they are engaged in “political warfare”, versus other times, that I find the most disturbing. It’s frightening to think that people who claim to be at least minimally trying to be Christlike and led by His Spirit can cast off that Spirit so hastily with an excitement, even a readiness, to destroy all who see “an ideal government” different that they do.
I, myself, have ventured into this “attitude” more times than I would have liked. I may read something, or hear something, or watch something—from one political slant or another—and somebody with apparent authority manages to turn otherwise good human beings into villains with smooth alacrity. I feel my heart rate elevate. Their words—the words I intake—are akin to Lord Aragorn or King Theoden (from Lord of the Rings) calling me to fight honorably in battle against the minions of Sauron, or Saruman. Maybe for you it’s a sci-fi Star Wars war with Darth <name> versus the Jedi, but the principles are the same.
When I am under this political spell—not of the Holy Spirit, I might add—I raise my fist and pump it, anger building, and suddenly, I’m ready to go and march on my political enemies. I see people, ignorant of the facts or details that I know, blindly voting for platforms and policies and people whom they couldn’t possibly vote for if they knew what I knew. I’m truly sorry to have to take them down—but it’s for their own good that I stain my own soul with anger and hate and a dab of vengeance. It’s for the greater good (Nod to Grindelwald from Fantastic Beasts…).
I picture myself as if I am in an epic war; and I effortlessly turn others—those with differing political views—into Trollocs, Ogres, and evil Uruk-hai (these are all fantasy references, where normal human beings have been twisted and ruined by evil and turned into monsters worthy of death). It’s amazing how fast I can turn a fellow human being into “the enemy”, a tainted being whom I must tragically slay in order to see justice done, or somehow cleanse by finding the evil spirit in their body and exorcising it out—against their will or not.
Now, perhaps that seems a bit dramatic to some reading. To others it will feel recognizable; perhaps a bit of guilt or shame may appear. Others, after reading these first few paragraphs, who are still under the spell of political religious fervor, will angrily say, “But you don’t understand! My political party (or candidate) is the one that will do God’s will. And His will is the one I’m trying to do! Surely He would want that!” while they angrily post hate messages and argue on social media, and send mocking images of the party leader they hate to their “friends” messenger accounts, trying to convince others of their justified hatred, and so forth. They will readily admit, “I know God said in the New Testament to love one’s enemy and to pray for them…but this is different.” It is NOT different.
What Political Party is God’s Political Party?
God is not a socialist. He is not a republican. He is not a democrat. He is not a dictator. He is not a communist, or any other political framework you can think of. He is a monarch. Except, unlike most monarchs, God does not Lord over us. He merely declares His kingship and then we get to choose if He is our King. We get to choose if we want to live in His kingdom, or not.
But what does God say about our current government? Sometimes, I don’t think anyone pays attention to the scriptures—specifically what God has said about governments that aren’t His—since His is the only lasting one. Does He want us to vote one way or another? I think we sometimes assume that He does. Is who gets elected really out of God’s hands? And if it’s in His hands, why is it not the person we voted for? What really matters most in the government under which we live? Will others be condemned for voting for the wrong person—since they obviously did? Right? The answers are ALL in the scriptures.
What We Learn from the Old Testament about Government
In the Old Testament, from the creation forward, God is the King. And He leads His people through the direction of a living prophet. However, from what we can read, it is apparent that God’s children—us—reject this form of government, nearly always. We oust Him—by our own choice—from being our King; because we don’t like His prophet or the difficulty of the commandments or the implementation of church policies by His chosen prophets—and we choose a manmade government instead with the idea that it will make us happier. When we do this, we reject perfect government—however uncomfortable—and opt for something that cannot be, nor ever will be perfect. And, God, in His perfect nature, will not coerce us to follow Him. We must choose Him as our monarch. That is His condition.
The Israelites rejected Jehovah, outright, as their king. They didn’t want a prophet dispensing Jehovah’s laws and commandments. They didn’t want to be sanctified so they could have a face-to-face relationship with God. They wanted a human king, just like everybody else—because they felt so much more comfortable with that. So, they got some human kings. Some were alright. Some were terrible. Some were pretty awesome. But not one of them was perfect. None of them had perfect policies or ideas. Some were extravagant. Some were warring. Some barely upheld the Israelite religion, and clearly some not at all. But keep in mind, this is what happened to them because they rejected Jehovah as their king.
Eventually the Israelite government was destroyed and they ended up with Judges. The Judges were not prophets, but they were inspired men and women. No two were alike. They also had different “policies” and different platforms that they focused on. None—I repeat none—espoused all the commandments nor had the same policies for saving Israel from its true enemies. At least the Israelites didn’t have to vote. God chose the judges for them.
What We Learn from the New Testament about Government
In the New Testament, Christ’s life, as an infant, is put in jeopardy by the government of the time. He is saved by revelation to Joseph to flee to Egypt—a very different type of government. By ancestry and genetics, Christ would also have been the rightful King of Israel; had they not been in captivity to other nations. Clearly, Christ of all people had a right to get political. But, He didn’t. He followed the laws of the land and submitted to the justice of the day—though it led Him to crucifixion. Well did the Pharisees try to get Him to speak against the government, but instead He told them “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17).
What We Learn from the Book of Mormon about Government
There is an unlimited supply of political information in The Book of Mormon. Repeatedly, we learn that having Kings (or monarch’s that are not Christ) is undesirable because of their nearly absolute power and the inherent mortal imperfection; though there is no condemnation on the people or nation until the king becomes unrighteous and causes his people to sin. Then, inevitably, because of the bad example of their king, the people become corrupt and “ripen in iniquity” and are destroyed.
Repeatedly, in The Book of Mormon, we also see arguments about “who should rule the people” lead to war and bloodshed. The Lamanites and Nephites might have lived more peacefully and the gospel of Jesus Christ spread more widely had they not had so much fighting about who should be in charge. We also find a compelling account for personal accountability and what appears to be a system of “rule by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29…). The entire purpose of this form of government is that individuals account for their own sin and actions. There is no sovereign, politically, to act as the mediator between them and God. The job of the judges is to uphold the law established by a nearly flawless king previously (Benjamin, and then his son Mosiah).
The Nephites government of judges only struggles when a large portion of the people want a king, and the others don’t. Those that don’t want a king win the vote. But in anger and revenge, the losers run off to the Nephites’ enemies (the Lamanites) and seek their help to overthrow the government. They are apparently happy to lose as long as the other side loses too. Certainly not very Christlike, or unselfish. It also illustrates that even when the “voice of the people” chooses what we do not want, it is still better to humbly give in and maintain peace than to seek the overthrow of the whole system.
The Nephite government did eventually collapse (twice actually). And it was because the moral decay allowed for oppression. People were not allowed to worship according to their conscience; and murder, rape, pillaging, and other behavior counterproductive to any human society became “okay” or “accepted” and in some cases “celebrated”.
What We Learn from the Doctrine and Covenants about Government
For modern times, we get the most counsel from the Doctrine and Covenants. Here are a few bullet points as to what is communicated to us—for our modern day. I will reference information from Doctrine and Covenants 58, 97, 134, and a few other places, which can all be found using a reasonable search or study of the same topic. If you’d like more detail, please refer to these sections yourself by clicking here.
- Government is instituted of God (its His system for us when we reject His rule)
- Government should allow the free exercise of conscience (freedom of religious worship) and the right and control of property
- Government should institute the law in equity and justice
- Government has no right to interfere with religious worship or public and private devotion
- Government has the right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest (as long as they do not infringe upon religious freedom)
- Every government official should be honored in his/her station, shown respect and deference, as without such peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror
- Government should punish crime according to the nature of the offense
- Government should not foster one religious society above another and allow religious organizations to proselyte
- We—as Christians—are bound to uphold and sustain our respective government while we are protected in the above rights
- We—as Christians—are to go to governmentally established legal and law enforcement bodies for redress of wrongs
- We—as Christians—if we are keeping God’s laws, we should have no need to break the law of the land
- We—as Christians—should not defy the government of the land unless they cease to protect us in the above-mentioned rights
- We—as Christians—should seek for leaders who are honest and wise, and who will administer the law in equity and justice
Now, I will briefly mention a few of the main points.
First, though governments are extremely flawed they are instituted of God. We have been asked to be “subject to the powers that be” until Christ comes again to reign (Doctrine and Covenants 58:22). Governments are for us. Sometimes we get a mortal government. Sometimes, like the Israelites we get to choose God as our King and not to be subject to anyone else. Most of us, however, have to be content to be subject to mortal governments while simultaneously trying to be a citizen of heaven.
I find it interesting, that what God instructs us that “governments should do” is vastly broader and higher level than we expect. It seems to me to be far more important to God that the government allow us to worship Him and tell others about Him, than it is that the government compel our religious views on others. It seems to be vastly more important that we submit to the government—no matter how much it differs in its policies from God’s commandments—as long as that same government permits us to live a higher law, especially that inherent in Christianity.
If we have a problem with the government, God does not tell us to march on government buildings with pitch forks and knives; or to undermine them in other more subtle ways. We are not commanded to burn and pillage and plunder—to make a point. He tells us to take advantage of the government system for addressing wrongs—even if we perceive that system to be unfair, or even perhaps a bit corrupted.
Nowhere in the scriptures does it say to vilify our friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, government leader, or any fellow humans, simply because their idea of good governmental policy is different from ours. Are we allowed to be frustrated, annoyed, concerned, and politically active to support those things that we believe in? Yes. But we must ensure that we are “as wise as serpents and yet without sin” (Doctrine and Covenants 111:11). Often, we tend to turn activism into war. That, however, is not Christian.
“But wait!” you say, “God commanded the Israelites to go to war. He also commanded Nephi to kill Laban. What about that?” My reply would be: in scripture, God rarely commands us to kill or destroy others. The instances are rarely political and far more because of moral decay, and especially when Christianity cannot be shared or implemented. Also, to be frank, God gets to decide when that happens. And I can no more read His mind than I can yours. And, if He did command us to go to war, then we should go. But until He does command that—which He will only do through a prophet of God (according to scriptural evidence)—going to war on our own judgment and emotional steam is flat out wrong.
Also, of interest, is that the government should not pander to any one religion. Even if values of Christianity are shared similarly with other religions, it does not mean they share all of our values. And, we would no more want the government to enforce their beliefs over ours than they would want ours favored over theirs. And what about those individuals—many of which who are so wonderful and good—who don’t espouse a religion at all? There are a lot of people who believe differing things that have to be provided for by the same government. That’s extremely difficult. And, even among Christianity’s various sects, not all of us agree equally on the implementation of God’s commandments as it pertains to government rule; so how could we expect government to know how to do that either?
What Should We Do with this Information?
I am of no political party. I do not vote by party. I do not vote by platform. I simply can’t. I am unwilling to label myself as anything other than a Christian—especially when it comes to politics. Why? Because some of the things that some parties do that I value are often destroyed by the other policies they espouse. Certainly, many argue that some policies are worse than others, and that choosing the least evil is preferrable—except often their idea of the worser evil is still different from mine, and so no matter what I do in their eyes, I fail, if I vote for someone or something different from them. What they really mean is, “Choose the lesser evil—and that’s the one I choose because I’m right and you’re wrong.”
For example, when it comes to living in the United States, it seems the parties are always accusing the other of going against the constitution—as their justification for asking for your vote—when in fact both parties attempt to circumvent the constitution frequently, simply in different ways to suit their purposes. One commits adultery while the other fornication. I simply can’t choose one sin over the other. I prefer to dispense with both. But if I choose to vote at all, then what do I do if I can’t dispense with both candidates?
I suspect my answer will disappoint most, or minimally be unsatisfying. You’ll either disagree with my implementation of the knowledge I’ve presented (above); or, you’ll feel that there should be a more exact equation for “choosing the right government leader”. In showing you how I apply the knowledge from the scriptures about governments, I do not mean to suggest that it is the “right way” or the “only way”. What I fully expect is that while pondering it you will develop your own way to apply it. And if you disagree with me, that is perfectly fine.
What I share (below) is merely one way to tackle application of the range of information in the scriptures about God’s views on government. But I draw my logic directly from the counsel in the scriptures and examples from the scriptures which I have already presented.
- I seek for which of the “leader options” is the most wise and honest. Politicians tend to be slippery when it comes to honesty. But if a politician cannot be trusted to be at least mostly honest, what good to me are their other policies? If honesty is not the best policy, then no other policy matters. Because they can tell me what I want to hear and then do exactly the opposite—or something entirely different—anyway. And wisdom is critical. To me, the wisest people are those who can admit fault, take good advice, humbly give in with confidence, and respond wisely to logical evidence. Anyone who cannot admit fault and respond to advice and logical evidence from others who know more is bound by pride; and pride is selfish. Selfishness never leads to wisdom or governmental success. I can’t expect a leader who is not wise, or honest, to administer any law—even ones I don’t like—in equity and justice. Thus, these are my primary voting points.
- I seek for which of the “leader options” is mostly likely to protect my, and other’s, religious freedom. If I can’t live how I believe or share truth, then that is an injustice that God has dictated is unacceptable. I want to clarify, though, that I don’t always choose the leader that shares my exact religious beliefs. But I choose the one that will not infringe upon my beliefs, nor the beliefs of others. That all are equal. And this is a hard one; extremely hard. But I can’t demand acceptance for my beliefs while denying others acceptance for theirs. That means I choose truth over tradition, and compromise over vilifying those who don’t believe as I do. Trying to make them believe as I do via persecution and mistreatment. And it’s hard. But as agency is most certainly one of God’s highest laws—that we get to act, and not to be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:14); and that we are accountable for our own sins (Article of Faith 2); and that compulsion is not how God works (Doctrine and Covenants 121…); and that is it not right for us to control others no matter how righteous our cause—and as such, upholding agency sometimes means allowing other people to live in a way that we do not feel is healthy or right…and which may eventually lead to the destruction of the whole society/nation.
- Finally, I take into consideration the “platform”, or goals, of my “leader options”. What they hope to accomplish says a lot about who they are as individuals. And how they claim to attack those goals is also important to consider. But this is merely a consideration, and is far less important to me than honesty, wisdom, and religious freedom.
Blessedly, our dear constitution was put together by men who are not too different from the men and woman we have in government today. We tend to raise the founding fathers to the level of saints; but while they were indeed tools in God’s hands and did some heroic things, they were not flawless. And because of their differing beliefs about what made good government, and especially how to implement it, we almost didn’t have a constitution. But we do because they found compromise! There is something wonderful about that! Our constitution, because it was put together by a host of bickering and differing individuals, stands up well to the corruption of our day. Our constitution allows for differences, and what policies it enacts—whether we like them are not—are those that are enacted with the “public interest” of the people in mind. They are also enacted by people we have chosen to represent us and lead us. Which, brings us back to how important it is that those we choose are honest and wise.
God is Our King
I have suffered many political disappointments. Many. And many have caused me so much emotional trauma and misery, compromising my ability to live day-to-day and to function, that I finally decided it was time I educated myself on God’s plans for human government. Then, I prayed about it and pondered what He wanted me to do. What I have related to you—in brief—is a summary of what I have discovered so far—though there is far more detail than you would ever want, I assure you. However, most importantly, it was impressed upon me that my affiliation as a citizen of God’s kingdom should never be compromised by the far lesser importance of my citizenship within a kingdom of mankind. I should never let my support, of any of them, lead me to act in a way that labels me as someone not of His kingdom. I’m a Christian first. That citizenship should rule all others.
We often want to save the world with one vote, rather than saving our citizenship in the kingdom of Christ. But Christ, Himself, said that these mortal kingdoms are temporary. They were never meant to last. They will last until, or they will fall completely, when He comes again. That we abandon Christian values in support of leaders or political parties, because we’ve somehow justified our actions (or theirs), is evidence that we’ve lost our perspective on where our citizenship truly lies. If we vilify others who believe or choose differently than we do is evidence that we’ve lost our perspective on where our citizenship truly lies.
We have to ask ourselves: “Am I Christian? Or am I <name of political party here>?” And if our answer is Christian, then it’s time we started paying a little more attention to that citizenship. God has said that if we keep His laws, then we don’t have to worry about breaking the laws of the land (Doctrine and Covenants 58:21). What does that mean to me? It means that if I live as a Christian—truly—then I don’t have to panic about local or national governments always being how I feel they should be. I simply do my best and let others do their best, and live as I ought until “He comes whose right it is to reign” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:22).
When I stand before God, someday, I know what He expects of me; and that’s the person I want to be in the process of becoming. Every other platform or affiliation can be, if we are not careful, a distraction from the real war, the real fight: for our eternal citizenship.