August 6, 2007

Church Policy and the US Constitution in 1853

Brigham Young
February 18, 1855
I've avoided politics thus far, despite several sermons making passing references to political issues. This particular sermon was unique because, unlike all of the other discourses by Brigham Young I have read thus far, this one was actually written and read to the congregation.
[Forgive the very brief explanation on a complex topic]
The discourse came in an interesting time, wherein the Church was under watch of the US government, who had heard rumors the saints were disloyal to the United States and that Brother Brigham was setting himself up as some leader of a theocracy in Utah. After many reports circulated in newspapers, Brigham desired to set the record straight on politics, much as the LDS Church does today every year near election time. I will keep my comments to a minimum. Here come the politics:
Brigham said the United States was prepared as the place for the restoration of the gospel:
…we believe that the Lord has been preparing that, when He should bring forth His work, that, when the set time should fully come, there might be a place upo His footstool where sufficient liberty of conscience should exist, that His Saints might dwell in peace under the broad panoply of constitutional law and equal rights. In this view we consider that the men in the Revolution were inspired, by the Almighty, to throw off the shackles of the mother government, with her established religion. For this cause were Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, and a host of others inspired to deeds of resistance to the acts of the King of Great Britain, who might also have been led to those aggressive acts, for aught we know, to bring to pass the purposes of God, in thus establishing a new government upon a principle of greater freedom, a basis of self government allowing the free exercise of religious worship... It was in this government, formed by men inspired of God, although at the time they knew it not, after it was firmly established in the seat of power and influence, where liberty of conscience, and the free exercise of religious worship were a fundamental principle guaranteed in the Constitution, and interwoven with all the feelings, traditions, and sympathies of the people, that the Lord sent forth His angel to reveal the truths of heaven as in times past, even as in ancient days. This should have been hailed as the greatest blessing which could have been bestowed upon any nation, kindred, tongue, or people. It should have been received with hearts of gratitude and gladness, praise and thanksgiving. But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowlege [knowledge] of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him… whenever the iron hand of oppression and persecution has fallen upon this people, our opposers have broken their own law, set at defiance and trampled under foot every principle of equal rights, justice, and liberty found written in that rich legacy of our fathers, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
Here are some very powerful statements by Brigham regarding the accusation that the LDS Church was hostile to the government:
To accuse us of being unfriendly to the Government, is to accuse us of hostility to our religion, for no item of inspiration is held more sacred with us than the Constitution under which she acts. As a religious society, we, in common with all other denominations, claim its protection; whether our people are located in the other states or territories, as thousands of them are, or in this territory, it is held as a shield to protect the dearest boon of which man is susceptible--his religious views and sentiments...
The Government of the United States has never engaged in a crusade against us as a people, although she has remained silent, or refused us, when appealed to for redress of grievances. She has permitted us to be driven from our own lands, for which she had taken our money, and that too with her letters patent in our hands, guaranteeing to us peaceable possession. She has calmly looked on and permitted one of the fundamental and dearest provisions of the Constitution to be broken; she has permitted us to be driven and trampled under foot with impunity. Under these circumstances what course is left for us to pursue? I answer, that, instead of seeking to destroy the very best government in the world, as seems to be the fears of some, 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 under the solemn sanction of an oath of fidelity to that heaven inspired instrument, to the inviolate preservation of which we look for the perpetuity of our free institutions... It should be the aim of all good citizens, and it is our intention and design as a people, to promote virtue, intelligence, and patriotism…
Brigham warned of the dangers of wicked rulers
…the Government should also be our friends, for assuredly in the preservation of virtue, morality, and intelligence she may look for the perpetuity of her free institutions, and the preservation of her liberty. And in the moment of her disregard of these principles, when wickedness and sin can run riot with impunity, and not moral influence and force enough be found in the people to check it, and walk it under foot, then may she reckon on a speedy downfall. When moral obligations cease to exert an influence, and virtue hides its face, and the unblushing effrontery of sin and foul corruption takes its place, then may the nation consider there is danger. 'When the wicked rule the people mourn.'
He ended emphasizing the freedom of religion:
…whether our religion is believed by any other people or not, it is by us, and no power or authority in the government can lawfully or righteously molest us in the peaceable and quiet enjoyment thereof. It cannot be done without law, and surely the government have no right to make any law concerning it, or to prevent the free exercise thereof (Journal of Discourses 2:107-179).


Anonymous said...

amaris is the. . .

ralphie said...

i am the greatest of ALL!!!

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