October 9, 2007

An Interview with John Taylor on Theocracy

John Taylor July 8, 1855 The Bowery I am joined today by Elder John Taylor, who has agreed (by already giving the discourse) to publish his views on the nature of the Kingdom of God, the U.S. Constitution, and a Theocratic government of God. Elder Taylor, could you briefly tell me why God would have the "right," so-to-speak, of governing the entire world? Surely God commands the Church's ecclesiastical government, but what about civil government?

If God made this earth, and all things that pertain unto it, and if all were created for His honor and glory, He has the right to govern and control them by His own laws; and He has a right to enforce that government, and show Himself able to control the works of His hands, and it is the duty of all men to render obedience to His requirements. The government of heaven would not have been separated from the government of men, or in other words, there would not have been two kinds, one called ecclesiastical, and the other a civil government; but inasmuch as they have rebelled, and become corrupt and wicked, governments have been introduced of a different character; and the Lord has, in some measure, sanctioned those governments, so far as there were good principles existing among them.
Did the Lord have a hand in the organization of the United States government?

Yes, the Lord had a hand in framing its Constitution.

Why didn't the Lord, at that time, introduce a perfect government; a theocracy?

It was simply because the people were not prepared for it-- they were too corrupt; and although they had more integrity, more virtue, more honesty, and more sympathy and feeling for that which is just and upright and good, than any other portion of the inhabitants of the earth, and probably more than a great many now have, yet they were far from being prepared for the government of God, which is a government of union... [C]onsequently the Lord inspired them to introduce a government that He knew would be just suited to their capacity, and hence it was that He inspired Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and others to introduce those measures which they did, and to carry them out, and they were such as were just suited to the conditions and circumstances of the people; hence the government of the United States we, as a people, venerate and defend.

Why do we venerate and defend it?

We do it because God had His hand in the organization of it; He controlled it so far as He could do so without interfering with the agency of man. We have seen plainly and clearly that had it not been for the organization of this government, as has wisely and justly been said, where would have been the liberty of the Latter-day Saints? This government, then, was organized to suit the people and the circumstances in which they were placed, until they were prepared to receive a more perfect one.

But will the government of the United States continue forever?

No, it is not sufficiently perfect; and, notwithstanding it has been sanctioned by the Lord at a time when it was suited to the circumstances of the people, yet the day will come, (I will say it on my own responsibility and not that of this people,) the day will come when the United States government, and all others, will be uprooted, and the kingdoms of this world will be united in one, and the kingdom of our God will govern the whole earth, and bear universal sway; and no power beneath the heavens can prevent this taking place, if the Bible be true, and we know it to be true. The Lord will govern all things that He has made and created, for it is entered upon the records of heaven that all nations shall bow to His authority; and, consequently, we respect the government of the United States, because it has good principles in it, and not that we think it will endure for ever.

Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, as the record says (Mosiah 27:31).

That being said, is it right, is it lawful for another government to be set up within the United States of a Theocratic nature?
Yes, perfectly so! Does not the Constitution of our country guarantee to all religious societies the right of forming any ecclesiastical government they like? Certainly it does, and every intelligent man knows this to be the fact. The nucleus of such a government is formed, and its laws have emanated from the throne of God, and it is perfect, having come from a pure fountain.
Does this make us independent of the laws of the United States?
No, this new government does not come in contact with the government of the United States. In keeping our covenants, and observing our religious laws and ceremonies, or the laws that God has given to the children of men, we are not required to violate the principles of right that are contained in the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Are you saying this Theocracy will be moved forward at the instance of men in the Church?

[T]he Prophet Daniel has told us, that the kingdom of God should be cut out of the mountains without hands; in other words, when the kingdom of God should be taken from the mountains, it should be taken by the power of the Almighty, and not by human hands; it should be organized by the Lord, and governed by His laws. God, who interests Himself in the affairs of men, was to speak from the heavens, and inspire His servants to give laws and revelations to His people, informing them that His kingdom was to be taken from the mountains in His own due time, and that it should increase until it should become a great mountain and fill the whole earth.
When it fills the whole earth will it be to the exclusion of so-called "non-Mormons?" Do you feel like excluding all "outsiders?"

No, God does not design it; He never intended that this people should live exclusively by themselves. We need not think that we can get into any place where we will not be associated with the Gentiles; for the Lord intends that we shall be among them all through this mortal state, and even in the Millenium [Millennium] we find that there will be two classes of beings upon the earth. And if there are corrupt individuals found, they will be visited with punishment according to the deeds they are guilty of.[1]

Thank you, Elder Taylor. Footnotes: [1] Each word herein is a verbatim quote of John Taylor. Taken from Journal of Discourses 3:370-375. [2] The Church still receives criticism on the teaching that the stone cut without hands will fill the earth. Parley P. Pratt related a funny anecdote on the subject:
You know the prophecy of Daniel about the kingdom and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heavens being given to the Saints of the Most High God to possess it forever and forever; you have read it and no doubt understand it. Well, a mock court under the administration of Austin A. King, since governor of Missouri, while Joseph Smith and others were taken by a mob and were made subject to this inquisition, and to a mock trial, and while undergoing this mock trial the question was put to a witness, "Do these people, these 'Mormons' believe in this verse in the Prophet Daniel?" and at the same time quoting it. "Yes," said the witness. "Put that down," said the judge, "it is a strong point for treason." "But," says one of the lawyers in defence, "Judge, you had better put the Bible down for treason." That was a very suitable reply; but mind you the text does not say that the Latter-day Saints would possess the kingdom, but it says that the Saints of the Most High, and of course that includes the Latter-day as well as all the former-day Saints from Adam down to the end of time. Well, then, when the former-day Saints reinforce the Latter-day Saints, and all the powers of heaven are in the midst of Zion, and all the people from Adam and from Jesus Christ, and from the least and last Latter-day Saint all combine their faith and their works, and there powers, and their gifts, I would leave it to any intelligent person in Christendom whether or no they will be able to do this (Journal of Discourses 3:312).

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