Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Being A Good Citizen

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In 1952, while serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Ezra Taft Benson was asked by Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States, to serve as the nation’s Secretary of Agriculture.  Though a grand accomplishment this would be in holding a position with the government, it was not an easy task to accept, particularly as a member of the church and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.  For this reason it was an offer that President Benson did not take lightly, but endeavored with much prayer and also the council of the First Presidency.  

And after much prayer and receiving council from the Lord, David O. McKay, then president, encouraged Elder Benson to accept the assignment.  He did so and served well for the entire time of the appointment not only as a wonderful Secretary, but as a great example of a true servant of the Lord in word and deed.  In his first general conference address after becoming Secretary of Agriculture, he said:

“I have been happy in the privilege to serve, in a small way at least, this great country and the government under which we live. I am grateful to the First Presidency and my brethren that they have been willing, not only to give consent, but also to give me their blessing as I responded to the call of the chief executive” (Conference Report, Apr. 1953, 40)

Why do you think Elder Benson was encouraged to accept such a responsibility? 
Governments and laws vary among different countries and cultures but Church leaders have always instructed us to work within the law to bring about needed changes.  Even in the worst times of the history of the church the Saints have been encouraged to be good citizens and to strengthen communities and nations by participating in government or political processes, obeying the law, and serving in our communities. The Lord’s teachings regarding government and good citizenship are specific and important, particularly in this day and age when it is so popular to be non patriotic.  As part of our gospel progression, its important for us to be good citizens, and to serve, and it is important to do so righteously; President Benson was and is an excellent example for teaching us, how do to so.  

Participating in government Section 134 History
August 17, 1835, a general assembly of the Church at Kirtland, Ohio, unanimously approved a declaration of beliefs about government and marriage.  WW Phelps read the article on marriage prepared by Oliver Cowdery; who then read to the assembly the article on Governments and Laws in General. The article was adopted by the assembly and included the Book of Commandments and subsequently the Doctrine and Covenants, now Section 134.

The article on government (Section 134) was included in the Doctrine and Covenants then, as a statement of belief and as a rebuttal to accusations against the Saints.  "The reason for the article on Government and Laws in General is explained in the fact that the Latter-day Saints had been accused by their bitter enemies both in Missouri and in other places as being apposed to law and order.  They had been portrayed as setting up laws in conflict with the laws of the country"  (Smith Church History and Modern Revelation 2:30-31)

When the article was read and voted on the Prophet Joseph was actually, along with Fredrick G Williams, in Canada on a missionary journey.  The Prophet did not return to Kirtland until August 23 one week after the assembly.  Since the assembly had voted to have the articles published in the Doctrine and Covenants the Prophet accepted the decision and permitted this to be done.

"It Should be noted that....the brethren were careful to state that this declaration was accepted as the belief or opinion of the officers of the church and not as revelation and therefore does not hold the same place in the doctrines of the church as do revelations.  (Smith Church History and Modern Revelation 2:30-31) 

 What are the purposes of civil governments? 

D&C 134:1 “For the good and safety of society”

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 principle of government was given of the Lord, but He did not institute all forms of government. Smith and Sjodahl noted that “the Lord in the very beginning revealed to Adam a perfect form of government, and this was ‘instituted of God for the benefit of man;’ but we do not hold that all governments, or any man-made government, was instituted of God although the Lord holds a controlling hand over them. It was not long after the Lord established His government with Adam, and had commanded him to teach correct principles to his children, that men began to rebel and turn away. [ Moses 5:12–13.] 

“From that time forth the authority to rule was usurped by men and, with few exceptions ever since, the governments in the earth have been and are the governments of men, and the guiding hand of the Lord by revelation and authority vested in his servants has been ignored. The day is to come, and is near at hand, when the Lord will come in his power and make an end of all man-made governments and take His rightful place as King of kings, and Lord of lords.”  (Smith Church History and Modern Revelation 2:30-31) 

 Elder Erastus Snow explained: “Anarchy—shall I say, is the worst of all governments? No: Anarchy is the absence of all government; it is the antipodes [opposite] of order; it is the acme of confusion; it is the result of unbridled license, the antipodes of true liberty. The Apostle Paul says truly: ‘For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.’ At first this is a startling statement. Even the monopoly of the one-man-power as in Russia [the Czar], or the monopoly of the aristocracy as in other parts of Europe, or the imbecility and sometimes stupidity of a republic like our own, is far better than no government at all. And for this reason, says the Apostle Paul, ‘The powers are ordained of God,’ not that they are always the best forms of government for the people, or that they afford liberty and freedom to mankind but that any and all forms of government are better than none at all, having a tendency as they do to restrain the passions of human nature and to curb them, and to establish and maintain order to a greater or less degree. One monopoly is better than many; and the oppression of a king is tolerable, but the oppression of a mob, where every man is a law to himself and his own right arm, is his power to enforce his own will, is the worst form of government.” (Journal of Discourses, 22:151.)

God Holds Us Accountable for Our Acts in Making Laws and Administering Them
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family” (History of the Church, 4:596). President John Taylor added: “If for every word and secret act all men shall be brought to judgment, how much more will the public acts of public men be brought into account before God and before the holy priesthood” (Journal of Discourses, 20:42–43)

D&C 134:6 “For the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty”

We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

Lawless cannot go unbridled. Just punishment must be received. If this is not done, then law abiding citizens are left unprotected. If laws are not enforced then "peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror"

President N. Eldon Tanner taught:

“There are many who question the constitutionality of certain acts passed by their respective governments, even though such laws have been established by the highest courts in the land as being constitutional, and they feel to defy and disobey the law.  “Abraham Lincoln once observed: ‘Bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible; still, while they continue in force, they should be religiously observed.’  “This is the attitude of the Church in regard to law observance. …
“There is no reason or justification for men to disregard or break the law or try to take it into their own hands.  “It is the duty of citizens of any country to remember that they have individual responsibilities, and that they must operate within the law of the country in which they have chosen to live.”   (Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 126; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 83.)

President Joseph Fielding Smith likewise said: “No member of the Church can be accepted as in good standing whose way of life is one of rebellion against the established order of decency and obedience to law. We cannot be in rebellion against the law and be in harmony with the Lord, for he has commanded us to ‘be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign. …’ (D&C 58:22.) And one of these days he is going to come.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1971, p. 48; or Ensign, June 1971, p. 50.)

The exception to this principle would be when the Lord directs His people through His prophets to take an opposing stand to government. Otherwise they recognize the established authority of government.

D&C 134:7 “For the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief”

We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.

We have a great blessing in the United States to have as part of our constitution the following provision, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances" (1st Amendment, Constitution of the United States of America) 

President Wilford Woodruff said : “God will bless no king, no emperor and no president who will not give unto his subjects the rights and privileges in their relationship to God which the Father Himself has given unto them. Whenever these subjects are deprived of their rights, those who preside over them are held responsible.” (Deseret Weekly News, 19 Apr. 1890, p. 561.)

“One of the fundamental articles of faith promulgated by the Prophet Joseph Smith was: ‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience; and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.’  Articles of Faith 1:11
“But we claim absolutely no right, no prerogative whatever, to interfere with any other people.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1921, p. 203.)

According to Elder John A. Widtsoe, the Prophet Joseph Smith advocated that “a good government must secure for every citizen the free exercise of conscience. Matters of belief or religious practice should not be interfered with, unless they oppose laws formulated for the common good. There should be no mingling of religious influence with civil governments.” (Joseph Smith, p. 215.)

D&C 134:11 “For redress of all wrongs and grievances”

We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.

“As the world is constituted at present, it is impossible to live in it without being wronged some time. What to do, when wronged, is one of the great problems of a Christian life. The world says, ‘Get even!’ The Master said, ‘Forgive!’ ‘Absurd!’ the world exclaims, ‘What are laws and courts and jails for?’ Christ bids us remember that our worst enemy is, after all, one of God’s children whom Christ came to save, and that we ought to treat him as we would an erring brother. Very often Christian love in return for a wrong proves the salvation of the wrongdoer. It always has a wonderful effect upon those who practice it. It makes them strong, beautiful and God-like, whereas hatred and revenge stamp, upon the heart in which they dwell, the image of the devil. …(Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Section 98 commentary) 

What can we do as citizens to help fulfill these purposes of government?

“As Church members, we live under the banner of many different flags. How important it is that we understand our place and our position in the lands in which we live! We should be familiar with the history, heritage, and laws of the lands that govern us. In those countries that allow us the right to participate in the affairs of government, we should use our free agency and be actively engaged in supporting and defending the principles of truth, right, and freedom” (Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 87; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 72)

How can we support and defend truth, right, and freedom through our participation in government?  

Doctrine and Covenants 134 teaches that we should seek for and uphold leaders who “administer the law in equity and justice” (verse 3) However in doing so we need to remember that as we participate in government and political processes, we should do so with the understanding that “the Church is politically neutral. It does not endorse political parties, platforms, or candidates. Candidates should not imply that they are endorsed by the Church or its leaders. Church leaders and members should avoid any statements or conduct that they are endorsed by the Church or its leaders. Church leaders and members should avoid any statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of political parties or candidates” (Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 325)

Many leaders of the Church have spoken on the importance of Church members choosing righteous leaders. In January 1928 the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley) issued a statement that read in part:

“Laws which are enacted for the protection of society have no value except when they are administered in righteousness and justice, and they cannot be so administered in righteousness and justice, if dishonest men occupy administrative offices.

“The Lord says ‘When the wicked rule, the people mourn.’ Wise men, good men, patriotic men are to be found in all communities, in all political parties, among all creeds. None but such men should be chosen. …

“Without beneficent laws, righteously administered, the foundations of civilization crumble, anarchy reigns, decay and dissolution follow.

“We call upon all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world to honor the laws of God, and obey and uphold the law of the land; and we appeal to good men and women everywhere, regardless of creed, party affiliation, race or condition to join with us in an effort to put into operation the words of Lincoln, the great emancipator, that our country may continue to be a light to the world, a loyal, law-abiding, God-fearing nation.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1928, p. 16.)

How can we prepare ourselves to choose leaders wisely? Carefully  and prayerfully consider the candidates, their records, and their views on important issues.

President Ezra Taft Benson wrote: “Not only should we seek humble, worthy, courageous leadership, but we should measure all proposals having to do with our national or local welfare by four standards:  “First, is the proposal, the policy or the idea being promoted, right as measured by the Gospel of Jesus Christ? …“Second, is it right as measured by the Lord’s standard of constitutional government? … The Lord’s standard is a safe guide. “Third, … is it right as measured by the counsel of the living oracles of God? …“Fourth, what will be the effect upon the morale and the character of the people if this or that policy is adopted?” (Our Prophets and Principles, pp. 69–70.)

D&C 98:10  Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil.

Obey the laws of the land

What is our responsibility regarding the laws of the land?

“The three significant words used in the 12th Article of Faith, express the proper attitude of the membership of the Church toward law. These words are—obey, honor, and sustain. The Article does not say we believe in submission to the law. Obedience implies a higher attitude than mere submission, for obedience has its root in good intent; submission may spring from selfishness or meanness of spirit. Though obedience and submission both imply restraint on one’s own will, we are obedient only from a sense of right; submissive from a sense of necessity.

“Honor expresses an act or attitude of an inferior towards a superior. When applied to things it is taken in the sense of holding in honor. Thus, in honoring the law, we look upon it as something which is above selfish desires or indulgences.

“To sustain signifies to hold up; to keep from falling. To sustain the law, therefore, is to refrain from saying or doing anything which will weaken it or make it ineffective.

“We obey law from a sense of right.

“We honor law because of its necessity and strength to society.

“We sustain law by keeping it in good repute.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1937, p. 28.)

D&C 58:21–22   Let no man break the laws of the land, for he that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.  Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.

D&C 98:4–6  And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.  And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.  Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

Elder James E. Talmage said: “A question has many times been asked of the Church and of its individual members, to this effect: In the case of a conflict between the requirements made by the revealed word of God, and those imposed by the secular law, which of these authorities would the members of the Church be bound to obey? In answer, the words of Christ may be applied—it is the duty of the people to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s [see D&C 63:26; Matthew 22:21]. At the present time the kingdom of heaven as an earthly power, with a reigning King exercising direct and personal authority in temporal matters, has not been established upon the earth. The branches of the Church as such, and the members composing the same, are subjects of the several governments within whose separate realms the Church organizations exist. In this day of comparative enlightenment and freedom there is still cause for expecting any direct interference with the rights of private worship and individual devotion; in all civilized nations the people are accorded the right to pray, and this right is assured by what may be properly called a common law of humankind. No earnest soul is cut off from communion with his God; and with such an open channel of communication, relief from burdensome laws and redress from grievances may be sought from the power that holds control of nations.” (Articles of Faith, pp. 422–23.)

D&C 134:5–6   We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.  We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

Articles of Faith 1:12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

How should we treat law-enforcement officers and other civil officers?

D&C 134:3, 6   We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.

We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

President Brigham Young taught: “Remember that the Lord holds all of us responsible for our conduct here. He held our father Adam responsible for his conduct, but no more than He does us, in proportion to the station we hold. The kings of the earth will have to give an account to God, for their conduct in a kingly capacity. Kings are heads of nations, governors are heads of provinces; so are fathers or husbands governors of their own houses, and should act accordingly.” (History of the Church, 4:309.)

What relationship should exist between religion and civil governments?

D&C 134:4, 9   We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

The Church upholds the principle laid down by the Constitution of the United States that religion and government should be kept separate. The First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) stated the following in 1907:

“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. …

“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.” ( Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:153.)

Strengthening the community
“Members should do their civic duty by supporting measures that strengthen society morally, economically, and culturally. Members are urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families” (Book 2, page 325)

What are some ways we can strengthen our community?

Serve others: We do not need to wait for calls or assignments from Church leaders before we serve the community as individuals or a group.  

How the little things serve the community:  I was in Walmart at 11:30pm last Wednesday night shopping for a few groceries.  Now our home budget is so tight that even one penny off could crumble us for weeks to come, so when I shop I am very strict with the money; however, there was a young girl in front of me in line to pay.   She was just trying to get a few groceries for her children, and in the end she had not enough money to cover all the items.  She picked and chose those items she would keep and then handed a bag back to the cashier that contained bread cheese and a few other items.  Before I even had a chance to think on it the spirit touched me and I spoke without even a thought about money or budget or anything really and said, "how much is it?  you know what just put them on my bill, ring them up with my groceries and give them her..."  The young girl was shocked with my words and I could almost see embarrassment as her face flushed and she quietly, humbly began to try to thank me.   I told her not to worry, that many had taken care of me in my times of need and it was my jester to her for all the kindness I had been shown.  Several times she tried to thank me again and again with a loss for words but I smiled and said to her, "No, thank you for allowing me to serve you.."

Though a simple story and even a very simple act the effect that it seemed to have on this young girl was incredible.  She was in need and I having lived very needy life for most of my life was finally able to serve someone in need.  What a great blessing, and I feel certain that it is something that this girl will not forget and will take with her that someday when the time comes, she too will be able to serve.

These things strengthen the community.  They bring love, tolerance, appreciation, understanding and many other attributes that will make living "Heavenly"  

Serve in elected or appointed public service positions:  “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” (First Presidency letter, 15 Jan. 1998)

Support worthy causes or activities:  Become  “anxiously engaged” in good causes in the community.  

 D&C 58:27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“While Dolina Smith was serving as Young Women president in the Toronto Ontario Stake in 1986, she asked an expert to speak at a fireside about the growing problem of pornography. Later she became involved with a nationwide group called Canadians for Decency, which mobilizes thousands of anti-pornography Canadians to contact their elected officials as specific concerns about pornography arise. …In 1990 her involvement increased when she was named chairperson of Canadians for Decency. In this new role she has given numerous presentations before the provincial and federal governing bodies that make and change pornography laws. She has also spoken to many groups of citizens who work with local governments to clamp down on the spread of pornography in their communities” (Donald S. Conkey, “Together We Can Make a Difference,” Ensign, Feb. 1996, 68)

How can we appropriately fight evil influences in our community?  

In the Church, we often state the couplet, ‘Be in the world but not of the world.’ … Perhaps we should state the couplet … as two separate admonitions. First, ‘Be in the world.’ Be involved; be informed. Try to be understanding and tolerant and to appreciate diversity. Make meaningful contributions to society through service and involvement. Second, ‘Be not of the world.’ Do not follow wrong paths or bend to accommodate or accept what is not right. …“Members of the Church need to influence more than we are influenced. We should work to stem the tide of sin and evil instead of passively being swept along by it. We each need to help solve the problem rather than avoid or ignore it” (Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 100–101; or Ensign, May 1989, 80)

As Latter-day Saints we should be good citizens regardless of where we live, and we should do what we can to support good government and strengthen our communities though acts of service and love and also strengthen the community through acts of courtesy.  

“It is amazing what courtesy will accomplish. It is tragic what a lack of courtesy can bring. We see it every day as we move in the traffic of the cities in which we live. A moment spent in letting someone else get into the line does good for the one who is helped, and it also does good for the one who helps. Something happens inside of us when we are courteous and deferential toward others. It is all part of a refining process which, if persisted in, will change our very natures” (Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 70; or Ensign, May 1996, 49)

Religious Freedom”:
Conference Report
First Presidency Letter 1998
Handbook 2
Constitution of United States of America
Journal of Discourses
Of Governments and Laws.”
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson: Patriotism and Love of Country”
John Taylor sermon, October 10, 1852
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
Clark, Messages of the First Presidency
Articles of Faith, pp. 422–23
History of the Church, 4:309 Talmage
Our Prophets and Principles, pp. 69–70
Joseph Smith, p. 215 Widstoe
Deseret Weekly News, 19 Apr. 1890, p. 561
Church History and Modern Revelation 2:30-31 Smith

The Fall of Adam and Eve

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