The Twelfth Article of Faith
by Ezra Taft Benson. From God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, 279. 1974.
When the Prophet Joseph Smith outlined the Articles of Faith, he set forth in clear, unmistakable terms the foundations of our worship and of our relationships with one another. In view of the troubled times which the nations of the earth are experiencing at present, it is well for us as members of the Lord’s kingdom to understand clearly our responsibilities and obligations respecting governments and laws as declared in the Twelfth Article of Faith: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
In it is a declaration requiring obedience, loyalty to, and respect for duly constituted laws and the officials administering those laws. In justifying such loyal compliance, however, the Lord also promulgated certain safeguards and conditions which must be observed if freedom and liberty are to be preserved and enjoyed. These are emphasized primarily in the 98th and 134th sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. How I wish these fundamental concepts were emblazoned on the hearts of all our people!
It seems to me there are two thoughts with regard to governments and laws which might profitably be considered at this time. One relates to the people who administer the laws and the other to the laws themselves. Concerning our public officials, the Lord has counseled: “Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. 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.” (D&C 98:9–10.)
These admonitions, in my humble judgment, are just as binding upon the Latter-day Saints as are the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and baptism. We should seek out honest men and wise men to hold political office in our respective governments. This is the will of the Lord as spoken by revelation.
Many people have had cause for serious reflection of late as they have observed the rise and fall of once glorious and powerful nations. Why, they ask, have nations which have contributed so richly to the fields of literature, music, and the arts and sciences permitted selfish, ambitious men to rise to great power as has been evidenced in several European nations? One of the important reasons, as I have observed it firsthand, is the fact that the citizens generally failed to carry out the admonition which the Lord has given the Latter-day Saints: to seek out their good and wise men to serve as their leaders in political capacities. Men without faith in eternal principles were permitted to rise to power.
We must not think it cannot happen here. We must be eternally vigilant as Latter-day Saints and inspire in the lives of our children a love for eternal principles and a desire to seek out honorable men—the best possible—to stand at the head of our political governments, local, state, and federal. Only in this way can we safeguard the liberties which have been vouchsafed to us as our inalienable rights. Unless we do so, we may very easily lose them because of our indifference, because of our failure to exercise our franchise, because we permit men who are unworthy to rise to positions of political power.
Not only should we seek humble, worthy, courageous leadership; but we should also 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? I assure you it is much easier for one to measure a proposed policy by the gospel of Jesus Christ if he has accepted the gospel and is living it.
Second, is it right as measured by the Lord’s standard of constitutional government, wherein he says: “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”? (D&C 98:5.) Whether we live under a divinely inspired constitution, as in the United States, or under some other form of government, the Lord’s standard is a safe guide.
Third, we might well ask, is it right as measured by the counsel of the living oracles of God? It is my conviction that these living oracles are not only authorized, but are also obligated to give counsel to this people on any subject that is vital to the welfare of this people and to the up-building of the kingdom of God. So that measure should be applied.
Fourth, what will be the effect upon the morale and the character of the people if this or that policy is adopted? After all, as a church, we are interested in building men and women and in building character, because character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next. It must never be sacrificed for expediency.
May we do our duty as citizens and as members of the Church to see to it that the right kind of people are elected to public office, so that the rich blessings that we now enjoy and that have been promised to us may be realized in all the days to come. May we likewise use wisdom and care as we evaluate various proposals and programs, so men everywhere may come to know the joy of living under wise laws honorably administered by men and women intent upon preserving and strengthening man’s free agency and ennobling his character.