Articles of Faith: Twelve

6 May

In my first post of this series I went over the origin and history of the Articles of Faith. I have also discussed Article of Faith 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Today I will discuss briefly the twelfth of the Articles, as given below.

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

This is a simple statement that is also a very important one, especially at the time that Joseph Smith wrote these down. He and the saints had been accused of criminal activity for over a decade and the accusations were beginning to creep up again in Nauvoo. Thus this statement was given in large part to counter those accusations and set other peoples minds at ease.

Notice also how comprehensive this statement is. It lists all types of government administrators that are legally appointed as such. He does not only uphold the ideals of the American government, but he also states that Kings have a right to rule and those living under their rule should be subject to them. More importantly, however, he lists how we are subject to them, and I think each of these three things is important and stated for a reason. So, let us look at them each separately.

The first is rather simple. We believe in obeying the law. This means that we do not violate the law, or at least strive not to.

The second is less understood I think. We believe in honoring the law. This means we hold the law in high esteem and are honest in our beliefs and actions regarding them. To honor the law means that if you do violate it you pay the appropriate penalty without trying to weasel your way out of it. To honor the law means that we do not take justice into our own hands, but seek redress through the appropriate channels. It means that the law of the land is second in our estimation only to the law of God, and we will uphold it as long as it is not in opposition to that higher law.

The last thing is to sustain the law. This means that, whether we agree with the law, we accept it as the law. We do not allow ourselves or anyone else to violate the law simply because we disagree with it. I have heard some state that if a law is a bad law it is okay to not obey it. This is not sustaining the law. Sustaining means bearing up, or supporting, and if we have this attitude we are are not in support of the law and thus we are not sustaining it. When we know a law is being violated and do nothing we are not sustaining the law, because our actions are undermining it. On this point I am reminded of the common philosophy that we are not to tattle on others as children, which turns into not being a snitch when we get older. I think this philosophy is in direct opposition to what Joseph Smith was teaching when wrote this article. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that people call the police every time they see a person speeding. That is impractical and would bog down the system. But when a person knows that another is stealing, then it becomes their duty to report it; if they are cognizant or witnesses to crimes they should not only be willing to testify, but should volunteer to testify. When a person chooses not to they are not sustaining the law.

These are my thoughts on this article. Right now I am dealing with the state Social Services here in Illinois, and so right now I have much to be agitated about concerning the law. However, I do believe this article and so I am trying to work within the law as it is given. I do not like the law; I think it is corrupt and evil and will be the downfall of this nation. However, until that happens I have to work within the law, because that is what God wants me to do. I will obey the law, and I do honor the law. Sustaining it right now is difficult, but I am trying.

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