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Teaching Ideas
Article of Faith 12
Governments and Law
The idea of having governments and establishing laws that protect life, property and the freedom of choice is of God.  This protects men from the wicked and selfish actions of others that can sometimes interfere with these God-given rights and helps us to live cooperatively and peacefully together for the benefit of all.  God expects us to be a law-abiding people, and he holds us accountable for our choices in relation to these governments and laws. 

Because all men possess the light of Christ, many of these divinely approved ideals are often found in the governments across the world.  However, because of human ambition, the influences of Satan who seeks to destroy agency, and sometimes just because of human error in judgment, leaders, structures and laws are often put into place that go beyond or even oppose these principles.  So what is man's responsibility and direction then?

First, where possible, men should be involved in the selection of good, righteous men who will protect these freedoms.  We should study and know the candidates and issues so that we can make wise decisions as we vote.  The Church has also encouraged us to vote when given the opportunity to do so.

Second, when we see things in our governments or laws that we feel go against these principles, we should peacefully speak out and voice our concerns through proper channels.  If we are wronged, we should seek redress from those chosen to govern.  We can even seek office ourselves if we feel so directed.  If things are not resolved to our satisfaction, we submit to the laws under which we live and pray and patiently wait for the Lord's hand to be extended in our behalf.  Even Jesus showed submission to the rulers he was subject to when he was on earth.

Third, sedition and rebellion are not becoming of God's people.  Such actions create civil unrest and endanger our own lives and the lives of others.  Disobedience and an unwillingness to submit to our leaders gives occasion for our persecutors to retaliate and further restrict our freedoms.

Finally, we believe in the separation of Church and State.  Governments, or the State, have the right to establish reasonable punishments for those who violate laws.  Churches have the right to impose religious limitations and revoke membership for violation of their religious standards, but they have no right to impose the physical punishments reserved for the State.  Governments should not establish special privileges or limitations based on religious choices.

(For additional insights, read The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage.  Also see D & C 134.)
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