This is me asking myself questions and then answering them. It is just an exercise, in which I take a text and interpret it, to see what I come up with. I’m posting it here because I found it interesting. You can read along and watch the process evolve, if you like, but please keep in mind that these are just thoughts. Don’t take any of this as gospel, except the quoted scriptures. My text is D&C 98:4-18.
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 |
and as pertaining to law of man |
whatsoever is more or less than this | cometh of evil | (DAC 98:2)
The laws of the land
Question: What is the will of the Lord concerning the laws of the land?
Answer: It is the will of the Lord that His people should observe to do all things whatsoever He commands them.
Q: Why does the Lord answer a question on His will concerning man-made laws with a direction to obey His heaven-sent (revealed) laws?
A: See the rest of this post.
The U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights
Q: What is the will of the Lord concerning the U.S. Constitution?
A: It is the will of the Lord that only that part of the constitution which supports that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges is justifiable before him, and that His people are justified in befriending that portion of the Constitution.
Q: Which part of the constitution is He referring to?
A: The Bill of Rights. (See What the Lord has said about the Constitution.)
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. (Wikipedia entry for United States Bill of Rights.)
A bill of rights is a list of the most important rights of the citizens of a country. The purpose of these bills is to protect those rights against infringement. (Wikipedia entry for Bill of Rights.)
Q: Why does the Lord say that this part of the U.S. Constitution (the Bill of Rights) “belongs to all mankind”?
A: Because the Americans of that time viewed these principles as only applying to white men and the Lord was correcting this perversion by showing that the Bill of Rights protected all people in their rights and privileges, whether black, white, male, female, bond, free, American or non-American. In other words, God does not view the principles embodied in the Bill of Rights as limited in their scope of protection to only a sub-set of the human population of this planet.
Originally, the Bill of Rights implicitly legally protected only white men, excluding American Indians, people considered to be “black” (now described as African Americans), and women. These exclusions were not explicit in the Bill of Right’s text, but were well understood and applied. (Wikipedia entry on United States Bill of Rights.)
When the Lord states in His preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, “for verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men,” this includes all of His written words which are sent out among men under inspiration of the Holy Ghost, for all things written by the power (or under the inspiration) of the Holy Ghost and publicly published “belongs to all mankind,” therefore, this shows that the Bill of Rights, although penned by the hand of men, was inspired of the Holy Ghost. The Bill of Rights, then, cannot be applicable to only a subset of society, but must, of necessity, be applicable to all mankind, just as the revelations of God given to the Gentiles of this nation apply to the Gentiles of all nations*.
This also shows that the Federalists were not inspired of God, as is currently viewed by many LDS and Christians, for the Federalists were the ones who desired and created the U.S. Constitution and it was their intention to bring forth that document without a bill of rights.
And this shows also that the Anti-Federalists were inspired of God, for it was they who were against the U.S. Constitution and it was their insistence upon a bill of rights that allowed one to be created and attached to the constitution.
Q: Was the Bill of Rights the only inspired part of the U.S. Constitution?
A: Yes, the Bill of Rights was the only inspired part of the U.S. Constitution. This is why the Lord qualifies which part of the constitution is justifiable before Him. In other words, the only part of the U.S. Constitution that the Lord’s people are justified in befriending is the part that was inspired by Him.
Q: What about the other parts of the U.S. Constitution? Are we justified in befriending the other parts?
A: No, we are not, for the Lord categorically states, “Whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.”
Q: Does this mean that the U.S. Constitution is evil, excepting only the Bill of Rights, which was inspired of God?
A: Yes, that is exactly what it means. It means that the devil inspired men to write the U.S. Constitution, and all other man-made laws, excepting only bills of rights. Bills of rights, which protect all people in their rights and privileges, are inspired of the Spirit of freedom, which is the Holy Ghost, and are justifiable before the Lord. Everything else is evil in the sight of the Lord.
*Because the Lord has approved of, or justified, the Bill of Rights, latter-day saints are fully authorized to include it as part of their scriptural canon. This is not to say that it is scripture, for it was not written by the power of the Holy Ghost, nor does it contain the revealed words of God, nevertheless, as an inspired and approved writing, it may be used to defend or safeguard one’s rights in a church setting.
To give a brief example, as to what I mean, let’s look at the sixth amendment:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
All of these enumerated rights apply equally in any church prosecution, for this justified, inspired text is inalienable property of all mankind, including the saints of God who stand accused within the church of God, and they can use it to keep ecclesiastical abuse at bay. In like manner, every single one of the amendments that make up the Bill of Rights is applicable in a church setting, for the word of God does not supersede these protections.
i | the lord god | make you free | therefore | ye are free indeed |
and the law also maketh you free | 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 |
and i give unto you a commandment |
that ye shall forsake all evil | and cleave unto all good |
that ye shall live by every word | which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of god | for he will give unto the faithful line upon line | precept upon precept |
and i will try you | and prove you herewith |
and whoso layeth down his life in my cause | for my name’s sake | shall find it again | even life eternal | therefore | be not afraid of your enemies |
for i have decreed in my heart |
saith the lord |
that i will prove you in all things | whether you will abide in my covenant | even unto death | that you may be found worthy |
for if ye will not abide in my covenant | ye are not worthy of me | therefore | renounce war | and proclaim peace | and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers | and the hearts of the fathers to the children |
and again | the hearts of the jews unto the prophets | and the prophets unto the jews |
lest i come | and smite the whole earth with a curse | and all flesh be consumed before me |
let not your hearts be troubled | for in my father’s house are many mansions | and i have prepared a place for you | and where my father and i am | there ye shall be also | (DAC 98:3)
The Lord makes us free
Q: What does the Lord mean when He says, “I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore, ye are free indeed.”
A: He is speaking of the atonement and resurrection that He Himself wrought, which through repentance and faith on the Lord has power to break every band and free every people, even from the devil’s spiritual bondage.
The law makes us free
Q: To what law is the Lord referring when He says, “And the law also maketh you free”?
A: He is referring to all those laws given by the Spirit of freedom (which is the Holy Ghost), which encompass all the revealed laws of God, which free us from the power of the evil one. The Bill of Rights may also be included, for they were penned by men writing under inspiration of the Holy Ghost and they help to maintain our God-given rights.
This “law that makes us free” has no qualifications for justification before the Lord, unlike the uninspired, man-made laws do, because this law is given under revelation or inspiration of heaven, and thus tends toward increasing one’s agency. Every other kind of law, whether commandments of men or doctrines of devils, tends toward bondage, and thus is inspired of the devil.
Q: What was the Lord referring to when He spoke of wicked rulers? Were these wicked political leaders?
A: The principle encompasses every area of life, whether political, social, religious, tribal or family, but specifically, He had view of the rulers of His church, meaning the priesthood leadership of His covenant people, for these are the only ones who have the law that makes one free indeed (meaning freed from the devil’s power of captivation), which are the revealed laws of God.
I refer back to the original question: What is the will of the Lord concerning the laws of man? To obey the law of God, that is His will concerning the laws of man. Over and over again in this and other revelations, the Lord stresses that all we are required to do is keep His commandments. Now, His commandments are found in the word of God, or the scriptures. And that word of God is His law. Therefore,
thou shalt take the things | which thou hast received | which have been given unto thee in my scriptures | for a law | to be my law to govern my church | and he | that doeth according to these things | shall be saved | and he | that doeth them not | shall be damned | if he so continue | (D&C 42:59-60)
i am the lord | thy god | and i give unto you this commandment |
that no man shall come unto the father | but by me | or by my word | which is my law |
saith the lord | (D&C 132:12)
And what does the Lord command concerning the laws of the land?
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 |
behold | the laws | which ye have received from my hand | are the laws of the church | and in this light ye shall hold them forth |
behold | here is wisdom | (D&C 58:21-23)
So we see that even here, where the Lord states, “let no man break the laws of the land**,” He still ties it into keeping the laws of God. This is because the only thing that is important to God is that His people keep His sayings. The Lord is not concerned with the laws of men. His only concern is His own law, which He has given to His people. In fact, it is His purpose to do away with all the laws of men and have only His revealed law lived by His people.
but | verily | i say unto you |
that | in time | ye shall have no king | nor ruler | for i will be your king | and watch over you | wherefore | hear my voice | and follow me | and you shall be a free people | and ye shall have no laws | but my laws | when i come | for i am your lawgiver | and what can stay my hand | (D&C 38:22)
So, again, what is the will of the Lord concerning the laws of the land? That we keep the law of God. His focus is always on the heaven-sent laws, for all man-made laws are corrupt, or come of evil, excepting only bills of rights.
For this reason, the wicked rulers that He is specifically referring to are those who cause the people to mourn despite them having the law that makes them free, which is His law. Thus, these wicked rulers are the leaders of His church.
**And what laws of the land is the Lord referring to here? Why, the only laws of the land that are justifiable before Him, namely, the Bill of Rights, for, think about it, if one keeps the laws of God then you cannot be infringing on the rights and privileges which are enumerated in the Bill of Rights. And this is the only meaning of the scripture. It does not mean that there will never be any corrupt, unjustified, man-made laws that will conflict with the laws of God. Of course, there will! But as far as the Bill of Rights is concerned, there is no conflict between it and the revealed laws of God.
Seeking and upholding good men is, and is not, voting
Q: When the Lord states that we should seek and uphold good, wise, and honest men, is He not talking about the political process?
A: No, He is not talking about the political process, for what does the Lord have to do with the political process? The political process has jurisdiction over a corrupt set of laws, consisting of the commandments of men mingled with doctrines of devils. As the Lord sees the whole gamut of laws as coming of evil, excepting only the Bill of Rights, why would He desire His saints to become involved in such affairs? He has already said that He places the basest of men over the kingdoms of men:
this matter is by the decree of the watchers | and the demand by the word of the holy ones | to the intent that the living may know | that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men | and giveth it to whomsoever he will | and setteth up over it the basest of men | (Daniel 4:17)
That being true, it is a given that wicked rulers and man-made laws go hand in hand, therefore, it is not the place of the saints to attempt to make better (meaning less corrupt, but still, nevertheless, corrupt) man-made laws, or to select good rulers to administer in a better manner the corrupt, man-made laws, for the whole operation is doomed to failure.
No, the place of the saints is to obey the law of God, which is not corrupt, and to make sure that only good, wise and honest rulers are found in the kingdom of God, so that they can administer the good, wise and honest laws of God, that the top may match the root, because if this is not the case, despite the good laws of God, a wicked ecclesiastical ruler will make the lives of the saints a living hell.
Now, this is accomplished in the church of God by making sure that only honest men and wise men are called to the various church positions of authority and responsibility and by making sure that only good men and wise men are elected by vote. And this election is done by vote, by the raising up of the right hand, which is how such men are upheld, or sustained, it being a type of what was done to Moses’ hands.
So, yes, the Lord is referring to an election, even the calling and election of the leaders of his church, but He is not referring to any political election, nor to any political process.
Q: What does the saying, “whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil,” mean, as it concerns the wicked leaders?
A: It means that if the people of the Lord’s church allow wicked leaders to be over them, it with be through their own transgression. It means that the Lord’s people have the responsibility to elect only wise, honest people for the Lord’s church. They are bound to seek out and sustain only such people. If they knowingly sustain any other type of individual, they transgress the law of God.
It also means that the evil one’s strategy is to get wicked rulers into the Lord’s church, that the good laws of God may be ignored, misinterpreted, trampled upon, and perverted. The law of God presents a problem to the adversary, so he attacks the church individually, through individual transgression, or with church-wide effects, through the installment of a wicked ruler. The current environment of voting by rubber-stamp has already set up the conditions whereby wicked rulers may be installed in every level of the church. Nevertheless, the law of God is still there and in effect.
Forsake all evil, cleave to all good
Q: What is the context of the Lord’s commandment to forsake all evil and cleave to all good?
A: It is a commandment given to the saints of God, living within the jurisdiction of the gathered church of God, finding themselves in the midst of a congregation which is ruled over by a wicked ruler. What is a saint to do in such a situation? Well, they are to forsake all evil and cleave to all good. In other words, this is the test of the saints: to be put under covenant to obey the laws of God, to be placed within a congregation and to have wicked rulers placed over them. Now, obey the laws of God, despite the fact that that wicked ruler is going to oppose you. Obey the laws of God, anyway. That is your test.
Q: When the Lord then says to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, is this the same context?
A: Yes, the context is the same. The wicked ruler over the church of God, whether of a local or general jurisdiction, will speak words, orders, counsels, which will proceed out of his own mouth, to those who come under his jurisdiction. The Lord, then, says, “you are to live by every word that comes from God,” as opposed to the words coming out of that wicked man’s mouth. The words of God are found in the scriptures. The faithful, meaning those who exercise faith like unto the ancients, will also have more words given to them, precept by precept, by the Holy Ghost, visions, angels, etc. All these words of God, then, are what the saints are to live by. They are not to live by the words of the wicked church ruler.
After these instructions, the Lord then says, “and I will try you and prove you herewith.” So, again, this is the test. Will we keep our covenants and the commandments of the Lord, as written in the scriptures, and as delivered to us by God’s angels, the Holy Ghost, etc., as they come from the Lord’s mouth, or will we follow the wicked rulers placed over us? Will we do so even if it costs us our life? Hence the Lord talking of laying down our lives for His sake.
Who are the enemies?
Q: When the Lord, then, in these verses mentions enemies, when He says to not fear our enemies, who is He talking about?
A: This has broad application, for there are enemies both foreign (outside of the church) and domestic (inside of the church), but the specific context of these words is the enemy found within the church, namely, these wicked rulers. We are not to fear any of these enemies, but are to keep the Lord’s commandments, or as He puts it in this revelation, we are to “observe to do whatsoever He commands us,” and are to simply trust in Him. If we die, we will inherit eternal life. If we live, we still get eternal life. We win in either situation.
At some point in the future history of the church, the wicked church rulers will conspire to kill the saints within their congregations. They will be successful a certain number of times, fulfilling the prophecy about the blood of the saints crying from the ground against them. The Lord in this revelation is calming the fears of His saints, by telling them to stand for the right, no matter what the church environment is, or how bad it is going to get, to stay true to the covenants and commandments and to live by His words alone, and although blood will be spilled, it will still be well with them.
For all those others who will break their covenants and the commandments of God, by following a wicked church leader, they will be accounted as unworthy of the prize.
Renounce war and proclaim peace
Q: What of the renounce war and proclaim peace bit? Surely, that must be talking of the political process, right?
A: Again, these principles can be applied generally, but there is a specific context to the words, and that is within the context of the church. In other words, at some point the wicked leaders are going to create dissension and conflict, even war among the body of the saints, or a great division. We will see a repeat of the Book of Mormon times, where church members will engage in heated arguments with each other and exchange blows. Amalickiah comes to mind, who himself was a dissident member of the church of God. So, the Lord is beforehand telling them, or giving them the principles whereby they may be guided in wisdom’s paths, namely, that they are not to engage in such behavior. They are to stand for the right, but not to wage war, or encourage war, upon anyone. They are to always hold up the standard of peace, unless commanded by God to hold up the banner of war.
The hearts of the children and fathers
Q: What is the Lord referring to when He talks about turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children?
A: It refers to the dissension and division which will be among the church, father being divided against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, etc. The saints who live by every word of God will be seeking to mend this division among the church, by getting everyone back together, in a spirit of love, compassion and understanding. Those who break their covenants will be seeking to widen the divide.
Q: So, this passage does not refer to genealogical work and the temple?
A: No, it has reference to this prophesied division and the repair work that the saints of God will be engaged in.
The hearts of the Jews and the prophets
Q: What is the meaning of the saying about turning the hearts of the Jews and prophets to each other?
A: It has reference to the wicked church leaders, and the work of the saints in their midst of turning them back to the Lord, through the words of the prophets, both found in the scriptures and among the population, who will be prophesying, so that the Jews, or leadership, would repent of their sins and become clean again before the Lord. The saints, who will judge all things pertaining to Zion, will seek at that time, to recover the leadership, through preaching and prophesying, or will turn their hearts to the Jews (the leadership.) The Jews (the leadership), will likewise have their hearts turned to the prophets, those prophets who reside in their congregation and those of the scriptures, and will be recovered, at least, those who repent will be recovered, and the rifts mended.
All of these things, which will happen among the Gentile church, is a type or a shadow that will happen among the tribes of Israel, as well, for the Jews (the non-Gentile people of the Lord) will also have their hearts turned to the prophets, and their children and fathers turned to each other.
Let not your hearts be troubled
Q: This saying of “let not your hearts be troubled” appears to be a general theme of this revelation. Why is that?
A: It is because the revelation is a prophetic time-line. It starts out by saying that their prayers will be answered and that they need not fear. (See DAC 98:1.) Then it talks about the laws of man (the State) and a saint’s relationship to those laws, giving permission to befriend only the Bill of Rights. (See DAC 98:2.) Then it goes into what a saint must do when wicked church rulers are found within it. (See DAC 98:3.) Then it holds up the church at Kirkland as a contemporary example of wickedness and gives a warning of chastisement if they do not repent and obey the Lord’s commandments. (See DAC 98:4.) Next, it gives a promise that if the church obeys the Lord’s commandments, essentially every adversary will be turned away from them, including the very Adversary himself. (See DAC 98:5.) And this particular prophecy will be, in part, fulfilled by the wicked turning on each other. The next bunch of sayings (DAC 98:6,7,8,9) deal with anarchic laws of conflict, showing that by that time the Lord will have made an end of nations and people will have once again gone back into the tribes of the earth.
Regardless of where an enemy is found or of which phase of society a saint lives in, whether it is the civic government phase, the wicked church phase, the phase of the division in the church, or the tribal anarchy phase, the saints are told the same message: observe to do all that the Lord commands you, seeking reconciliation and peace, repentance and forgiveness, trusting in the Lord and His promises, doubting nothing and fearing no one (not even your enemies), and if you do this, it will be well with you.