As a child attempting to memorize the Articles of Faith I admit I kind of glossed over numbers 11 and 12 because they are a bit political and I just wanted to get to number 13 because it was the longest and I knew it would give me a feeling of pride to memorize the longest one.
It is only now that I write this post that I realize how important these two Articles are, and how they work together to create good citizens in all nations. I talked about the 11th Article here. The 12th Article of Faith says:
I searched LDS.org, but there really isn’t a whole lot that covers this Article. I think because it is both simple (obey the laws/leaders in the land where you live) and complicated at the same time (what if you live in a land where worshiping a Christian God is forbidden?) I don’t think I’m going to be able to answer all of the questions that might come up, because I have no idea how every situation would be handled. I did find a few quotes from the Church website that I think are helpful when thinking about this Article in the context of America.
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. D&C 134
Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under a divinely inspired constitution should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.” Elder Oaks
Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward government. They should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. This includes compulsory duties like military service and the numerous voluntary actions they must take if they are to preserve the principle of limited government through citizen self-reliance. For example, since U.S. citizens value the right of trial by jury, they must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them. Elder Oaks
So do not rebel against the leaders/laws of the land if the “inherent and inalienable rights” are protected (in America we can vote to influence the laws that govern us, those who live under dictators do not have that same privilege), promote good morals, and serve in the military/participate in jury duty/or otherwise serve where called upon by your nation.
If you are really interested in reading an LDS perspective on the Constitution of the US I’d spend some time reading this talk by Elder Oaks. There is also an article on the Encyclopedia of Mormonism site titled “Church and State.”
Where I think this becomes particularly interesting is where young men/women are called to serve missions (and where they aren’t) and how we work to bring the goodness of Christ in areas of the world where proselytizing is forbidden. We do not send missionaries in where the local governments do not approve. I’m not sure how old this list is, but here is a list of 346 LDS missions and you will see that China only has one mission, in Hong Kong. Middle Eastern countries or others hostile to Christianity are found on that list because we don’t send Church sponsored missionaries there. We do have a placed called The BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem, where students from BYU are able to do a type of study abroad, but I’ve heard from those who have done the program that the rules regarding behavior are incredibly strict. I hope that someone reading might have attended the Jerusalem center, or know someone who did, because I’d love to know a little bit more about the rules. I have a friend married to a Middle Eastern man who revealed that when she visits his family she attends a sort of “members only” LDS meeting. The laws in that area forbid an open door policy, something I’d never heard of before.
I stumbled on this article that talks about the growth of the LDS Church in Poland a few months ago, and reading it gave me a little bit of insight into how the Church works with national governments.
The Holocaust and the ethnic departures left the Catholic Church all the stronger, and it became a thorn in the side of the communist government during the Cold War.
After the war, many of the previous LDS branches in eastern Germany now resided in the realigned Poland, meaning many members soon left or were forced out. The branch in Selbongen – renamed Zelwagi by the government — earned a post-war visit by Elder Ezra Taft Benson in his nearly yearlong European welfare mission in 1946. More than 100 members and friends gathered for a quickly convened meeting.
The next year, the government ordered branch meetings discontinued because only Polish was allowed to be spoken in public meetings. Two years later, the Zelwagi branch resumed meetings — in Polish.
While the Church was registered officially in 1961, emigration of members out of Poland eventually resulted in the last Polish branch being discontinued in 1971. The abandoned Zelwagi meetinghouse was turned over to the government, later serving as a Catholic chapel.
A Mormon presence re-emerged in the mid-1970s, thanks to a number of converts in western Poland, who were baptized in neighboring Germany.
Feeling threatened by the power and popularity of the Catholic Church in Poland, government officials were happy to open the proverbial door for other religions to enter. Now re-established, the LDS Church was again officially registered in May 1977, with church President Spencer W. Kimball visiting four months later and offering a prayer of dedication on the country.
The Church does call both proselytizing and service missionaries, and I think I may have heard stories about service missionaries working in non-life-threatening areas of the world to spread goodwill (with no formal tracting/preaching) and provide aide for the “poor and downtrodden”, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this and so I don’t know for sure.
This is certainly a post where I would appreciate input from other LDS members to help clarify some of the things I don’t know!