Our notion that we believe in honoring, upholding, and sustaining the law has become quite different than what it originally meant. It was penned by Joseph Smith. But Joseph Smith frequently disobeyed and outright rebelled against laws that were merely activist abuses of power. This was not hypocrisy. This was a correct understanding of what he, himself, meant when he wrote that sentence.
Don’t we all know that Joseph Smith was not lawfully released from liberty jail. He escaped from liberty jail! Can we wake up and actually remember that? Joseph Smith escaped from jail! When we read the statement:
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
we need to read it recognizing that the author of that statement didn’t feel it was inconsistent with escaping from jail, or avoiding arrest, if the fault could be laid at the hands of activist law enforcement or unjust judges. Sure, Joseph Smith didn’t use the word “activist judge”. He rightly called them “unjust judges” instead. But it means the same thing.
Even the jailer and the sheriff in one instance had the plain common sense to realize that Joseph Smith was being mistreated by unjust, activist, judges. Joseph Smith said:
“The sheriff and jailer did not blame us for our attempt; it was a fine breach, and cost the county a round sum; but public opinion says that we ought to have been permitted to have made our escape; that then the disgrace would have been on us, but now it must come on the state; that there cannot be any charge sustained against us; and that the conduct of the mob, the murders committed at Haun’s Mills, and the exterminating order of the governor, and the one-sided, rascally proceedings of the legislature, have damned the state of Missouri to all eternity.”
Notice that Joseph Smith is pleased here that his escape attempt will cost the county a significant amount of money to repair. This was an attempt, not his actual escape from liberty jail.
But we don’t have the plain common sense these days. We live a life of bureaucracy, and we are cogs. We think that being a cog excuses us from behaving like cogs. But if a man who arrested, and a man who jailed Joseph Smith both had some common sense, couldn’t we, who are his benefactors have use a little of the same thing?
Can’t we wake up to the reality that there is a significant difference between our interpretation of the article of faith and the original meaning of it? A plain example is:
A federal court says Utah must start issuing same sex marriage licenses. This is an unlawful law. If it is true that England could not take away men’s unalienable rights to govern themselves, if that was outside of what government had the right to do, then it is also true the government has no right to redefine what the family is.
Now it seems extremely clear that under Joseph Smith’s reading of his own words, he would not have felt that if a federal judge unjustly decreed that we should start marrying gay people, that meant we should start doing it. Joseph Smith’s own reading of his own words clearly did not mean that the right response in that circumstance would be for everyone to bow the knee and start issuing homosexual marriage licenses.
But we READ his statement that way, even if his own life clearly demonstrates that IS NOT what he meant by it.
Joseph Smith believed in rule by law that was rule by law. He distinguished between unjust judges, now called activist judges, and real rule of law.
Even the doctrine and covenants uses words like “the pretended requirements of the law” for laws that were merely abuses of power. It distinguishes between abuses of power, unjust judges, and the real rule of law.
Can’t we have the sense to stand up and say, “you are an unjust judge, and that is no real law”.