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What Exactly Is Government?
The way we define something is crucial because it determines, according to the portion of the light of Christ we have acquired, what we will accept as okay, or reject as not okay in our minds. For example, if I define the role of a parent as ‘a child’s best friend’ then my parenting style will develop into a very permissive one characterized by a lack of boundaries and consequences.
Government and its role is a phenomenon that needs to be defined very intentionally by every person, especially covenant people of the Lord who desire to inherit a residence in Zion. Because, as H. Verlan Andersen noted:
“Our political desires are an extremely accurate index of what we would do if the Lord made us a king, a judge, or a ruler with the power to govern others. If we would exercise “control or dominion or compulsion,” unrighteously, then our support of laws which regiment and control the business and private affairs of our neighbors and deprive them of their stewardships would clearly indicate this. If we would steal except for the fear of being punished or exposed, then our approval of laws which forcibly take property from its rightful owner and give it to those to whom it does not belong would demonstrate this trait. We must expect the Lord to use our political beliefs as a measure of our moral or immoral character.” (The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 53)
We of Ephraim who have been foreordained for a saving role to the gentiles and the house of Israel, even to become Kings and Queens of the Gentiles and saviors of men (Isaiah 49:23; D&C 103:9-10) offer a clear indication of how much power we can be trusted with through the political desires and standpoints we exhibit. For example, if I define government as an entity whose central role is to take care of the citizens, then I will permit, and even support, socialist welfare programs and stimulus checks that rely on debt and the redistribution of wealth through force. These constitute a clear demonstration of unrighteous dominion.
On the other hand, if I have a correct and godly understanding of what government is, I can then uphold that definition and the actions it confines the government to. In doing so, I am signifying to God that I can be trusted with more power than I have, enabling myself to come closer to fulfilling my role as a king and a priest/queen and priestess.
In his famous address The Proper Role of Government, Ezra Taft Benson laid out one of the simplest analogies to help us correctly understand what exactly a government is.
“In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attach and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves – nothing more.
So far so good. But now we come to the moment of truth. Suppose pioneer “A” wants another horse for his wagon, He doesn’t have the money to buy one, but since pioneer “B” has an extra horse, he decides that he is entitled to share in his neighbor’s good fortune, Is he entitled to take his neighbor’s horse? Obviously not! If his neighbor wishes to give it or lend it, that is another question. But so long as pioneer “B” wishes to keep his property, pioneer “A” has no just claim to it. If “A” has no proper power to take “B’s” property, can he delegate any such power to the sheriff? No. Even if everyone in the community desires that “B” give his extra horse to “A”, they have no right individually or collectively to force him to do it. They cannot delegate a power they themselves do not have.”
There it is. Government is simply a sheriff hired by citizens—capacitated to only do what the citizens themselves have a right to do—whose role it is to protect our property. That is a government. Notice this does not permit the government to take an item of property from one person and give it to another. Nor would this granted authority allow the sheriff to forcefully determine whose feed shop pioneer A, B, C, or D bought their horse feed or their own crops from.
So what if the sheriff heard of a group of Indians who were trying to sell fruits, vegetables, and all powerful HERBS to the pioneers? And what if he was worried they might somehow get sick from the herbs and food? Does he have the power to forcefully prevent any of the pioneers from using their property to engage in an exchange with the Indians for goods or services? Or can he, because his wife is a quaky doctor who told him herbs are dangerous and of the devil, prevent the pioneers by force from buying the herbs, insisting that they are not essential or are dangerous? Obviously not!
Two other simple guidelines provided by then, Elder Benson, offer more helpful guidance:
“Since God created man with certain unalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard those rights, it follows that man is superior to the creature which he created. Man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around. Even the non-believer can appreciate the logic of this relationship.”
“It is obvious that a government is nothing more or less than a relatively small group of citizens who have been hired, in a sense, by the rest of us to perform certain functions and discharge certain responsibilities which have been authorized. It stands to reason that the government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from the people who have created it.”
The pioneers are superior to the sheriff, in fact, they are the ones employing him. He is the creature, they are the creators, and are therefore superior to him—not the other way around. He does not lay down the rules for them, nor tell them what to do. That is as insane as the newly hired doorman or secretary giving the CEO business orders, and trying to control strategy and policy. The sheriff has in Elder Benson’s words “no innate power or privilege to do anything,” other than what we give him permission to do.
Can you imagine what the pioneers in the story would have done to the sheriff had he began to order them around, to control where they went and what they were permitted to do with their time and resources, to take their food and property and give it to their neighbors, to listen to their conversations and watch their every word suspecting them of being a threat to him and his position, forcing them to risk their lives and buy his friend’s weapons and tools to go to a foreign land to fight an enemy that his newspaper proclaimed as dangerous, preventing them from assembling with each other, preventing them from worshiping because he says they’d get sick and other people and their germs are dangerous, forcing them to allow him to inject some concoction his friend made into them to protect them from the disease his other friend made all in the name of ‘health and safety,’ forcing them to close down their shops where they sell their crops accusing them of being contaminated, taking their children away and giving them to someone else because he didn’t feel they were taking good enough care of them by his standards. . . Can you even imagine? He’d not only be fired, he’d likely be hanged.