What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
While doing research for Latter-day Responsibility, I reviewed some of the First Presidency letters that encourage members of the Church to be politically active and involved. Many of them touch on common themes—support the Constitution, seek out solutions, be anxiously engaged, and support good, honest, and wise men.
One quote, however, really stuck out to me. It’s from a 1978 speech by President Spencer W. Kimball, given to regional representatives of the Church. In it, he clarifies why leaders of the Church have grown more silent on political matters as the organization’s global reach grew. This is a subject I’ve discussed before, and for which there has been plenty of speculation and insight.
Pres. Kimball’s statement, however, addresses the issue head on. For those who are concerned about a lack of prophetic political pulpit-pounding in recent years, this makes clear that it’s our responsibility as members to be involved and engaged, and not the Church’s job, which exists primarily to do missionary work and spread the gospel.
Here’s the quote:
In September of 1968, the First Presidency reminded members of the Church of “their obligations as members of the communities in which they live and as citizens of the nation.” The First Presidency counseled members of the Church as follows:
“The growing world-wide responsibilities of the Church make it inadvisable for the Church to seek to respond to all the various and complex issues involved in the mounting problems of the many cities and communities in which members live. But this complexity does not absolve members as individuals from filling their responsibilities as citizens in their own communities.
“We urge our members to do their civic duty and to assume their responsibilities as individual citizens in seeking solutions to the problems which beset our cities and communities.
“With our wide ranging mission, so far as mankind is concerned, Church members cannot ignore the many practical problems that require solution if our families are to live in an environment conducive to spirituality.
“Where solutions to these practical problems require cooperative action with those not of our faith, members should not be reticent in doing their part in joining and leading in those efforts where they can make an individual contribution to those causes which are consistent with the standards of the Church.
“Individual Church members cannot, of course, represent or commit the Church, but should, nevertheless, be ‘anxiously engaged’ in good causes, using the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as their constant guide.”
The First Presidency and the Twelve wish to reaffirm this important statement of 1968. We believe this is the wise course to pursue, wherein Church members are urged to do their duties as citizens. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cannot be committed, as an institution, except on those issues which are determined by the First Presidency and Twelve to be of such a nature that the Church should take an official position concerning them.
We believe that to do otherwise would involve the Church, formally and officially, on a sufficient number of issues that the result would be to divert the Church from its basic mission of teaching the restored gospel of the Lord to the world.
We earnestly hope Church members will feel their individual responsibilities keenly and pursue them wisely.