Wisdom of God, Principles of Liberty, and Religious Freedom

From the Council of Fifty Minutes

Joseph SmithPresident Joseph Smith arose and said that the committee (the Council of Fifty) were first appointed to bring forth all the intelligence they could, and when their productions were presented to him he could correct the errors and fill the interstices where it was lacking. He had considered that a Theocracy consisted in our exercising all the intelligence of the council, and bringing forth all the light which dwells in the breast of every man, and then let God approve of the document (the Constitution of the Kingdom of God) & receiving the sanction of the council it becomes a law. Theocracy as he understands it is, for the people to get the voice of God and then acknowledge it, and see it executed. It is necessary for the council to exhaust their wisdom, and except they do they will never know but they are as wise as God himself, and ambitious men will, like Lucifer think they are as wise as God and will try to lift themselves up and put their foot on the necks of others. There has always been some man to put himself forward and say I am the great I &c. I want the council to exert all their wisdom in this thing, and when they see that they cannot get a perfect law themselves, and I can, then, they will see from whence wisdom flows. I know I can get the voice of God on the subject. Vox populi, Vox Dei. The voice of the people assenting to the voice of God. There never has been a man in this age who could tell the people what the true principles of liberty was. Washington did not do it. I don’t want to be ranked with that committee, I am a committee of myself, and cannot mingle with any committee in such matters. The station which I hold is an independent one and ought not to be mingled with anything else. Let the Committee get all the droppings they can from the presence of God and bring it to me, and if it needs correction or enlargement I am ready to give it.

The principles by which the world can be governed is the principle of two or three being united. Faith cannot exist without a concentration of two or three. The sun, moon and planets roll on that principle. If God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were to disagree, the worlds would clash together in an instant. He referred to brother Lott [Cornelius P. Lott] and his farming & said God would prosper him because he gets his mind right. When I get anything from God I shall be alone. I understand the principles of liberty we want. I have had the instructions. It is necessary that this council should abide by their instructions. From henceforth let it be understood that I shall not associate with any committee. I want every man to get knowledge, search the laws of nations and get all the information they can. There can be no exceptions taken to anything that any man can say in this council. I don’t want any man ever to assent to anything in this council and then find fault with it. Don’t decide in favor of anything until you know it. Every man ought to study Geography, Governments and languages, so that he may be able to go forth to any nation and before any multitude with eloquence.

He then went on to say that for the benefit of mankind and succeeding generations he wished it to be recorded that there are men admitted members of this honorable council, who are not members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, neither profess any creed or religious sentiment whatever, to show that in the organization of this kingdom men are not consulted as to their religious opinions or notions in any shape or form whatever and that we act upon the broad and liberal principle that all men have equal rights, and ought to be respected, and that every man has a privilege in this organization of choosing for himself voluntarily his God, and what he pleases for his religion, inasmuch as there is no danger but that every man will embrace the greatest light.

God cannot save or damn a man only on the principle that every man acts, chooses and worships for himself; hence the importance of thrusting from us every spirit of bigotry and intolerance towards a man’s religious sentiments, that spirit which has drenched the earth with blood — When a man feels the least temptation to such intolerance he ought to spurn it from him. It becomes our duty on account of this intolerance and corruption — the inalienable right of man being to think as he pleases — worship as he pleases &c being the first law of everything that is sacred — to guard every ground all the days of our lives. I will appeal to every man in this council beginning at the youngest that when he arrives to the years of hoary age he will have to say that the principles of intolerance and bigotry never had a place in this kingdom, nor in my breast, and that he is even then ready to die rather than yield to such things. Nothing can reclaim the human mind from its ignorance, bigotry, superstition &c but those grand and sublime principles of equal rights and universal freedom to all men. We must not despise a man on account of infirmity. We ought to love a man more for his infirmity. Nothing is more congenial to my feelings and principles, than the principles of universal freedom and has been from the beginning. If I can know that a man is susceptible of good feelings & integrity and will stand by his friends, he is my friend. The only thing I am afraid of is, that I will not live long enough to enjoy the society of these my friends as long as I want to. Let us from henceforth drive from us every species of intolerance. When a man is free from it he is capable of being a critic. When I have used every means in my power to exalt a man’s mind, and have taught him righteous principles to no effect — he is still inclined in his darkness, yet the same principles of liberty and charity would ever be manifested by me as though he embraced it. Hence in all governments or political transactions a man’s religious opinions should never be called in question. A man should be judged by the law independent of religious prejudice, hence we want in our constitution those laws which would require all its officers to administer justice without any regard to his religious opinions, or thrust him from his office.

There is only two or three things lacking in the constitution of the United States. If they had said all men are born equal, and not only that but they shall have their rights, they shall be free, or the armies of the government should be compelled to enforce those principles of liberty. And the President or Governor who does not do this, and who does not enforce those principles he shall lose his head. When a man is thus bound by a constitution he cannot refuse to protect his subjects, he dare not do it. And when a Governor or president will not protect his subjects he ought to be put away from his office.

I can cloth the old skeleton (referring to a figure used by Elder [Reynolds] Cahoon to shew his views of the present constitution) although it was an old dead horse’s head, but it is not necessary for it only requires two or three sentences in a constitution to govern the world. Only clothe the officers of government with the power of free tolerance and compel them to exercise and enforce those principles and we have what we want. Give our Marshal the power of free tolerance and see if he would not exercise it. Only think! When a man can enjoy his liberties and has the power of civil officers to protect him, how happy he is”.

While the president was speaking on these subjects he felt animated and used a 24 inch gauge or rule pretty freely till finally he broke it in two in the middle.

Elder Brigham Young said, that as the rule was broken in the hands of our chairman so might every tyrannical government be broken before us.

(Council of Fifty, Minutes, Thursday April 11th 1844)

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